What Are Limiting Beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are the unverified and typically negative assumptions you hold about yourself, your capabilities, and the world around you.
Often, they’re the little nagging voices in your head telling you that you can’t do something, even before you try.
These beliefs are deeply ingrained in your consciousness. They slow you down and prevent you from making your dreams come true. And they could very well be the root cause of your being stuck in life.
When opportunities appear right in front of you, you’re often held back by this type of belief, fearing that you’ll fall short of expectations or disappoint others.
Limiting beliefs usually encourage self-doubt, diminish confidence, and build an artificial boundary that prevents you from going beyond your comfort zone.
The consequences? You might fail to seize growth opportunities, limit your aspirations, or even sabotage your own success due to an ingrained belief that you’re undeserving or incapable.
But remember, it’s just that — a belief, not a fact. You are more capable than you think, and you deserve all the success and happiness that comes your way.
In this article, we’re exploring the main causes of limiting beliefs, how to change them, and some common examples of limiting beliefs so you know how to spot yours.
Main Sources of Self-Limiting Beliefs
Our childhood shapes us in more ways than we can imagine.
For example, if, as a child, you were constantly told that “money doesn’t grow on trees”, you may grow up with the limiting belief that financial abundance is unattainable, which creates an unnecessary struggle around money.
Another dominant source of limiting beliefs during our formative years is the traditional educational system.
Sometimes, it tends to categorize learners into ‘smart’ and ‘not so smart’ based on a narrow definition of intelligence.
If you’ve ever been labeled a ‘slow learner’ or received poor grades, you might have internalized the belief that you’re not intelligent or capable enough.
This belief can follow you into adulthood, hindering your personal and professional growth.
Life experiences in our teenage years or adulthood can also shape our limiting beliefs.
For instance, if you had a bad breakup, you might begin to believe that all relationships end in heartbreak, which can prevent you from opening up to new relationships.
Or, if you faced rejection in your dream job interview, you may start to believe that success is out of reach for you, leading to self-sabotage in future opportunities.
The values of the family we’re born into shape our beliefs around success, money, career, family relations, and boundaries.
For example, if you were born into a family that values job security over personal fulfillment, you might grow up believing that pursuing your passion is too risky and impractical.
Breaking these chains of limiting beliefs can be a significant challenge.
These beliefs are deeply ingrained in us, often subconsciously, and they influence our thoughts, decisions, and actions.
They are like invisible barriers that sabotage us without us even realizing it.
However, it’s essential to understand that every single family, without exception, imparts some form of limiting beliefs. This is not a reflection of a family’s goodness or badness.
It’s just an inevitable part of the human condition.
We’re all shaped by our experiences, and no one is perfect. Each of us, including our family members, carries our own set of limiting beliefs learned and passed down through generations.
Acknowledging this fact is a step towards understanding our own path to personal growth and self-empowerment.
Religious beliefs also play a significant role in shaping our worldview.
For instance, if your religion labels certain desires or aspirations as sinful, you might deny yourself those very things that could lead to your happiness.
Society often dictates how we should think or behave.
A common societal belief is that getting a university degree guarantees a successful career. However, many successful people have proven this belief to be false.
Take the case of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., who was a college dropout. Jobs chose to follow his passion for technology over conforming to societal norms of obtaining a degree.
His relentless pursuit of innovation, despite the lack of a formal degree, led him to create one of the world’s most successful tech companies.
This example clearly illustrates that success is not confined to societal norms and expectations but is achieved through determination, resilience, and the courage to challenge limiting beliefs.
Another flawed belief society teaches us is that we need to look a certain way to be considered attractive, pretty, or sexy.
When in reality, different people consider different things attractive, and there’s no one-fits-all model when it comes to that, no matter what they try to tell you.
How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs and Change Your Life
1. Identify your limiting belief
The first significant step in transforming your life is to identify your limiting beliefs.
Take some time to reflect on different areas of your life where you may feel stuck or unfulfilled.
Consider aspects such as relationships, career, self-improvement, or health. Once you have identified these areas, take a pen and a journal and write them down.
By visually seeing these patterns and beliefs that are holding you back, you can gain a deeper understanding of how they impact your life.
This awareness is crucial for initiating positive change and breaking free from limitations.
Remember, you have the power to challenge and overcome these beliefs, paving the way for personal growth and fulfillment.
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2. Notice how your limiting beliefs are blocking you
Understanding how your limiting beliefs block your progress is a crucial step in overcoming them.
By recognizing these obstacles, you can empower yourself to break them down. You begin to unravel how these beliefs were formed and why they no longer serve your interests.
This realization becomes a catalyst for change that motivates you to transform your perspective, embrace new challenges, and ultimately rewrite your life story.
