Limiting Beliefs Are Hindering Your Creative Growth
Let’s go back about 7 years, when I was really struggling.
I lived in a small country “town” (it’s actually a city, but not really) and I wasn’t happy with how things were going. I wanted to grow musically and do great things, but I felt like I couldn’t.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have the chance to be creative – between pretending I was someone I wasn’t, disrespecting my body and dealing with unidentified mental health issues, I still found time to work on what I loved – it’s just that I couldn’t get anywhere with it.
I couldn’t finish tracks, I couldn’t get things sounding how I wanted, and I felt like I wasn’t making much progress at all, no matter how hard I worked. I thought maybe this was just because I was a beginner – that happens to everyone, right? I’d only been at it for a little while after all.
But it didn’t get better. I kept hitting the same walls time and time again, and my head was really starting to bruise. Was it me? Was there something obvious I was missing? I couldn’t work it out, so I started looking for other explanations. Maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe it was the place, the people, the energy there. Did I need a change? Was it time to move on? Yeah, I convinced myself, that was it. I had to get out of there.
The Big Smoke.
So, I moved to the big city to study music. This would surely be the change and the chance for growth I so desperately needed.
And things did change. I was given a chance to reinvent myself and wipe the dirt from my soul. I made new friends who were just as involved in music as I was. I met the girl of my dreams. I learned about creativity in a way that changed my perspective on it. I was being more myself than I think I ever had been before and getting new creative opportunities all the time. It was a good move.
But there was still something wrong. Something was eating away at me – something familiar. I was doing things I wanted to do but I wasn’t getting where I needed to be. I had the chance to finally break out of my musical boundaries – I was studying it! – but I was getting stuck in the same places I always had.
I didn’t understand what was wrong. It felt like there was an invisible force holding me back. This was supposed to fix everything – and it did fix a lot – but the fundamental issue was still there, strong as ever.
What was it?
It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. Who would have thought that what you believe about yourself could have such a dramatic impact on your wellbeing?
A counsellor at university helped me see this. I was regularly telling myself how terrible I was – I didn’t even realise. I’d always thought I was a bit hard on myself, and others had told me that, too. But when I stopped to look at how much I was beating myself down, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was done with treating myself like shit, but apparently, I was wrong.
Now, things started to make sense. I noticed these limiting beliefs popping up everywhere. No wonder I wasn’t getting where I wanted. Every time an opportunity for growth would arise, the evil little voice in my head would jump in and immediately tear it apart, telling me it wasn’t what I wanted, that I wasn’t ready for it, or that I’d never be able to do it.
And even though I was aware of these lies I was telling myself, I let them consume me. They prodded me in the wrong direction over and over again. Every day, they’d dig their claws in just a little bit deeper, pulling me further away from the growth I was wanting. Opportunities came and went while I watched from the sidelines, held back by the paralysing lies.
Although it hasn’t been easy, I’ve finally managed to start breaking down the walls I’d put up, and it feels good, man. We can talk about how I did this at the end of the post, but for now, let’s focus on what this has meant for me:
- I’ve regained some self-respect.
- My creativity has soared.
- I’ve started finishing and releasing tracks – finally!
- I’m writing – always wanted to do this.
- I’m making better decisions about my wellbeing.
- The future is exciting again.
These changes are big for me, and although I haven’t completely conquered them yet, I feel like I’m living a different life since I started fighting back. I’m finally on the right path to the growth I’ve been after for the last 7 years.
You might have limiting beliefs, too. You might not even know you do. I didn’t for years. You might be holding yourself back in a big way. Your beliefs could be the reason you’re not who you hoped you’d be.
For the rest of this post, I’m going to go over some of the biggest limiting beliefs that have caused me to waste years of my life and sabotage my creativity at every turn. Sometimes I still get bitter thinking about the suffering they’ve caused.
Although I’m talking about music-related stuff here, most of what you’re about to read can apply to almost any area of life, so keep that in mind if you’re an accountant or something and see if you can relate to them.
Limiting Belief #1. That you’ll never get to “that level”.
Looking at where the pros in your respective areas of interest are at – in my case, they’re music producers – and telling yourself it would be impossible for you to get there is a very quick way to limit your progress.
