Self-limiting beliefs hold you back from achieving your goals in life and in your career. They are powerful, and once they’re in place, they shape your actions and influence your decisions with no conscious effort on your part.
You are not alone in having similar thoughts. Self-limiting beliefs can hinder the success of many professionals and even entrepreneurs.
The good news is that you can overcome these negative beliefs and replace them with positive ones—and we’ll show you how! Even in challenging times, it’s possible to consciously reframe negative beliefs about yourselves, move forward positively with more confidence, and achieve goals.
Let’s take a look at some of the most limiting beliefs and how to overcome them.
Define Self-Limiting Beliefs
Limiting beliefs are based on false perceptions that limit our progress even when no other barrier stands in our way. If we let them go, it’s as if they never existed at all. It is important to identify limiting beliefs and set a plan for how to overcome them in order to move on with our lives. One of the most common limiting beliefs is the fear of success or inadequacy and self-blame or shame.
In Psychology’s lens, “Limiting Beliefs” can be related to not being good enough or even downright negative thoughts about oneself.
One way to overcome your limiting beliefs is by identifying which ones you may have and then deciding on an action plan to overcome them.
“You begin to fly when you let go of self-limiting beliefs and allow your mind and aspirations to rise to greater heights.” ―Brian Tracy
Examples of Limiting Beliefs
- I can’t handle it.
- I can’t because
- I’m not good enough.
- It’s too difficult for me.
- I should just give up.
- I can’t do this.
- I don’t know.
- I’m stupid enough
- I can’t deal with that
- I’m not good enough
- I don’t have time
- I failed
- I don’t have money
- It’s too late now
- I failed
When you find yourself in a tough situation, ask yourself whether you want to use one of these phrases.
If the answer is yes, identify your self-limiting beliefs and start using empowering beliefs and positive thinking instead.
The following steps will assist you in eliminating limiting beliefs:
1) Identify the belief you want to change
2) Think of a more empowering belief
3) Challenge your self-limiting beliefs by finding evidence and
4) Create an action plan so you are ready next time.
Limiting Beliefs About Yourself
Having a negative attitude towards your own accomplishments and talent is an example of a self-limiting belief. Another example of a limiting belief about yourself is assuming you need someone’s permission or approval before going for something you really want.
For most people, the idea of not being able to do anything without asking someone’s permission sounds like such a big burden. It might even sound impossible. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way at all.
You can decide right now that you will never again give anyone the power to make decisions for you. Make sure they know too!
Don’t forget that your self-limiting beliefs are totally under your control and it’s up to you what you believe about yourself. Limitations are only in our minds, so get out there and enjoy life!
To change these destructive habits, follow this process.
1. Thought journal. It may surprise you what you discover if you do this. Always keep a small notepad in your pocket or bag. Keep this journal to record negative thoughts. The act of noticing it often also stops it! By reflecting on what you write in the journal, you may be able to identify the most common self-limiting beliefs you need to work on.
2. Rubber band technique. One of the fastest ways to change thinking is through this method, which can feel a bit self-conscious at first. Make sure the rubber band you wear is tight enough to stay on but loose enough that it is not uncomfortable or prone to breaking. Every time you notice a negative thought, ping the rubber band. Writing it down works in the same way as halting a negative thought: bringing it to an end and conditioning you to have fewer negative thoughts in the future.
Limiting Beliefs About the World
Many people have self-limiting beliefs about the people and world around them. You can take control of your beliefs, change them into positive ones and see the world in a whole new light.
For example, if you think of yourself as inferior to others or that life is hard, by changing these limiting beliefs, you’ll be able to find joy and meaning in all aspects of life.
Here are examples of many limiting beliefs about the world:
- There’s never enough time to do everything I want to do.
- The universe is a chaotic place without any order or reason.
- Other people are smarter than me so I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
- Life has no meaning.
The first step to overcoming limiting beliefs is realizing that they exist. Look back at your life, thoughts and feelings to see if there are patterns when you feel this way.
If there are patterns then look at the situations that cause this reaction from you and try to come up with a different way of thinking about those situations or events.
- Identify your own beliefs and challenge them.
- Understand how damaging the consequences can be.
- Change your beliefs to more positive ones.
- Positively change your attitude towards other people and the world around you.
- Bring change within yourself
- Cultivate and practice these habits.
“Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.” —Mignon McLaughlin
Limiting Beliefs About Life
Change doesn’t happen overnight, use positive affirmations to overcome limiting belief about “Life”.
Positive affirmations are one of the best ways to overcome limiting beliefs. The purpose of affirmations is to build your self-esteem by repeating positive statements to yourself.
Positive affirmations can help you replace self-limiting beliefs with positive ones. For instance, if you tell yourself you’re not good enough for a promotion, reframe this belief by reassuring yourself that you work hard and deserve success. In this way, you can combat any negative thoughts by turning them into positive ones. You can reinforce these beliefs by saying them out loud to yourself or others.
