Our beliefs have a very powerful impact on how much opportunity we see and how willing we are to pursue those opportunities. Often I hear people saying things like, “I am not creative” or “I am not mathematical”, “I don’t want to fail, so I will not try,” or “I will get hurt if I am vulnerable.” These are all examples of limiting beliefs.
A limiting belief is a thought or conviction that you believe to be true (that may not necessarily be) that limits you in some way. It could hinder the choices that you make, and the opportunities that you pursue or even prevent you from recognising your full potential.
Where do these limiting beliefs come from?
Most often limiting beliefs live in our subconscious minds. They are not beliefs that we usually articulate and they subconsciously guide our behavior without being examined. The verbal and non-verbal messaging that we receive when growing up often gets recorded into our minds as limiting beliefs.
For example, if you notice one of your parents is overly concerned with how people perceive him or her, you may record this behavior in your subconscious as “How others perceive me is really important”. In adulthood, this belief becomes limiting and manifests itself as a fear of judgment. This belief may hold you back from exploring new things.
Limiting beliefs can affect our life choices and constrain us in a way that makes us fearful of making the choices we really want to.
Limiting beliefs at play
A person believes that they are not mathematically inclined. This limiting belief may have developed through a struggle with the subject due to not understanding basic concepts well enough early on.
This could lead to anxiety and avoidance of any math related work in school life. The student may procrastinate and approach math with a block so as to only engage with it for the purpose of passing a test. This approach will lead to a mediocre result which then strengthens the limiting belief.
This limiting belief could also affect the professional choices the person makes. Maybe he is interested in pursuing architecture but decides to pursue journalism instead, to avoid the math. Limiting beliefs can affect our life choices and constrain us in a way that makes us fearful of making the choices we really want to. It reduces the world of opportunities that we should be open to. It deprives us of exploration and growth.
5 tips to work through your limiting beliefs
1. Pause and reflect: Awareness that you have limiting beliefs and understanding where in your history you picked them up is an important first step in trying to break down these beliefs.
2. Weed out assumptions: Examine whether your belief is an assumption or is based in evidence.
3. Assess likelihood of the feared outcome: What is the outcome you fear and how likely is it? Think about what the realistic outcome would be.
4. Get comfortable with discomfort: Attempt to do the very thing you think you cannot do. It’s uncomfortable but you need to tolerate the discomfort. Once you work through it you start to build confidence. To grow you need to step out of your comfort zone.
5. Failure is an opportunity for growth: Don’t be afraid to fail at something. Look at obstacles as opportunities for learning and growth rather than an opportunity to judge your self worth.
If we apply these strategies to the person who is afraid of judgment, it would look something like this. First, the person recognises that it is a limiting belief that holds him back. Second, he would ask himself what the belief is and where this belief came from. Third, he would reality test this belief and ask himself how often he has been judged. What would be the worst outcome if he were judged and what is the likelihood of that outcome happening. He would soon realise that the consequences of being judged may be more exaggerated in his mind than he thinks. Now he would have to take the risk of pursuing the action in the face of judgment with the mindset that every obstacle is an opportunity for learning.
What limiting beliefs hold you back from seizing the opportunity to grow?