In Part 1 of this series of two articles, I introduced the fact that our beliefs about ourselves, others and the world in which we live have a profound impact on the quality and control we have in our lives. Now let's examine the specific beliefs that cause so much trouble in so many lives.

Adversity: Experiencing adversity is unfair, frightening and demoralizing.

There are many people who truly believe that their lives should be free from mistakes, failures, traumas, crises, personal limitations, obstacles and all prickly problems. They have the notion that when adversity occurs, life isn't treating them fairly, or they interpret the dilemma as indicative of some personal deficiency. They may think they don't have nor will ever have what it takes to cope with difficulties, so adversity takes on the persona of the boogie man.

Adversity touches every one of us. No exceptions. I remember long ago I met a young woman in her late 20's who had lived an idyllic childhood, no problems, no trials and tribulations. Sounds great, right? Life hit her hard with the unexpected death of her brother who was just a few years older than she. She fell apart, really fell apart. Now I'll grant you that something that terrible would greatly affect any loving sister. But because she had never had to handle anything difficult, she was poorly prepared for a tragedy of this magnitude. She was probably poorly prepared for any major upheaval. She had not learned the skills to help her cope and bounce back. It's true that we do our children no favors by protecting them from many of the distressing circumstances that present important opportunities for them to learn how to be resilient. Childhood is about being in training to handle what comes later in life.

Approval: I need the approval of others to feel good about myself and to feel safe.

There's a rarely discussed addiction that can be as enslaving as drugs and as devastating to self-respect, self-confidence and healthy functioning as alcoholism. It promotes failure and disappointment, wastes time and energy, and fosters dependence, anxiety, depression and exhaustion. If this is your drug of choice, you can expect a life where you are trapped in the stress zone.

When you care too much about the acceptance and applause of others you give your power away. Just as the junkie who craves drugs is controlled by dependence on the substances, the approval addict who craves validation and appreciation is dependent on the whims of other people. Trouble for sure. Dependence is a slippery slope. It enslaves you, giving others the ultimate power over how you perceive and feel about yourself.

Dependency: I need or want to depend on others.

Human beings thrive when they have close and interdependent relationships. On one hand, these relationships are about being your own person, and on the other hand, being connected in healthy ways to others. Dependency is a very different matter. When individuals rely on others to do for them what they can and should do for themselves, they shift the control of their lives to other people. This makes it difficult for them to develop their own identity and to fulfill their own potential.
The dependent person becomes enslaved by needs and fears. In many areas she becomes unable to take the risks that lead to life's successes and rewards. With dependency, fears grow and self-confidence shrinks day by day. A person's locus of control -- who or what manages an individual's life -- comes from outside. The dependent person's life is really not her own. She has relinquished her power to others, which so often impedes her chances of being genuinely happy.

Expectations: People should be the way I want them to be; my life should be the way I want it to be.

There is a hidden source of power or pain that often goes unaddressed by many individuals. The truth is, expectations can have a far-reaching impact on how people live their lives and the rewards and successes they reap along the way. Expectations are assumptions about the future - what will occur or what should occur - and they can profoundly influence your relationships, your self-confidence, your happiness and your ability to navigate your path in life.

What a huge mistake it is to ignore, deny or simply cling to expectations that have little or nothing to do with how things really work. Expecting too little or too much, or expecting inappropriate things of ourselves, other people in our lives and the world in which we live, can cause utter chaos. Unrealistic expectations can set you up for disappointment, ineffective behavior and even depression. Expectation minus reality = frustration. Our self-talk, moods and feelings are often governed by the frustration that results when what we expected would or should happen does not happen.

Fear: My life is governed by fear, so I have to worry about and avoid those things that scare me.

For too many individuals, fear is paralyzing and, when allowed, can rule with an iron fist. The internal world and actions of a fearful person are governed by a phantom tyrant. Many of us capitulate to its perceived power, often without much resistance. This capitulation to fear is malignant to the human spirit, robbing one of dignity, happiness and hope. The power it wields is shear chicanery, existing only because an individual acquiesces, becoming its prisoner.

