If you’ve ever felt like you aren’t living up to your potential, that something is holding you back from your dreams, and that your life just isn’t what you want it to be, chances are the reason is your limiting beliefs.
Today we’re going to learn what limiting beliefs are, where they come from, how they’ve negatively impacted your life, and the process you can use to change your limiting beliefs.
Change your beliefs, change your life.
Every successful person you can think of has had to overcome limiting beliefs in order to get where they are, and you can do it too. Self-limiting beliefs hold us back from so much happiness and success in life, but today you’re going to learn how to change your limiting beliefs for good.
Having limiting beliefs is like looking at life through dirty glasses. Imagine how great it will feel to finally clean them off.
At the end of this post I’m offering a limiting beliefs pdf printable that you can download and work on to help you change your limiting beliefs.
What are Limiting Beliefs?
First lets establish what a belief is. A belief is the acceptance that something is true.
However we know that a belief in something does not make it a fact. Some people believe that the earth is flat, that does not make it true.
So knowing that not all beliefs are true, it’s important to look at our own beliefs and question them.
A limiting belief is a repetitive thought or story that you believe is true that limits you in life because it influence your self-image, choices, and view of the world. Limiting beliefs are often irrational, but they stubbornly stick in our brains without us even being aware of them and lead to self-sabotage.
We tend to think a lot of the bad things that happen to use are caused by outside forces, and some things are definitely out of our control, but a lot of our external world, or our reality, is a manifestation of our internal beliefs that then determine our actions.
Thoughts + Beliefs + Actions = Our Reality
You may have heard the phrase “you can’t control what other people do but you can control how you react,” and it’s true. Our reactions are generated by our beliefs, and your response can either help or hurt you.
Obviously not all beliefs are bad, so you have to learn how to recognize when a belief is not serving you.
Where do Limiting Beliefs Come From?
We’ve been forming beliefs about ourselves and the world since birth.
From the ages of 0 to 7 we are absorbing information like a sponge. Everything we’re told and everything we see is stored and analyzed to be used later. So those years are particularly important, but obviously we keep learning as we age and experience more of life.
When something we observe or hear is paired with a strong emotional response, then it really becomes entrenched in our belief system because that sends a signal to your brain that this is especially important.
Beliefs can come from things we observed like parents fighting over money, or things we were told by important people in our lives. If a parent or teacher tells a child ‘you’re not smart enough’ that child believes it because they were told so by a trusted authority figure.
They can also come from traumatic experiences and abusive relationships. When someone you love (a parent or romantic partner) with treats you in a way that devalues your worth you start to believe you are not worthy of better treatment.
Limiting beliefs live in the shadow self, you may find this post about how to do shadow work gives additional insight into why the mind creates beliefs that sometimes work against you.
It’s so important to realize these beliefs are not facts, they are just something you’ve been taught at some point in life.
Repetition is a big part of your beliefs. You’ve thought or felt this way so frequently it’s become automatic. Our brains like things to be easy, so they creates neural pathways to make repeated behaviors (and beliefs) automatic.
The Link Between Limiting Beliefs and Learned Helplessness
There’s something psychologist call Learned Helplessness that directly relates to your limiting beliefs. Learned helplessness occurs when a person has repeatedly been subject to averse situations beyond their control, and eventually accepts that they are powerless and stops trying to escape the situation, even when they are eventually given an opportunity to leave.
You have probably observed this behavior in other people before and been frustrated that someone you cared about seemed unwilling to get themselves out of a difficult or bad situation. Even though you could clearly see the solution, that person could not. Helplessness becomes a limiting belief.
When I learned this term suddenly so many things about my life made sense.
I was told countless times during my childhood that what I wanted and felt didn’t matter because, “I don’t care, you’re not the adult.”
That feeling of being powerless and that my needs didn’t matter carried over into my adult life. I was a victim to my circumstances for so long that I truly believed I was stuck even when I was no longer under someone else’s authority.
I didn’t know how to act on what I wanted because I believed, on an unconscious level, that what I wanted didn’t matter. I had learned to be helpless until I realized that I could take control of my life.
We learn limiting beliefs as kids or teens when we can’t escape that negative influence, and then when we become independent adults we don’t realize that finally we have power to change those beliefs and patterns, so they remain for years.
How are Limiting Beliefs hurting you?
Limiting beliefs are behind all the things you didn’t do because you were afraid, they’re behind your low self-esteem, they’re behind your excuses, they’re behind the reasons you stay broke, they’re behind your cycle of toxic relationships, and so much more.
Studies have found that limiting beliefs can increase anxiety and depression.
So how have limiting beliefs manifested in your life?
One way to find some of your limiting beliefs is to look for the negative events, or a lack of desired events, in your life.
Look for the patterns, what keeps happening over and over again? In what area do you feel like you take one step forward and then two steps back? Where are you not able to make progress?
How many times did you not try things because they scared you or seemed too hard?
Are you never able to get ahead with your finances because your money disappears as soon as it comes it?
Do you keep pushing people away because you believe everyone will eventually let you down?
You might relate to some of the examples below.
Examples of Limiting Beliefs
You believe ‘everything sucks’ and nothing good ever happens to you because you’ve been raised around people who always have a negative take on life.
At the first sign of trouble you quit instead of looking for a solution because you believe you aren’t smart enough to handle the situation.
You struggle to be assertive and ask for what you deserve (a raise at work, respect from your peers) because you’ve been taught to believe that your role is to be quiet, polite, and accommodating.
