Self-limiting beliefs are assumptions we’ve made about ourselves concerning our rights, responsibilities, attributes and skills that we fervently believe to be true. The downside is they hold us back and are not in our best interests, because they stop us from thinking, saying or doing things that might otherwise be beneficial for us. As a result, we run the risk of not living our lives to the full nor accomplishing all that we’re capable of.
These beliefs are formed when we’re growing up and moving into adulthood.
As children, we learn from our parents, teachers and peers. Much of what we’re taught helps keep us be safe and secure, and prepares us for the time when we step out into the wider world. But sadly, our teachers are not always well informed, and so we may also develop beliefs that reflect their own limiting perceptions about the world and how it works. For instance, if we’re brought up to believe that the world is a dangerous place, this might be true in certain circumstances, but not in all situations, and so could inhibit choices that we make in later life.
Fear can be a great driver in fixing limiting beliefs firmly into place. If we believe that we’ll be harmed in some way or another by going against these beliefs, then we’ll do everything we can to ensure that doesn’t happen. This includes avoiding people or situations where our actions might result in criticism, ridicule or rejection.
We can also develop erroneous beliefs through our different experiences. If we’re reprimanded for doing something wrong or not in the way that our parents or teachers expected of us, this can translate into I’m not good enough or I’m not smart enough.
Unravelling the Myth of Self-Limiting Beliefs
The important thing to remember is that your beliefs about yourself are not necessarily true; they are simply a reflection of how you perceive your skills and attributes.
If your self-beliefs have served you well in the past and led to good results in your life, then you can conclude they have been effective.
But if there are areas of your life where things have not been working out well or producing the results you want, there’s a good chance that some self-limiting beliefs are getting in the way.
One of the difficulties is that we don’t actually sit down and decide what we’re going to believe about ourselves. These beliefs tend to evolve over time depending on what we’ve been taught and the experiences we go through.
But history is not necessarily a good predictor of the future. Just because you didn’t get something right doesn’t mean to say you’re not good enough. And just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean to say you’re not smart enough. You’re not alone in getting something wrong or making a mistake, so too have many of the happiest and most successful people in the world.
The key step is to bring your self-limiting beliefs out into the open and then you have a choice about whether or not to continue to believe them. At this point you might be tempted to exclaim…my limitations are very real, why wouldn’t I continue to believe them?
The answer lies in the power of thought. The more you focus on a belief, the more likely it will become a reality in your life. So, if you believe you can’t do something, the chances are you’ll be proved right. Equally, if you believe you can do something, you’re also likely to be proved right.
What’s possible in your life is determined by what you believe.
Three Steps to Driving Out Self-Limiting Beliefs
Identify Your Self Limiting Beliefs
Start by thinking about all the things you would really like to do and have in your life by asking yourself the following questions:
- How would I like to spend my time?
- What would I like to do and have?
- What do I want to become?
As you think about each of these, write down the thoughts and feelings that may be holding you back. Let your mind wander and just see what floats to the surface. Also, take note of how you feel, because negative emotions can be a reflection of self-limiting beliefs.
Here are some common self-limiting beliefs that other people have mentioned:
- I‘m not good enough/smart enough
- What if I fail?
- What if I’m rejected?
- I’m not very attractive
- What if people laugh at me?
- Nobody loves me
- I can’t commit to…because I’ve been let down before
- I’m too young/too old
- I never have any luck
- I’m not as good as they are
- Money is a struggle
- I don’t deserve…
And remember, anything you say to yourself to justify why something isn’t working out for you is likely to be a self-limiting belief.
Try on a New Empowering Belief
Next you must allow yourself to consider the possibility that these self-limiting beliefs may not true. And before you exclaim…but they are! just give yourself the space to imagine the polar opposite.
Write down new empowering beliefs that challenge your old ideas; beliefs that would help you achieve your dreams.
Then choose one belief you really want to focus on, and give full reign to your imagination. Picture what it would be like to achieve your dream. Repeat your new belief to yourself (ideally out loud), see yourself living your dream in glorious technicolor in your mind’s eye and feel what it would feel like.
The more emotion you can bring to this process, the more easily you can release the old belief and replace it with the new. Don’t be surprised if your new belief feels a bit strange at first; it will. But the more you can practice this technique – ideally first thing in the morning and last thing at night – the comfortable the new idea feels. There then comes a time when you realize you really are starting to believe this new perception of yourself.
And now, the moment of truth, the final step in the process; you need to act as if your new belief were true. For example, decide…
- How would an attractive woman behave?
- What does a good friend do for others?
- What measures would a financially secure person take?
…and then just do it.
Even if you’re taking tiny, imperfect steps to act out your new belief, you’re starting to make it a reality in your life. And the more steps you take, the easier it becomes and the more firmly you embed this new belief into your life.
A New Way Forward
If you’ve read this far and are still doubting whether you can change your self-limiting beliefs, just give it a try, because you’ve nothing to lose and much to gain.
What happens as you start to develop powerful new beliefs, backed up by a different way of behaving, is that you create an expectation that really does allow you to change your life and live your dreams. It may not happen overnight, but if you stay true to this process, you have every chance of accomplishing all that you want in life.