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Unhelpful Allergy Beliefs


frustrated girl studying

Ever notice that we live by rules?


I'm not talking about societal rules such as laws, but internal rules, or beliefs and guidelines we've created for ourselves to live by. We typically develop these internal rules/beliefs through experiences we've had, or to help us achieve or avoid things.


You'll likely identify these internal rules by the language you use when thinking of them. "Should, ought to, must, right or wrong, good or bad, always or never" are common words and phrases that let us know that we're connecting with these internal rules/beliefs.


But internal rules and beliefs are useful, right?


Maybe.


They can be useful, guiding us towards things that matter to us in life. But, they can also be unhelpful, leading us to veer off track. It's this unhelpfulness that I want to explore - with a simple, practical strategy to help navigate these unhelpful internal rules and beliefs. 


Quality of Life Impacts of Unhelpful Internal Beliefs

Our internal rules and beliefs can act as guides for how we navigate life. Let's look at some non-allergy examples first:

  • Belief: "I shouldn't do that because I'm not smart" ---> This internal belief may lead to avoiding taking risks where the outcome may result in giving wrong answers, extending ourselves academically or professionally, or anything else that reinforces this belief

  • Belief: "I'm a bad cook" ---> This may lead to avoiding cooking, trying new recipes, or letting others taste what you've made

  • Belief: "The world is always unsafe" ---> This may lead to limiting experiences in life or not believing that there are safety and kind people out there in the world

Just like the rules of the road that guide us in driving, these internal rules/beliefs guide our behaviors and how we navigate life. Think of them like guard rails on the highway. When the internal rules/beliefs are helpful, they're like guard rails separated by many lanes - there's so much space to move around, and there may even be portions of the road where there aren't any guard rails limiting us!


But when these internal rules/beliefs are unhelpful, they can feel like guard rails on a one-lane highway - keeping you confined to a very small space.


Before we explore examples of unhelpful allergy-specific internal rules/beliefs and what to do with them, I need to cover one more topic: How rigid or flexible our internal beliefs are.


How Rigid Or Flexible Are Your Internal Beliefs?

Using the guard rail metaphor, let's apply it to bowling. Have you ever gone "bumper bowling" with the guard rails up so that the bowling ball doesn't go into the gutter? 


In my experiences with bumper bowling, sometimes I've played with hard, rigid metal bumpers and other times with softer, inflatable-looking bumpers. With the hard, rigid metal bumpers, my ball would typically bounce off of them so much so that it would overcorrect itself, bounce to the other side of the lane, and then bounce back again. It looked like it was erratically bouncing back and forth with no real hope of hitting a pin! But when I played with the softer, more flexible bumpers, while my ball would still bounce off of the bumpers, it actually seemed to have a chance to move down the lane with the hope of hitting a pin. 


What this example is getting at is that our internal rules/beliefs (guard rails) can be rigid or flexible, which impacts the actions we take and our quality of life.


  • With rigid internal rules/beliefs, we often find ourselves avoiding experiences and limiting ourselves because they don't leave much room for exploration, possibilities, and other perspectives. Things need to be a certain way and align with these internal rules, otherwise, it's too risky, scary, uncomfortable, and likely unattainable (or so we believe). The rigid nature of these rules is MEANT to help us feel less anxious and more certain about things, but oftentimes, it ends up doing the opposite and creating more discomfort in our lives.


  • When our internal rules/beliefs are more flexible, we're more willing to test the waters outside of our comfort zone to see what happens. We're also more willing to see things from more than one perspective, which potentially leads to changing our internal rules/beliefs to be more workable ones for ourselves, our goals, and our lives in general. While the flexibility of these rules/beliefs may initially scare us because it feels so uncertain, the flexibility helps us to develop life skills that get us through the discomfort and uncertainty life throws our way - and that helps us develop competence and confidence in ourselves!


Now, let's put this all together with allergy-specific examples! 


