Limiting Beliefs

Limiting beliefs are negative thoughts and concepts that we think are true.

You can have limiting beliefs about yourself, about others or about life.

They impact how we feel, behave and relate to other people. Most of the time we do not notice them, which makes them more powerful.

You can look at them as boundaries that stop us doing things that will benefit us, or give us happiness and meaning.

In this article we will look what they are, how to spot them in yourself and how to change them. I will also give you 10 common limiting beliefs.

Where Do We Get Limiting Beliefs From?

We pick up limiting beliefs from our family, life experiences, the education system and our culture.

When we are children we might get told directly that we are not good enough or that we will not be able to do something. Often it can be the silent treatment when show enthusiasm to pursue our dreams. Or a dirty look.

We internalize these things without question and they become a limiting belief. We could not even explain why we hold the belief, but it effects what we do.

Then there are times when we try something and fail. We tell ourselves we are just no good at it. And give up, without trying again. Failing does not feel good, so we take on this limiting believe as a defence mechanism so we don’t feel the pain of failure again.

Our education system and culture are also constantly feeding us messages of what we can and cannot do.

All of these ways we pick up are own limiting beliefs enter our subconscious mind and run our life like a virus software.

How to Spot Self Limiting Beliefs

Self Awareness is the key to spotting limiting beliefs

Given that they have all this power over us, how do we identify limiting beliefs?

Here are some ways….

1. Observe Your Life

i) What things do you avoid?

For instance you might avoid doing sports or certain social gatherings. Ask why, and what are you afraid of. Also ask what you think will happens and how doing them makes you feel.

ii) What things do you wish you were better at?

If you wish you were better at looking after your health, question what is stopping you. Look at the feelings you have when think about creating better habits. Is it fear? Shame?

iii) Are there some things that you wish you had more of?

If you wish you had more money, then you need to look at your beliefs around money. You can ask yourself what money means to you? How your family spoke about money and what the education taught you about it.

2. Look at Your Successes and Failures

When you look back at what you succeeded at, what do you think and feel?

Now compare this to your failures.

What do you notice?

When I did this exercise I found with my successes I did not have particularly positive attitude towards those things. I just did not have beliefs that told me I could not do those things or they were beyond me.

With my failures, especially relationships that ended , I had lots of beliefs, one being that “relationships are hard and full of turmoil.”

3. What is Your Self Talk?

Are you telling yourself negative things about what you can do?

Do you call yourself an idiot when you makes mistakes that everyone makes?

Our self talk is mostly set from early childhood. It is basically our parents voice that we have internalized. So much of what you tell yourself is an automatic repetition of what parents said to you.

We talk to ourselves all the time, so observe what you are saying in everyday situations, as well those times you are trying something difficult or new.

I remember as young student thinking I was not smart enough to learn equations. This meant I would not focus and apply myself because I saw no point.

Later on when I tried the same equations again (when there was no pressure and it did not matter) I found I was actually good at solving them.

It was then I realized I was telling myself I was not smart enough. That story took precedent over focusing on the actual equation.

4. Write Limiting Beliefs Down.

It will help you if you write down your beliefs. This will also help you in the next step, which is to change them.

Writing your limiting beliefs down makes them clearer. The simple way to do this write down the story you are telling yourself about a particular situation. That story will tell you everything you need to know.

As a bonus all these methods will improve your self awareness, which will help you in other areas.

Overcoming and Eliminating Limiting Beliefs

Question your beliefs

Now lets look ate how to overcome limiting beliefs and change them once you know what they are.

1. Question Limiting Beliefs

This is where writing your limiting beliefs down will really come in to its own.

Write down the belief, then ask is it true?

For instance if your beliefs is “Relationships are difficult” look for evidence where this is true.

You will find plenty. Both in your life and other people’s.

Now, look for evidence for the opposite, “relationships are nourishing and simple”

You might find examples in your own life where this is true. You have ignored it because you take it for granted and your chaotic relationships take up all you attention.

If you can’t find evidence for positive relationships in your own life then you will certainly see it in other people’s. There are many relationships that are smooth, where both people respect and care for each other, And if they have conflict, they come to a resolution with out it leading to discord.

Once you see that the opposite belief is just as true or even more so, you can see that the limiting belief you hold is one perspective of many. You learned it, so you can unlearn it.

2. Take Risks

Do things that you would normally avoid or things that are brand new. Remember one of the ways we develop limiting beliefs is through our life experience.

When we take smart risks we are creating new belief patterns that tell us we are a type of person who can do new and difficult things.

