We all have limiting beliefs, they are those things we believe or assume that stop us from progressing to the next step, from taking up a new role or hobby or from achieving our dreams. They constrain us in some way. People have beliefs about many things, including:
- our self-identity
- other people
- the world in general
How do we get our limiting beliefs?
We form our belief systems through experiences, through learning and listening and through logic. Limiting beliefs come from false or limiting experiences, being influenced by people who are ill-informed and most commonly through fear. Pragmatically some beliefs that limit us are valid and so are worth keeping. The difficulty is telling the difference and the reality is that most of us err on the side of perceived threat, prompting us to treat situations with undue caution based on mistaken or flawed evidence.
Let me give you an example from my own life when I was transitioning back to work after a break and was being supported by a coach. I was given ‘homework’ to explore my limiting beliefs, I had a number of them but the one which really stood out was:
‘If I am myself then others won’t like me’
I was worried that I would offend people with my lifestyle choices, make them feel bad about their choices and that they would think I was arrogant/over-confident. This limiting belief was stopping me sharing my thoughts, ideas and opinions as I felt my ideas might be dismissed or overlooked. Driven by fear, the thought of criticism, ridicule or rejection by others was enough to inhibit me. I didn’t want to be ‘judged’.
How did I overcome my limiting beliefs?
The truth is that this is a work in progress. The process of physically writing down my limiting belief (writing it down makes a difference) made me realise how ridiculous it sounded. The thing is that if I didn’t have to share my ideas and could just go ahead then they were mostly successful, I get good results and am well respected in my field.
I focused on being able to defend my choices without being defensive and reminding myself that there would always be people who disagreed with me and that was ok. There are plenty of people who share my views and beliefs and those were the people I could inspire and be inspired by.
I asked myself:
If people thought I was being authentic, what difference would it make to the way I behaved?
answer: I would talk freely and be myself!
Is my limiting belief true?
answer: it might be true that people think I am odd, over-confident or arrogant, but most people don’t really care and it shouldn’t stop me. It is not my job to please other people.
How can you help yourself?
There are three steps to help you break the cycle:
- Stop identifying with the belief and defining yourself on what you believe.
- Question all of the conclusions you have drawn about the belief – is it true, fixed or is it possible? The reality is probably much more flexible than you believe it to be.
- Test your assumptions – you need to break the pattern. Take your conclusions from step 2 and create some action that puts the conclusion to the test; stay open minded.
Be brave, even if you’re not, pretend to be