How To Overcome Limiting Beliefs

Your beliefs are powerful tools that can help you realize your full potential. Or your beliefs can hold you back, setting artificial boundaries of “reasonable” around you so you don’t reach for what’s actually possible. That is exactly why it’s so important to overcome limiting beliefs.

The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) tells PeeWee Herman that he sees potential in him.

So you can recognize your own limiting beliefs, I’ll start by defining what limiting beliefs are. Next, I’ll discuss how limiting beliefs create your reality and why we continue to hold onto them. Finally, I’ll explain how you can reframe your limiting beliefs and break down those artificial boundaries. 

What are limiting beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are pretty much what they sound like: beliefs, ideas, opinions that hold you back by limiting what you see as possible. Your thoughts center around can’t and don’t or focus on negative self-talk. 

Here are some examples of limiting beliefs:

  • I never follow through. 
  • I’m too old.
  • I’m good at starting things but I don’t finish them. 
  • I’m not an expert. 
  • Why would anybody listen to/buy from/hire me? 
  • I didn’t work hard enough on this. I’m not worth it. 
  • I don’t deserve it.
  • People will judge me. 
  • I’m not creative. 
  • I’m a procrastinator. 
  • Other people can do it better than me. 
  • Nobody is interested in my ideas. 

Do any of these sound familiar? I had many of those limiting beliefs knocking around inside of me.

Even now, they have a weirdly familiar, but no-so-comfortable feeling as I write this post. It’s kinda like that itchy sweater your grandmother knitted for you. You didn’t really want to wear it, but you didn’t see a choice.

But you do have a choice when it comes to limiting beliefs. And here’s why….

Beliefs are just beliefs – not truths. 

The power of your beliefs lies in the fact that they can create your reality.

How does this happen? Psychology Today explains that there is scientific validity behind this concept (click here for the full article):

According to Psychology Today, there are three ways in which your beliefs shape your reality:

1. Your beliefs influence your behavior

It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you believe that you can run a 5K, you are more likely to undertake a training program that will make it a reality. If you believe that you aren’t creative, you probably won’t try that art class. It’s not for you, even though it sounds really cool and fun.

2. Your beliefs influence the behavior of others

This one is a little sneakier, but it happens all the time. If you go into a meeting believing that everyone is going to love your new idea, your approach and attitude are going to cause the people in that room to receive you and your idea in a positive way. If you go home anticipating an argument with your spouse or partner, you’ll probably get one.

3. Your beliefs impact your health

If you believe that you’ll die young because your parents did, then you may be less likely to make lifestyle changes that might help you live longer. If you believe you aren’t athletic and won’t get any benefit from exercise, you probably won’t.

As your beliefs shape your actions, your brain decides to lend a helping hand.

Our brains love to be right so we’ll hear what we want to hear – even if it reinforces something negative – because it’s in sync with what we believe. We’ll twist information around so it supports what we’ve already decided.

According to Shahram Heshmat Ph.D in his discussion about confirmation bias in Psychology Today:

Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively.

The human brain is pretty efficient. With so much information constantly coming at us from so many directions, our brains have gotten really good at collecting more of what already fits our current beliefs and the stories we built around those beliefs.

Here’s something else to consider.

We think limiting beliefs keep us safe.

Limiting beliefs are the armor that keeps us from

  • taking risks
  • being judged
  • trying new, scary things
  • disrupting the status quo and upsetting family and friends

We also continue to seek out the familiar thing that makes us feel the way we expect to feel. It’s your unconscious brain keeping you safe.

But those limiting beliefs also stop us from experiencing some pretty cool and amazing things.

So let’s stop playing small, shall we?

How to overcome limiting beliefs

First, ask yourself where did the limiting belief come from?

What was happening, and who was involved? Do your best to fill in the whole picture because that will help you deconstruct the story you’ve created around it. 

Here’s an example. Maybe your story is that you were told by a parent that you have no musical talent. What if that original story had a different meaning? If you think back to that day and try to recall details, you see that there’s more to the story than the feeling you took away. 

What actually happened is that you were practicing the piano. Your brothers were running around the house and fighting. The TV was blaring. 

And your mother yelled at you to stop making that noise. What you heard was “you can’t play the piano. You’re just making noise and I can’t stand it. You have no musical talent, so stop it!”

What your mother really meant was everyone needed to be quiet because she had a migraine. 

List out your limiting beliefs. Think about where they came from. Then write down at least two other ways the story can be told where your limiting belief is NOT the conclusion.

Second, find an example of a time when the limiting belief was not true.

Maybe your limiting belief is that you aren’t creative. But there was this one time… or maybe more than one time… when someone praised your writing ability. Or your boss loved an out-of-the-box solution that you pitched. 

The evidence of your creativity could be sitting in a great big pile right in front of you. But, as I mentioned, our brain is going to ignore or discount information that conflicts with our beliefs.

So I challenge you to create new stories around all that evidence you’ve disregarded. And write those new stories down because I want you to use them to support a different way of thinking about yourself.

Third, recognize when you start to rerun that same limiting belief story.

That’s when you go back to the new stories you wrote. And instead of acting on the limiting belief, do the opposite thing.

For example, your limiting belief may be that you never finish what you start. Instead of replaying that story when you start a new project, look back at the things you did complete. Remind yourself that you do finish when you care about what you are doing. And make sure you say no to projects you don’t care about. 

Need help in learning to say no? This post was written for you.

Finally, say “how will I?” instead of “can I?”

“Can I” questions your ability. It asks whether you are capable, whether you have permission or the power to accomplish the thing in question. “How will I?” sets you up to push past what your limiting beliefs said was reasonable and achieve results you never dreamed were possible before.

“Can I” questions your ability. It asks whether you are capable, whether you have permission or the power to accomplish the thing in question. “How will I?” sets you up to push past what your limiting beliefs said was reasonable and achieve results you never dreamed were possible before.

Ready to dream bigger – and make it happen? I can help.

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