Have you ever been presented with an opportunity that you wanted to get but didn’t? Not because you didn’t try to grab it, but because, even before you tried, you stopped. You wanted this but there was something inside of you that prevented you from taking the plunge.
Have you ever thought that the reason things don’t work out for you is because you are _____? You don’t get promoted at work because you’re not well-educated. You don’t hold a lasting relationship because you’re not relationship material. You can’t launch a successful business because you’re not good with numbers.
These are limiting beliefs. And in this article, we’re going to:
- Define limiting beliefs
- Identify common limiting beliefs
- Debunk the myths surrounding limiting beliefs
- Learn how to overcome limiting beliefs
To break limiting beliefs, you need to define them first.
WHAT ARE LIMITING BELIEFS?
Limiting beliefs are views that restrict our actions. These can be beliefs about ourselves or the world. They are usually subconscious and we live our lives not knowing they exist. We just find ourselves unable to do certain things or pursue certain paths because of them.
Everyone has limiting beliefs – even the most successful people. But they recognized them and worked on overcoming them.
Limiting beliefs prevent us from accomplishing our purpose in life. It prevents us from living our lives to the fullest and hinders us from making constructive decisions.
There are 2 general sources of limiting beliefs:
The environment we grew up in
Our own experiences growing up
Identifying Limiting Beliefs
Now that you know what limiting beliefs are and the negative impact they have on our lives, the next question is “how do we identify limiting beliefs?”
Limiting beliefs are different for every person since we all have our own unique circumstances and backgrounds
In order to identify your limiting beliefs, you need to be mindful of your reactions to your situations. Analyze how you react to certain challenges. Note the times you reacted negatively.
For example, someone offended you but you failed to speak up. Were you afraid of conflict so you avoided the difficult situation? Keep asking why you act or decide the way you do. The more you become curious about the underlying reasons for your actions, the more you’ll uncover your limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs are deeply ingrained in our subconscious. They are not glaringly apparent at the start. Sometimes, we think we know why we do things, but when we start actively questioning our actions, we discover more reasons.
Journaling Uncovers Limiting Beliefs
Journaling is a powerful method to identify limiting beliefs. You can start writing down your behaviors and thought processes. As you do so, you will start understanding the reasons for your actions.
Write down the times you have been most challenged in life and ask why. Write down your beliefs in different aspects of your life like finances, love, career, spiritual beliefs, relationships, etc.
For example, you believe that you need a good education or graduate from a good school to land a high-paying job. Or you believe that you need to be an ideal weight to form a loving relationship. If you’re constantly challenged to present your ideas to your boss, then write that down. Ask yourself why you believe these things or why you are constantly experiencing these challenges. It could be that you have an underlying limiting belief that you’re not good enough or that you’re not a great person.
The closer you get to the limiting belief, the easier it will be to overcome and address them.
What are examples of limiting beliefs?
To give you a better idea of what limiting beliefs look like, check out these common examples. This is not an exhaustive list as there are many other limiting beliefs but these are the most common ones.
Perhaps the most powerful limiting belief is I CAN’T. Those two words instantly limit what your mind can conceive. When we say “I can’t” we remove our ability to find ways to do what we say we can’t do.
The moment you say “I can’t” a signal is triggered in your brain that prevents you from coming up with solutions for the challenge at hand. Your brain immediately shuts the door to the activity. It creates a tone of finality.
And the more you repeat these words, the more you believe you can’t do it. Until it comes to a point where you really can’t do the activity.
But in reality, we always have a choice. No matter how impossible something is, or even if you know nothing about the challenge or opportunity, you can always learn.
Our minds are capable of a lot of great things. Imagine if inventors told themselves they couldn’t invent something. Then our society would never advance. If the Wright Brothers told themselves they couldn’t fly, we would never have airplanes. No one has seen a human fly before them.
Try saying “I can’t (plus a random activity)” (ex. I can’t swim). Repeat it several times. How do you feel? It feels physically heavy right? That’s because our mind is already blocking the action.
I can never
Another variation is “I can never do this”. When we tell our brains we can never do something, we signal our brain to avoid situations that will involve that “something”.
For example, “I can never do math”. Repeat that a couple of times and you’ll avoid math-related opportunities like pursuing an engineering degree or learning accounting.
Instead of saying I can never or I can’t, say something similar to I haven’t succeeded YET. This gives you the opportunity to learn the skills you need to conquer the activity or challenge. And doing this opens you to your true potentials.
Remember that we can always do what we set our minds to do. Even if we don’t have the skills for it just yet. Skills can always be learned and when we tell our minds we can do something, then you’ll be surprised at the means your body will go through to learn the skills needed.
