Targeting self-defeating beliefs

“You’ve got to hang onto him,” Father admonished. “Show him who the boss is!” I looked over at my 700-pound 4-H steer then back at my father.

“To escape from prison you must first realize that you are the prison.” — Gurdjieff, author and spiritual teacher

“You’ve got to hang onto him,” Father admonished. “Show him who the boss is!”

I looked over at my 700-pound 4-H steer then back at my father.

“Seems pretty obvious who the boss is,” I replied with a nod to my calf.

“Oh hell!” Father grumbled and snatched the halter from me. At the time I was 12 years old and embarking on my first year as a 4-H beef club member. One of the first tasks, after selection and weigh-in, was breaking the animal to lead. As the calf stood nearly as tall as me at the shoulders and outweighed me by several hundred pounds, I could see no way to successfully manoeuvre through this challenge. I had watched and even Father, who was over six feet tall and some 200 pounds, found breaking to lead a difficult and frustrating chore.

After an hour of being dragged around the farm yard, stepped on and kicked, I was done. I wanted to quit 4-H forever. Father’s frustration with me only made matters worse.

“I can’t do it,” I said, nearly in tears. “It’s too hard and I’m too small!”

“You can do it,” Father declared, “just stand your ground!”

“But how?” I asked, my voice starting to quaver. “He’s so much bigger than me.”

“Listen,” Father said, taking a deep breath to calm his annoyance. “When it comes to cattle, size don’t mean nothin’! Animals can’t reason. If your calf figures it can’t get away from you, it’ll stop trying. All you’ve got to do is stand firm those first few times and from then on you won’t have a problem!” I pondered his statements and wondered if it could be that simple.

The mind is an interesting thing. Whatever you feed it, it begins to believe. Consider this: each person has a view of the world and themselves, along with specific rules that govern his behaviour and responses to stimulus. Once the die has been cast, and by that I mean once we accept certain ideas as fundamentally true, we seldom re-examine them. If we are ever to smash through stubbornness and habit, we must be willing to re-examine our beliefs and challenge them. We must shine the bright light of awareness on what we consider to be true.

Here’s a simple yet powerful technique to help target self-defeating beliefs.

Choose one area of your life that feels deficient and decide what you would like to believe (as opposed to what you actually believe at the moment). List the area of deficiency and then write down the ideal belief next to it — areas like self-esteem, health, prosperity, creativity or relationships.

Let’s use self-esteem and the ideal belief: I love and accept myself the way I am. Create three columns on a piece of paper and write self-esteem in the left column and “I love and accept myself the way I am” in the middle column. Now just be still and notice what bubbles up from your subconscious mind (especially when you state out loud the ideal belief). Write down these thoughts in the third column no matter how irrelevant they might initially appear. The process is similar to free association.

Repeat the process six to seven times and you’ll soon discover the column begins to fill up with a list of negative assumptions. I used the word assumptions because much of what we believe to be truth is simply assumption — uninvestigated thought that will often crumble under serious scrutiny.

When I first did this exercise on self-esteem, I discovered a number of self-defeating ideas “bubbling” to the surface: I’m not good enough, smart enough, no matter how hard I try it’s just not good enough and so on.

Bringing awareness to what you’re thinking is a powerful step toward changing your thinking, but awareness is only the opening move. A limiting belief can continue to work against you even if you are aware of its presence.

People who believe there is not enough to go around may remain in need regardless how hard they try to prosper.

When changing beliefs, it’s often a matter of “standing your ground” and persevering – opening yourself up to new possibilities, approaching challenges from different angles and employing new strategies.

The world’s top motivational speaker and best-selling author Les Brown writes, “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”

Our actions come directly from what we’ve reinforced within ourselves and spent our time focusing upon. Becoming aware of the beliefs that bind us is the first step to breaking free of them. Think about what it is that you really want to accomplish and then think about all the perceived barriers that stand in your way. What perceptions bind you right now?

If it was indeed true that my 4-H steer was unable to reason and only needed to be convinced that escape was futile then perhaps there was a simpler, more effective way to get the point across.

I haltered my calf and tied it to the hitch of our small Ford tractor. I then drove slowly up and down our quarter-mile driveway with the calf behind — fighting, pulling and tugging.

By the third trip, the calf was trotting nonchalantly behind the tractor. Initially critical of my method, over time Father did reluctantly acknowledge that the novel approach was sound.

Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US Vice-President Joe Biden walk down the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. If Joe Biden’s decision to kill off Keystone XL is supposed to sound the death knell for Canada-U.S. relations, you wouldn’t know it from the newly minted president’s call sheet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
In wake of decision to kill Keystone XL, Biden’s first foreign-leader call? Trudeau

Biden rescinded former president Donald Trump’s approval of the US$8-billion cross-border pipeline expansion

Protesting farmers and their families gather around a bonfire to mark the harvest festival, which is called Lohri, on a blocked highway in protest against new farm laws on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Changes in India’s farm laws could potentially open up one of the world’s most populous markets and are being closely watched by Canada’s agricultural and economic sectors, say experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Altaf Qadri
Changes in Indian farm laws could benefit Canada, experts say

Independent committee of experts to negotiate with opponents of legislation

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
CFIB raises estimate of small businesses at risk of closing permanently

One in six Canadian small business owners seriously contemplating shutting down

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus looks into a souvenir shop displaying various of stickers, one of them showing a former U.S. President Donald Trump caricature, in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday. In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
China hopes for co-operation, better relations under Biden

U.S. need to relaunch co-operation in a number of areas

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to the media during a press conference on the current situation in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Topics include the decisions taken by the federal and state governments to combat the Corona pandemic, the Chancellor’s upcoming virtual consultations with the heads of state and government of the European Union (EU), and relations with the United States following the inauguration of the new president. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
Germany’s Merkel stands by Russia pipeline that US opposes

Washington says the project makes Europe more dependent on Russian gas and hurt European energy security

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, greets International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
Lithuania offers to replace Belarus as hockey worlds co-host

Tournament scheduled to run May 21 to June 6

Canadian international midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, left, is seen in action against St. Louis FC in an undated handout photo. Gagnon-Lapare has joined HFX Wanderers FC on a two-year deal with a club option for 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-HFX Wanderers FC
Canadian international Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare joins CPL’s HFX Wanderers FC

Gagnon-Lapare most recently with Ottawa Fury FC and St. Louis FC

An Italian police officer stands by a copy of the “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci, in Naples, Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Italian police have recovered a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century “Salvator Mundi” painting of Jesus Christ that was stolen from a Naples church without the priests even realizing it was gone. The discovery was made over the weekend when Naples police working on a bigger operation found the painting hidden in an apartment. Police chief Alfredo Fabbrocini said the owner offered a “less than credible” explanation that he had “casually” bought it at a small market. (Italian Police via AP)
Italian police find stolen copy of Leonardo ‘Salvator Mundi’

500-year-old copy of Leonardo da Vinci painting

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Inauguration fashion: Purple, pearls, American designers

Joe Biden wore navy blue suit and overcoat by Ralph Lauren

Adam Hadwin, of Canada, chips to the second green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Most Read