Are you unknowingly harboring any self-limiting beliefs that are preventing you from being happier and more successful? Limiting or disempowering beliefs hold you back in ways you likely never considered. Learning how to identify and release those limiting beliefs and instead embrace self-affirming, uplifting beliefs can transform your entire life.
In this post, I introduce you to a huge list of self-limiting beliefs (including the top 10), describe what limiting beliefs are and how they impact your life, and provide some proven tips (backed by experts in the fields of positive psychology and CBT) on how to release limiting beliefs.
There’s a LOT to learn here, so get ready and begin …
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What limiting beliefs are and how they negatively impact your life
Much of your life is influenced by your rock-solid beliefs that certain things are true while others are untrue. The only problem with being so persistent in clinging to perceived “facts” is that you don’t always have a good grasp on the truth.; your uninformed opinions get in your way of taking positive action.
For example, if I believe I’m talented at playing the piano, I pursue avenues for using that skill. If I think my musical skills stink, I’ll hide my talents and resist pursuing a potentially fulfilling life as a musician. Facts (whether I’m ultra-talented or not) do not enter the picture, only self-belief.
Imagine if Elton John thought he stunk at the piano. We would never have experienced the joy of witnessing his incredible talent. And, his life would have been much different.
Facts and self-beliefs have nothing to do with each other
Your beliefs aren’t necessarily congruent with facts. Your beliefs are about YOUR truths … truths that you will act from … truths that will shape your life in ways you might not even imagine.
Limiting beliefs are those beliefs you take on to restrict what you feel you can and can’t accomplish in your life. Self-limiting beliefs prevent you from taking intelligent risks and going after what you want, believing you’re insufficiently skilled or incapable of certain things.
Limiting beliefs will rob you of your best, most meaningful life; they also suck the joy out of the life you’re living right now.
What you KNOW to be true about you (your self-beliefs) may NOT be true
There’s a famous saying that the biggest problems we face won’t come from what we don’t know but rather from what we think to be true that is NOT true.
Self-awareness and its role in helping you discover your self-limiting beliefs
Self-awareness allows you to change … to adopt new, more enlightened beliefs while letting go of the ones preventing you from living your highest life.
Bestselling author and podcaster Mark Manson says there are three levels of self-awareness: 1) What are you doing? 2) What are you feeling? and 3) What are your blind spots?
Manson says increasing your self-awareness can be done through mindfulness practice, asking for honest feedback from others and getting more in tune with your thoughts about yourself. Believe and Create’s Self-Awareness and Self-Discovery Journal can help you get started.
The opposite of self-limiting beliefs
The opposite of limiting beliefs are empowering beliefs. Empowering self-beliefs stoke your confidence, make you feel good about yourself,and motivate you. Building a long, strong empowering belief list is the best way to start living the life you really want to live.
List of the top ten self-limiting beliefs
Here’s a list of the top ten limiting beliefs that hold many of us back:
- I’m too old.
- I’m too young.
- I’m too poor … I lack money and resources.
- I’m too fat or too skinny … too tall or too short.
- I’m not smart enough.
- I’m not popular enough.
- I’m not connected enough.
- Others are in my way.
- I can’t start … I’m not ready.
- Rich people hold all the good cards.
Executive coach and Gallup-certified Strengths Coach Alissa Finerman suggests asking yourself two questions when facing a situation where your beliefs are holding you back from going after what you want: 1) What beliefs about yourself make this situation scary for you? 2) Are your beliefs keeping you small? [source: the Impact of Limiting Beliefs]
List of 50+ more self-limiting beliefs
How do you know if you have self-limiting beliefs? If any of the top ten limiting beliefs we shared above, or any beliefs on this list below sound familiar, guess what? You’re holding on to some self-beliefs that could be limiting your happiness and your level of success.
- I don’t deserve to make a great living.
- I’m a mess; I’m hopeless and will never change.
- I don’t have enough time.
- I’m too far gone to start taking care of my body now.
- There’s an earnings ceiling that I’ll never go above.
- I don’t have enough energy.
- I expect others to hurt me.
- Financial security is a pipe dream.
- One day I’ll change, but it’s just not in the cards for me right now.
- Exercise isn’t that important.
- Getting my hopes up always leads to disappointment.
- My health is holding me back.
- I’ll never be happy.
- My plate is too full already.
- Change is too hard.
- My family will abandon me if I change.
- People won’t like the real me.
- Not trying is better than failure.
- Nice, faithful men (or women) are impossible to find.
- I’ll never be successful.
- Eating healthy isn’t that important.
- Letting others get close just leads to pain.
- Life is hard … that’s just the way it is.
- I just have bad luck.
- I don’t deserve nice things.
- There’s no point in dreaming big.
- Others’ approval is crucial to my feeling worthy.
- If I get too happy or too prosperous, I’ll jinx myself.
- Others’ needs are more important than mine.
- I’ll always be broke.
