Author: Tresa Clemmensen M.SC. CCC
How many of your limiting beliefs have you listened to as the truth throughout your lifetime? Each and everyone of us have countless limiting beliefs running through our minds, but some of us listen to these as truth and others witness the belief as only a belief, not as a factual truth! When we listen to our limiting beliefs as truth, they can stop us in our tracks but when we witness these beliefs as only a belief or thought, they do not have to interfere in what we choose to do.
Limiting beliefs not only come from our own minds creating them, but they can be told to us by others. As a young child, we are told things that we cannot do by others and some of these are for our own safety but some of these limits are placed upon us due to someone else’s own limiting beliefs. For instance, being told that we need to stop and look before we cross the street is a belief that will help keep one safe. On the other hand, being told by our teacher that we should not pursue math because we are not smart enough is not protecting us, rather if we listen to it as truth, it is limiting us. Well-intentioned and loving people that care about us can help to cultivate and create major limiting beliefs in our own lives.
Not only can others cultivate limiting beliefs in our own lives, but we ourselves can create our own limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs can range from sounding like “I can’t do that because_____” “I am not good enough because______” “I am not smart enough to pursue____” These beliefs can greatly impact our lives because if we buy into the belief, for example, that we are not smart enough to pursue math, we may choose to pursue a career that would not be an enjoyable for us.
Typically, we are not educated about how our mind works in school, therefore we are not even aware that our thoughts and beliefs are not actually us. We may not be aware of the thoughts that we are having and if we do have awareness of the thoughts, we may not know that our thoughts are not actually us. When my son was about seven years old, I had asked him what his thoughts were saying. He looked at me with a funny expression on his face and asked me “What are thoughts?” Although he was young when he asked me this, even as many grow older, they are still not aware of the power thoughts can hold over us if we don’t learn to separate ourselves from them. Limiting thoughts and beliefs can run a person’s life and they may not even be aware of it.
Ideally, it would be great if we could just shut off the limiting thoughts and beliefs in our mind so that they never interfere with our daily choices again. Unfortunately, we cannot just shut off our limiting beliefs, but we can choose to respond differently to them, which in turn will depower these unhelpful beliefs. The first step is to start paying attention to these beliefs. What do they sound like? What parts of your life do they show up in? It can be helpful to start recording these thoughts and beliefs on paper so you can actually see them. Often, we have had these limiting belief ‘tapes’ playing in our minds for so long that we have become accustomed to them as truth, and we may not even recognize when they are presenting themselves. Once we have become aware of the limiting beliefs, it can be helpful to write out the beliefs that will be empowering in our lives. What are the beliefs that will allow you to live your most meaningful life? These empowering beliefs are the beliefs you want to act on. We could ask ourselves, if I believed this empowering belief, what would I be doing differently? Then we can start incorporating those actions in our lives, which helps to reinforce the empowering belief.
When the limiting belief shows up, we can start to notice it and name it as a limiting belief and then choose to remind ourselves of our new empowering belief that we want to strengthen. Again, we can strengthen the new empowering beliefs by choosing an action to reinforce it. We depower our limiting beliefs by noticing them but choosing not to act on them. Continuing to practice will create the change. Practice, persistence, and self-compassion will help you to overcoming limiting beliefs and live by empowered beliefs.