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How to overcome your limiting beliefs

We all have beliefs, whether inherited or not, but the weight of our beliefs about ourselves and others has a considerable impact not only on our perception of ourselves, others and society, but also on our performances, our attitudes, etc…

Beliefs can die hard because they can be fiercely attacked or passionately defended, because the world is full of opinions contrary to ours (whatever they may be). Yet beliefs are powerful and necessary, both for individuals and for society. They provide a framework that governs our thoughts and actions at all levels.

A belief is the fact of believing that something is true, probable or possible, which implies a notion of good and evil, of correct or incorrect. It is a mental state that comes in several degrees, ranging from simple opinion to science, including faith. It comes to us from what we have learned, from our past, from our education, from our experiences, from our family or from religious and social environment.

But our beliefs can also make life difficult for us when they are limiting.

What is a limiting belief? What is its role and its effects?

Despite the positive and necessary aspect of our beliefs, some can sometimes really limit our ability to progress in life. They can be a real obstacle, even a handicap in our career, in our life and our personal development, and block our possibility of achieving our goals. These limiting beliefs usually manifest themselves when we are trying to either change ourselves to get something, transform ourselves to do something, or challenge ourselves to be something.

young woman behind bars - limiting belief

Before going any further, look at the (non-exhaustive) list of limiting beliefs prevalent in our society.

“You can’t have everything in life.”

“I am not good enough.”

“Nothing ever works in my favor.”

“I’m too old or too young to do this.”

“It would take a miracle for me to find a partner.”

"I've had nothing but difficulties in life, why would that change?"

“I will never find a job that suits me.”

“I could never do that.”

“It’s not my age anymore.”

“I am not worthy of achieving this.”

“I am a man (or a woman), I would be judged if I did this or that.

“I have no room for error.”

"It's too good to be true !"

“You have to work hard to get there.”

These phrases are examples, among thousands of others, of limiting beliefs. They are horrible and heartbreaking, and the more you say and repeat these sentences, the more you will believe them.

Read them again and take a closer look at these limiting beliefs which not only excuse the believer from not achieving what he or she would like to achieve, but also negatively impact their way of approaching life in general.

Limiting beliefs keep us snugly in our comfort zone. But they don't just do that. They have direct consequences on our development and the achievement of our objectives. They simply limit us on all levels - personal and professional. Consciously or unconsciously, we take these thoughts as absolute truths, without analyzing and dissecting them. They can completely hinder our progress towards our life goals, and these will remain only dreams or “ifs”.

Good news ! These limiting beliefs can be overcome and replaced with more optimistic messages, open to all potential. By changing our way of thinking, we say yes to all possibilities, without limiting ourselves, and can therefore change everything.

Why do we have limiting beliefs?

Limiting beliefs, in most cases, are unconscious thoughts, which become conscious refrains. They are like a shield to avoid possible frustrations, failures or disappointments. To avoid being faced with setbacks or loss, limiting beliefs are the defense mechanisms that we put in place in order not to try, not to believe in it, to refute, or in certain situations not to suffer another failure.

If, in the past, you suffered from something specific, to avoid finding yourself in a similar situation, your subconscious calls on its little soldiers - the limiting beliefs, to block another affront, another failure or the potential of another suffering.

Let's take an example... That of a single, middle-aged woman whose loneliness is heavy. But as she has put it in her head that at her age, it is very difficult to find a partner, that given the failure of her first marriage, the chances of meeting someone with whom she will get along are minimal , that to go out are no longer of her age, that she would be ridiculous to still believe in love, that a grandmother is a grandmother and must bake cakes for her grandchildren... and so on. How could this woman find a partner while being convinced of everything she thinks?

Beliefs are built on complex factors…

  • Lived experiences leading to the development of certain blockages.

  • Baggage of hereditary experiences and beliefs linked to the way we were raised, and the ideas and behaviors that have been transmitted to us throughout our lives.

  • Fear of failure, used as justification for not trying something new or different.

  • Social circles in which the person evolves and which can influence them.

  • The society which can impose norms generating limiting beliefs.

  • Religious beliefs propagate limiting thoughts, generally defining what attitudes are accepted under the eyes of the deity in which an individual believes.

How to overcome your limiting beliefs?

1. Identify one of your limiting beliefs

To discover your limiting beliefs, think about the things you would like to do but for which you do nothing to achieve them. If you hear “always” and “never” words in your mouth (“I will never succeed”, “It’s always the same thing”, etc.), it’s a safe bet that you are faced with a limiting belief.

Next, identify the justification you are giving yourself for not doing that thing. It's easier said than done, but try to undo these limiting beliefs.

Then listen to the emotion that is linked to this feeling of limitation, to this belief: Do you feel confined? Are you afraid ? Do you ever feel limited just thinking about it?

