Stop Holding Yourself Back with Limiting Beliefs
As a kid, most of us are taught we can do anything we put out minds to. We are loaded with inspiration quotes, such as, "Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I'm Possible." We are told that all we need to do is work hard and we will have the lives we want.
So, why is it that so few of us are out chasing the life of our dreams? What is holding us back from being the most badass version of ourselves?
Chances are, we are caught up in lies about ourselves that we are convinced hold truth. These false beliefs are often called limiting beliefs because they are what keep us back from going after our deepest desires. They are what keep us back from being our true selves.
What are false or limiting beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are ideas we develop that constrain us in some shape or form. These beliefs might be general statements about life or others, such as, "Life is hard" or "People are assholes." More commonly, these beliefs that hold us back relate back to ourselves.
I asked a couple friends to define what they think a limiting belief is and this is what they said:
- "A cultural, religious, or familiar norm that is not based in your personal truth"
- "Self talk that prevents you from realizing and seeking your full potential"
- "Cultural or self pressure that prevents you from accepting the 'badassery' (qualities and abilities) within yourself and in turn preventing you from acting on steps that can bring you to your absolute potential"
- "When your world view isn't complete so you think things are true about you or the world that are not accurate."
Usually, these beliefs repeat in our minds all the time, whether we notice it or not. We may even admit them out loud to our friends, such as, "I can't lose weight because I am lousy at working out." These statements often begin with phrases such as: I can't, I must/must not, I am/ am not, etc.
Limiting beliefs generally relate to:
- Financial concerns
- Not being deserving or enough
- Convictions about health or body image
- Personality traits
While they are definitely different for each person, based on how they were raised and cultural norms, we can generally relate to one of the statements below:
- I am not capable of becoming rich.
- I'm not worthy of love because ______.
- I don't have the skills or talent to succeed.
- Why would someone want to hire/love/befriend me?
- I must not show emotions because it makes me weak
- [Insert your own false beliefs here]
Here's the thing: as soon as we can start to understand how these lies enter our psyche, we can start identifying them as false and take the steps to move past them, breaking down walls we have created for ourselves.
How do we create limiting beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are created overtime, starting at childhood. Whether they are collected from your parents, family, social groups, church communities, or things you witnessed on TV, the information we collect throughout our lifetime creates our sense of reality. You may not realize it, but the beliefs of those around us tend to have a major influence on how we think, especially as children.
"We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience." -Louise L. Hay
When we hear something repeatedly throughout our lives, it becomes ingrained in our brain. Even when we do not think we are impacted by the things our parents told us, our subconscious still may be. You may have heard your parents discussing how hard it is to make money, thus creating your belief now that you will never be financially stable. Or through hurtful things said to or about you in adolescence, you might develop the belief that you are not worthy of someone's love.
I was a rather rowdy kid. I have an incredibly loud voice, a deep desire for attention and connection, and a love for all things theatrical. This would often translate into family and friends jokingly teasing me for being annoying and I would get in trouble for talking too much. Even with the teasing, I continued to seek out positions in school that allowed me to be on stage and was not shy of a mic. I thought I wasn't phased by the mocking and jokes as a child.
As an adult, I began to develop insecurities around my voice. Nerves plagued my ability to perform well when presenting at meetings for work. I was absolutely horrified about teaching yoga because I feared my students would find my voice annoying. Even worse, I found myself in a relationship with someone who did not value me and would routinely tell me he doesn't listen when I talk because he "finds my voice annoying."
I identified the problem and began to seek out ways I could improve my speech. Blogging gave me a voice online to strangers. I enrolled in Toast Masters and began regularly practicing speeches to an audience ready to critique me. Pushing myself even further, I began to record yoga classes and interviews with friends to help overcome my fear of hearing my own voice.
Even with all of the work mentioned above, it wasn't until I joined Remote Year and was surrounded by a new group of friends that I noticed it was still a major insecurity. A friend pointed out to me that I was constantly apologizing for my "annoying voice" or for "how obnoxious I am". They would point it out to me every time I did it, explaining to me that my belief was not in any way accurate. The constant reminder is what eventually led me to break down that belief and see it for what it really is - a huge lie.
I am shocked that something I honestly found amusing as a child had such an impact on my adult life. It limited my ability to perform well and believe in myself.
Steps to Overcome the BS
Step one: Reflection and/or Meditation
First, we have to identify the lies we have created and what is holding us back. Take some time to sit down and reflect on thoughts you have every day. Think about it: What is holding you back from chasing after your dreams? What fears keep you from pursuing your desires?
Think about something in life you have always thought about trying but something holds you back. It can be as simple as, "I have always been interested in learning how to ballroom dance, but I am too uncoordinated and am super clumsy."
Step Two: Journal it out
Now that we have identified the beliefs that might be holding us back from true potential, let's take the time to journal about how these lies became a part of our life and how we can work to break past them. If you are afraid of taking that ballroom class, what life experiences or messages told you that you're clumsy? Identify where the lies came from.
Acknowledge that these are beliefs, and not truths. How does this belief make you feel? Do you feel defensive about these beliefs because you are holding on to them tightly? Can you identify real life examples that might question the validity of these statements? Whether about yourself or other people, begin identifying evidence that these truths are not real and get it all down on paper.
This is also a great time to do a little research against your beliefs. If you are convinced you are too old for a career change, research others who have done it successfully and allow their stories to inspire you. Write it all out.
Step Three: Rewrite the story
After identifying your beliefs, how they affect you, where they came from, etc. we can begin the real work of letting go of these lies. Did you identify examples within your life that go against the limiting beliefs? For example, if you have struggled financially in the past, we can rewrite the phrase, "I am terrible with money" into "My past struggles with money are preparing me to handle financial success."
I am a firm believe in affirmations. When I identify a limiting belief, I set affirmations that are the opposite and set reminders everywhere. I use Expo markers to write the statements across my mirror. The words fill the pages of my journal, reminders on my phone, and sticky notes on my computer. Taking the time to visualize the opposite is also very helpful. When I had fears that I would never be successful as an entrepreneur, I had to spend time in meditation picturing what exactly it would look like when I accomplished my dreams of launching my own business and the steps it took to get there. It helps to see my new story as potential reality and my false beliefs lose their grip.
Start slow and be patient with yourself
Identifying and breaking down these lies can be really challenging. If you are new to the practice, I may suggest starting with one belief at a time. Becoming overwhelmed by the realization of how we hold ourselves back is not helpful. We have had a lifetime to build up these false beliefs and it may take some serious time to bust them all down. Take things slow and ask for support from those you love if it becomes a struggle for you.
Most likely, these steps will have to be repeated over and over again. Rewriting your truth becomes a daily practice. We become aware of our minds wandering into negative self talk and we can change the direction, but it takes a lot of practice. Just like learning how to play an instrument; it does not happen overnight.
If you are looking for further information or tools on limiting beliefs, I highly suggest Tony Robbin's work. Whether you are into reading his books, watching his Youtube videos, or you want to download his guide on overcoming beliefs, I don't think you can really go wrong with Tony.
"Remember: we all get what we tolerate. So stop tolerating excuses within yourself, limiting beliefs of the past, or half-assed or fearful states.." - Tony Robbins
Comment below: Have you identified and worked through a limiting belief? Tell us about it! Your story may help inspire someone else to see their own falsehoods.
Questions? Ask away! I am always happy to answer in the comments below or if you are looking for a private conversation, send me an email!
The light within me honors the light within you. Keep being a badass!