Rebooting Your Operating System
About Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor says: "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Silly? Not so much. Research says that most of us feel the same way about ourselves. Work by psychologists Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia suggests that we tend to believe that we are much better looking than we actually are.
Beliefs are powerful, reality-shifting things. Think about your mind as a four-layered mechanism. On the top, most visible, are your choices-your imperatives to action. Below that are thoughts, your analytical processes. Below that are your emotions, which drive your thoughts more often than you might like to admit. Below emotions, running invisibly like the code of a computer operating system, are your unconscious beliefs.
Beliefs are frequently ingrained from early life, and they're the foundation for all manner of automatic assumptions. From your religious faith to your racial consciousness to your belief in people's trustworthiness, beliefs are always running in the background, shaping every response, emotion, thought and action.
Wisdom comes when we question our beliefs-when we acknowledge that while they might represent truth for us, they don't necessarily represent truth for everyone. Thoughtlessly applying closely held beliefs to everyone can alienate; applying gentle self-skepticism to those beliefs can make us more compassionate and open to the experiences and beliefs of others.
Have you skeptically questioned your own beliefs? What did you discover?