What Are Limiting Beliefs?
And how you can shift to empowering beliefs instead.
It’s likely you’ve encountered limiting beliefs whether you’re aware of them or not. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to grow up in today’s world without experiencing some form of conditioning which inevitably morphs into limiting beliefs. Yes, you can blame social media, sensational news stories and advertising for this conditioning. But it’s far more likely that you first encountered conditioning and limiting beliefs somewhere else. As a kid growing up.
Many of our limiting beliefs begin in childhood. From parents, from teachers, from people we admired and looked up to. From media, marketing, magazines, conditioning is everywhere. How you should look, dress, act, what job you should do when you grow up, how the world works (or doesn’t).
Regardless of where and when you picked up these limiting beliefs, what’s important is to realize what they are and how to let them go and shift to more empowering beliefs.
What Are Limiting Beliefs and How Do They Impact You?
In a nutshell, limiting beliefs are doubts. They are conditions you’ve learned throughout life that limit you in some way. They are thoughts that you believe to be true about yourself or the world around you, that are actually preventing you from creating the life you desire. These beliefs as I mentioned, can be thoughts you have about yourself, your capabilities and worthiness. Or they can be beliefs you have about the world and how it works.
Here’s a limiting belief that I have a long history with;
I am too shy and quiet, I’ll never be able to feel confident in who I am.
That’s a very strong belief I held about myself for most of my life. Can you see how negative and limiting that statement is? Imagine having a thought like that continually circling your mind for years on end. You’d probably be able to guess that it was a real struggle for me to feel any sort of self-confidence. And of course, I wasn’t ever going to feel confident, I was flat out telling myself (daily, I might add) that it wasn’t going to happen.
This is a pretty obvious limiting belief, but they can also be quite subtle. For example, telling yourself you aren’t good at something can be a limiting belief. I’m not a good writer, a healthy eater, etc. These might seem like statements of fact, but they’re actually limiting beliefs. The longer you tell yourself you aren’t good at something, the less you’ll believe that you could be good at it. Do you see how that’s limiting you?
Here’s the second type of limiting belief I mentioned, that’s more about the world and not necessarily personal;
I can’t earn a lot of money doing something I love and am passionate about.
Ugh. This one is HUGELY limiting. And it’s something I picked up through childhood. Watching adults move through life, working in jobs they hated because work isn’t meant to be enjoyed, it’s meant to bring in money. That you’ll always have to do things you don’t like in order to survive in this world.
It’s frustrating that we learn things like this from such a young age, and because of it, people don’t pursue their dreams because they’ve learned to believe it has to be one or the other. Passion or money. Happiness or success.
Can You Really Change Beliefs?
100% you can. It takes effort and awareness and conscious choice, but yes, beliefs can be changed. And this is where self-development and self-awareness come in. Most people feel drawn to personal development when they’re deeply unhappy with their current situation. And the biggest thing that changes when you embark on self-growth, is that you shift your perspective and release limiting beliefs. You learn to see yourself, others, and the world differently than how you learned to up to that point.
Changing beliefs requires you to identify the thoughts that are currently holding you in place, releasing them, and replacing those thoughts with more empowering beliefs. It can take just a few minutes to shift your mindset once you realize which thoughts are limiting you. It can also take some repetition as these limiting beliefs have likely been hanging around for quite a while and are pretty ingrained thought patterns.
Identifying Your Limiting Beliefs
Now that you know what limiting beliefs are and you know that you have the ability to change them, let’s dive into the how. First, you need to identify which beliefs you have about yourself and the world are limiting you. This is an exercise that you can return to every few months to continue shifting your mindset.
Here are a few things to think about to identify limiting beliefs:
Are there goals you’ve set for yourself in the past and never accomplished? Dive into what thoughts and beliefs kept you from achieving those goals.
Is there a career path that you’re interested in but haven’t pursued? What have you told yourself that stops you from doing it?
What about sports, relationships, hobbies? Do you stop yourself from doing any of these things? Examine some thoughts you have surrounding these areas of your life.
How do you think and feel about money, health, and life in general? What beliefs do you have about these things?
Have you noticed any particular patterns in your life? Are you always broke? Unhappy? These patterns can be clues to limiting beliefs you may have.
What thoughts can you pinpoint that you tell yourself daily? Are they negative and limiting?
Write anything and everything that surfaces from these questions into a journal. These are your limiting beliefs.
Now, let’s shift those into empowering beliefs instead.
From Limiting to Empowering Beliefs
Read over your list of limiting beliefs that you came up with from the last exercise. You may notice words like can’t or shouldn’t appearing often or you may see a pattern of negativity connecting all these beliefs.
It’s time to rewrite these beliefs.
The most important part about rewriting these into empowering beliefs is that they still have to be believable to you. There’s no point rewriting a belief to be, “I am the smartest person in the world,” because if you don’t believe it, it won’t stick. Your phrasing is important here.
Here’s another example of a limiting belief of my own that I shifted;
Limiting Belief —> I don’t know enough to have a blog, why would anyone care what I have to say?
Reframe —> I am sharing my life experiences, knowledge, and learning more every day, and there are people out there who will resonate with my words.
I didn’t try to reframe to something like, “I have a ton of knowledge and everyone will love what I have to say,” because I knew my mind was unlikely to believe that statement. I chose one that was believable, yet still way more empowering than my first thought.
Take your time working through your limiting beliefs. Make sure your reframed belief is one that you can really stand behind and feel the empowering energy from.
Keep this list of your new empowered beliefs somewhere you can check in with daily. In a note on your phone, in your journal beside your bed, or create sticky notes with a belief written on it and post these around your house where you’ll see them often.
Check-in with yourself often because self-growth is continual. As you grow in self-awareness, your thoughts will shift and you’ll want to continue creating stronger empowered beliefs to keep moving forward. Making journaling a daily ritual can be powerful and very supportive of mindset changes - check out these amazing journal prompts to continue your journaling journey.
With these stronger beliefs in place, try something you’ve been thinking about but never pursued. Look into that career you’ve dreamed about for years. Take a small action step each day to begin creating the life you truly desire.