I do not have the time to exercise.
I am simply too old
I am too busy to go back to school.
I do not have time for a relationship right now.
I am simply too poor.
I do not have enough money to start my own business.
I am simply not good enough.
I was not meant to be a leader.
Self-limiting beliefs are assumptions or ideas you have transformed into facts about your capabilities for success.
How we were raised can have a lot to do with how far we go in life. A lot of who you are comes from how you were raised and whether or not you were given positive or negative forms of affirmation.
The self-limiting beliefs taught or emulated to us in childhood become very much engrained into us and it can be very difficult, even with clear proof that they are false, to discount. Self-limiting beliefs are so powerful that you can live your whole life finding examples or situations which validate and concretize your self-limiting beliefs. When you come across a situation or experience which challenges your self-limiting beliefs you will tend to take it as a fluke or a one-off, which is meant to be ignored.
For example, if you were raised to believe that you are overweight and will always have weight issues because everyone in your family has weight issues, you may believe that being overweight is your destiny. You may choose to not workout or eat healthy because what is the point? You are going to be overweight regardless.
This type of self-limiting belief is easy to see in people. I have a friend who is overweight and it negatively impacts their life in many ways. When their doctor recommended that they try losing twenty pounds, to help relieve some of their joint pain issues, they made this comment to me: “Doesn’t the doctor bloody well know that if I knew how to lose twenty pounds, I would have lost it by now? If I could lose the weight I would have, but I simply can’t; I am a fat person and that’s that. God, these doctors do not understand anything, I cannot lose weight and I need surgery.”
This friend of mine is in a toxic loop. They are overweight and believe that they can never be at a normal weight because of what they were told in childhood. They are in chronic pain and their doctor will not authorize their hip surgery until they lose the required twenty pounds for safety reasons. They believe they cannot lose the twenty pounds because if they could have they would have done so by now.
Pay attention to the roadblocks your siblings and parents have put up in their life and see if you happen to have the same blocks built up around your life–you may be surprised at what you find.
How we perceive ourselves is very crucial to the levels of success we will reach in our life. It is very difficult to change a self-limiting belief because they feel so real. A friend of mine, who is an amazing yogi once told me that their lifelong dream was to become a yoga instructor.
When they told me this I was really confused and asked them what the hell could be possibly stopping them from that goal? I was shocked at the seemingly endless list they bestowed on me as to why they could not become a yoga instructor, “Oh my god Aman, you would not understand. I cannot become a yoga instructor because it is simply too expensive. I just do not have the money for the certification course.”
I countered their excuse by saying, “I’m really good with budgeting and am amazing at budgeting. Let’s sit down and make a plan to save for the course, over the next six months, so that it does not seem daunting to you Cal.”
“It is not just the money,” Cal challenged me right back, “how would I find the time for the course? I still have to pay my mortgage, it isn’t like I could just quit my job and focus on my certification.”
“Oh, you absolutely do not have to!” I replied back, trying to show them the optimism of the situation, “there are courses you can take right here in town, during evenings and weekends that are built for working professionals, you will be fine.”
“Even if I did all that, who would even hire me?” Cal continued, “it would be such a waste of time and money, so why even bother? I know for a fact that no one would take me seriously as a yoga instructor. I’m just not a natural leader and I know that.”
Do you see how damaging self-limiting beliefs can be? No matter what solution an external person puts in front of you, you will find another blockade to put up between yourself and your dream.
People who do this are not doing it on purpose either. They are not trying to waste your time with their dreams, to simply squash any suggestions which could lead them closer to said dream. When you are being controlled by a self-limiting belief you simply, truly and whole-heartedly believe that you could not succeed at attaining your dream in any form of reality. You truly believe, with all of your heart, that you could not attain the dream in any situation, with any level of support or with even the most extreme levels of guidance.
Speaking with a mental health professional is the best place to start when it comes to countering self-limiting beliefs. It can be really easy to discount the positive things or solutions your family and friends say, but it is not so easy to discount cold, hard facts from someone who is able to assess how you think and why.
A therapist I use to see regularly once asked me to do this technique, which was really eye-opening for me. She asked me to pretend that I was sitting in the empty chair beside myself and to describe who I was as a person, as if it was someone else, not me.
As I sat there, I looked at this empty chair and envisioned myself sitting there, “Well,” I started off slowly, “Aman is a massive procrastinator, she is lazy, selfish and not a very good friend or relative.”
“Why do you see her like that?” asked my therapist, “Let’s unpack this procrastination issue, why do you see her as a procrastinator?”
The fascinating thing my therapist did was that she kept forcing me to see this person as a separate entity, not me talking about myself and kept redirecting me when I spoke about myself. As I started doing the technique, I had to keep walking back a lot of the things I was saying, “Well, she really is not a procrastinator, she gets a lot accomplished in her life, but maybe her major problem is that if she doesn’t complete everything on her list of things-to-do each day, it makes her get really frustrated with herself. Maybe she is just too hard on herself?”
“So what do you think Aman could do, to help alleviate this daily frustration and sadness she is inflicting on herself on an almost daily basis?” asked my therapist.
“Well, maybe she should expect a more realistic amount of things from herself, rather than a list that is daunting and always really difficult to finalize each day realistically,” I said back. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
It probably took about ten or fifteen minutes for me to warm up to the technique, but once I started seeing myself as a separate person, I started to see myself in a much more loving way. I started seeing my virtues, recognizing my vices and why I was focusing on my failures more than my successes on a regular basis. Since that therapy session, I never write down more than three tasks for each day to complete. I can also tell when I am under pressure, stressed or anxious because I start creating these cumbersome lists of things to do each day and have to forcefully stop myself.
When you start assessing where you are unhappy with yourself and your life, you might realize that self-limiting beliefs have a much larger stranglehold on you than were acutely aware of. It is not an overnight fix, but more of a lifelong daily task at redirecting yourself. If you take on this task diligently and make it a daily practice you will make your life much more enjoyable and you may be shocked to realize that you are a happier person because of it.
When you stop being swayed or stunted by your self-limiting beliefs or when you can at least you can start correcting yourself when you can hear that type of talk appearing, you will find you are happier in your daily existence.