Have you ever felt like you weren’t smart enough? Not deserving enough? Not attractive enough? Not skilled enough? Not thin enough? Not wealthy enough? Or just plain not good enough? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions you might be suffering from limiting beliefs.
First, what are beliefs? They are conditioned perceptions of how we view ourselves and the world. These beliefs act as a filter on our experiences. They get hardwired into our subconscious and affect how we think and act and therefore create our reality. Beliefs also play a large role in our expectations of people, places, and situations, which are often times distorted.
So what are limiting beliefs? They are a set of SELF-ASSUMED beliefs that limit our progression in some area of our life. They are narrow parameters of things we think we cannot do that are self-imposed. They keep us confined to a box that is too small for our desires. They are stories that we tell ourselves that prevent us from taking action. These stories are usually not grounded in fact or evidence, and they become a way for us to rationalize why we’re not doing what we want or going after what we want.
The other day my friend and I were downtown and he spotted a woman he thought was attractive. When I told him to go talk to her he said, “no, she probably wants a tall guy.” He knew absolutely nothing about this woman but made a split second assumption which held him back and unfortunately made him miss out on connecting with another person. It was apparent that a limiting belief he carries is “I am too short to date an attractive woman.”
Where do these limiting beliefs come from? They can come from a few different sources such as your peer group, your parents, the media, your own past experiences, your own imagination, or just plain fear of a situation. Often times these sources create false generalizations in our minds that don’t serve us. When you’re use to believing something, you will often ignore the facts of a situation and instead use your imagination to help create stories you need in order to support that belief.
A helpful way to understand limiting beliefs is the baby elephant metaphor. When circus elephants are born a rope is tied to one of his legs and the rope is connected to a stake which is pegged into the ground. At this stage in the elephant’s development, the rope is strong enough to hold the elephant. After many failed attempts at breaking free from this bondage, he is conditioned to think he is unable to live outside of these parameters. He continues to hold this conditioning with him throughout his life and even as a fully mature elephant, the futility of breaking free from this rope as a child, prevents him from even trying as an adult. So even though he would be fully capable of easily breaking free at this stage in his life, the belief is so ingrained in his mind that he no longer even attempts to. We are like elephants in this way and we don’t realize how much strength, ability, and power we have cultivated over time and what is possible. This metaphor illustrates how we hold ourselves back from breaking through our own limiting beliefs and realizing our potential.
How do we address limiting beliefs in ourselves? The first step to overcoming limiting beliefs is identifying them. Do this by monitoring your self-talk. If you are aware enough, you can identify the limiting beliefs you are thinking and telling yourself. Also, do this by watching your language as well. How often are you saying “but”? I would really like to go for that big promotion “but” (insert limiting belief here). Or I would really like to start going to the gym “but”…. You will experience a level of cognitive dissonance in your mind and body when you succumb to limiting beliefs. This is a level of discomfort you will feel when what you really want is contradicting what you are telling yourself. For example, when I wanted to start my own business and would tell myself that I didn’t have what it takes, I would personally feel a visceral response and negative energy in my chest. I would literally feel a tightness in my upper body. Use these feelings as tools to identify your limiting beliefs.
The next step is to disassociate from any limiting beliefs. KNOW THAT THEY ARE NOT YOU! Also know that you’re not the only one that has had them and aren’t the only one who has overcome them. How many times have you believed something only to be proven wrong later? They are called limiting beliefs…not limiting facts. All limiting beliefs are is a form of fear. They are false constructs of your mind and are rarely supported by real world evidence. Don’t let these feelings or beliefs inhibit you. Courage is the antidote to fear. Courage is just an emotional muscle and if you want more of it you have to exercise it on a regular basis. You don’t actually have to get rid of the fear, you just have to exercise a bit of courage. In order to live your best life, you need to overcome your limiting beliefs!
I hope you found this informative and in my next post I will be giving you 5 useful and proven methods for breaking through limiting beliefs and how to replace them with productive and beneficial ones.