What Are Limiting Beliefs And How Can You Change Them?
Limiting beliefs usually relate to people’s beliefs about themselves or things that they want to do. They can be deeply rooted and might be something you’ve been told all your life, an assumption you make, or something that you’ve learned through experience. If something you believe to be true is holding you back or getting in your way, that’s a limiting belief. How about these:
- I’m not good enough
- I always fail
- I’ll never have money
- I wouldn’t be able to ….
- I’ll never meet the right person for me
- I’m not confident
- I always mess things up
- I can’t trust people
- People always let me down
- I can’t do …as well as other people
- I can’t have/do … (the thing you really want), because I don’t have (the thing you think you need to get it, that you don’t have)
- Only people who have (X) can achieve (Y)
These beliefs can have a negative impact on your life and relationships because they feel very real. Listen to your language, are you stating your beliefs about yourself as facts, using words like ‘always’ or ‘never’?
Can you change a limiting belief?
There are different ways that coaches, therapists and other practitioners could work with you on your limiting beliefs, but the process often begins with you becoming aware how your belief is holding you back, and then challenging it and finding alternative ways of thinking.
One way of working on this would be to look specifically at what brings that belief to the surface, there’s usually a particular situation that brings it up. You could then look deeper into the belief to find what it’s really about, as beliefs might be about our capabilities or our identity, or something else.
There might be a subconscious reason why you hold on to this belief, sometimes it’s self-protection and keeping safe. For example, a client who believed that she fails at everything. The consequence of this was that she didn’t complete things that she started (job applications, training courses, life goals), because she ‘knew’ she would fail, so what was the point in trying. This behaviour, not completing things, was both giving her the evidence to back up her belief because she didn’t succeed at anything she started, and it was also keeping her safe because if she didn’t see things through to completion, if she didn’t try, there was never the risk of actually failing.
What can you do to help yourself?
You can start the process to free yourself from limiting beliefs by:
- Listening to the things you say, internally and aloud, and noticing limiting beliefs and assumptions
- Looking deeper into the consequences of maintaining that belief. (What does it cost you? What do you gain?)
- Disputing the reality of this belief. Is it really true? What else is possible?
- Choosing a more useful, positive belief that gives you more possibilities.
For deeply rooted beliefs, or if you want help to make a shift in your thinking, you could work with a life coach or try therapies such as CBT as a way of moving forward.
Do you know what your limiting beliefs are and how they hold you back? What do you think you might be gaining from holding onto those beliefs?
Ruth Randall is a Life Coach and Employee Wellbeing Specialist. Ruth helps busy professionals to balance career, family, relationships and wellbeing, to make life and work less stressful. She also works with teams to improve employee wellbeing and mental health in the workplace.