Are you aware of your limiting beliefs? Do you know what a limiting belief is? Do you know what prevents you from moving forward and being your best? Is it that tiny voice in your head yelling that you don’t belong? You don’t fit in? You’ll never succeed?
What do you do with these thoughts? How do you manage them? How do you put them aside so you can move forward and live the life you dream of? Aspire to? Yearn for instead of watching from the sidelines?
Limiting beliefs are self doubt. They are our insecurities; negative things people have said that you held onto; and the fear that they are true.
The good news is that it is possible to overcome limiting beliefs. With some self exploration and practice, you can do so. As with any other goal, it requires some work but what successes and achievements have you had that didn’t require work?
Here are five steps that with practice, persistence, and patience you, too, can overcome your limiting beliefs:
- Identify your limiting beliefs. In order to challenge, counter, and overcome limiting beliefs, it is necessary to know what they are. The best way to do this is to write them down. How do you know when you are encountering limiting beliefs? Think back to a moment when you had a negative self-doubting thought. That would be a limiting belief. An example might be working on a presentation to the Board of Directors. As you are working on this presentation, you have the nagging thoughts of “I’m not good at selling ideas to others”, your high school creative writing teacher’s comment that “you are unable to creatively express yourself”, or you hear your parents’ voice saying “you are from a blue collar family, what do you know about meetings with executives?” These would be examples of limiting beliefs.
- Look for the facts. Once you have written down your negative self-doubts, the next step is to determine the factual content, if any, of these statements. Using a statement from above: “not good at selling”, if you wrote down “not able to meet quota for Girl Scout cookie sales in 6th grade”; a one-time incident back in elementary school does not constitute a fact relating to adult life.
If you can think of any evidence that might support this thought, write it down next to the statement. You may not be able to come up with any which is a good indicator that this is a limiting belief.
- Challenge your limiting beliefs. Some individuals find this step to be difficult since it is countering a thought/belief you might have had for quite some time.
“I’m not good at selling ideas to others”. Just because I didn’t make quota with Girl Scout cookie sales does not mean I do not know how to put together a presentation supporting an idea.
“You are unable to creatively express yourself”. In college I had a poem published in the university’s creative essays.
“You are from a blue collar family, what do you know about meetings with executives”. Yes, I came from a hardworking blue collar family, but I went to college, studied hard, and have the knowledge and skills to give a presentation to executives because I am an executive.
- Replace the self-doubting thoughts. Now that you have identified and challenged your limiting beliefs, it is time to work on replacing them. What new thoughts can you focus on that are factually based and not self limiting? Again, write them down. Examples might be:
*I have given successful presentations. I can do this.
*I am creative. I can express myself. I can do this
*I am educated. I am skilled. I am trained. I come from a hardworking family. I, too, am hardworking.
- Practice, practice, practice. Whenever we learn new skills, tasks, or habits, we need to practice. Nothing magically comes to us overnight. Keep your new positive statements nearby. For some individuals, having them written in a notebook kept in their purse or desk can be helpful and easy to review when doubt begins to creep in. For others, using post-it notes around a mirror at home can be beneficial. Or, another helpful way to incorporate these new thoughts is to say them in the morning before you get out of bed and/or at the end of the day before going to sleep.
Yes, limiting beliefs are real and can prevent you from moving forward. However, with the five steps above, you can counter them, change your thinking, and move forward. Soon you will be accomplishing your goals and succeeding. All the best to you!
Denise M. Styer, PsyD, GLCC