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Identify Your Self Limiting Beliefs
Are you a fortune-teller? A clairvoyant? If not, why anticipate the worst for yourself? We predict events will turn out in a negative way because our self-beliefs are limiting. Maddy Malhotra
What is a Self Limiting Belief?
Do you feel stuck in one or more areas of your life? Maybe you feel that you’ve never got enough money, or your relationships suck or your health is challenging in some way? The chances are that beneath the surface there’s a self limiting belief lurking. Something that causes you to pull back just at the point where you’re likely to make a breakthrough and see a change for the better.
This is the crux of a self limiting belief.
It’s when we find ourselves continually re-enacting the same stories of our lives, getting the same or similar results and wondering why the wheel of fortune never seems to turn in our favour. Beneath that frustration, and possibly anger at yet another ‘failure’, there’s something buried, something that keeps tripping you up.
Psychologists will often tell us that our limiting beliefs were formed in our early years. To a large extent I agree with this, but I believe we can also pick up more and more self limiting beliefs, as well as beliefs that expand our life experience, as we grow.
Related Post: Are Groundhog Days Holding You Back?
Here’s a real-life example.
Many years ago, I was told by a person in authority that I didn’t interview very well. This ‘constructive criticism’ didn’t come with any useful feedback or an offer of future mentoring to help me overcome whatever the problem was. It was just a stand alone statement.
Bang! Suddenly my view of my interview technique abilities was shattered!
Now, despite the fact that over the preceding years, I had interviewed for many jobs and succeeded in securing those jobs, my confidence was suddenly gone. Worse though, is that even now, I know that that throw away statement has had a detrimental effect on my ability to put myself forward for promotion opportunities.
Whether the statement was true or not (I might not have been sufficiently prepared, I might’ve been out of my depth, or on balance, perhaps the interview was ok, but he was having a bad day), I’ve unconsciously accepted it at face value and allowed it to become a self limiting belief.
In other words, I’ve come to believe that it’s pointless me going to interviews as I’ll probably flunk it and embarrass myself!
Why do we Limit Ourselves?
I can think of two reasons why we continue to live with self limiting beliefs:
(1) we haven’t (yet) consciously surfaced them;
(2) we kind of know what they are but there’s some pay-off to staying stuck.
Both are equally destructive to our personal growth and happiness.
How do you find out what your Self Limiting Beliefs are?
Finding out what our self limiting beliefs are requires that we are willing to look at the areas of our life where we’re failing to make progress, but want to.
It’s that promotion we don’t get; it’s that stubborn extra few pounds around our belly that never seems to shift; it’s that book or website that we never seem to publish; it’s that savings goal we never seem to quite achieve.
Where in your life can you see things that don’t quite fit with the vision you have of yourself? Are you going around in circles and never quite making headway? This could be a sign of an underlying self limiting belief.
The Benefits of Self Limiting Beliefs
But, what happens when you recognise that there’s a self limiting belief at play but you still fail to take action? Quite often in this case, there’s a perceived ‘benefit’ to staying put, to not making the effort to change.
Let’s take a quick look at the examples above and explore what perceived benefits there are for staying with the status quo.
Failed to get the promotion
Social circle feels safe and welcoming (won’t feel ‘better’ than those left behind)
Can continue to act as always done (won’t feel need to ‘up’ my behaviour/attitude)
Know my current job and do it well (won’t need to improve my skill set/test my abilities)
Failed to lose the extra weight
Can continue to eat whatever I fancy (won’t feel deprived)
Can socialise as much as I want (won’t feel excluded)
Can avoid need to exercise (won’t feel self-conscious or ridiculed)
Failed to publish your book or launch your website
Can continue to treat it as a hobby (won’t feel exposed)
Can avoid criticism (won’t feel ridiculed)
Can do as much or as little as I want (won’t feel any external pressure or expectations)
Failed to achieve savings target
Get to spend my money as before (won’t feel deprived)
Won’t need to find things to curb (won’t feel deprived/still part of the gang)
Didn’t need to set up a budget (can continue to feel ‘free’/don’t feel sensible or boring)
These are just a few (common) examples of places where we hold ourselves back from our truest potential. The first answer given is the superficial reason we hold ourselves back. They are the reasons we give ourselves when we’re faced with the difficult choice of eat/don’t eat; spend/don’t spend or put ourselves forward/hold back.
But the real question is: what are you really scared of?
Take some time to dig a little deeper. What feelings rise up when you keep asking yourself, ‘but how does that feel good/benefit me?’..until you unearth the real source of your angst. This is your limiting belief.
Self-critical thoughts and detrimental predictions about yourself have a huge impact on our mood/feelings. It affects our attitude, decisions and behavior. They ensure our self-esteem stays low… Maddy Malhotra
How can you Eliminate Self Limiting Beliefs?
The first stage of course, is to uncover and recognise how your self limiting belief is holding you back and what payoffs you’re getting by being stuck. If you’re still unsure, go back to the section above and dig, dig, dig!
If you’re ready to move on, choose one of your self limiting beliefs and..
Decide that your beliefs might not be true after all
Sometimes we have no clue whatsoever where our self limiting belief has come from. We’ve just somehow managed to absorb it into our psyche, accept it and incorporate it into our daily lives.
Right now there’s little point in trying to work our where it came from (you may never know), but, what you can do, is decide right now that it may not be true for you.
For all of these:
I can’t write
I can’t have a loving relationship
I can’t own a pet
I can’t cook
I can’t make loads of money
I am shy
I lack confidence
I am ugly
I am lazy
I can’t/I am…you get the idea!
It’s time to…
Put it to the test
That’s right. You’re going to take one of your self limiting beliefs and put it to the test.
Run your self limiting belief through these questions, answering as honestly as possible (no one else needs to see your answers).
When have I ever written/cooked/looked presentable/got the work done (insert your limiting belief)?
Was it good enough at the time?
Did anyone criticise my efforts?
Was the criticism justified? Why?
Have I unconsciously incorporated the criticism into my psyche without filtering it objectively? Why?
Great! It’s time to up-root your self limiting belief.
Finding your limiting beliefs and passing them through the ‘test filter’ above is just the beginning. It’s important to remember than many of our self limiting beliefs have been with us for years, maybe even since childhood. Consequently it’s important to treat ourselves with kindness as we attempt to dislodge the old belief and install a new one. This will take time, effort and patience. But, the improvements can, and will, be phenomenal!
At it’s harshest, self limiting beliefs keep you from experiencing the life you want, but, with every step outside your self limiting comfort zone, you will come closer to your fullest potential and a life you really love. Surely that has to be worth the effort?
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