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  • Rachel Martins

Limiting Beliefs

Even if you don't know what limiting beliefs are, they are sabotaging your desire to live the life of your dreams! Read on to find out how to root those suckers out and move on to that big bold life you deserve!

“The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.” -Tony Robbins

Ok, but what the heck are limiting beliefs and why do they matter?!

This story about a big, strong elephant will help you better understand limiting beliefs and how they’re holding you back. The story starts with a baby elephant that was tied to a post by a small rope. As a baby, she tugged on the rope and tugged on the rope and tugged on the rope, but was not strong enough to break it. As a result of this experience, the elephant accepted as fact that she was unable to break the rope, and was stuck there. As she grew into an adult elephant, she became strong enough to easily break the rope and go free, however she had come to believe that she was not strong enough to break the rope and accepted this as fact, and so she never tried to break free. Even though she could have easily freed herself at any time, because she believed she couldn't, she remained stuck!

Just like this elephant, most of us are holding on to outdated and limiting beliefs that are NOT TRUE and are keeping us from running free with our amazing lives. Limiting beliefs are ideas you have about yourself, the world, or how you interact with the world, that hold you back in some way. Have you ever said, “I’m not good at talking to others” or “I’m not a math person” or “I’m not creative”? These are all examples of limiting beliefs. See how they put you in a (self-defined) box? Holding on to outdated beliefs about ourselves prevents us from trying new things or moving forward with our lives because we have already accepted as fact that we will not be able to do it.

Limiting beliefs usually come to us in childhood, often influenced by our families, teachers, friends, or the media. When we are young we take in everything that is told to us, or that happens around us, as fact. This is especially true when it comes from someone in a position of authority, such as parents or teachers. Perhaps you grew up in a family where your parents hated their jobs and conveyed the idea to you that you can’t have fun and make money. As you grew up immersed in this, you accepted it as fact (much like the baby elephant). Now as an adult you work in jobs you hate, because you have accepted the fact that in order to earn money you have to work in jobs that aren’t fun. Limiting beliefs can also come to us through our experiences. Maybe you got your heart broken badly once, and now you believe that love always ends in heartbreak.

The problem with our limiting beliefs is that they are holding us back from living the life we say we want! If we look at the first example above, from an entire lifetime of believing that I can’t have fun and make money, I will never try. The reason for this is, when I think about leaving the job I hate to do something I love, that limiting belief starts shouting in my ear “Nope, that’s not possible, don’t even try”. And so I don’t try, because what would be the point? Do you see how this limiting belief (that is not even true) has me stuck, because I have taken it as fact and I obey it at all costs? The thing is, just as the elephant’s belief that she couldn’t break the rope was so obviously not true, neither are these limiting beliefs we have about ourselves.

Are you still with me? Ok, now let’s figure out how to move past these limiting beliefs so we can all be living the life we really want to live!

The first step is to identify the limiting beliefs. This will take a bit of introspection and paying attention to your thoughts and words. You can start by noticing the way your “inner voice” speaks to you. Your inner voice is just the thoughts that are running through your head. When you see a posting for a job you are excited about, but might be a bit of a reach, what does your inner voice say? When you fail, what does your inner voice say? When you are about to go out on a date, or ask someone you like out on a date, what does that voice say? Start to identify your limiting beliefs by noticing (and writing down) the things that inner voice says to you and especially the ones that come up over and over-these are your limiting beliefs. Particularly, be on the lookout for thoughts that start with

  • I can’t…

  • I’m not good at…

  • I never…

  • I always…

Looking at our example from above, every time I see a cool job posting, my inner voice says, “I can’t support my family with that job” or “I never get the fun jobs anyway, so don’t bother trying”. These are my limiting beliefs that are keeping me from getting what I really want- a fun job that I love.

Now that you have identified some of your limiting beliefs, you can start to change the way you talk to yourself about them. Your brain has tens of thousands of thoughts a day, and if even a small fraction of those are negative or limiting thoughts, that amounts to a near constant voice telling you “no, you can’t”. Although you don’t have control over everything in your life, you DO have control over what you think, and the more you can notice those negative, limiting thoughts, the more often you can replace them with a more empowering thought. And here’s the really cool part: this is a fake it until you make it situation! You don’t have to believe your new, more empowering thoughts (at least not at first). By simply noticing the negative thoughts and replacing them with more empowering thoughts, you are interrupting that constant barrage of “no you can’t”. In my example, each time I notice myself saying “I can’t support my family with a fun job”, I can instead say “There are so many possibilities for me”. Over time his small tweak to my thoughts will start to impact the way I think about the situation.

Now it's your turn! See if you can start to notice your limiting beliefs so that you can finally break those baby ropes that are keeping you from moving towards the life you really desire!

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