Belief systems are the collection of rules and facts we accept as being true (see my journal entry What is a Belief System?). We use these to make sense of everything we hear, smell, see, taste, and touch. When we encounter something new, we form opinions based on and within the rules and facts that make up our personal belief system.
Belief systems are initiated at birth, if not sooner, and continue to form, alter, and build as we mature. The major influences on the formation of our belief system are:
Parents / those who raise us: The people who raise us strongly affect the formation of our beliefs. We know what their beliefs, values, and ethics are, whether or not they say them out loud. As children we naturally look for their acceptance, so we adopt their beliefs as our own. This, however, changes as we grow up.
Peers: As we mature our peers play a large role in forming our beliefs. In fact their influence often plays a larger role than our parents. The exposure to different beliefs systems causes us to challenge our own. The outcome will be our choice to validate our beliefs or change them.
Societal norms: Because we are driven by the need to be accepted, the culture in which we live greatly influences our beliefs by defining what is acceptable and “normal.”
Media: The media is one of the most influential tools in forming or changing the beliefs of a society. One of the most obvious examples of this is advertising’s impact on what is believed to be acceptable body shape/weight/build.
Experiences: We are affected by everything we experience. Our perception of these serves to further solidify our beliefs or challenge them. Being willing to challenge our beliefs is one way we evolve and grow.