If you have big dreams, you may find your progress blocked by the belief that you’re not good enough to achieve them. This limiting belief can sometimes prevent you from taking the necessary steps toward your dream.
It can also lead to self-doubt and procrastination, which hinders your progress as well.
Pay attention to how your thoughts and beliefs are holding you back from taking action toward your goals.
Acknowledge them without judgment, and then let them go.
3. Challenge your limiting beliefs
Once you have identified and acknowledged your limiting beliefs, it’s time to challenge them.
Ask yourself: Is this belief based on facts or simply a thought?
Many times, our beliefs are not rooted in reality but rather in fear, self-doubt, and past experiences.
By questioning the validity of your limiting beliefs, you can begin to break them down and create new, empowering beliefs that align with your goals and aspirations.
This process may require some introspection and reflection, but the results can be life-changing.
For example, let’s take the following negative thought: “I’m not smart enough.“
I get it. Sometimes, negative experiences and fear of failure can mess with our heads. But here’s the thing: that belief can totally stunt our personal and professional growth.
First, let’s question the foundation of this belief. Is it really based on an accurate assessment of your intelligence, or is it just influenced by past setbacks and criticism?
Remember, intelligence isn’t fixed. It can be improved through effort and persistence.
Take a moment to reflect on your successes and the skills you’ve acquired. You’ve got so much potential for growth and learning.
So let’s ditch that “I’m not smart enough” belief and replace it with something empowering like “I am always capable of learning and growing.“
4. Pay attention to your self-talk
Our self-talk plays a significant role in shaping our beliefs and perceptions.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for our inner dialogue to be filled with limiting beliefs that can slow down our growth and happiness.
Negative self-talk can manifest in various ways, such as doubting our intelligence (“I’m not smart enough”), questioning our worthiness of love (“Nobody loves me”), fearing failure (“I always mess things up”), or doubting our physical attractiveness (“I’m ugly”).
Recognizing these negative thoughts is the first step toward personal development and transformation because only by catching them on the spot will you be able to shift the thought for something positive.
By replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations and practicing self-compassion, we can create a more empowering and nurturing inner dialogue.
5. Spend more time with positive people
The people we surround ourselves with significantly influence our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Often referred to as our ‘social environment,’ they can impact our perspectives, no matter our age, career, or personality.
Their words and actions can shape our thought process, either positively or negatively.
This influence can be subtle, like adopting the phrases used by a friend, or profound, like changing your career path based on the advice of a mentor.
That’s why spending time with positive, uplifting people can inspire you to strive for success, pursue your passions, and maintain a positive outlook even in the face of adversity.
Meanwhile, being exposed to negativity and pessimism can breed self-doubt and anxiety and slow down our progress. Therefore, it’s essential to cultivate a supportive, positive social environment that encourages growth, fosters resilience, and helps us to thrive.
Surrounding yourself with positive and encouraging people can have a transformative effect on your mindset. It can uplift and inspire you, enabling you to see new possibilities and embrace a more optimistic outlook on life.
So, choose your company wisely and let positivity be the driving force that propels you toward success and fulfillment.
6. Understand it’s just a belief
Recognizing that limiting beliefs are not objective facts but rather products of our own mind and imagination is crucial.
These beliefs are nothing more than thoughts that we have granted power and significance to over a period of time.
By understanding this, we can begin to dismiss them and free ourselves from their constraints.
7. Find a new belief to replace your old one
A great way to counteract a limiting belief is to replace it with a positive one. For instance, replacing “I’m not good enough” with “I’m continually growing and improving” can make a world of difference.
Replacing restrictive thoughts with empowering beliefs plays a fundamental part in your journey toward self-growth and success.
It’s a pivotal step because the beliefs you hold determine:
- your attitude,
- how you respond to different situations,
- and ultimately, the results you achieve in your life.
As you cultivate more positive beliefs, you inspire yourself to take action, overcome obstacles, and persist in the face of challenges.
This transformation doesn’t just change how you view yourself; it alters your perception of the world around you.
You begin to see opportunities where you once saw obstacles and potential where you once saw failure.
8. Use positive affirmations
Positive affirmations function as transformative tools that enable us to reshape our subconscious mind, replacing self-limiting thoughts with uplifting, empowering beliefs.
They work on the principle of cognitive behavioral therapy, where consistent positive reinforcement alters our patterns of thought, consequently influencing our behavior and reactions.
When we repeatedly affirm positive statements, our brain starts to recognize and accept them as truth, ultimately leading to an improved self-image and increased self-confidence.
The effectiveness of positive affirmations lies in their ability to influence how we think, alter our perspective, and inspire us to act in ways that align with our affirmed beliefs.
This cognitive shift can significantly enhance our resilience, drive, and optimism, paving the way for self-growth and success.