Remember when you were a kid and you felt like you could grow up to be anything you wanted? That shouldn’t go away just because you get older. Sure, kids don’t understand that in order to get to “that level” it takes a lot of hard work, but I don’t think adults understand that stomping out the belief that you can get to that level is likely the biggest reason for never getting there.
There are, of course, realities and responsibilities we have to face as adults, but in my experience so far, most of these “realities” are just lies we tell ourselves to protect us from getting hurt. If you’re saying things like “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have the relevant skills”, “I can’t afford it”, “there are always things that get in the way”, etc. you are, in my opinion, dooming yourself to mediocrity. I’m all for accepting yourself as you are, but these beliefs are only keeping you frozen.
I don’t know enough about the science behind this stuff to talk about it, but I can tell you that when I was younger and I felt like I had no limits, I was able to achieve things I never thought I’d be able to. I can also tell you that as my fear and anxiety surfaced in recent years and I started putting up mental stop signs everywhere, my creative progress slowed and slowed, until eventually it didn’t move at all. A shift in perspective can go far, either way.
Things to think about:
- Do you really think you’re so much more incapable than everyone else who has made it to “that level”? Is it possible you just have to do more work? Make a better plan? Give your interests more attention? These pros didn’t become pros overnight – they didn’t just release the first piece of music they ever made and get signed to a major label. It takes time and hard work, and even though I’m not there yet, I believe that with enough effort, I could, one day, be one of the people at “that level”. You could, too.
- You really can’t find the time or money to pursue what you care about? I can think of plenty of producers that have families that require attention and taking care of. There are full-time producers who have other interests outside of music and still have the time to make amazing tunes. As for money, we all know of producers who make music on shitty headphones and a laptop. Don’t lie to yourself, you can do this!
- Try to think of something that happened in your life where you surprised yourself. This can be music or something else. You probably didn’t expect to be able to pull it off, but you did. And how did you do it? Was it because you worked hard? Was it maybe just because you’re actually more capable than you gave yourself credit for? Looking at reality-based evidence instead of internal assumptions can help you open your mind up to new possibilities.
Limiting Belief #2. That you have to know everything to start.
In the past, I thought that in order to be able to pursue an interest I had to know absolutely everything there was to know about it, or else I didn’t have the right to pursue it. Maybe this sounds ridiculous to you, but it stopped me from doing so much, it’s not even funny. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
- I wanted to write a fantasy fiction book but felt like I couldn’t because I didn’t know anything about the classic authors, and I hadn’t read enough of the genre.
- When I was really young, I wanted to make my own hip hop beats and record over them, but I told myself I wasn’t allowed because I didn’t know how to freestyle.
- I felt awkward making drum and bass because I thought I didn’t know enough about the scene, so I hesitated because I wasn’t a “real” drum and bass producer.
- Making electronic music in general was hard because I thought that one day, I’d have to perform live and I didn’t know how to DJ (still don’t).
Feeling like an imposter could well be my anxious brain doing what it likes to do, and it sounds pretty crazy now that I’ve written it out. But this feeling is not uncommon, and if you’re feeling this way about anything that you want to do, know that you don’t have to know everything – you don’t even have to know anything to start (although it would help)!
Nowadays, I don’t listen to myself when these thoughts arise. I’m working on a book and I’m making music again (finally). And guess what? Nothing scary has happened. The creativity police haven’t come to arrest me for being a phoney, because they don’t exist.
Things to think about:
- I’ve seen quite a few interviews with drum and bass producers who don’t even listen to much drum and bass. Drawing inspiration from outside the genre is one way to make such unique and interesting music. Don’t be afraid of contributing something new to the scene you’re in – not knowing everything could help keep you adventurous and free! (These points apply to any other genre, as well.)
- Imposter syndrome is a real thing. Lots of people get the feeling that they don’t belong in their field, even when all the evidence suggests that they do. Don’t be fooled by this feeling. It’s really powerful (in a bad way) if not attended to. It can make you think your music sucks and convince you that you’re living a lie, when actually, you’re living your dream. How fucked up is that?