When negative feelings arise, you can use this technique or incorporate it into your daily routine to prevent self-limiting beliefs from forming. Here are some examples of how to reframe negative self-talk
- The phrase “I can’t manage this project” should be reframed as “I have the capabilities necessary to succeed in everything I do.”
- The phrase “I don’t have enough time to invest in myself” should be rephrased as “I can reorganize my time in order to focus on what’s most important to me.”
You can train your mind to see the positives in everyday situations by reframing the way you think about challenges.
Limiting beliefs about life can keep you from reaching your full potential and achieving success.
Below are the most common limiting beliefs about life:
- I don’t have enough time in life
- Life is always unfair and too hard for me.
- If something bad happens, everything will go wrong.
- The future is going to be worse than the present, so there is no point in looking forward or trying anything new.
- My fate is already determined for me and nothing I do will change that.
- My life is completely out of control.
How Limiting Beliefs Turn To Limiting Behaviors
There are some self-limiting beliefs that can turn into limiting behaviors. Examples of these are avoiding certain tasks, changing your perspective from I don’t want to, to I want not, and staying in the comfort zone for too long.
There are other ways you may be unknowingly holding yourself back such as procrastinating, overthinking, or taking things personally. These behaviors will lead to an unhappy life so it’s important to identify them and make a plan on how you’re going to change them for the better.
Limiting Beliefs Start During Childhood
Many of our own limiting beliefs we have today come from what we learned as children. We might have been raised in a home where everyone was expected to work or be told that education is the key to success in life. As adults, these expectations can become self-limits on our capabilities and worth. It’s time to break free from these old ways of thinking and embrace what you know about yourself!
For example, if you were raised to believe that working hard will make all your dreams come true, but found out in college that working hard doesn’t guarantee anything, it may have created some internal conflict for you.
On one hand, you want to keep following this belief because it may lead to success and happiness; but on the other hand, there is no proof it will work out.
So, what to do? Acknowledge the discrepancy in your thoughts and give them each an honest assessment. Is this belief really serving you well?
What are the benefits of continuing to follow it? What are the risks if you don’t? The next step is deciding which course of action feels right for you at this point in your life.
Overcome Self-limiting Beliefs: A Step-by-Step Guide
A self-limiting belief is anything you believe will stop you from achieving your goals or going after what you want. It might be as simple as I don’t have time, or it could be more complex like I’m not good enough. The first step in overcoming a self-limiting belief is identifying the belief, and figuring out why that belief limits you.
Here are the steps:
Identify self-limiting beliefs
The first step in overcoming self-limiting beliefs is to identify them. What are the worst-case scenarios? What are your self-limiting beliefs? Once you have identified them, you can start working on how to change them.
Chose a topic you want to discuss. For example, if you think that you cannot succeed at anything, try and find evidence of success in your life (school/work). If you believe that everything bad happens to you, think about something good that has happened. Change the belief and watch what happens!
Put down your limiting beliefs about that topic in a writing exercise
The next step is to write down your limiting beliefs about that topic. You can use the following sentences to start your list:
“I believe that I am not good enough, I don’t deserve anything better than this, I’m never going to succeed in this area of my life.”
Once you’ve identified these thoughts, take a few minutes and write about how you feel when you think them. What does it feel like? What are the physical sensations?
Analyze the behaviors they have induced
After you finish writing down the thoughts, go back and analyze the behaviors they have induced. Oftentimes, our behaviors are a direct result of what we believe about ourselves.
For example, if you believe that your career isn’t progressing because people don’t take you seriously, then this will cause some level of self-doubt in your mind. The self-doubt leads to actions such as not volunteering for new projects or tasks.
However, these negative thoughts also lead to positive actions such as trying harder in an attempt to prove yourself. You are worth so much more than what your limiting beliefs tell you!
Take a moment to consider the origins of these beliefs
A number of factors contribute to limiting beliefs, but they all stem from the same source: your brain’s desire to protect you against future pain. Among these triggers are fear, impostor syndrome, and past experiences.
Many of us were told as children that we couldn’t do things and that this was either because we didn’t try hard enough or because people who are smarter than us told us so. Regardless of where these beliefs come from, it’s important for you to recognize them and understand their effects on your life so you can work through them.
Psychologists have long been fascinated by the notion that people don’t just form attitudes about themselves that they can describe when asked (‘I’m an excellent problem solver’; ‘I’m a good communicator’) but also have unconscious positive or negative beliefs about themselves (‘I will never be good at…’ and ‘I cannot succeed because I am…/have…’).
This is particularly interesting since it is possible for us to present a positive self-concept while not recognizing or ignoring the negative unconscious beliefs and attitudes that influence our thoughts and behaviors. (Conner and Barrett, 2005).
Why do we let our unconscious attitudes hold us back? What if they have become self-limiting beliefs that lower our self-esteem? We need to understand where they come from and know how to deal with them.