- When someone else changes, I’ll be happy.
- I don’t deserve to have more than what I have.
- I don’t have the proper education.
- Being honest leads to rejection.
- If I relax, all hell will break loose.
- Risking being criticized or judged is not worth the pain it could cause.
- I’m not important.
- I’m not good with money.
- I can’t trust myself.
- I’m inherently unlikable and unlovable.
- I’m not self-disciplined.
- There’s no point in asking for what I want.
- No one will support or encourage me.
- I’m powerless.
- My problems aren’t so bad (even when there’s concrete evidence that they are!)
- I can’t change it.
- I’m not strong enough.
- Being vulnerable is far too dangerous.
- I wasn’t born into the right kind of family.
- I don’t have enough experience.
- I don’t deserve to be happy.
- My looks are an obstacle to getting what I want.
- Why try? I’ll fail.
How limiting beliefs hold you back
Limiting beliefs hold you back from taking part in joyful life experiences and keep you from living your best life. If your beliefs are self-limiting, then you won’t go after the promotion or raise, submit your best out-of-the-box ideas, or show your art to the world. You may not take a chance on introducing yourself to that amazing woman or man that you’re attracted to. You end up living a “less than” life, i.e., a life that’s far less amazing than you deserve.
Tony Robbins is a motivational expert and best-selling author of Awaken the Giant Within. Robbins has studied human behavior and personal development for over 40 years. He says that self-limiting beliefs can hold people back from achieving their goals or even setting significant goals in the first place.
Robbins emphasizes the importance of identifying and challenging these beliefs in order to overcome them and achieve success. He also emphasizes the power of reframing our perspective and focusing on positive thoughts and emotions to overcome self-limiting beliefs.
Robbins says, “the only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” Don’t let your self-doubts and limiting beliefs hold you back; aim higher.
Examples of self-limiting beliefs and empowering beliefs
Below are some examples of self-limiting beliefs, along with examples of how to transform a negative belief into an empowering one. Every limiting belief you have can be changed in much the same way I’ve illustrated below.
Others’ opinions of me are more important than my opinion of myself.
Others’ opinions of me reflect their character, not mine. What truly matters is what I believe about myself.
Happiness comes from the outside (other people, things, accomplishments, etc.)
I’ll get hurt if I let my real self be seen.
I’ll get hurt far worse by building walls. Being authentic is the best way to live my life.
Being overweight means I’m defective and less valuable.
My weight has nothing to do with my inherent value. I am valued and worthy of all good t things, no matter what the number on the scale reads.
The how to's of releasing limiting beliefs
Getting rid of limiting beliefs, or changing limiting beliefs, may not be easy, but it’s worth the effort. In her popular Tedx talk that’s been viewed over 2.7 million times, Lauren Weinstein (founder of Resonate Coaching and lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business) reminds us that it’s important not to believe everything we think about ourselves. Releasing limiting beliefs begins with challenging what we believe to be true in the first place.
If you are struggling with self-beliefs causing considerable problems in your life, one way to release those limiting beliefs is to participate in some cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT).
Working with a trained professional can be invaluable for unearthing limiting core beliefs, recognizing the damage they’re causing, and adopting new beliefs that better support your mental well-being and improve the quality of your life.
Use positive self-talk and affirmations to defeat limiting beliefs
You can beat limiting beliefs and the negative self-talk they produce by starting to practice positive self-talk.
Experts agree that positive self-talk can make you more productive and make you feel better. Your internal dialogue is linked to your actions, so when you shift that internal dialogue, your actions shift, too.
Working with affirmations is another way to defeat life-long patterns of self-abuse caused by clinging to negative or limiting self-beliefs. I suggest practicing affirmations focused on overcoming self-doubt, building self-esteem and self-love affirmations, and other affirmations for shifting your perspective. Just a few positive thoughts planted each day can make create miracles in your life.
Self-limiting beliefs might be below the surface
Not all beliefs I used to cling to were readily apparent to me. For example, I didn’t realize how much I was basing my happiness on “outside” things and circumstances. I thought the right job would make me happy. Or the right clothes. Or a bigger paycheck … better car … or a better house.
I thought I’d be happy when I got the recognition I deserved from my colleagues and bosses. I’d be happy when I got to the corner office. I thought if someone loved me (i.e., if I had a spouse). Surely all these things were THE keys to my happiness.
None of it ever brought the deep happiness I longed for. There was always something missing. It was only through an inward journey that I realized I was responsible for choosing happiness … and that the power to do so was within me all along.
It’s like Dorothy’s visit to Oz: The power is within you!
Yes, I “hear it”… I just sounded like the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy in her “what I learned” speech, but as hokey as it sounds, there it is: a new core belief for me is happiness is an inside job … and I’ve always had the power to access it all along.
I’m happy to say this new belief serves me far better than my old belief that happiness could only come from things or circumstances that never had the power to generate more joy in my life.