- The way to learn more about whatever you’re into is to gain experience. How are you supposed to gain experience if you’re not doing anything? I have this conversation with my girl all the time. She worries that everyone in her university course will know more than her about the subjects, and I have to remind her that the course exists so you can learn about the subjects – it’s not for people who already know everything. No one knows everything at the beginning. Just start and you’ll learn what you need to learn.
Limiting Belief #3. That your area of interest is oversaturated.
So, this is almost definitely true, depending on how you want to look at it.
There aren’t many areas that haven’t been pounced on since it became so easy to start a business or be an influencer or whatever. For example, if you’re a personal trainer wanting to make a difference, you’ve got some competition, man. Similarly, if you’ve decided you’re going to start selling your beats because they’re sick, guess what? So has every other motherfucker with a laptop.
Unless you’re into some super obscure shit (and if you are, right on), the chances of your niche actually being a niche are pretty slim. But does that mean you shouldn’t do it? Of course not.
Since when did everyone else get to decide whether or not you get to do what you want to do? So what if there are a million other people who are into what you’re into? That could even be a good thing, right? It could push you to get really specific about what you want to do and help you find your true purpose. It could mean you might need to bring your personality into your business a bit more, so that people are drawn to you, specifically, instead of some generic idiot. Maybe you could become friendly with your competition and they can help lift you up.
Whatever it means, it shouldn’t ever stop you from doing what you love. While the belief is, in a lot of cases, technically true, it shouldn’t limit you. You have just as much right as everyone else to explore your area of interest and you have no idea what your initial idea will turn into, or where it will take you.
Things to think about:
- You might think it’s not worth pursuing, but people are “making it” every day. New people or businesses doing the same old thing pop up all the time, and they still get attention! Think about it – you’ve surely noticed this. In my opinion, over saturation isn’t an excuse for not pursuing your dreams. Competition will always be there. If you really care about what you’re doing, you’ll find a way to do it.
- Even if you’re doing the same thing as someone else (incredibly likely), it doesn’t mean no one will be interested in what you’re doing. I remember hearing Terry Crews talk about this in an interview with Tim Ferriss. He said something along the lines of “people don’t want to eat at the same restaurant every day.” That’s such a good way to look at things, and it’s true! I watch heaps of different producers doing the same thing, and I love it.
- There is always space for new ideas in your respective area of interest. No matter how matter times we think everything has been done, or everything has been thought up, someone always comes along and shows us how wrong we are. I’m constantly reminded of this when I look for new drum and bass artists. It’s not getting old (for me, anyway)! It might just take a little bit of tweaking for your idea to find its seat but rest assured – there are empty seats.
Limiting Belief #4. That it’s supposed to be easy.
I don’t know if it’s because professionals make what they do look effortless or whether I have an aversion to listening to repeated advice, but this ridiculous belief that whatever I’m doing should be easy has stopped me in my tracks more times than I’d like to admit.
It’s so dumb, but if I’m working on something and things aren’t just coming together nicely, even after half an hour, I get really frustrated – like the session owes it to me to be easy or something. And what happens when I get frustrated about the session? I give up. Then I start to question myself: why is so difficult for me? Is there something wrong with me? Am I just not meant to be creative?
What’s worse is that most of the time when this happens, I haven’t even put that much effort into what I’m doing. I’m generally doing a half-arsed job and then getting pissed off that it isn’t a masterpiece. No shit, it isn’t a masterpiece. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and either was Dead Limit.
I’m finally overcoming this, and it feels good. It’s getting a lot easier for me to see a bad day in the studio for what it is: just a bad day in the studio. It’s also getting easier for me to see that things take work, even after you’ve been working at them for years. There’s always going to be that struggle, so we may as well try and fall in love with it. Do not let the belief that things should be easy stop you from doing your thing.
Things to think about:
- You might watch a producer break down a track and think something along the lines of “it looks so simple”. You might be right – it might be simple. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to put together. There might be 20, 30, 50 channels in a finished track by your favourite producer, but that could have been 300 channels at one stage. It’s likely been revised more than once. These guys that we idolise put in serious work, both in their tracks and for years prior to you hearing their tracks. Don’t be fooled by the finished product.