You’ve been treated like your opinions and needs don’t matter for so long that you struggle with self worth and allow people to treat you badly.
You repeatedly fall victim to toxic relationships because you don’t believe you are worthy of love.
As a kid you were told by a parent or teacher that you were stupid so you stopped trying in school and always got poor grades.
You mess up your diet at lunch and believe you failed so you eat junk the rest of the day and promise to ‘start over’ tomorrow, or you quit altogether.
You don’t apply to a job you really want because you don’t believe you aren’t qualified, even though the logical part of your brain knows you’re more than qualified.
You believe you’ll always be poor so you don’t ask for a raise, you don’t look for a better job, and you spend money on things you know you don’t need or even want as a form of self-sabotage.
The Good News About Limiting Beliefs
If you related to any of the examples I shared the good news is that you can change your beliefs, you’ve been doing it all your life.
You probably believed in Santa or the Tooth Fairy at some point, but eventually you realized that despite the presents under the tree or money under your pillow the cause of those things was not what you thought.
One of the hardest things for people to do is to be introspective, to look inwards and analyze what we believe and why. People fear that if they see something ugly inside themselves they won’t be able to handle it. They don’t want to take responsibility for creating their reality because it’s so much easier to blame the world or ‘the man’ for keeping you down.
What they don’t realize is that they are giving away their power.
I think there is something really beautiful and empowering about realizing that our realities are created by our beliefs, and that limiting beliefs are just learned patterns.
We tend to think that negative beliefs about ourselves are our identity and therefor set in stone, but the reality is that these ways of thinking can be changed.
We can take control instead of letting what we learned in the past control us.
Up next are the steps you need to take to change you limiting beliefs, and I want to share an optional resource you can use in this journey.
Learning to change your limiting beliefs can be difficult, this free worksheet can help get you started.
The 4 Step Strategy to Change Your Limiting Beliefs
1. Become Aware of the Negative Belief
The first step is to realize what your negative belief is. Identify the things you struggle with and would like to change.
Becoming aware of a belief is so powerful. Once you realize that a belief you’ve had is hurting you and you decide you are ready to change it, half the battle is won.
If you aren’t certain of the truth of a belief, ask your intuition if it is true.
You might start with just one area of your life like money, relationships, career, or self-esteem and go from there. You’ll soon find that your limiting beliefs overlap across many areas of your life but choosing one is a good place to start.
You can also just be mindful of your thoughts during the day. When you notice a limiting thought write it down. At the end of the day look at the narrative that was running through your head all day. You may notice that a lot of these thoughts are connected and boil down to a common theme.
How do these beliefs make you feel? Do you want to keep feeling this way? If not, start to look at what created the belief.
2. Look for the Story Behind Your Belief
The belief didn’t come from nowhere. There is a whole story behind it.
Start asking yourself questions.
Why do I believe this? When did I start believing it? Who told me this was true and is it in my best interest to keep on believing them? How has this belief manifested throughout my past? Do I like what it’s created in my life?
Maybe someone taught you something with the best of intentions, but it came from a limiting belief they have.
Maybe you observed a behavior as a kid and either imitated it or you took it to the opposite extreme.
For example, as a kid I observed that my mom was always asking for help for things that to me seemed very easy to solve if she just payed attention or did a little research. As someone she often asked for help it was really annoying, so I went in the opposite direction.
I refused to ask for help when I needed it. I couldn’t ask a teacher for clarity if I didn’t understand something. I couldn’t tell someone I was struggling. I couldn’t even ask an employee at the store for help finding an item.
My belief was that asking for help would annoy someone or make me look weak or stupid. The story came from my observation of my mom always needing help, and I later realized that her need for help came from needing that attention because she’s felt abandoned by people in her past.
There is always a story. Write it down so you can look at it from a new perspective and change it.
3. Change the Story
Once you learn what your story is you get to flip those thoughts and beliefs around.
What new story can you write about your belief that turns it from negative to positive? What new thoughts are you going to think everyday to cement that positive story into your subconscious?
What would you like to be true about yourself and your life?
Write it all down and then start to think and live as if that story is true. Make the positive belief your identity.
When a limiting thought pops into your head immediately correct yourself by remembering the new story and thinking empowering thoughts.
Create a mantra or motto that you read or think to yourself everyday.
4. Practice and be Consistent
The thing about changing your limiting beliefs is that you don’t usually get over them with one moment of revelation, one action, or one therapy session.
It takes practice, consistency, and time.
It’s generally accepted that it takes 21 days to create a new habit (though frequency of an action is more important than time), but breaking one can be a lot harder. Your limiting beliefs are basically toxic habits you need to break.
Write down the new beliefs you’re going to practice telling yourself everyday until your brain makes new neural pathways and those beliefs are ingrained in you.
Embody the person you want to be. Live life as if you fully belief the empowering beliefs are you trying to cultivate. It might feel like you’re a fraud at first, but keep at it. Eventually you will stay to believe you are that person.
It’s a process, so don’t give up when things don’t change over night.
So that’s the 4 step method to overcome your limiting beliefs. When you’re confronting your limiting beliefs try to do it from a place of love and curiosity. Use the limiting beliefs pdf to help you work through them.
Don’t blame yourself or anyone else, even the people who contributed to these negative beliefs that have impacted your life. Remember that anything someone passed on to you was done in ignorance and that it stems from their own limiting beliefs.
Thank you so much for visiting A Point of Light. I hope you are able to use this information to improve your life. If you found value on my site and want to read more subscribe below, I would love to stay in touch.
Love and light.