“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” — Buddha
Have you ever said to yourself, “I know I can absolutely do that, only if…”?
Words are powerful. They create the tone of our thoughts. Thoughts, that come together to make our beliefs. And beliefs connect, like building blocks, to form our mindset – the viewfinder we use to make sense of the world around and within us.
The only-ifs are the limiting beliefs that hold you back and justify it too.
But justifies it with stories that are either
- too generalized to consider your unique blend of qualities, or
- might have made you feel safe at one point, but are not serving you anymore.
What are limiting beliefs?
The thoughts and ideas that we gather from our memories, create a reference library of guidelines that more or less controls our actions and behavior. Some of them are good, helping us have well-balanced relationships and be kind & compassionate with others.
But, a few of these tell us staying small is good because it’s
- safe, not many challenges to overcome.
- It will protect you from people’s judgement,
- will make you more relatable and likable.
- And, will save you the heartbreak of failure.
Our thoughts drive our actions. Your limiting beliefs make you act in line with the thoughts holding you back. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy and the results keeps adding one more jewel to make that limiting belief shine even brighter.
The book ‘Beliefs: Pathyways to Health & well-being’ says, “If people really believe they can’t do something, they are going to find an unconscious way to keep the change from occurring. They will find a way to interpret the results to conform to their existing beliefs.”
The negative self-talk about yourself, about what’s possible for you, about other people or groups which makes you create assumptions…assumptions about how something will go…they are your limiting beliefs.
When we label people or groups based on some back story, we are limiting the possibilities that those interactions hold. If you label someone as perfect, you are opening yourself up to disappointment. And when you follow the unconscious belief that a person from a certain group is bound to be bad, you may be missing out on knowing a uniquely talented person!
It’s good to stay aware learning from past experiences (whether yours or others’), but taking it as absolute truth is an affirmation of a belief system that’s bending reality for you.
Where do limiting beliefs come from?
Everything we think and do is guided by two things — moving away from pain or moving towards what makes you feel good.
Growing up, we keep storing information and pieces of memory that help us make more sense of the new world we find ourselves in. And to survive, our brain is constantly on the lookout for cues indicating danger, how to stay away from it or diffuse it. And so, we move on to being adults with these cues as stamps of reality — ‘that’s how it is’.
They become our subconscious reference library to interpret any situation, experience, opportunity or person. A lot of these make life easy. But, when they take us away from our true self, they create a reality which feels unfulfilling and stifling. They become our limiting beliefs.
“I should have a family and a career by now instead of staying stuck trying to make it as an artist”. That’s a limiting belief about timelines. We give up on our dreams, our passions because we find ourselves falling short of the set ideas we have of what’s needed to be successful at something.
There’s also guilt of success, “I don’t deserve it.” You feel undeserving because you heard, saw, or read somewhere which made you believed that only people with much more intelligence or talent after putting in a lot more hard-work did what you have done.
Limiting beliefs work both ways –
- holding your stride, and
- making you feel guilty for doing something in spite of it. Guilt is a powerful motivation to make sure something’s not repeated.
Top 10 self-limiting beliefs
1. People will judge me.
2. There’s nothing wrong with me.
It’s true, there’s nothing wrong with you. But, it’s not about anything being wrong with you as a person, but about letting your actions be guided by patterns that keep bringing the same results you dislike.
3. I don’t trust myself.
It’s either because we feel we don’t have the skills or the confidence that makes you think you are going to mess things up. But confidence and skills are two very open-to-be-worked-on kind of problems.
4. I can’t handle this.
You are emotionally stronger than you believe you are. Ask yourself if it’s something truly worth your time & energy. If it is, take a step back to find a better way to deal with it. If not, step away.
5. I don’t deserve it (guilt of success).
6. I am not a numbers person.
7. It’s too late for me.
Timelines that other people have shown as possible don’t put a time-limit on following your dreams. True, certain things like enrolling in the Army have age limits. But, finding what is it that makes the idea feel so enticing and exploring other ways to experience that feeling, is the key.
8. I don’t have anyone in my life who makes me happy.
Here’s the thing, people don’t make us happy. How we interpret what they are doing is what makes us happy.
9. There is something fundamentally wrong with me.
10. I am ‘damaged goods’.
Our past doesn’t define us and they certainly aren’t a touchstone of what’s possible for us in the present or future. What defines us are our intentions and what we are willing to do with them.
But, the biggest limiting belief of them all is the conviction, “I can’t change.”
Make limiting beliefs empower you
How do you make the very thing holding you back, empower you?
When you are dealing with something, you will notice things pointing to that everywhere around you. Fought with your partner? You’ll find every ad you see playing the relationship card, happy couples everywhere — on the subway, round the curb, bumping into you, and maybe even a happy couple celebrating their 60th anniversary at the next table.
