“The only limits you have are the limits you believe.”—Wayne Dyer
All of us have some limiting beliefs; these are thoughts that hinder us from taking action in certain situations. Limiting beliefs affect every area of our lives and can hold us back in a variety of ways. Some of them serve us well, a lot of our self-limiting beliefs unnecessarily hold us back from achieving great things and living our lives to the fullest.
Most of them we’ve acquired from childhood, through our environment, our upbringing, and a collection of feedback we’ve gathered from the people we’ve encountered all our lives. Most of them are wrong or interpreted wrong. And those beliefs we’ve had for decades have a way of hindering our potential for growth and success.
Others we’ve acquired more recently as we grew and encountered new things, but most of the time, they are built on older limiting beliefs.
These “voices” in our heads that tell us what we can and cannot be are more often than not skewed and blown out of proportion. The mind tends to generalize information, and once a belief is established, it perseveres. In psychology, it is called learned helplessness, and it is a state that occurs after we’ve faced stressful times, where we felt that we had no control over the situation, repeatedly.
Most of the time, the reason we weren’t “able to do anything” then was inexperience, or lack of resources, knowledge, and skill. But since the situation made us feel helpless, we believe we are helpless when faced with the same situation, even if our current circumstances and our arsenal of tools and experience have already equipped us to deal with it.
The most common types of limiting beliefs we have are those…
Other limiting beliefs we have are perfectionism (Failing at something means I am a failure), scarcity mentality (I don’t have enough time/money/manpower/resources to do this), “working harder is the answer” (I just have to do more of this/that…), knowledge (I already know this/I should have known that), and independence (I have to do this on my own/I can’t rely on others for this).
The reason why it is so hard to let go of these limiting beliefs is that they serve us in one way or another. Most of the time, it protects us from unwanted pain and suffering. It has become a comfort zone. Believing it won’t work and not trying is less scary (for most) than going out there and possibly failing. We hate pain. We are wired to avoid pain.
However, growth doesn’t come within our comfort zones. Those zones are too small, cramped, and limited to support growth. Planting a tree in a pot will stunt its growth. For the tree to grow bigger, its roots have to break the pot, or the gardener (you) has to replant it in a more spacious and better-nourished area.
One way I broke out of some of my self-limiting beliefs is by exposing myself to greatness. Exposure to other people (through events, reading, listening to talks and podcasts, and constant education) who are doing things I didn’t know was possible, helped me take on a different voice other than the one, the negative self-talking one, in my head. Their possibilities helped me replace my negative self-talk with new, better, more positive ones.
The first step to overcoming your limiting beliefs is identifying what beliefs you have (and hold on to) are limiting your potential. It is often hard to spot this, because these beliefs seem so logical and make so much sense to us, that it is hard to see that they are wrong, outdated, or simply not serving you positively anymore.
Questioning your beliefs and keeping the thought “What if this is wrong?” in mind helps you reassess which beliefs might need to be updated or discarded completely.
The next step is even more difficult, which is to create alternatives to these beliefs. This is how exposure to greatness has helped me—On my own, I wouldn’t have come up with alternatives to my self-limiting beliefs. But opening myself up to the experiences, learning, and possibilities of other people helps me see new paths that I haven’t even considered before.
When you can’t do something on your own, asking for help is always an option.
Also, creating alternatives won’t work unless you test them. The thing about beliefs is that the reason we believe them is because, at some point, we’ve lived or experienced them. To adopt new beliefs that replace old ones, you need to take them out for a test drive.
Mark Manson illustrates it as a hypothesis for your experiments. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, don’t fall back into your old belief, saying “I knew it. I was right all along; this belief was correct.” Try it again. Or try a different alternative instead. Experiments always have several repeated trials before the results can be proven valid (because sometimes, some external factors are at play that you failed to factor in). Don’t give up on one try and slink back to your comfort zone.
So, ask yourself, what limiting beliefs are hindering you today?
Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.