I wish someone would have told me about limiting beliefs when I was in kindergarten. The first 40 years of my life would have been a lot easier had I known that there were invisible thoughts interfering with my potential for happiness.
As I continued to fall short on my dreams and goals, I started to sense that something wasn’t right. Frustrated with my lack of progress, I bought the book, The Big Leap, for myself on my 40th birthday. I devoured the book in a few days and felt relieved that I finally understood what was holding me back. But I also felt overwhelmed because I had no idea how to fix it.
To be honest, it’s something I’m working on to this day. Still, I’m impressed with how far I’ve come. Especially considering how long I carried some of those stories around.
My hope is that by sharing my story, you’ll become aware of your own limiting beliefs. I’ll show you how to lean into them and start living the life you deserve. The life you’ve been capable of all along.
Want to know a secret? I really didn’t want to write this post. I’ve shared some of this with my email subscribers. But the thought of sharing my struggle publicly caused gut-wrenching anxiety.
I thought about rescheduling this post and rationalized it by telling myself that I’d be further along and have better advice later. But there was another voice inside me. It said, “If it scares you, you need to do it now.”
On night number ten, I was reflecting on the amazing day I just had. In an instant, those feelings of gratitude were overtaken by heartbreaking guilt. It bothered me immensely that I was feeling that way. So I spent the next few days trying to decipher what was going on.
It turns out that it
I first learned the difference between guilt and shame while reading Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Guilt is about our actions, whereas shame focuses on our character. Guilt says, “That was a stupid thing to do.” Shame says, “I’m so stupid. I can’t believe I’m such an idiot.”
I discovered that I wasn’t feeling bad about the great day I just had. I felt bad about me having a great day. There was a voice inside of me telling me that I didn’t deserve it.
This was an incredibly unpleasant and uncomfortable thing to unpack. But I’m so grateful I did. This was the first step to uncovering my other limiting beliefs. Each day I get closer and closer to living the life I deserve.
LIMITING BELIEFS ARE SENSELESS
Limiting beliefs rarely make sense. What’s more is that my limiting beliefs are things I don’t consciously believe.
Earlier this year I recognized that I had deeply buried limiting beliefs about money. I have always been able to manage and save money. But I never came close to my earning potential. I didn’t believe that I was the type of person who could earn a high income.
In an effort to work through these limiting beliefs, I wrote down every negative thought I’ve ever had or heard about money. As I read through everything I wrote, I realized that I didn’t actually believe any of them. But there they were, playing on repeat in the back of my mind and preventing me from earning what I was worth.
Where do they come from?
You might be wondering where limiting beliefs come from. We can pick up on limiting beliefs at any point in our lives. We can learn them anywhere and from anyone.
Most of the limiting beliefs I’ve uncovered were formed early in my life and then reinforced throughout. I think these beliefs are usually passed on to us unintentionally. And sometimes with good intentions.
When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to hear wealthy women referred to as “rich b*tches”. I’m sure this wasn’t meant to create a negative connection between women and money. Furthermore, I never consciously believed that money made women mean. But subconsciously, I was trying to make sure I didn’t become a “rich b*tch.”
We’ve All Been There
While shopping at Costco the other day, I kept crossing paths with a woman and her two granddaughters. I heard enough of the conversation to tell that she truly meant well. I believe without a doubt that she was doing the best she could to help her granddaughters grow into fine young ladies.
The last time I ran into her, I heard her say, “You’re not listening to me. Gosh, you’re really annoying.” It felt as though my heart stopped for a second. I felt so bad for this little girl who was being told she wasn’t good enough by someone she looked up to.
I hate to admit that I’m just as guilty. Sometimes I catch myself saying spiteful things to my husband when I feel irritated. I’m getting better at catching myself. I apologize immediately and explain that I didn’t mean it. I also try to list all of the good things about his trait I just attacked. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt him.
As you work to identify where your own limiting beliefs came from, pay attention to your words and how you say them. Lead by example and be the change you wish to see.
No More Excuses
No matter where these limiting beliefs came from, it’s up to us to take accountability for them. The teacher who told you that you’d never be good at math isn’t going to come and fix your failed career. The bully who teased you and called you fat isn’t going to show up and help you improve your health. It’s up to you.
Leave what’s in the past in the past and focus your efforts on a better tomorrow.
Start by being extra gentle with yourself. Unpacking limiting beliefs can be difficult. Don’t be afraid to get professional help if you feel overwhelmed.
Continue to remind yourself that it’s a journey. I doubt that I’ll ever completely rid myself of limiting beliefs. I’ve consulted people who are much further on their journey and they all admit that they still face them sometimes. But from what I’ve experienced thus far, it gets easier and it’s worth the effort.
#1 – NAME THE BELIEF THAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK
Here’s another limiting belief I shared with my email subscribers last year.
Somewhere on my journey, I learned to believe that I’m unlikeable. I often turned down invitations because I believed that once people got to know me, they wouldn’t like me. So I figured, why waste my time?
When I recognized that I was doing this, I felt terrible. I could clearly see that I was coming off as disinterested in these kind-hearted people who were reaching out to me. As I thought more about what I was doing, I realized that I felt like I wasn’t good enough for those people. Not Good Enough was
#2 – DEBUNK THAT LIE
In this step, I focus on my conscious and rational thoughts. In this example, I break down the truth about the limiting belief that I’m unlikable and not good enough.
1 – People were reaching out to me. I wasn’t chasing them down, begging them to hang out with me.
2 – People don’t invite you to hang out unless they want to get to know you better.
3 – There are people who’ve stood by me for decades and believe that I’m good enough: my grandmother, husband, and wonderful friends. What made these prospective friends different than the people who already liked me just as I was? Nothing.
4 – Not everyone gets along and that’s okay. Sometimes our beliefs, values, and lifestyle are so dissimilar that it’s okay to go our separate ways.
#3 – BABY STEP Your Way OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
This quote is so popular that it might seem cliché, but it’s really great advice. The best way to work through your limiting beliefs is to lean into them. Take one tiny step each and every day.
To move past my belief that I was unlikeable and not good enough, I began accepting most invitations that came my way. I even started my own meetup and began helping others connect. Everything started to change after I took that first tiny step.
#4 – AFFIRM Yourself
Thanks to Stuart Smalley, affirmations can seem cheesy.
But not even Stuart Smalley himself could stop me from writing daily affirmations in my journal. I’ve been at it for almost a year and I keep doing it because they work. When I’m stuck, writing “I am” statements helps reinforce the liberating truth.
I am kind. I am compassionate. I am likable. I am worthy of love and belonging.
Not sure where to begin with affirmations? Download an app or check out my Affirmations board on Pinterest.
#5 – KEEP MOVING FORWARD
Facing your limiting beliefs isn’t a one and done kind of thing. It’s something many of us deal with for most of our lives. As you lean into them, you’ll grow stronger. As you grow stronger, you’ll feel more confident. As you feel more confident, it will become easier.
Day by day you’ll grow more content, confident, and hopeful. As long as you keep taking tiny steps forward.
Facing my limiting beliefs wasn’t always fun. It was scary, painful, and hard at times. Sharing the details publicly was even more terrifying. But I had no other option. I could either shove them back down and keep repeating the same negative behavior patterns. Or I bring them to
I’m glad I chose the latter. I hope you feel inspired to do the same.