- Even if some pros do find it easy to do their thing, it’s not necessarily the norm, and it’s very likely it that it wasn’t always that way for them. If you’ve spent years and years working on your shit and you’ve hit a point where you feel like you’re nailing it with half the effort, good for you, man! You’ve earned it. Just don’t expect it to be like that for you – at least right away.
- The reality of creativity is that some days are going to be harder or easier than others. If you’re creative, you already know this, but it’s worth repeating. If you go into the studio expecting to make the same amount of progress every day, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you go into the studio expecting things to suck every time (I did this a lot), you’re going to talk yourself out of even going back in there. Not cool.
Limiting Belief #5. That you’re entitled to attention.
The belief that you’re entitled to attention in your field – especially if you haven’t earned it – will ruin you.
No one owes you anything.We need to understand this, especially me. For some reason, we get this idea in our heads that if we start making music (or doing whatever) we’re entitled to fans, followers, listeners, etc. And because we feel like this, we’re hurt when we don’t get that shit.
Well, what did we expect? Why would we think anyone would pay attention to us? Is it that our egos are so big that we think as soon as we step foot into our area of interest we’ll be showered with love and attention? It’s ridiculous. Maybe it’s because we’re secretly hoping this will be our way out of the 9-5 because we just fuckin’ hate working for someone else. Who knows?
Whatever the reason, acting like a spoilt child is not a healthy way to deal with the difficulties of getting yourself out there. It makes us bitter and resentful and we think everything is unfair. It deflates us and changes our perspective on our passion. At its worst, it can make us give up on it when we don’t get what we want. Seriously – all of this because we think we think we deserve the spotlight.
Things to think about:
- Generally speaking, not even you would pay attention to you under normal circumstances. Imagine you see or hear about [your name] for the first time without any provocation or prior knowledge of yourself: you wouldn’t give a shit, unless you’re one of those people who goes looking for underground talent, or your work is so good that it just can’t be ignored. I don’t know if this is true, but I’m willing to bet that most people don’t fit into either of those categories.
- If you want the attention you think you’re entitled to, you have to do the work. Just believing really hard that you’re entitled to it and then expecting a miracle isn’t going to cut it. I know it can feel like you’re doing a lot when you’re, say, in the studio every day, but if you’re trying to get yourself out there from scratch and you’re not also engaging with people and producing content, you’re not doing enough. Be as pissy as you like, but no one will know you if you’re not really trying.
- At the time of writing this, I honestly don’t think anyone but myself and my girl have read any of these posts. My girl hasn’t even read the posts related to music production because she can’t relate to it, and fair enough. I accept that this is where I’m at with this blog because I just haven’t done enough to be further. I’m not saying it doesn’t sting when people don’t give a shit, but why should they? When I’ve got something interesting enough for people to latch onto, maybe I’ll see something. Until then, it is what it is. Do your work for the love of it, not for attention – it’ll destroy you otherwise.
And there you have it!
In no way would I say that this is a comprehensive list of all my limiting beliefs, but apart from the occasionally emerging “you’re just a piece of shit in general” which I’m finally learning how to eradicate, these are probably the most damaging to my creative growth.
So, what did I do to start breaking past these beliefs?
As I said, it hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. There are three things that I’ve been focusing on to keep me headed on the right path: repeatedly replacing the lies with truths whenever they arise, talking with a psychologist to get clarity, and doing the work.
It’s so important – with all of these beliefs – to recognise when they arise, realise that you’re lying to yourself and work through it. Seriously, even just quickly acknowledging that the thought isn’t a reflection of your worth and that it isn’t true can really start to turn things around, especially if you do it every time these beliefs pop up! Repetition is the key here – be diligent!
As for seeing a psychologist – I was a bit sceptical initially but I’m so glad I did it. It might not be for everyone but being able to talk things out with someone who’s right for you can really clear things up and help to get yourself organised, mentally. Not to be underestimated.
Finally, do the work. Honestly, with enough hard work, you could significantly reduce the hold these beliefs have over you. Just keep doing your thing and never give up. Things will change, seriously.
What are your limiting beliefs? Is there something that really fucks with you? Let me know! The more we talk about this stuff, the easy it becomes to overcome it.