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Our brains are evidence collectors: Confirmation bias and body image

Updated: May 23

Spam Filter For Your Brain - Episode 60

We hear a lot about how important mindset is, and we hear and read a lot of things trying to persuade us to have positive thoughts and a positive mindset, and very few people talk about why. And that's what I want to touch on a tiny bit today, just to have a look at the reasons why the way that we're speaking to ourselves and the thoughts that we think really do influence the outcomes that we experience in our life.

It comes down to this basic thing. Our brains are evidence collectors. Our brains look for the thing that we are telling them to be true, and it seeks out all of the reasons why we're right. Some of you might know this as confirmation bias, and it is quite simply, on a really basic level, the best way that our brains know how to feel safe. Because if you've told it a particular story or a particular thought, then it can look around for all of the reasons why it's right; it doesn't need to keep working out or looking for seeking all of the dangers that are going to destabilise all of the rest of the stuff that's balanced on that one thought.

So sometimes this can be really useful. If you think that the floor is solid, then walking along becomes a lot easier taking each step; your brains doesn't have to think about minding where your foot is going, whether it's going to fall through something, whether the floor is likely to take your weight or not, as you stroll around your house, for example. You've probably all experienced going down some steps where you thought the number of steps was more than it was. You extend your leg; I hope I explained this in the right way (I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about before I've even explained it actually) of going down the steps. Then you put your foot out to go down the next step, but actually, the stairs have ended, and the thud that judders through your knee is really quite confusing to your whole system. It's a microsecond, but you're like, "Oh, I wasn't ready to be thinking about walking because you were just going down the stairs."

And this can be replicated in all areas of our lives. It's just a little analogy example. We have so many automated things, so our brain can spend time thinking about other things, your brain probably spends very little time thinking about whether the floor in your house is safe or not. And let's take that to, I don't know, cellulite on your thighs. If you think that you have a whole load of pebble dash going on that is repellent to other humans, and that your thighs are a monstrosity and shouldn't be seen out in public, and even though it's hot, you shouldn't wear those shorts. What do you think your brain is going to look for evidence of?

It's going to look for evidence of all the people, the people who do wear shorts and are actually "getting away" with it and how they might be very straight size or very slender or exceedingly young and not have any life marks about them. It might be that you see someone who's your size or bigger (and I think we don't really talk about this very much), and you pass a whole load of judgment on them, on how you couldn't possibly want to look like that or be seen to be doing that. Or maybe it is that you start looking at other bits of your body that you want to criticise because you don't want to put yourself out there in a vulnerable position, and heaven forbid someone else pass comment and pass judgment on your body. Because that feels unsafe, and sometimes that can be unsafe, I'm not denying that.

But the person that you are most unsafe with is yourself because you're giving yourself this shit. 24/7. Some of us, some of us give up shits. 24/7, some of us. I don't know; maybe it's just a nine-to-five job.

But if the shouting, the fire alarm, and the abuse is coming internally, it is very hard to find a place externally that will make you feel safe because no amount of external validation can fill the void of you being cruel to yourself.

Body image is the bone I've got my teeth stuck into. And this is something that I wish more of us felt more safe walking around in the skin that we're in. But this applies to everything. Y

You tell yourself that you're too busy at work? My God, you're going to hate every second of being there, let alone any moments of moment of time that you have to do. You tell yourself that your family's really difficult. You're going to hate or really struggle with every interaction that you have to deal with. With Uncle Derek, if you think you're a terrible dancer, chances are you're probably not going to have the best time at the disco. And so all of these things can sometimes be dismissed as quite trite, like, "Oh, you should just think positive". Actually, there is a grain of truth in that. Maybe not quite as light switch, flicky, they tried to make it out. "Oh, I'll just think positive then. Thanks for that".


If you can just have a little disruptor if you catch yourself having a thought that, frankly if you heard someone else say, you would classify them as being either a bit of a whinger, a bit of a complainer or just kind of sending the negative vibes out there. Who would think that hearing someone else say it is there any way when you say it that you can just pause and go, "Is that true?" "Do I like how I feel when I tell that to myself?" "Do I like the way that that's making me feel? "Is there something else I could think that would just make my life a little bit easier?"

We don't have to go to Rainbows and Daisies all the time, but we can use a calculated use of commas for things to be just a little bit less shit sometimes. And that is a choice. Most of us think that the way that we feel about stuff, our emotions are just puddles that we fall into, but actually, our emotions are caused by the thoughts that we have. And this is amazing news because we get to decide what we think, and that is commitment, dedication, training, and repetition. And that is what I teach at You don't even need to do a whole course on it, should you not wish to, if you just want to get disruptive,

I mean, clearly, if you want to take the work deeper and have a life transformational experience, come to the gorgeous group, and sometimes just a comma is enough.

Maybe. Maybe these are human thighs. Maybe I enjoy my work. Maybe I'm here for a reason. Maybe Uncle Derek is a bit of a dick, but actually, I really like seeing my nephew.

What could come up for you that would make it all feel just a bit more manageable and maybe possibly even a bit more joyful?

I hope your calculated use of commas treats you well this week, and I'll speak to you again next week.


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