The important thing is to believe you can do it.
I am not
I am is an identity belief. When we use these words, we are referring to who we are as a person and who we believe ourselves to be.
As an identity belief, I AM NOT is the most self-limiting belief you can have.
I have always believed that I AM NOT good at math. Despite enjoying analysis and numbers, I believed for a very long time that math was not for me. This prevented me from exploring careers in engineering or statistics which are math-intensive. But when I got older, I realized that I was good at math. I was good at analyzing data, making sense of numbers, and finding solutions to complex algorithms. If I had believed that I was good at math right from the beginning, I could have achieved more in this field.
Think of all the self-limiting beliefs you hold that start with I AM NOT. Most of the time, we say I CAN’T because we believe I AM NOT. And when combined, these two statements create a powerful limiting belief.
I CAN’T pursue an engineering course because I AM NOT good at math. Imagine all the missed opportunities this limiting belief statement has caused.
Every time we stop ourselves from grabbing an opportunity, it’s because we have a deep belief that we are not the kind of person who can excel in that opportunity.
I am not good enough
A powerful variation is I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH. We are all unique individuals and we are always good enough for every person, situation, and opportunity that comes our way. We must remember that we have our own set of unique skills and abilities.
And we are capable of change and improvement for the better. We can change this limiting belief by telling ourselves that even if we feel we’re not yet there, we will still give things a go. Even if we’re not yet good enough to speak in public, we will still volunteer and practice for that team presentation.
As we begin to build the habit and practice of simply doing things – even when we’re not yet perfect or even sure of ourselves – then positive habits and thinking start kicking in. Soon enough, we realize that our mindset has shifted and so do our skillset.
I am never as good as them
Another variation is I AM NOT AS GOOD AS THEM which is based on comparison with others. This is very prevalent with the rise of social media. Everyone is comparing himself or herself with other people.
We start feeling jealousy, loss of self-confidence, self-consciousness, and annoyance. We see others’ success and think we can’t compete.
Again, remember we are all unique individuals. We have unique sets of skills, abilities, strengths, and talents. No one is less or more. We are simply different.
Also, take everything you see online with a grain of salt. Not everything published is true. There are a lot of things going on behind the camera.
I have failed / I am a failure
Everyone fails. Without failure, we will never learn or improve what we’re doing. Thomas Edison had to fail 1000+ times before he perfected the light bulb. Steve Jobs had to fail and be kicked out of his own company (Apple) before he could learn and go back to create the iPhone.
Every successful person you see has failed – more times than they can count. Failing is normal. In fact, necessary.
But despite failing, these people never believed they were failures.
Once you start believing you are a failure (identity belief), then you will stop trying because you will stop seeing the sense of everything. Why keep trying if you were bound to fail anyway right?
When you see failures as failures and believe you are a failure, you stop pursuing things especially highly challenging ones that are designed to grow you as a person.
Remember, there are no failures. Only lessons in life designed to make us better. Start looking at failures as opportunities to learn and become better. Don’t see failures as STOP signs. See them as momentary pauses to reflect and discover points for improvement.
If we practice this mindset, we will stop fearing failure and become empowered to keep pursuing things even if the chances of success are not 100% guaranteed. After all, if we fail, it’s just a momentary setback to learn and improve.
I will be judged
We hold back on doing a lot of things because we are afraid of other people’s opinions. The more we focus on this fear, the more we see others as always judging us.
We cannot control how other people think. They don’t know us and they have no opinion on what or how we do things. In fact, most people are too absorbed with themselves to even form an opinion about you.
Our feelings of being judged are often reflections of how we judge ourselves. We are often very critical of our own lives that we think this is how other people see us.
Stop measuring our lives through the lens of other people.
Common Myths about Limiting Beliefs
Myth 1: Positive Thoughts Break Limiting Beliefs
This is the most popular myth surrounding limiting beliefs. Think positive thoughts! Declare positive affirmations daily. These are common advice given to anyone who wants to break limiting beliefs.
Sadly, merely thinking positive thoughts won’t help you overcome your limiting beliefs. They are helpful, that’s true, but they are not the entire solution.
Limiting beliefs are deeply embedded in our subconscious mind that merely stating positive affirmations won’t get rid of them.
The key is to identify the core limiting belief and reprogram it. That’s when our positive affirmations begin to work.
Myth 2: Limiting Beliefs can’t be changed
Most people believe limiting beliefs are already part of one’s personality and can’t be changed. Ever had a friend you believe is perpetual Scrooge? Or someone you know is overly conservative and afraid to take risks? We assume these are just facets of a person’s personality.
