Today at work I read an interesting article in Entrepreneur magazine.
This article really got me thinking. The fellow who wrote it, James Clear, was talking about a psychological “phenomena” known as Schema. Schema is when our preconceived ideas are used as our filter for “seeing” the world. This is an unconscious reaction that helps us to view the world in a way that we can relate to, or that makes sense to us.
A schema is a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. Schemas can be useful because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment. However, these mental frameworks also cause us to exclude pertinent information to instead focus only on things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to our established ideas about the world.
Schema can be a valuable tool for interpreting the information around us if we do not have distorted preconceived ideas, however many of us have distorted preconceived ideas about how the world works and the way things are. Therefore schema is often a poor filter that causes us to see through a skewed lens. We tend to take reality and bend it to fit our views and beliefs, instead of taking our views and beliefs and bending them to fit reality.
Personally I believe that when we speak to ourselves using negative self talk, it is a learned behaviour that we have carried over and is now a part of our view of reality.
A good example would be someone who was an “ugly duckling” as a child and had this view enforced through the people around them. When they become an adult they tend to not be able to get past the idea that they are unattractive, even if in fact they are quite stunning, because this idea of being ugly has been ingrained through the negative reinforcement of parents, school yard bullies, siblings, etc. Now as an adult this person sees what has been presented to them instead of what is actually there.
Ugly duckling can be interpreted as: fat, unattractive, had bad hair, skin, teeth, etc, was extremely awkward physically of socially, go ahead fill in the blanks, I’m sure most of us can find something that we relate to to put in there. And this blank that we fill skews our vision of who we really are. It is our foundation for whatever level of self worth we have. It is the base for our relationships and our levels of trust.
Of course this can go far beyond just our self talk and self image. It can be our faith, our prejudices, our ideas of relationships, or family and what they should look like.