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And how to combat them

Justin Shelley Leadership & Life Coach.

If you think about your earliest childhood memories, it is likely that you remember times when you were fearless, you probably had no life rules in place, and your curiosity could take you to places that you wouldn’t now dare visit.

As you began to age, you were then bombarded with a seemingly never-ending list of rules about what you could and could not do, what you could and could not say, how you should act and how you should not. If you were a boy, you would get one set of rules and if you were a girl, you would get another.

These rules would be continually layered upon you throughout your life with influences from your parents, culture, education, the media, and your endless set of uniquely human experiences.

All these influencing factors contribute to what is commonly referred to as our Frame of Reference (or window on the world), which likely resulted in the creation of your limiting beliefs, which in some way could be preventing you from reaching your full potential.

What are limiting beliefs?

‘A limiting belief is something that you accept about life, about you, about the world, or about people in it, that limits you in some way.’

If you have ever made statements such as, ‘I’m not good at public speaking’, or ‘I don’t have enough experience’, or ‘I’m not smart enough to do that’, then these are examples of limiting beliefs that falsely define you in some way, and which can prevent you from taking action.

Our limiting beliefs can have a negative effect on us; they may prevent us from embracing new opportunities, they can impact our confidence, make us less objective and keep us trapped in a negative state of mind.

Limiting beliefs can also keep us small and safe, which can place us in our own invisible prison.

Identifying your limiting beliefs

There are several ways that you can identify limiting beliefs, and most do require an element of self-reflection to discover them.

1. Write down your beliefs

To identify beliefs that are limiting you, start writing down your general beliefs.

Write down beliefs about anything you feel strongly about that influences your daily life. Group them into categories such as family, relationships, health, or professional etc.

Once you have done this, examine which ones are helping you grow, and which could be limiting you.

2. Identify beliefs that limit your behaviour

Think about situations where you might have acted negatively and think about why this happened. You may have acted in those situations according to your own set of life rules (what you might see as right or wrong).

For example, if you find it difficult to speak your mind when someone has offended you, you may possess a limiting belief that conflict is bad. This could prevent you from building open and honest relationships, as you are unable to speak your mind and have healthy confrontations.

If you look closely at your behaviour, you may well uncover one or many limiting beliefs.

3. Identify areas where you have been challenged

If you experience a recurring challenge in a particular area of your life, this could be a clue to a limiting belief.

Perhaps you experience challenges professionally when dealing with people, perhaps you have a strong opinion about something which brings up judgements in you, causing you communication issues at work.

These challenges may simply be the byproduct of beliefs that you have picked up and adopted as truths.

As you describe each challenge, make a note of any beliefs that you hold about that challenge. If you are always getting into arguments with people, uncover what it is you are thinking and why it causes you conflict.

Ways to overcome limiting beliefs

The great thing about finding limiting beliefs is that you then have the power to change them at any time. This can be a challenging process, but with commitment and an increased level of self-awareness, you can make it possible.

1. Turn a negative into a positive

A simple way to challenge a limiting belief is to examine the belief and turn it into a positive.

For example, if your limiting belief is ‘other people are untrustworthy’ you might write down the statement ‘other people are untrustworthy because________’ completing the blank space with your reason.

Trying to justify a limiting belief can be difficult when challenged directly.

Once you have challenged your limiting belief, try turning your limiting belief into something more positive by changing your language. For example, you may change the same statement to ‘most people are trustworthy’.

2. Lean in with curiosity

Limiting beliefs can be the result of being closed-minded about a particular topic or subject. To open your mind, you could lean in with curiosity. When you become curious about something, you are more likely to explore the world around you and break out of your comfort zone.

Curiosity can help you expand your mind and challenge your own limiting beliefs; it creates opportunities to learn about other people’s beliefs and observe new ideas. Curiosity also disarms conflict, creating more open and connected communication.

3. Positive affirmations

If your limiting beliefs impact your self-esteem, it can be challenging to establish positive beliefs. Creating positive affirmations can be a great way to improve your self-esteem. They force you to speak about yourself in a much more positive way.

If you have a limiting belief about yourself that relates to being intelligent enough, it could impact your confidence at work or when speaking at meetings or with your manager.

To challenge that belief, you could write down affirmations that state, ‘I am wise, I am smart, I am clever enough’. Saying this to yourself in the mirror every day for a number of times can help you build your self-esteem over time.

Final thoughts

As long as there are people there will always be limiting beliefs and that will never change. There will also always be people who have conflicting beliefs to yours, but just knowing limiting beliefs exist and understanding where they come from can have a positive impact on how you show up in the world.

Being able to identify and challenge the beliefs that do not serve you well can help you live your life with less judgement, conflict or fear, and also allow you to break free from your own invisible limiting belief prison.


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