You say you want to be happier, more confident, and more successful, but are you unknowingly harboring any self-limiting beliefs that would prevent that from happening?
Much of your life is influenced your rock-solid beliefs that certain things are true while other things are untrue. The problem is, your beliefs aren’t necessarily congruent with universal truths or 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.
There’s a popular saying that warns us that the biggest problems we face won’t come from what we know, but rather from what we know to be true that isn’t true at all. I’ll take that a step farther: when you’re not in touch with what you believe to be true, that lack of self-awareness will wreak havoc on your life.
Awareness gives you the opportunity to change … to adopt new more enlightened beliefs while letting go of the ones that are preventing you from living your highest life.
What I Used to Believe versus What I Believe Now …
Before: Others’ opinions of me are more important than my opinion of myself.
Now: Others’ opinions of me reflect their character, not mine.
Before: Happiness comes from the outside.
Now: Happiness can only be found on the inside.
Before: Helping others is my duty.
Now: Helping others is one of my greatest blessings.
Before: I’ll get hurt if I let my real self be seen.
Now: I’ll get hurt far worse by building walls.
Before: Being overweight means I’m defective and less valuable.
Now:: My weight has nothing to do with my inherent value.
Before: All love has to be earned.
Now: Divine love isn’t earned – it’s infinite and ever-present.
Before: What I think of myself doesn’t matter.
Now: What I think of myself shapes my entire life … it’s critical!
Self-limiting beliefs might be below the surface
Not all of the 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 the corner office. I thought if someone loved me (i.e., if I had a spouse), that would be THE key 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.
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 belief serves me far better than my search outside for happiness ever did.
Many beliefs are internalized as fact until the day you decide to take a good hard look at what you believe, and even then, some beliefs can take their sweet time coming to the surface. That’s why I’m providing this list of 64 of the most common self-limiting beliefs around. Perhaps as you read through this list, you’ll recognize yourself in some of these:
- 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.
- Money is the root of all evil.
- I’m a mess, it’s hopeless.
- 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.
- 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 key to my feeling worthy.
- If I get too happy or too successful, 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 right 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.
- I can’t change.
- 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 just fail.
That’s a pretty big list, so tell me, did you recognize yourself in any of these? Are there other limiting beliefs not mentioned here that you noticed popping up in your self-talk?
The key is to observe the thoughts that reveal your beliefs
If the beliefs are dragging you down instead of lifting you up, resist the urge to go back on auto-pilot. Instead, take a closer look at your self-sabotaging beliefs by asking yourself:
- Do I still believe this to be true? If so, why? As you dig, you may find something in your past that offers clarity. For example, maybe you grew up in a home where your parents always struggled with money, so you believed “money is always tight.” As an adult, you now earn a good living, but you still believe money is always in short supply, so you might spend it recklessly or go into debt needlessly. Now that you see this, you can exchange the “money is always tight” belief for a more appropriate belief for who you are today: “I make a good living and I’m good at managing my finances.” Remember: everyone acts from what they believe to be true. If you think money is always going to be tight, that is what you’ll create for yourself in your life.
- Can I find any instances where what I believe is not always true? For example, if you believe “you have to start out rich to get ahead,” can you think of exceptions to your belief? Here’s a short list of people who became huge successes, even though they started with very modest means: Oprah Winfrey. Ralph Lauren. Starbucks’ Howard Schultz. Oracle’s Larry Ellison. Celine Dion. J. K. Rowling. Walt Disney
- Am I willing to at least try to start affirming an opposite belief? For example, instead of continuing to affirm “I am powerless,” start affirming “I am strong and powerful!” Repeat it over time and you will begin to feel a shift in your beliefs. I know this step was super-important for me in helping me break up with some of my more deeply entrenched negative beliefs.
- Could this belief come from a past event that I miss-assigned meaning to? Example: the only time your dad ever gave you positive attention as a child was when you did something good in school. So you came to believe that to get recognition and love, you needed to excel at school … which later translated into excelling at work. So today you’re an adult trying to earn attention and affection by being an achievement junkie. The meaning you attached to the behavior made sense when you were a child, but it doesn’t now that you’re an adult.
To sum up, the good news is that once you identify a limiting belief, you can release it and even exchange it for a more self-expanding belief that will serve you better. It’s a freeing feeling that will make an amazing difference in nearly every aspect of your life.
So, what beliefs are you going to finally let go of?