Self-Limiting Beliefs: The How and Why
Imagine the things you could do (or would have done!) if your life had no limits.
Feels good, right?
But here’s the thing: Life doesn’t have limits.
It’s this never-ending valley full of revolving doors. They open and close continuously, heedless of foot traffic. Through them are a million potential lives.
We choose to cross over the thresholds … or not. Our limiting beliefs are what dictate our life’s potential.
When you look at the grand expanse of existence (human, earth, universe, etc.) and realize how insignificant your chunk of time on earth really is, you realize that of course it’s foolish to have limiting beliefs—life’s just too short and full of amazing.
Let’s figure out how to get rid of limiting beliefs.
Because I’ve been on the road so much since returning from my “writer’s retreat” in Italy, I’ve had a real tough time finding the space to write. At the end of over two weeks, productivity has been at an all-time low and self-punishment at an all-time high.
I’m barely out the gates on this quest to become a writer, and already I’m in the dirt.
But this quest is not just about writing, it’s about learning to believe in myself.
When we pursue creative endeavors, the first step is believing that the creation will be worthwhile.
That’s been especially tough with this voice in my head chanting “You’ve already screwed this up. Look at how easily you’ve become distracted. Blah blah blah.”
But that, my friends, is an example of a limiting belief.
Here are some more I’m wrestling with:
I’m a mess
I don’t know where I’m going in life
I literally don’t know where I’m living for the next several months
I don’t have anything published!
Nobody will care about my work
It’s like a virus working its way through my psyche.
But this morning, I received a lovely response to my post from yesterday which served as a nice little e-hug (technology!) and got me feeling proactive. Looking through past notes on writing ideas, I found this quote (forgive me for lack of source):
“Replace self-limiting beliefs with counter affirmations.”
D’oh. It seems so simple.
We are going to dig deeper into how to resolve that in tomorrow’s post. For now, I want to take a look at why we have self-limiting beliefs in the first place.
The Sources of Self-limiting Beliefs
It’s simple enough.
3. Past Experience
The process of growing up, filled with beauty though it may be, is also a process of an (usually) innocent form of brainwashing.
We’ll box up culture and family together because the interaction of the two generally leads us to believe that life’s preordained route is:
This route was so unconsciously planted in my brain that it took me over two decades to realize I was even allowed to question it.
It’s like a four-course meal. But what if you want a buffet? A little bit here, a little bit there … One a bite and leave the rest? Devour dessert first? Pour French Onion Soup on the Mac and Cheese?
Self-limiting beliefs tell us that buffets are not possible. They say things like:
Only the very lucky or especially gifted become successful after deviating from the norm.
Following passions are only for the whimsical.
It’s too risky!
You have responsibilities to society, self, family, etc…
These things just aren’t true. I’ve seen too many successful/happy people who have gone the buffet route:
I mean, Samantha Martin runs a cat circus and tickets sell for $24 bucks a pop.
Justin Gignac sells cubes of trash as “art” for $50 each and has made at least $65,000 on that project alone. Do you think it’s especially gifted?
My good friend Jake started a floating sunglass company. How random is that? How risky?
Living in Hollywood, I’ve met tons of people (too many, probably) who have found success as actors. I know for a painful fact that there is nothing *especially* gifted about many of these people’s acting talent. Myself included.
The above examples show that instead of working hard at a “normal” job, these people invested all that effort toward following a goal. And (big ‘and’) they persevered.
That’s how success happens—perseverance and belief. Not just adherence to a formula.
The Limits of Past
Let us not, however, think it quite so simple, for there is also Past Experience to consider. He will saunter in and mess with your head with reckless and hedonistic abandon.
Ol’ Bad Boy Past Experience is a two-faced fella. And whichever face you call upon is the one that will answer.
So when you say, “Hey, remind me of some fun times, ol’ buddy,” you’ll get memories of that that time you ate skittles off the floor in high school and everybody cheered. Or the time you slept under a park bench in Park City, Utah.
I love skittles and irony. Also, I’m simple-minded.
But when you say something like, “I am a screw up” and you don’t even ask to hear from Life Experience, well, he’s ready to show up anyway.
He’s just doing his job.
He reminds you of the time you were fired from being a concierge at a 5-star resort because you were too disorganized. Or how a couple years ago your reported tax income was under $10,000.
So here is where we must remind ourselves of our boy Thomas Edison, who flubbed the lightbulb 1,000 times before making it work and said:
“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job because his editor believed that he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Freaking Oprah was fired from one of her first reporting gigs because a producer said that she was “unfit for television news.”
(Use this link full of non-limiting bad-assery whenever you need a pick-me-up.)
Past failure is just part of the game. A necessary part. The more research I do on failure, the more I realize that it’s a gift to the successful.
Past experience (and failure) are the ever-building steps you need to go higher.
But sometimes just reminding ourselves that we’re okay isn’t quite enough. And that’s okay.
In tomorrow’s post, we’re going to tackle three surefire methods that you can use immediately to overcome self-limiting beliefs.
In the meantime, tell me: What do you do when the limiting thoughts kick in? Do you wrestle with this the way I do? What’s your greatest hits soundtrack?
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Those thoughts are just the Jean Grey in you trying to protect you from the immense, unbridled power within.
We don’t want that. . Winter is coming and it’s warm beneath the wings of a phoenix.
Too funny that you said this since I absolutely have a history with Jean Grey! You’re a beautiful writer!
You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.
I SO MUCH agree with this! I wish more people understood this concept, and I wish I always had a strong grip on it! I was actually talking about this the other day, but dealing with a codependent relationship. Basically a mother lets her son walk all over her because she’s afraid if she “sets him loose” he will destroy his life. But imho, she could ruin him just as easily by not setting boundaries and not being a role model of strength. It all boils down to not being able to control outcomes, so the solution should be to follow our hearts and guts (reasonably speaking).
20211123 01:14 You cannot control other’s lives, so do not let their lives control you. If Mum does not him let mistakes, then he cannot learn from them. How can he learn actions have consequences if for him, there are none? How will he ever be able to solve a problem or work out a solution if he has never tried – having always being given the solution? You do not cheat at tests, why cheat at life? What’s he going to do when she is not around? Reminds me of the story of the little boy who’s parents were rich. Right from when he was small they had someone to carry him around. Five years later the boy is still being carried around. But now he cannot walk. He does not know how to walk, he has never needed to walk and it is not a problem as he is still being carried around. Only now he cannot go anywhere without someone to carry him. He is stuck.
like that movie limitless
Love that movie! Don’t you wish things could be that easy??
20211123 01:20 Why do you refer to ‘Past Experience’ as HE?
All useful stuff. Looking forward to reading about ‘using your subconscious mind to do all the work for you’ allowing you time to think. There is something you must do. Try saying’ I can do it, I will do it’ and repeat this three times out loud whilst looking at yourself in the mirror ( the mirror is not really necessary, but it helps to see what your face looks like when you do it. You can also try smiling at the same time. ) You may not believe you can do it, but even so YOU WILL DO IT whatever ‘IT’ is. Just one thing, replace ‘IT’ with specific words for the ‘thing’ you have to do. Be specific about ‘when’ you will have done it by. The other way to achieve this is to think of what you have to do, then say out loud over and over again I can and I will do IT, I will and I shall…….do IT.