Self-fulfilling prophecies

A self-fulfilling prophecy is the psychological phenomenon of someone “predicting” or expecting something, and this “prediction” or expectation coming true simply because the person believes or anticipates it will and the person’s resulting behaviours align to fulfil the belief.

Basically, if you expect to behave in a certain way, then you will behave in a certain way and self-sabotage your progress.

This normally rears its head in the following ways:

“I’m just someone who can’t lose weight”

“I have no self control”

“I just can’t help myself”

“I’m just not someone who exercises”

Are all examples of beliefs that we can acquire at some point.

And what happens is that instead of questioning them, we take them on as a part of our identity.

They are particularly insidious because the more you tell yourself that’s who you are, the more you behave in ways that align with those beliefs and gather more evidence for your theory.

The more evidence you gather, the more you tell yourself it’s true.

It’s a vicious cycle.

If you expect to fail, you will.

So how do you get out of this head space?

Write it down.

Question it.

Rationalise it.

Taking fat loss as an example:

“I believe that I am not capable of losing some body fat”

Break that down. Is fat loss actually impossible?

The answer is: No. It is absolutely possible. It’s something everyone’s bodies can physically do.

Great! So now you know it’s not an ability problem, dig a little further…

Stop talking to yourself like it isn’t possible. It is.

Another example:

“I’m just going to fail”

Why do I think I’m going to fail?

“Because I’ve tried before and I failed.”

Why did I fail?

(Usually the answer is: “because I gave up”)

Why did you give up?

(Usually it’s “because it was overly restrictive”, which set you up for failure)

Or maybe it was because you used scale weight as your only measure of success, so when you weighed and the scale hadn’t dropped you gave up?

In this case, now you know the real answer, learn from your previous times and previous mistakes.

I know this is easier said than done, but being aware of your inner self-talk and being able to question it rationally instead of becoming emotionally attached to it is such a life-changing skill to have.

If you expect to struggle, you will.

If you expect to fail, you will.

And just to end on some science to make you contemplate how powerful this can be, research shows that your belief about things can change how your body physically responds.

Research shows that:

  • If people expect to feel hungry because they think they have a gene that makes them feel hungrier, then their bodies release more of the hunger hormone after a meal.
  • People who were told their genetic predisposition for endurance sport was either good or bad, performed better or worse independently of their genetics (people who were told they were bad performed worse even if they had the good gene).

And this wasn’t just down to their mental state, their bodies responded in ways that made them perform worse.

Just some food for thought…