The added bonus is when you try new things and take risks it will help you see more or deeper beliefs. You might see beliefs about failure or looking silly.

3. Try New Beliefs and Test Them

Try new alternative beliefs. For example if you have a belief “learning new things is stressful” change it to “learning new things is fun”

Then look for evidence where you tried something new (no matter how small or insignificant it may seem) and you enjoyed learning it.

If you cannot think of anything, repeat the new belief often while you learn something new. Keep saying ”This is fun” as you try the new thing.

Repetition is one of the main ways a  belief becomes part of who we are.

You’ll surprised how quickly repeating the new belief changes your attitude.

4. Develop a Growth Mindset to Change Limiting Beliefs

When we think we are either good at something or not, this is known as a fixed mindset.

This kind of mindset is a belief we have picked up. It stops us trying new things and sticking with them long enough to become good at them.

The opposite mindset is called a growth mindset. This mindset tells us we can improve at anything and change who we are, by applying ourselves and sticking with it.

This is one the best ways to overcome your limiting beliefs because it will lead you to more action.

To learn more go to: How to Develop an growth mindset. 

5. Self care

When we do not take of ourselves we are sending a message to our subconscious that we are not worth the trouble, and other people are more important.

You can see how this can lead to a myriad of other limiting beliefs, like branches spouting from a tree.

When we practice self care we are sending the opposite message and this will have a knock on effect to other beliefs.

Once you start taking care of yourself, don’t be surprised if things you were afraid to try, start looking simple.

6. Avoid Toxic Negative People

A toxic or negative attitude is catching. On top that people who are like this will try to make you feel the same way. It makes them feel better about themselves when others feel as they do.

If you can, get away from these people or at the very least limit your contact with them. Spend time and seek out positive people.

It’s challenging enough to change your own beliefs, you don’t want to have to deal with others at the same time.

7. Take Responsibility

Don’t have a victim mentality, where you belief everything just happened to you and you had no part to play in it. As a child you did not, you were innocent and took on beliefs innocently.

But now you are an adult, take responsibility for your beliefs and changing them.

Don’t forget, limiting beliefs can also be comfortable to us as they give us an excuse not to try things and therefore not experience stress, failure and disappointment. We often hang on to them for this reason.

Don’t be a victim, as this is the most limiting belief of all.

8. Uncertainty is OK and Natural

Both positive and limited beliefs give us the illusion of certainty.

However, there is very little that we are can know for certain. Get comfortable with this.

This is what makes life vital and full of adventure. If we knew everything in advance life would get boring quickly, if not unbearable.

Common Limiting Beliefs

Common limiting self talk

Lets have a look at the most common limiting beliefs people have…

  1. I’m not good enough: This belief can prevent individuals from trying new things or taking risks due to a fear of failure or not measuring up to others’ expectations.

  2. I’m too old or too young: Age-related limiting beliefs can make people feel that they’re either too old to start something new or too young to be taken seriously, impacting career choices and personal growth opportunities.

  3. I don’t have enough time: This belief leads to procrastination and the feeling that pursuing new goals or hobbies is impractical due to perceived time constraints.

  4. I don’t have enough money: Financial limitations are often cited as reasons for not pursuing dreams or goals, even when there might be alternative ways to achieve them without significant financial investment.

  5. Success is for others, not for me: This belief undermines self-worth and can cause individuals to sabotage their own success due to a deep-seated belief that they don’t deserve it.

  6. I’m not smart enough: Believing in one’s intellectual inadequacy can deter learning and growth, preventing people from pursuing education or career opportunities.

  7. It’s too late to change: This belief can make individuals feel stuck in their ways or situations, leading to a life of regrets and “what-ifs.”

  8. I must not fail: The fear of failure can be paralyzing, leading to avoidance of any situation where there’s a risk of failing, thus limiting opportunities for success and growth.

  9. I must do everything myself: Believing that asking for help is a sign of weakness can lead to burnout and stress, as well as missed opportunities for collaboration and support.

  10. I’m not worthy of love or happiness: This limiting belief can affect personal relationships and lead to a lack of fulfilment and joy in life.

Conclusion

Limiting beliefs influence how we act in daily life, what we do and how we relate to people and the world.

We learned them in childhood, young age and through our experiences in life. We also picked them through our education system and culture.

Because limiting beliefs are learned, we can unlearn them and replace them with ones the improve our self esteem.

In this article I have shown you how to uncover them in yourself and then overcome self limiting beliefs. You also learned to change them to ones that are life affirming and lead you to living fully.

You deserve success!

See also Elephant and Rope Mindset and Life Scripts the Hidden Patterns of Our Life