They haven’t been placed there to drive home a point like in the movies. It’s only that you are noticing them now. What you focus on, your subconscious mind makes it a point to show you.
As you shift your focus from justifying to finding solutions, to a growth mindset, you start finding possibilities in every setback, in every mistake, in every held step. You become more aware of the real thoughts behind your frustrations, anger, and jealousy.
They show you what you feel in your gut is possible for you. What you can do if all the fear of judgement, of looking silly, of not measuring up, of messing things up and failing were taken away.
Your fear shows you the areas you can work on to overcome those negative thoughts and negative emotions…adding more power to who you are.
Limiting beliefs can empower you by highlighting when & how you are shortchanging yourself.
How do you get rid of limiting beliefs
Nothing drives home the importance of recognizing there’s a problem and having the intention to do something about it as Bob Proctor’s words, “You can’t escape from a prison until you recognize you are in one. People who have chosen to live within the limits of their old beliefs continue to have the same experiences. It takes effort & commitment to break old patterns.”
But everything, even momentous changes, begin with the first step.
Step 1: Awareness
How to find your limiting beliefs? Think.
Limiting beliefs make us play safe. So ask yourself
- Which paths have you followed till now that aren’t really what you wanted to do? Why did you take those decisions?
- What have you done till now that doesn’t seem to give you true satisfaction?
- What has stopped you from going after your dreams?
- Think of one way you behave that you don’t like. Why do you behave like that?
- Where do you find yourself unable to improve?
- What is your most common explanation when things aren’t going your way?
If you keep asking why to simplify the answer, you’ll definitely get to your fear behind the belief — the root cause.
Those are your limiting beliefs.
Step 2: Refocus
You are unique and so is your journey. So, be more compassionate with yourself and stop comparing yourself with others.
Bring your focus back to your dreams and desires. What do you wish you could do? What were your dreams as a child? What do you truly want from life?
Bring your focus back to your qualities. Work on your value of self-worth and start standing up for yourself and getting people to respect your boundaries. It will make overcoming the fear of being judged and step 4 way easier.
65% of women have avoided the gym for fear of being judged
FitRated asked 1,000 people about whether they worry about being judged when they work out Women are more worried about…
When you add “I can’t _____ because”, “I don’t ____ because”, or “I am _____, because”. they become really powerful in limiting what you can do with your life looks. Refocus from explaining away disappointments to finding solutions.
It’s not narcissistic, selfish, or self-absorbed to explore what you truly want, finding ways to value yourself more. In fact, it makes more sense, because it’s only when are happy with yourself and respect yourself that you can truly respect others.
Step 3: Reframe
Now, take the answers you got from step 1 and reframe those negative emotions and negative thoughts to something that inspires positive action. Think of what you would say to your best friend being miserable with these confining thoughts.
Let’s take “there is something fundamentally wrong with me” and rephrase it as “I may have messed things up in the past but that doesn’t mean I can’t change if I put my mind to it.” You are not putting an unrealistic expectation on yourself, but opening the way to make conscious effort for doing better.
Remember your thoughts and actions define who you are, so choose them carefully. Reframe your thoughts and refocus on the solution instead to realize where your strength lies.
Look for stories to prove your new empowering belief. If you thought hearing was essential to make music, read the life story of Beethoven. Think there’s an age-limit to learn new technology effectively? Read about Kimiko Nishimoto, the 90-year-old photographer and internet celebrity.
Or simply explore the lives of people who made it against odds. Like, JK Rowling who from being a depressed single mom raising her infant daughter on state benefit and being rejected by 12 publishers, went to become one of the bestselling authors in history.
Show your subconscious mind, it’s not bad to go against convention and risk pain if it brings about something good.
Step 4: Action
I know, it’s scary to step out of your comfort zone and do things that somehow feel wrong. But it only feels wrong because your subconscious mind tries to hold on to the safety of old beliefs until you can prove them wrong.
Take action as if your new belief is true even if it scares the heck out of you. Focus on one limiting belief. Keep taking imperfect scared action till you’ve chipped away at the false belief, proving it wrong.
Start small. And as your actions keep proving your new belief to be true, you’ll gain confidence to be ready for bigger action until it becomes your brand-new reality.
As Dr. Assael Romanelli said, “Your brain, mind, and body need time to re-wire and internalize ‘new’ glasses.”
It is possible to develop new limiting beliefs as we are exposed to new experiences, people, cultures, and thoughts every day. Be mindful of making assumptions about experiences, people, groups, situations, your power and possibilities in life. It’s rarely as black and white as ‘that’s how it must be’.
Keep your focus on empowering beliefs because they are the ones that’ll help you be kind and compassionate with everyone, including yourself.
Which belief do you feel is keeping you small?
Would love to know how you are planning to make it work for you…meet you in the comments below