What are Limiting Beliefs?
Simply put, limiting beliefs are falsely held beliefs about yourself that hold you back. Just like you’ve trained yourself to learn that 2 x 2= 4, our brains are trainable in how we think about ourselves, others, situations, and the world. We do this unconsciously, and create thought patterns that can either help us, or hinder us. Limiting beliefs hinder people in that they limit your potential, your growth, and your happiness. These can be as simple as “I can’t wear stripes because I look fat in them” or more complex and more detrimental, such as “I can’t go to that party because I’ve gained weight and everyone will notice and I’ll be embarrassed.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? Unfortunately, though, we do this to ourselves all the time. However innocuous these are to begin with, left unchecked they become bigger and bigger problems that negatively impact your life. Essentially, you have let your brain create a kind of “highway” of thought patterns that keep you in these shitty trains of thought, creating a mental rut. These thoughts keep you stuck in patterns that are failing you. The good news is that you can learn new routes and change your thinking to better, more positive and more balanced ways of reasoning. Learning to catch these limiting beliefs and then correct them to more positive ways of thinking will allow you to tap into your true self, and when you do this, good things will follow.
First of all though, you have to be able to identify these limiting beliefs. Here is a brief list of common limiting beliefs you may have:
I do / don’t
We often have a mental picture of who we are or who we want to be, and a lot of unhappiness stems from when our realities do not match up to this mental paragon of ourselves. If you’re constantly defining yourself by what you do or what you don’t do, this can be holding you back. If you write up a list of things that define you and find you have a lot of “I don’ts,” it might be time to look at things you need to start saying YES! to, and begin opening more doors instead of shutting them.
Such a common one. For example, you may think, “I can’t play the guitar.” Well, everyone who plays an instrument couldn’t play it at one time. Time, practice, and a willingness to learn gave them ability to become proficient. There are many things we believe we can’t do because we see others as naturally talented out, while discounting the many hard hours of work someone has put in to achieve a skill. You might not be a prodigy at everything you put your mind to, but with few exceptions many talents are actually things that can be learned by anyone willing to put the work in.
I should/ should not
If you are constantly saying or thinking “I should or should not do x” (or I must or I ought to) you are basically shitting on yourself. These usually relate to how we should behave or how we feel others should behave. When we break these prescribed behaviours or other do, we give ourselves negative feedback or feel angry towards another person. “I shouldn’t have eaten all that cake. I should work out more. I should do this, I should do that.” Keeping a constant running list of forbidden behaviours makes us feel like we should punish ourselves if we break them, and when they’re directed at others, “Shoulding” often leads to resentment.
Illusions of Control
Oftentimes we blame situations as being out of our control, when in fact, we have more agency than we at times care to realize. “It’s not my fault, I don’t have time, I have too many responsibilities, etc.” When we feel externally controlled, we blame others: “It isn’t my fault I did a bad job on that project, my manager moved the deadline!” When we feel internally controlled, we are causing our own problems by assuming others’ feelings are solely based on our actions and are our responsibility. “Did I do something to make you mad? What did I do to make you unhappy?”
Other limiting beliefs may look like:
I’m too lazy.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not attractive.
I don’t have enough money.
I’m too old to change.
I’m no good.
I’m a failure.
Limiting beliefs look different for everyone. If you’re struggling to find yours, try this exercise:
Sit down and write down things you believe to be absolutely true about yourself. Be honest. Look for the ones that are negative and highlight them. These are the limiting beliefs you need to work on changing as you start your journey to becoming your best self. Highlight the positive things about yourself in a different color and recognize those as what they are: strengths. Think about how you can turn your strengths into assets to help you on your journey.
What do limiting beliefs have in common?
Fear. Fear of changing, fear of addressing the part of ourselves that we dislike, fear of taking responsibility. Avoiding the issue of dealing with them solves nothing, and unpacking why you allow yourself to treat yourself so poorly will help you unlock your true potential, and start living your truth. The fact of the matter is that most of us have these kinds of erroneous thoughts every day, and they are keeping you from unlocking your best self. Try taking a good look in the mirror and saying, “Yes, I am flawed, and I accept that I cannot change who I was, but I can change WHO I AM in this present moment, and WHO I WILL BECOME.” Now, do it.