We are our beliefs. Beliefs define who we are. Beliefs define the world for us.
Bertrand Russell puts it so succinctly when he said, “Believing is the most mental thing we do.”
The way we think, feel, act, and react is not in response to the real world but to our perception of the world. And our beliefs play a huge role in shaping our perceptions.
When our beliefs have such sway over every aspect of our lives, we need to invest some time and effort into finding out more about them.
How are our beliefs formed? Are all of them beneficial to us? If not, what can we do about the ones that create problems for us?
This article is an attempt at understanding some of the negative beliefs inhabiting our minds. As the name suggests, these self-limiting beliefs can prevent us from realizing our potential and more. You will find here listed some of the common limiting beliefs and tactics you can adopt to overcome them.
You will also find here a limiting beliefs worksheet available for free download. You may use this for identifying limiting beliefs exercise and devise strategies to get rid of them.
What are limiting beliefs?
Best described as the “enemy within” or “the internal adversary”, the limiting beliefs are the toxic beliefs that hold us back from succeeding in life.
Before we deal with limiting beliefs, let’s see what beliefs are and how we acquire them.
Our beliefs are feelings or perceptions that we accept as true, often without proof. We gather these beliefs from the environment we live in during our lifetime. A bulk of these beliefs are formed in early childhood and stay with us for the rest of our lives if we do nothing about it.
Unfortunately, there is no screening mechanism to filter and check the beliefs before they are stored in our minds. This means some of them may not be good, useful, or productive. Some may even be harmful. The beliefs that have the potential to harm us directly or otherwise are the limiting beliefs.
Among the limiting beliefs, those perceptions about yourself that prevent you from achieving your potential are known as self-limiting beliefs.
Let‘s understand self-limiting beliefs through some examples.
Self-limiting beliefs examples
Here are some common limiting beliefs to help you get a better understanding of the “enemy within”.
- I am not good enough.
- I am not capable of doing it.
- I don’t have the skill to succeed.
- I don’t have the experience to do this.
- I am not ready.
- I am helpless/powerless.
- I am not knowledgeable enough.
- I am worthless.
- I am too boring to make intelligent conversation.
- My views and opinions are not worth listening to.
- I don’t know how to handle disagreements and conflicts.
- My social skills are non-existent.
- I am not good at this.
- I can’t fit in.
- I can’t because I am not good at it.
- I don’t know how to be less than perfect.
- I don’t have time or energy for this.
- I don’t deserve success.
- I will never have enough money.
- I am not qualified enough.
- I am going to fail.
- No one wants to be friends with me.
- I am not going to lose weight.
- I can’t afford to buy good things.
- I am dull and boring.
- I always come up with worthless ideas.
- I am a financial disaster.
- I am afraid of being judged.
- I am not as good as others.
- I will never succeed.
- I can’t meet the expectations of others.
- I am a failure.
- It’s too late for me to do anything now.
- I am dumb.
- I am a loser.
- I just can’t.
If you dig deep in your mind, you may find more. Most of your self-limiting beliefs come out as simple statements like these in your daily life. You may say these aloud or just think about them. Either way, they harm you. They prevent you from what you want to accomplish.
How can self-limiting beliefs harm us?
Self-limiting beliefs do not come disguised as monsters nor do they don scary costumes. They are as innocuous as any other belief. This makes them hard to identify and harder to isolate and get rid of.
Often you are unaware of how your thought process works and how your beliefs influence them. This means you are also not aware of the harmful effects of self-limiting beliefs.
All you need to do is to pause before arriving at a decision or making a choice and think back to how you arrived at the decision. Arrange all the factors that influenced your decision. Hidden among the facts and perceptions, you will find the culprit – a self-limiting belief/s.
Self-limiting beliefs may not be scary nor do they frighten you. But their effect on your life is so deep and vast. The most unfortunate part of the entire scenario is that you are not aware of their detrimental effect. Even when you become aware of their existence, they cling to you like limpets and refuse to leave you. They will try to convince you that they are not bad or harmful as described.
This makes it a difficult task to get rid of such beliefs. Here are the most obvious harms caused by self-limiting beliefs.
- They prevent you from setting ambitious goals and achieving them.
- They discourage you from exploring new avenues and trying new opportunities.
- They create roadblocks in relationships leading to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
- They restrict you from living the best life possible.
- They confine you to a scarcity mentality.
How to overcome self-limiting beliefs?
After all, they are just beliefs. How hard can it be to change or get rid of them?
If this is what you are thinking, you cannot be further from the truth. Self-limiting beliefs are like tenacious bulldogs, refusing to leave you. However, if you are persistent and patient you can manage to get it done eventually.
Here are the strategies you can adopt to get rid of self-limiting beliefs.
1. Identify the harmful self-limiting beliefs.
Observe your thoughts as an outsider. Notice your feelings, thought patterns, and what is influencing your decisions. In short, think about your thoughts. The attached worksheet can help you with this.
2. Understand the influence of the beliefs on your mind.
Go back in time and try to trace your thoughts when you arrived at the decisions. Recognize the role of these beliefs in your thinking process and decisions.
3. Trace the origin of the beliefs.
From where you absorbed the belief can help you get rid of it. And how long the belief has remained in your mind is also important.
4. Analyze the beliefs.
With a critical mind, try to see whether there is any veracity in your belief. Try to dig up instances when these beliefs have been proved wrong.
5. Develop an alternative belief.
The ideal one to replace a negative belief is a positive one. You can just reverse the belief to a positive one. “I can’t do it” can become “I can do it”.
6. Repeat it as an affirmation or a mantra.
The best method to allow the positive beliefs to take root in your mind is to repeat them as often as possible.
7. Challenge the self-limiting beliefs every time they raise their ugly heads.
They always try to make a comeback. Every single time, push them further and further away from you. Ultimately, they get the idea and will leave you for good. Or at least remain dormant in some corner of your mind.
8. Reclaim your mind.
Realize that you have the power to choose what you want to believe and reject any of the beliefs, even the ones already occupying your mind.
Overcoming limiting beliefs is not an overnight process. You need strong willpower and commitment to make the transition. In the end, you would agree that it was worth the effort.
Identifying, acknowledging, and accepting your self-limiting beliefs are the starting points to eliminate them. By understanding their implications on your life and tracing back their sources, you can form a strategy to get rid of them.
Despite all these steps, it is not easy to remove beliefs from the belief system. Most of them are so entrenched in our minds that it will take much effort to uproot them. One of the best strategies is to replace them with positive beliefs.
It may require great effort and time to eliminate these harmful self-limiting beliefs. But once you are rid of them you would realize how good life can be without them weighing you down.