As we grow up the people around us shape our experiences. They form our initial norms and values – the things which make us who we are. This can be anything from our views on politics to basic manners. As we grow older, these values we once upheld may no longer resonate with us and who we see ourselves to be. Being able to accept this is something many of us struggle with internally as we try and work out who we are as people and who we stand for. In order to become this person, we need to unlearn the values and beliefs we once upheld.
What do I mean by unlearning? Psychology Today calls Unlearning, “the process through which we break down the origins of our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, feelings, and biases. It’s asking yourself, where do your beliefs come from? Do these support my mental health? Is this in alignment with the life I want? Is congruent with my authenticity and the person I am? The person I want to become? Do I believe this to be true to myself?”
What are these beliefs and thoughts? They can vary from person to person. Two major ones for me were my relationship with food and money. My thoughts on both of these topics impact heavily on the way I see myself and limit the potential of my future self, which is why I have to unlearn patterns of behavior I have developed in order to become the person I know I am.
I won’t lie, the process is both healing and uncomfortable at the same time. When you unlearn things, it enables you to grow. You gain a new perspective, see new ways to deal with certain situations and as a result, you are able to heal from your past traumas. It enables you to confront the person you were and allow yourself to become the person you wish to be. It is uncomfortable and chances are it will impact your relationship with those around you. The more authentic you become and the more you align with your true self, the more the relationships around you will change. This is a natural and necessary part of growth. It is important to remember your relationships may change but they will remain an integral part of your life.
How does one unlearn? According to Life Coach and Counsellor Seema Malji, “The best way to unlearn is to find ideas that may not serve you. When working with clients, we work on areas that we want to develop, money, love, health, whatever it may be and we unpick it. Often an idea we’ve picked up somewhere in our life can work against us, so we use tools to create new beliefs that help us become what we actually want.”
Personally, I used a mixture of both therapy and journaling to help me unpick these beliefs and values. For you, it may be talking it through with someone close to you. Ultimately, you need to be honest with yourself about these issues. It isn’t easy. It has taken me many years to confront some of the things I am trying to learn and I still have a long way to go. It is a process and as with anything to do with the brain, it takes time. As Seema says, “Unlearning is a gradual process, whilst some ideas are unlearned quickly some can take longer and that takes work. Neural pathways can be completely pruned straight away depending on the commitment, some just take practice.” So be patient with yourself while you are on this journey.
Unlearning is scary but choosing new thoughts and behaviours which serve you is something money cannot buy.