“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain
Limiting cultural beliefs operate in much the same way to limiting personal beliefs. A lot has been written in the personal development and self help fields about overcoming perceptions in the mind that hold you back from achieving your goals.
Negative self talk such as “I’m not brave enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, dedicated enough…”
Self imposed limitations are self fulfilling prophecies however they can be overcome with the right mental attitude.
A cultural belief is exactly the same, apart from the fact that it is harder to spot because it is a shared belief.
The cultural belief that a woman’s place was in the home oppressed half the population for many centuries. The cultural belief of the racial superiority of whites has oppressed many other cultures for a long long time as well.
We have broken the shackles of many of these false and limiting beliefs, but as a culture we still live under many delusions.
The Importance Of Breaking Free
Overcoming self imposed limitations in your personal life opens up many new doors in development and quality of life. The same is true of a culture. Embracing racial and gender equality opened up new directions for us as a culture and has enriched us.
Shedding oneself of false impressions allows one to follow a path that is true to the soul.
The direction of a culture is driven by the people within it, not from the leader who stands out front. It is the collective mind that counts. The leader can only drive change when their direction is accepted by the collective mind.
By identifying a limiting cultural belief and understanding why it is flawed you can become an agent of change. By communicating the message you can shape the thinking of the collective cultural consciousness.
This is what all great people in history who have been agents of change have done. Ghandi identified that loyalty to the British Crown was not in the best interests of the Indian people, self determination and independence was. Martin Luther King took the long held idea of racial equality and turned it into a movement that changed America and the world.
These people changed the collective consciousness and freed a culture from holding onto a belief that was holding them back.
They did it for justice, freedom and truth in their culture. Just in the same way that you should seek justice, freedom and truth in your personal life. Because ultimately the journey of self improvement in your personal life must always include your contribution of something for the betterment of mankind.
How To Break Free From Limiting Cultural Beliefs
1. Identify a Limiting Cultural Belief
This is something that is likely to happen because you have a nagging feeling that something is not right with the world, and in a moment of inspiration you finally understand why.
It is hard to go looking for limiting cultural beliefs, more often they find you. That is because if we knew what they were we wouldn’t be captivated by their spell.
2. Read Widely
The more you read about the world and the state of mankind the more insight you gain into the way of the world. The more you read the more you are exposed to other views and you will always come across something that challenges your world view.
3. Have An Open Mind And Do Not Succumb To Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling that comes from holding two conflicting beliefs, ideas or values. This happens when people find out new information that changes their fundamental world view. When confronted with this situation many people come up with strange explanations of justification or just ignore one side altogether.
You need an open mind and need to be open to changing your beliefs if you find out they were flawed. Always seek the truth.
What limiting cultural beliefs have you encountered? Please share them in the comments below.
Photo by Fayez
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8 thoughts on “How To Break Free Of Limiting Cultural Beliefs”
Economic growth is a big cultural belief. Governments tells us that economic growth is a good thing and to this end shopping for stuff we don’t need and expecting our wages to go up to meet our increasing material wants are part of what is normal. But what if we beleived that we have enough or too much. We would be free to work less, pay less tax and live more simply.
Actually, what’s funny for me is that until recently, I was a dedicated career woman. After having my first child, I decided to cut my career back so I could spend more time raising a baby. Talk about an ingrained cultural belief! A woman who was spent 10 years building a career just does not do this. I knew it was right for me, though, so I’ve scaled back to part-time work. It’s very scary even now, 10 months after the fact, but watching my daughter grow has been very rewarding for me.
Building a support network of women in similar situations really helped. Also surrounding myself with people who understand (rather than others who would look down on my decision) made things easier.
Our culture gives us our values and identity while growing up and it is not until we realize that we can change our self-image at our own will that we truly become empowered to challenge the assumptions from our culture and be the architect of our lives. Great topic!
Seldom do I run across “mind-opening” articles such as this. Some cultural beliefs do have a significant role in limiting what one can do. As a Filipino, one cultural belief that has been extremely damaging is that our poverty has something to do with fate; that we have to be contented (and happy) with what God gives us. If we as a nation breaks through this cultural-mental barrier, we can be great again.
Great stuff. Perhaps you could expound more on this topic.
Thanks fro a great post Thomas. Human-kind’s greatest asset is our diversity. Without every piece of this wonderful puzzle, the whole can’t function. Embracing the people most different from, and threatening to, you can open up doors you never knew existed.
Great insight in this article! One of the indicators that you are operating under a cultural belief is saying to yourself “I can’t do that – what would people think?”. A client of mine was unhappy in a job but said he couldn’t leave because he’d only been there for 3 month and “what would people in the industry think?”. So he was going to stay in a job he hated because society believed that you shouldn’t change jobs too often….
Thanks for the feedback everyone.
@Kirsten – That I guess is one of the great questions. To live for ourselves or live for what others want us to be.