Noticing Your Unhelpful Allergy Beliefs

Many of the internal allergy rules/beliefs we've developed are likely rigid ones, which doesn't leave much room for anything less than perfection. Let's look at these examples of unhelpful allergy rules/beliefs and the potential outcomes of living by these rules - and as you read them, I encourage you to think about the rigid rules/beliefs you may have developed: 

Rigid Allergy Belief: "Feeling anxious is always a sign it's unsafe or that I'll react"


  • This rigid belief will likely lead you to avoid anything that makes you feel anxious because you'll interpret everything uncomfortable as something that will lead to a reaction. However, this is unhelpful because anxiety is a normal part of life, especially when managing allergies. Anxiety also doesn't only show up when it has to do with safety - it often shows up when something is new to us! So this rigid belief reinforces the unrealistic internal rule that living safely with an allergy looks like a very precise math equation: Allergy + Avoidance = Total Safety. However, allergy life ISN'T a precise math equation, and living like it is will likely negatively impact your quality of life. 

Rigid Allergy Belief: "If I'm not doing everything, other allergic individuals or allergy parents that I see in support groups are doing to stay safe, then I'm not being safe enough/aren't being a good enough allergy parent."

  • This rigid belief sets you up for unhelpful comparisons! These comparisons are based on the internal belief that how others navigate allergy life is right, and how you're doing it is wrong. Says who?! We're all different. We have different allergy specifics, values, and goals in life. What works for one person may not work well for another. So taking information learned from others as a verbatim map you're supposed to strictly follow to be safe enough or a good enough allergy parent only pushes you even further from learning the skills that will help YOU feel confident in allergy management!


Now, let's use these rigid allergy belief examples above and turn them into more flexible internal beliefs.


A Practical Tool For Changing Unhelpful Beliefs

So what's the simple, practical tool that helps us change our rigid rules/beliefs into more flexible and workable ones? 


LANGUAGE, or the words we choose to use, even in our own mind!


You'll see we can turn a rigid belief into a more flexible one by simply changing the words or phrases used - because language matters when it comes to how we internal rule-making!

  • Rigid Allergy Belief: "Feeling anxious is always a sign it's unsafe or that I'll react" 

  • Flexible Allergy Belief: "Feeling anxious may be a sign it's unsafe or that I'll react"

Did you notice a difference in how it felt when you read the rigid version versus the flexible version of this internal belief? While it still leaves room for thinking about the potential or uncertainty of a reaction (because we truly can't eliminate ALL uncertainty in life), it hopefully felt less uncomfortable. The flexible allergy belief will open you up to looking at other perspectives and potential outcomes, such as anxiety just being an uncomfortable feeling that doesn't always mean something is unsafe. And this adjusted internal belief will allow you to choose new actions, which may positively impact your quality of life!

  • Rigid Allergy Belief: "If I'm not doing everything, other allergic individuals or allergy parents that I see in support groups are doing to stay safe, then I'm not being safe enough/aren't being a good allergy parent."

  • Flexible Allergy Belief: "I can choose to do what other allergic individuals or allergy parents that I see in support groups are doing to stay safe, but not doing so doesn't mean I'm not being safe enough/aren't being a good enough allergy parent."

Changing the phrasing used in this rigid allergy rule/belief literally changes the meaning of it! So, which of those statements feels most workable for you? (I'm putting my money on the flexible one).


Instead of falling in line with an internal rule you created based on the fear you're feeling, you can choose to make that belief work better for you. Then, the next time you're reading through online posts and that rigid allergy rule/belief pops back up (because it most likely still will for a while), you can remind yourself of your more workable, flexible rule/belief!


Final Takeaways...

While there is a lot of room for very calculated and precise rules in allergy life (and life in general), not EVERY internal allergy rule/belief has to be so rigid. In fact, the more rigid we tend to be, the more potential there is that these rules/beliefs will negatively impact our quality of life.


Therefore, remember: 

  • It's helpful to start noticing your internal rules/beliefs and their impact on life

  • Our internal rules/beliefs can be helpful AND unhelpful

  • It's important to assess which of our rules/beliefs are unhelpful vs. unhelpful

  • Explore whether your unhelpful internal rules/beliefs are too rigid

  • It IS possible to make our internal rules/beliefs more workable with flexibility

  • Making our internal rules/beliefs more flexible starts with adjusting language

  • When the rigid rules/beliefs pop back up, remind yourself of the flexible ones

  • Navigating allergy life with some flexible internal rules/beliefs can positively impact the ability to learn how to confidently live with allergies and positively impact your quality of life

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