Understanding how our mind and that of the others work will bring great benefits to life, especially in terms of serenity and happiness. Unfortunately, we all have a number of limiting beliefs that come from our past experiences and the teachings we have been transmitted when we were children, which have become obstacles that prevent us from enjoying life, as they often generate misunderstandings, stereotypes or negative perceptions.
Getting rid of these preconceptions will give us enormous freedom because it will help us eliminate that forceful shirt that keeps us tied. Some principles of Psychology can help us understand that some of the things we think are not so certain.
1. People do not look at you as much as you think
We tend to think of being the focus of attention, an idea that in many people generate a lot of stress and anxiety, to the point of being the basis of social phobias. However, the reality is that most people are too busy thinking about what others think of them rather than focus on the others.
Knowing that the others are worried as much as you of the image of themselves they are projecting, busy with their problems and insecurities, is extremely liberating. So, stop worrying about what others think and start worrying about meeting your own standards, feel more comfortable and be happier.
2. Your personality is constantly evolving
We tend to believe that we are the same person ten years ago and that in ten years we will think and feel the same as today. That is not true. A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Edinburgh revealed that we are completely different people at the age of 14 and 77. The circumstances in which we live make us change our idea of the world and ourselves, so it would be abnormal that we remain the same for the rest of our lives.
This means that you have the right to change your mind, to review your decisions if you consider them to be immature or inadequate, and also to change tastes and preferences. Change is the only constant in life, you do not have to grasp to the past or try to be “faithful” to values with which you do not identify yourself anymore.
3. Making mistakes makes you look more sympathetic
Many people are afraid of making mistakes, especially in public, because they believe that the others will judge them hard or reject them. But a curious experiment conducted by psychologists at the University of Minnesota has found that we prefer those who make some mistakes rather than those who are extremely competent; it is what is known as “Pratfall effect”.
The key is that small mistakes make us appear more human and vulnerable, so that people identify themselves more easily with us and perceive us as more sympathetic and close to them. Therefore, do not become obsessed with mistakes, try to be as natural and authentic as possible, because it is the best way to connect with the others.
4. Do not assume that your advice will be heard
It is likely that on more than one occasion someone came to you, worried about a problem. In this case, you probably would have taken the time to listen to him and give him some advice. However, noting that these tips have fallen into the void you may be bothered or frustrated. This is a normal reaction, but you should not take it as something personal.
In Psychology there is what we know as a “reactance”, an emotional reaction that is produced only when someone tells us what to do and how to do it, it is a kind of defensive reaction with which we intend to defend unconsciously our freedom and decision-making power. Therefore, instead of giving advices, offer suggestions that contain examples. And remember that sometimes people just need to make emotional catharsis, so you should not be angry if they do not listen to you, you’ve already accomplished your mission: give them emotional support.
5. You can only control your reaction
Sometimes we are obsessed with control, so when things do not go as expected we end up being frustrated, depressed or anxious. However, the only thing that we can control is our reaction to the circumstances, and that is more than enough, because the way to react to a problem, event or situation is often more important than the situation itself.
This does not imply a defeatist attitude or that with a good attitude you will get everything you proposed, but learning to flow will avoid you many unnecessary worries and, above all, it will free you from the weight that involves wanting to control everything without having the tools to do it. The goal is to try to see the positive side, or at least minimize the emotional damage. It is a very important change of perspective that will radically change your life.
Harris, M. A. et. Al. (2016) Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years. Psychology of Aging; 31(8): 862–874.
Aronson, E., Willerman, B., & Floyd, J. (1966) The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal attractiveness. Psychonomic Science; 4(6): 227-228.