Do you feel sometimes that you are your own worst enemy? Do you feel there is something inside preventing you from being the best person you can be? Maybe the source of the problem is self-limiting beliefs that you’ve been carrying around for years.
What are self-limiting beliefs? These are assumptions about yourself that constrain or hold you back in some way. They can be conscious or subconscious ideas about who you are, about what you are able to be and do in life. They often involve fixed notions about your skills and talents, duties and obligations to family and friends, specific circumstances, and even the nature of the world in general. The important thing to know is that limiting beliefs are often accepted as true without empirical proof.
Experts suggest that such beliefs form in childhood from messages an individual gets from family members, teachers, coaches, peers, the media and the culture. A child — who naturally has difficulty discerning what’s true — internalizes the message that becomes a recurrent thought and eventually a solid, unshakable belief.
Self-limiting beliefs are as varied as there are people, but they generally fall into these broad categories, according to author David Straker:
- I do/don’t. You pigeonhole yourself by assuming that your current occupation/activity is the only thing you can do.
- I can’t. You assume your talents and abilities are limited and fixed, and so you cannot develop new ones.
- I must/mustn’t. You believe you are bound by certain personal norms, rules and obligations that limit what you should and shouldn’t do.
- I am/am not. You have a sweeping judgement about the type of person you are: intelligent/unintelligent, worthy/unworthy, good/bad, lovable/unlovable, etc.
- Others are/will. Your assumptions about other people — that they are selfish, unhelpful, unfriendly, superior, judgmental, etc. — limit your personal and business relationships.
- The way the world works. Beliefs about society, nature, the environment may make the world seem like a scary, dangerous and unfair place that blocks your needs and aspirations.
Self-limiting beliefs are very resistant to change, They become embedded in our psyches through early conditioning and years of reinforcement. They survive because of fear of change and — most insidiously — because they provide excuses for not changing and growing. But despite the resiliency of limiting patterns of thought, there are ways to dissolve them. Here are some suggestions:
- Recognize that beliefs are merely thoughts, not proven facts.
- Make a list of areas of your life where you feel blocked or dissatisfied – money, job, relationships, etc.
- Identify the beliefs that contribute to these blocks, such as: “I’m not worthy” or “I’m not smart enough.” Recall the experiences in your past that gave rise to such negative ideas..
- Consider evidence to the contrary for each belief. You may find that, under scrutiny, these assumptions have no reality.
- Try out a new set of beliefs more in alignment with your goals and desires.
- It’s not enough to just think about new beliefs. You must act on them. Take some concrete steps — even small ones — to manifest what you want.
- Recognize and celebrate any evidence of real positive change in your life.