If you feel the need, talk to friends (who have a contrary opinion), to family members (who will not go your way), or to trusted mentors who will be neutral. This can be a very useful approach in case you continue to put obstacles in your way.

To neutralize limiting beliefs, the first step is to seek the root of the problem and find the origin of this negativity because it can have several origins.

If you are concerned that there are multiple limitations, start with the largest, then repeat this step with each limiting belief.

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2. Recognize that it's just a belief

The first step to overcoming your limiting beliefs is to identify and become aware of what they are...beliefs.

Recognize that your belief may simply be based on falsehoods, the opinions of others, your education, etc. It is likely that it is a completely false idea, not based on facts but on assumptions, assertions without foundation, inherited principles, outdated precepts, etc.

3. Question your own beliefs and ask yourself where they come from.

After recognizing that it is a belief and not a fact, question your belief, this will allow you to understand at the same time what this belief was used for at a given moment.

Look for exceptions or counterexamples that could invalidate this belief (in your own experience or in other people).

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What is this belief stopping me from HAVING, DOING and BEING?

  • If I challenged this belief and did what I wanted, what unpleasant things could happen to me (or others)?

  • What if something unpleasant happened while I did what I wanted, what would my reaction be? What judgment would I make of myself? And how would others judge me?

  • Does the person I am today still adhere to this belief?

4. Detach yourself from the limiting belief by putting it at bay

Once the beliefs are found and challenged, what should you do? The first instinct will be to suffocate them and not want to see them. However, it is important to welcome and thank them. They have been a great help to you so far. They protected you, because they were convinced they were doing the right thing so that you wouldn't suffer.

But now to detach yourself, it is important to accept that the protection that the belief engendered at one time no longer exists, and to question why you thought that this belief would be - in certain respects - for you, at least - useful.

To navigate this step, the following questions might help you:

  • Is this belief really founded? What are the supporting facts?

  • Have I always thought this way? If not, what has changed?

  • Is there any evidence contradicting my belief?

  • What would it be like to think the opposite of my beliefs?

  • Does this belief help me? Does it make me progress towards my goals?

  • What would I think of this belief if I were someone else (a person you admire, an entrepreneur, a doctor, etc.)?

  • What would someone who loves you tell you if you told them about this belief?

These questions, which may seem strange to you, are designed to help you broaden your perspective on the subject. It’s about thinking “outside the box”. When you challenge your own initial thinking, you may come to realize that it's not quite what you thought. Thinking critically can lead you to shift your paradigm to something more positive and encouraging.

5. Recognize potentially limiting and damaging consequences

Belief is something that we BELIEVE to be true, and which is not based on anything objective, on any scientific proof. On the contrary, knowledge and truth are based on evidence, facts. To debunk a belief, it is therefore necessary to base it on facts while looking at the consequences of maintaining your limiting beliefs.

For example, holding the belief that you cannot pass an exam because you failed your first attempt can deprive you of future success, and a better life.

We all have our baggage of beliefs. Make a list of phrases that came up often in your family. Example: money is earned through sweat.

Once this list is made. Rate out of 10 how much you believe in it. For example, in the case of money being earned through sweat, I strongly believed in it, so my rating would be 8/10.

And ask yourself these questions:

Can I find ONE exception that demonstrates the opposite of what I think?

Does everyone share my beliefs about myself?

6. Transform a limiting belief

Choose something new to believe in, something that will help improve your life. This transition may not be easy. If you believed in something your whole life, perhaps you would have an emotional connection attached to that belief. Have patience and compassion, but go ahead and change your speech. Making this change will require strength and courage, but it will offer you new freedom and, above all, unsuspected possibilities.

7. Put it into practice

Take action and start implementing things that support your new challenge. If your limiting belief told you that you were "too old to start exercising," instead start adopting a belief that "It's never too late to start," then take a 15-minute walk to start exercising, and create a habit from there.

Conditioning yourself to your new beliefs means creating the reality you want for yourself in your mind, visualizing the results you want to achieve. Visualization is a great way to build anticipation. You will mentally experience the result you want to achieve. With this, you will send congruent signals to your brain, making it work for you. See, hear and feel in your mind the result you want to achieve. Practice this exercise every day for at least five minutes. You will notice the benefits that this simple exercise will bring to your life.

It's your turn to play!

How does coaching help in the process of eliminating limiting beliefs?

In addition to the steps above, coaching is another very effective way to discover and overcome your limiting beliefs.

When you realize that you can change your life through your beliefs, you discover that you can eliminate the toxic thoughts that prevent you from achieving your goals. When a coach begins to focus on your skills and how they can develop, you will be encouraged to eliminate your limiting beliefs and achieve your goals.


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