But the truth is, limiting beliefs do not define who you are. You can definitely change them!
You can change even limiting beliefs well-meaning family members have ingrained since childhood. Most people are afraid to change their behaviors or beliefs for fear that their families – who share those beliefs – would abandon them.
Remember that our brains are malleable and changeable. No matter how old we are. It’s always possible to rewire the synapses in our brains and believe new things.
Myth 3: Limiting Beliefs take an entire lifetime to change
When you decide to do something about your limiting beliefs, you can change them in as little as a month. Even if they’ve been ingrained since childhood, it’s possible to quickly change these beliefs.
Changing our limiting beliefs depends on our determination. How determined are you to seek help and act on it? When you form new beliefs and acting based on them, you get results. This reinforces the new belief system in your mind. Do it frequently, and you will see massive changes.
Realize that overcoming limiting beliefs takes effort and determination. It’s also important to have the right support system. Even if you’ve been stuck with the same limiting beliefs for decades, once you change your environment, it becomes easier to form new beliefs.
Craig MacKay, the founder of Freedom Hypnosis, teaches how you can implement the 4 Methods of Emotional Control to quickly change our deep-seated negative mindset.
Ways to Overcome Limiting Beliefs
We have the power to overcome limiting beliefs. Over time, we can change them by adopting new positive beliefs. Again, it’s difficult but with commitment and greater self-awareness, it’s possible.
It’s tough to overcome limiting beliefs on your own. There are some limiting beliefs that are too powerful or deeply embedded in our subconscious minds. In these cases, we need another person to help us work through them.
Therapists help us work through our limiting beliefs in order to live a more satisfying life. When our limiting beliefs cause anxiety or depression, seeing a therapist really helps. They guide us in accessing our subconscious minds to uncover deep-seated limiting beliefs. They also guide us to process our behaviors and responses and learn why we do things the way we do them.
Therapists are licensed experts who know how the mind works. They have proven techniques that would help us better deal with our limiting beliefs.
Technology has helped modernize therapy. We no longer have to be physically present at a therapist’s office just to receive help. We can already do this from the comfort of our homes.
Meditation helps calm our minds and get in touch with our inner selves. With meditation, our self-awareness increases and this leads us to better know ourselves.
It helps us become more mindful of our thoughts and gain better clarity. We don’t turn off our thoughts or feelings. We observe them and eventually understand them by regularly meditating. We increase our self-understanding which helps us learn about our limiting beliefs. When we know those beliefs, we will know how to change them.
Expand your horizons
Start exploring more of the world. Meet new people. Observe new belief systems. Have an open mind and be ready to learn from others.
When you do this you break out of your comfort zone. It’s challenging but rewarding.
Learn to satisfy the curiosity inside you. We are naturally curious but sometimes, that curiosity is stifled to help us conform to certain patterns our environment expects from us. By opening yourself up, you let your curiosity reign.
Personal development is never-ending. You need to constantly improve yourself. When we realize who we are as a person, we need to invest in developing ourselves.
This means actively grabbing opportunities for growth and development in all areas of our lives. Even when we’re not 100% sure that we can tackle an opportunity, we should go for it and learn along the way. When we do this, we gain lots of experience and knowledge. By the time we hit the goal or become victorious, we have developed new belief systems.
Developing ourselves means strengthening our weaknesses and building our strengths.
The Internet is full of ways to develop ourselves. There are free and paid resources you can easily find via search or social network recommendations. These guides range from full-blown courses to downloadable books to bite-size YouTube videos and podcasts.
If you really want to change your life, there’s no excuse not to develop yourself. The resources we have now are endless. You just need to take action.
Speak positive affirmations
Simply speaking positive things will not totally eradicate limiting beliefs. But combined with self-awareness, positive affirmations are powerful.
Positive affirmations can be statements that emphasize your strengths or contradict your limiting beliefs. Emphasizing your strengths is easier to speak out because you’re simply voicing out and acknowledging what you already know is true.
Turning negative limiting beliefs into positive statements can be trickier. It will sound unnatural and fake at first but don’t give up. No matter how awkward it feels, keep going. With enough repetitions, your mind will begin to believe it’s true.
Speak positive affirmations loudly and daily. It’s important that you hear them and not just think about them in your head. Soon, you will experience major changes.
You don’t have to be imprisoned by limiting beliefs. You don’t have to live a life second-guessing what if’s.
Today, you can take charge of your life and start achieving those dreams you’ve always wanted. Spend time with yourself identifying your limiting beliefs. Seek professional help if necessary. Start changing your mindset and begin living an empowered life.