As Rudman (2004) explains, unconscious attitudes result from experiences and learning from the past (often forgotten). Verbalized self-concept is a result of knowledge and experiences from the present.
According to Olson and Fazio (2002), these often reflect childhood experiences and learning, as well as our cultural upbringing. Families, friends, schools, society, media, and the judgments and experiences they bring all contribute to our beliefs about ourselves.
The key to having higher self-esteem and becoming more emotionally intelligent is to recognize self-limiting beliefs and how they impact our emotions and behavior.
Take a moment to reflect on instances when you were wrong about these beliefs
Next step is to take a moment to reflect on instances when you were wrong about these beliefs. For example, have you ever been criticized for an idea that was later praised?
Have you ever heard of someone who’s done something similar to what you’re trying to do and it was successful?
Think of people who are more successful than you, and then remind yourself how they turned their self-limiting beliefs into positive thoughts.
Remember, you can accomplish your goals if you desire them enough.
Put a positive spin on negative thoughts
Negative inner voices are normal, human responses that are intended to help or protect you in some way. You should not try to resist or ignore the thought (this rarely works). Instead, consider why you hold this self-limiting belief: are you making assumptions that may not be true? The negative thoughts will disappear if you can find reasons why they aren’t true. Keep a thought journal to make this reframing technique even more effective.
You can ask yourself these challenging questions:
- Reality testing
How do I prove my point?
Do my thoughts reflect reality?
Do I jump to negative conclusions?
Are these thoughts true?
- Consider alternative explanations
Is there another way to look at this?
Can you think of any other possible meaning for this?
How would I perceive this if I were thinking more positively?
- Putting things into perspective
What am I making out of this?
Is there anything that could go wrong? How likely is it?
Is there anything better that could happen?
What is most likely to happen?
- Using a goal-oriented approach
Can I achieve my goals or feel better if I think like this?
Is there anything I can do to help resolve this issue?
In the future, how can I use this experience to improve my performance or feel better?
Perhaps your trusted colleague or friend can ask you these questions as well. Remember that all change takes time, but as you practice, you will become more confident in achieving goals while improving your well-being and relationships at the same time.
Embrace your limitless potential
Rather than try to get rid of self-limiting beliefs, it’s best to address the real fears that lead you to limiting yourself. Face your fears head on and try your hardest not to avoid them.
You might need a coach or mentor who can walk you through this step by step, but ultimately, you are in control of changing how you think about your abilities.
Embracing your limitless potential is key to achieving all of your goals. It doesn’t matter what those goals are—business, health, relationships—you must first believe that you can succeed before any progress will be made.
Create an alternative belief or reframe them
Once you embrace your beliefs, you can work on changing them into something that works for you. There are a few ways of doing this.
For example, if you believe that I’m not good enough, reframe it as I don’t need to be perfect. If you believe that It’s too hard, reframe it as I am strong and I can handle anything.
It is easier said than done, but the more you practice these alternative beliefs, the more they will become a part of who you are.
Consider and test Alternatives
Sometimes, as humans, we’re afraid of taking risks or trying new things. It can seem like the safer route is just to stay where you are and not rock the boat. But in actuality, that’s not necessarily the case. Try testing a few alternative courses of action and see how they work out. You may find yourself getting what you want after all!
For instance, If you’ve always told yourself I’m not good enough, reframe it to “I will always work to be the best at what my passion is.” Identify that passion and the new positive energy will begin to flow. With that change you will begin to be perceived differently as a confident, determined person.”
Put it into practice and reinforce it
This is how you can overcome your self-limiting beliefs. You first have to look at the belief, put it into practice and reinforce it.
For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, this means you should try your best every single time that someone requests your opinion in a meeting or when an audience member puts you on the spot. Once this becomes habitual and natural to do, then move on to step two.
Remember, in order to go about overcoming limiting beliefs, you need to keep repeating positive affirmations like I am beautiful or I am capable. Try looking at yourself in the mirror and say these words with confidence. Practice makes perfect!
Everyone has some type of self-limiting belief. Some people are more aware of them than others, and some even intentionally don’t want to see them in themselves. Fortunately, you can change them. The process takes time and effort, but it is possible.
Start with educating yourself about your specific belief system by reflecting on times in your life when you had less success than desired.
- What were some of the thoughts that popped into your head?
- Did you tell yourself things like this will never work, or this is too hard, or I’m not capable?
Once you know what types of beliefs get triggered in different situations, challenge them.
Challenge them by questioning their validity and checking whether they are true. If you can catch yourself in a negative belief, you can consciously choose not to act upon it and make new strong decisions that support your goals.
Positive affirmations are an excellent way to start challenging your limiting beliefs.
Every morning, spend five minutes repeating words that empower you instead of words that dis-empower you. Make sure they reflect who you want to be and not who someone else wants you to be.