Self Fulfilling Prophecy, how we defend limiting and unhelpful beliefs!

In the next couple of weeks I will be discussing how to challenge limiting and unhelpful beliefs. I will be introducing you to some ideas from both CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). First let us consider how we hang onto these limiting beliefs even when a part of us knows they are untrue!

Last year I wrote about this process in my series of blogs about self-esteem however it is worth repeating with reference to weight loss. As a species we appear to have a need for consistency and this need for consistency can create a drive in us to defend and maintain beliefs that form our “map of the world”. Our map of the world is the perception we have formed of ourselves, others and the way the world works based on our experiences and interactions with that world.

These experiences and interactions create a set of filters that ensure that we edit or distort incoming data to fit what we believe to be true. These filters are created at a very young age and some will be maintaining generational beliefs. Generational beliefs come from the family system and our based on the family mythology. These can be in reference to attitudes about others, the world, politics, wealth or lack of, optimism/pessimism and many other aspects of life. It will also include family attitudes to food as discussed in earlier blogs in this series, for example food as a way of showing love.

We will also take on filters based on what role within the family we take on and these will have been formed either by feedback from others and/or significant experiences. The roles can include; sporty, creative, funny, pretty, skinny and fat. Most of us have several roles however in most families roles are not repeated in the same sibling group. So someone can be the fat, funny, kind one providing a mixture of roles. This mixture can in and of its self bring more internal conflict as we start to make changes in our lives. If in our belief system we have linked being funny and kind with being fat we might have a secondary belief that in order to give up being fat we will have to lose our sense of humour and become unkind. This is unhelpful as it unconsciously creates an internal tension that may trigger sabotage behaviours.

So what happens next? We now have a set of filters defending our beliefs and what we do now is collect evidence to support our beliefs. Any evidence that is presented that appears to support the belief we accept as “proof” that the belief is true. Evidence that contradicts or challenges the belief is either deleted or distorted. The terms deleted and distorted are used in NLP to explain two of the defences employed by our filters.

When we delete something we literally don’t see, hear, feel or experience the evidence. It is a form of self hypnosis. For example if we think we have lost our keys we are capable of looking right at them and not seeing them! Have you ever done that?

A classic example of this can be when someone compliments us for something that contradicts a belief we hold about ourselves. If we are using (unconsciously) the deletion filter we literally do not hear the compliment. We may well respond to something else the other person has said or make an unrelated comment to turn the conversation. What is interesting about this is the impact it also has on the person giving the compliment. They may well feel disregarded, annoyed, hurt or think you are rude. It reduces the likelihood of them giving such a compliment again.

I was recently running one of our NLP 101 workshops and over lunch we were discussing self esteem and weight loss. A young woman on the course who was slightly above her ideal weight was sharing some of her feelings about her boyfriend complimenting her. I asked her if she realised that she is a beautiful young woman and that it was possible that her boyfriend was speaking his truth. She continued speaking as if I had not said anything.

At this point I interrupted her and asked her if she had heard what I had said. When I did this she did recognise that part of her had heard the compliment but it was inconsistent with her own internal perception of herself (my words not hers) so she ignored it. When working with others sometimes as a practitioner there is a benefit in helping people to hear and consider compliments. This was a step for her. By making it conscious I challenged the deletion filter.

Sometimes when a deletion filter is challenged the person switches to a distortion filter. This is where we interpret the data coming in so that it fits with our map of the world! For instance, if we stick with the idea of compliments sometimes we “mind read” the motivation behind the compliment. So instead of taking it on face value we  make up meanings that make the compliment negative such as they are trying to get something out of me! One of the commonest distortions I hear from people when talking about a compliment given by a partner is

“they have to say that they’re married to me!”

The implication being that it couldn’t possibly be true and that their partner is under some kind of obligation to say nice things.

Well back the truck up a minute!

If someone is in relationship with you I suggest that it makes sense that they must at least like you! Maybe they are even attracted to you! Could it be that they love you? Perhaps it is time to start challenging that filter and accepting the possibility that when people say nice things to you that they might actually mean them.

On our free MP3 download I talk in detail about the self fulfilling prophecy, our ability to collect evidence to support our beliefs both positive and negative. Listen to this and consider how it relates to your own beliefs. Maybe you can already see how you might challenge some of your limiting beliefs. Here’s the link

Finally this week, I’d like to let you know about some new one day workshops I am starting. They are NLP CPD (Continuous Professional/Personal Development) days aimed at anyone with NLP Practitioner or above. The day will be designed around demonstrating some of the techniques you have already learnt and then coaching you to develop your skills further. The first one is scheduled for 9th April in Bedfordshire. I already have two people booked so contact me direct if you want more details as places will be limited to allow as much personal coaching as possible. Contact me in the first instance by email

About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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5 Responses to Self Fulfilling Prophecy, how we defend limiting and unhelpful beliefs!

  1. Pingback: Robert JR Graham » NLP Motivations and Behaviors

  2. Pingback: The Dating Game | BoudicaBooks

  3. Katie says:

    Hi Melody

    I have recently been thinking along this track with my own weight loss. I lost 20kgs but since then I have struggled to maintain a consistent weight and seem to yo-yo back and forth. I believe I still think I am that “fat girl” I once was so my thoughts influence my behaviors and I sabotage my healthy lifestyle. I have decided that in order to stay healthy, I have to believe I am “one of those healthy girls” so that I think and act accordingly. I have to realize that it doesn’t have to change my sense of humor of other aspects of my personality. Eg “skinny girls” are boring and have no fun with life because their diets are restricted.

    Thanks for your article. It is nice to know that other people think the same way so I might not be crazy after all!


    • Hi Katie

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Identity level beliefs are an important part of our own self concept so you are right on the money with your thinking. Do let me know how you get on and if you need any support



  4. Pingback: NLP Motivations and Behaviors — The Personal Mastery System© - Online Learning

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