Engaging in positive affirmations such as:
- “I possess the capability to achieve greatness”
- “I am worthy of love and triumph”
- “I exhibit unyielding confidence and unwavering courage”
- “I am in a constant state of growth and evolution”
- “I wholeheartedly trust in my innate abilities” can effectively reprogram your subconscious mind and conquer self-imposed limitations.
9. Pay attention to your thoughts
Understanding and paying attention to your thoughts is the cornerstone of eradicating limiting beliefs. Your thoughts are a reflection of your beliefs, and they directly influence your actions and behaviors.
If these thoughts are negative or self-limiting, they can prevent you from reaching your goals and hinder your overall growth.
By observing your thought patterns and identifying any recurring negative beliefs, you can consciously decide to challenge them and replace them with positive, empowering alternatives.
This cognitive restructuring doesn’t happen overnight; it requires patience and persistence.
However, it’s so worth the effort.
As you progressively transform your thoughts, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your self-confidence, resilience, and motivation, which are key to achieving success and personal fulfillment.
Practice self-awareness to make your new, positive beliefs stick.
Notice when old beliefs arise, challenge them, and consciously replace them with your new beliefs.
Journaling can be a great tool for tracking this process.
10. Practice patience and self-compassion
When it comes to getting rid of those self-limiting beliefs, it’s not just about being mindful but also having a good dose of self-compassion and self-motivation.
Let’s face it, it’s not an easy journey.
There will be hurdles and setbacks along the way, but hey, that’s alright! It’s important to be kind to yourself and understand that stumbling is part of the process.
And let’s not forget about self-motivation. The transformation you’re after is more like a marathon than a sprint.
So, keeping up that motivation is crucial. It’s that inner drive that will keep you going, even when things seem slow or overwhelming.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Your beliefs took years to form, so reshaping them will take time and unwavering motivation.
So, as you navigate this path, hold onto self-compassion with one hand and self-motivation with the other. They’re your loyal allies on this transformative journey.
Reframing limiting beliefs isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a process that takes time.
Cut yourself some slack and celebrate those small wins along the way.
Remember, you’re undoing and reshaping patterns that took years to form. Patience and persistence are key.
Common Examples of Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back
In this journey towards breaking free from self-limiting beliefs, it’s important to identify the most common ones that silently impact significant aspects of our lives.
Here’s a deep dive into three categories: beliefs about ourselves, our work, and life in general.
Each of these areas houses false beliefs that can hold you back from realizing your full potential.
- “I’m not good enough.” This belief often rears its head as a result of comparison with others and can seriously dent self-confidence. It can prevent us from taking on new challenges or pursuing our passions.
- “I’m not capable.” Similar to the previous belief, this one stems from negative self-comparison and can lead to feelings of inadequacy. This can hold us back from trying new things and reaching for bigger goals.
- “I don’t deserve success, love, or happiness.” This belief often results from past experiences or conditioning and can create a self-sabotaging mindset. It can prevent us from taking risks and getting out of toxic relationships.
- “I have to work hard for everything.” While hard work is important, this belief can lead to burnout and prevent us from finding balance in our lives. It can also limit us from exploring new opportunities and taking breaks when necessary.
- “I’m not cut out for this job/career path.” This limiting belief can stem from imposter syndrome or a lack of confidence in our abilities. It can hold us back from pursuing fulfilling career paths.
- “I shouldn’t aspire for more. I should be grateful for what I have.” While gratitude is important, this belief can lead to complacency and prevent career growth.
- “I’m not qualified enough to take up that role.” This belief can stop us from applying for promotions or new opportunities, limiting career progression. It’s important to recognize and challenge this belief in order to reach our full potential.
- “Life is a struggle and full of hardships.” This belief can influence us to see life as a constant battle, minimizing our ability to see the joys and opportunities of life.
- “It’s too late for me to change.” This belief can hinder your growth and stop you from adapting to new circumstances or opportunities for improvement. It’s never too late to make positive changes in your life.
- “I’ll always be alone.” This belief can stem from past experiences or fear of vulnerability, preventing you from forming meaningful relationships and experiencing love and connection.
The Bottom Line
It’s clear that limiting beliefs serve as unseen barriers, holding us back from achieving our true potential and leading fulfilling lives.
They damage our perception of ourselves and the world around us, which restricts our growth.
But remember, you have the power to change this narrative. You are not bound by these limiting thoughts. You have the strength to challenge and overcome them.
Life can and will change drastically when you alter the way you think.
So, dare to dream. Dare to aspire. Dare to believe in your boundless potential and watch your life transform in unimaginable ways.
Your journey towards a limitless life begins with a single, powerful step: eliminating your limiting beliefs.
Start today, and remember: sometimes, the only limits that exist are the ones you impose upon yourself.