Last week, I had this exchange with my girlfriend:
Me: "But I support gender equality!"
Salomé: "Why did you just assume that I would cook dinner this evening, then?"
Oh, wow. She was right.
We're all living within systems of belief, mostly unknowingly. We cannot develop into self-directed beings without first becoming aware of these systems and deciding whether they serve us. If they don't, we must break-out of them.
As a man, I subconsciously perpetuate the patriarchal system of female domination - even after becoming aware of this system of oppression. I make subconscious judgements about my girlfriend's role in our home, imitating societal norms and the dynamic of my parent's relationship.
That's upsetting to admit. Like everyone, I want to believe I'm a righteous, good-hearted person. I identify as a feminist. It hurts to acknowledge that my actions have harmed my girlfriend and that a system beyond my awareness has influenced me.
Our ego protects itself through confirmation bias, seeking out information that confirms our beliefs.
When our attitudes change, we assume we've always held these new beliefs - protecting us from having to acknowledge we were wrong. Half of my close female friends are bisexual. And yet, as a 10-year old kid, I would call people "gay" as an insult. I can't pinpoint the moment in my development when I started supporting LGBTQ rights, because the ego hides it.
It takes mental strength to push past your confirmation bias and challenge your models of reality. Here are three ways to do it:
1. Seek out perspectives beyond your intellectual bubble. Use Kialo to read other's opinions on key debates, speak to friends about topics you disagree on, or if you want a next-level challenge, search hashtags on Twitter to gain alternative "viewpoints."
2. Address conflict rather than avoiding it. Non-Violent Communication has transformed how I deal with conflictual situations, bringing my girlfriend and I closer together creating compromises that make us happier.
3. Once you've identified the false belief, change it. Tony Robbin's Dickens Process is a powerful way to build-up sufficient leverage to destroy any belief.
Systems and habits can be helpful. They reduce cognitive load and positive daily acts accumulate to produce wonderful results. But we must proactively choose what we believe – both to develop ourselves and create the world we desire.