When my brother and I were little our Mum seemed to know what we were up to, what was said and done even when she was no where to be seen. This I found a little spooky yet oddly exciting. The anticipation of her always knowing kept me on my toes. My mother would recount what mischief my brother had been up to while he stood mouth gapping – how did she know? When asked she would say ‘I have eyes in the back of my head’. I believed this well into my teenage years, although logically didn’t know how it could be true she certainly seemed to have a knack of knowing about the most obscure goings on. So much so that I would confess most of my misdemeanours before being ‘found out’ in an effort to try and beat her to it.
The eyes watching turned to psychic abilities as I grew older. Mum for example saying ‘Be careful or this will all end in tears’ ultimately worked out to be right throughout my teens and into my twenties and unfortunately she’s managed to accurately predict many a downfall ever since.
As a parent myself I now know the route to finding out what’s going on even when we’re not there and as an adult can understand that her predictions are accurate because a) she is a perceptive and wise lady but also b) if I believe her the likelihood is I will make something happen myself – a self-fulfilling prophecy. When for example she tells me that I’ll end up sick if I don’t slow down, I of course end up sick.
There are so many myths that surround us which we cling onto well into adulthood and believe despite our rational knowledge of the world. Working with leaders one of the most common is ‘Imposter Syndrome’ – a leader or anyone who is successful at what they do believing that they are going to get found out because they really aren’t good enough. They are however in shared company because so many suffer from it. In fact a recent piece of research carried out by my friends and colleagues at The School for CEOs alongside Heriot Watt University found that both Men and Women experience Imposter Syndrome often believing they’ve reached the position through hard work and ‘luck’ as opposed to experience, credibility and capability.
Other myths we believe in as adults can be quite dangerous to our well-being. The belief that being emotionally strong means never feeling or showing emotions for example which in fact this denotes emotional brittleness and a higher likelihood of at some point breaking down. That showing vulnerability as a leader is a bad thing (listen to the very powerful Dot to Dot podcast episode with Jonathan McMullan to hear more on this. Also if you haven’t already – watch Brene Brown’s fab TedTalk to see why this isn’t true – link below). That to be a successful leader you need to be an extrovert or at least act like one. That depression shows weakness and failure (more on this from Olympian Jack Green in the upcoming Dot to Dot episode), when in fact many of the worlds greats have suffered from including Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Sir Isaac Newton, J.K. Rowling. And for me the worst of all, that trying to solve the problems in our heads works in the same way as trying to solve the problems in the outside world – when in truth if we try to control our emotions we actually just end up tying ourselves in knots. Other psychological myths include:
- We learn more effectively when taught via our preferred “learning style”
- Our personality is fixed once we’re an adult
- We only use 10% of our brain capacity
- We have a dominant left or right brain making us more creative or more analytical
- 10,000 hours of deliberate practice will not make you gifted
So the moral of this story – while believing in the tooth fairy may be fun, other myths and beliefs are better questioned. Don’t always believe what you are told.
What myths have you believed in your lifetime (psychological or otherwise) and then busted?
Defining You: Discover telling insights into your behaviour, motives and results to unlock your full potential by Fiona Murden, is available in all good bookstores and on Amazon UK, USA and Australia at the links below:
And my new book Mirror Thinking How Role Models Make Us Human is also out now:
References – to read more about psychological myths:
Brene Browns Ted talk on vulnerability:
The School for CEOs research on Imposter Syndrome