What are these fears that immobilize and debilitate us needlessly? Some people fear making mistakes, or even more catastrophic, failing in any way. Just the thought can generate a panic attack. Others will do just about anything to avoid disapproval, embarrassment or rejection. Then there is fear of the unknown, which, of course, is far reaching since there are so many unknowns in life. There's fear of success -- what an action-stopper that can be. Some people are afraid of both failure and success! Fear of change and the possible loss of control that can accompany it, even if for a short time, can profoundly intimidate some people.

Happiness: My happiness depends on the circumstances in my life and how other people treat me.

Many of us have beliefs about happiness that just don't square with reality. Some of the research findings on happiness may well seem counterintuitive. That's the thing about research, sometimes it discovers expected relationships and sometimes it discovers relationships that are hard for us to fit into our philosophy about how things work.

Keep in mind that just because you believe something doesn't make it so. Just because you think you know how things work doesn't mean that you do. The research on happiness has given us many substantial clues on how we can increase our levels. Many of these findings don't support commonly held beliefs about the sources of happiness.

Let me give you an example of a mistaken belief. Many people think that circumstances such as how rich or healthy you are contribute greatly to their happiness. Not true. That's right, our circumstances only account for 10% of our happiness! It's understandable that some people find this disturbing when they've attached their hopes to the specific circumstances they believe will bring joy to their lives.

Perfection: It is vital for me and those I care about to be perfect.

Many people believe that being perfect according to their definition is the way to live their lives in order to be highly successful, very respected, even wildly happy.
Unfortunately for them, this particular set of beliefs engenders a way of life that's more likely to foster depression, difficult relationships, and fewer and more limited accomplishments. Perfectionism is an unhealthy way to live. Believing that only one outcome (the perfect one!) is acceptable is incompatible with emotional health and well-being.

If you're a perfectionist, changing your beliefs, expectations and behaviors won't be easy, but it will open the path to greater health, happiness and self-confidence.

Victim Mentality: My problems are caused by others or by circumstances.

Casting yourself in the role of the victim in your inner world and in your public persona is a straight shot to pain, disappointment and ineffectiveness. This misguided approach marginalizes your capacity to live a fruitful, powerful and rewarding existence. It restricts your options, blocks your ability to make your goals and dreams come true, and can weaken your confidence in yourself.

Martin Seligman, the world-renowned Positive Psychologist, explains that “victimology" -- blaming our problems on other people and circumstances -- is directly related to the concept of "learned helplessness." Learned helplessness, often a major factor in depression, is a well-documented phenomenon in which an individual does not believe that his/her actions matter in terms of how things turn out. The victim believes that events and circumstances are controlled by external forces rather than by his choices and actions.

Author's Bio: 

Sharon S. Esonis, Ph.D., has spent three decades helping individuals thrive and improve their lives through her work as a licensed psychologist, author, college faculty associate and life coach. An expert in human behavior and motivation, Dr. Esonis specializes in the burgeoning field of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of optimal human functioning and the core strengths that can lead to the achievement of one's personally-defined goals.

Her most recent book, "8 Crazy Beliefs That Screw Up Your Life; Change These Beliefs and Become a Healthier, Happier Person." examines eight debilitating "thematic belief systems" that can have a profound impact on the quality of life. The print edition is available on and, and the e-book edition is available on as well as in Kindle format from

Her previous book, "It's Your Little Red Wagon... 6 Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life (Embrace the Power of Positive Psychology and Live Your Dreams!)," is Dr. Esonis's contribution to the field of Positive Psychology, presenting proven success factors and strength-building techniques that can lead individuals to a life of purpose, motivation and happiness. It is available on

Dr. Esonis earned her doctoral degree at Boston College and currently maintains a life coaching practice in the San Diego area. She also teaches Positive Psychology in the Extended Learning Program at California State University San Marcos. To learn more about the power of Positive Psychology and receive a free chapter from her latest book, 8 Crazy Beliefs That Screw Up Your Life, visit her website at