Limiting Beliefs and How to Change Them

If you’ve ever said to yourself, I can’t do ‘x’ because of ‘y’, or I’m not ‘z’ enough, then you, my friend, have imposed a limiting belief on yourself. A limiting belief, in its simplest form, is a belief that you hold which limits the actions that you take.

For example, you might worry that asking for a promotion will end in failure, so as a result you don’t try. Or you tell yourself that you’re too fat to travel, so you miss out on a lifetime of adventures. Or you think that you’re not smart enough to get that scholarship, so you unconsciously stop putting in the effort required to reach that goal.

limiting beliefs

We all have limiting beliefs, but we don’t always recognize them for what they are – false beliefs.

If you’re struggling to identify limiting beliefs in your life, they usually start with these words:

  • I can’t…
  • I’m not…
  • But what if I fail…
  • I shouldn’t…
  • I don’t…

Or listen on Apple PodcastsStitcher, SpotifyGoogle Play or Podbean.

This podcast is a proud member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. Check out the Back to School Again podcast, and the CrossPollination podcast for great examples of how to rewire those limiting beliefs.

And the reason why we don’t recognize them as such, is usually because of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when you are looking for evidence to support the belief that you have. For instance, if you believe that you’re not confident enough, your brain will pull up all the examples of when you’ve been nervous, anxious, or felt supremely unconfident. If you worry about failure, you’re going to take any example in your life of failure and interpret it as the outcome for an action you haven’t even taken yet!

It’s crazy how much our beliefs control our actions, and therefore our lives, so today is all about how to take control. I want you to rewire your brain for success, and YES, this is possible.

Step One: Acknowledge the Belief vs. Fact

The first step is to acknowledge the limiting belief for what it is – a belief, not a fact. It’s important to separate the two in your mind, because when we meld the two that’s when we let that false belief run our lives.

For example, for years in my early twenties, I believed that I wouldn’t find a partner until I lost weight. I truly believed that it was my weight that was holding me back from being confident, from asking out a boy I liked, or from letting myself even be open to the possibility of a relationship.

Looking back, I actually had so many opportunities for relationships. I’ve learned that there were people who liked me, but I had such blinders on because of these limiting beliefs, that I looked for evidence to support it, and couldn’t see the evidence to the contrary right in front of me.

So, start by saying out loud, or on paper, that this is a belief, NOT a fact.

2. Reframe The Belief

Reframing is key. It’s not about creating a new false belief, no siree, it’s about framing the belief that you have in a more positive and empowering way.

Let’s take the belief that I had in my early twenties about not being able to find love because I was overweight. Here’s how I wish I had reframed it. I wish I had changed that belief to – all people are deserving of true love.

Because that’s the truth! I know this to be true, even though I didn’t at the time. If you can see the truth outside of yourself, know that it in all likelihood applies to you as well.

Let’s take another example. I hear from so many women that they aren’t qualified enough to apply for a job. First of all, fun fact is that women feel like they need to tick off 80%+ of the bullet points of a job application, whereas men feel that they need far fewer.

Reframe that belief to – I have the ability to learn all the skills required for this job. Because you do. In time, you can learn anything. With the right support and attitude, you can learn anything.

In case you’re still struggling with what this looks like, I’ve included a list of some common limiting beliefs and how you could reframe them below:

  • I might fail if I try ‘x’ … TO … I will learn a lot by trying this thing.
  • I’m not brave enough to speak in public … TO … Bravery and courage is a muscle that you build, so by speaking in public I will be building that muscle.
  • I’m too scared to go to this networking event … TO … Most people at this networking event are as nervous as I am, we’re in this together.
  • I’m a bad parent … TO … I’m learning and growing every day as a parent, and above all I love my child.
  • I can’t trust myself around food … TO … Food is just food. I will listen to my body, what it needs, and act accordingly.

3. Document the Evidence

We’ve all had that person in our life who believes they aren’t enough of one thing or another, but we know that if they could see themselves through our lens, they’d think differently.

Sometimes you have to turn that mirror on yourself. You have to go looking for the evidence in order to correct the confirmation bias.

For example, I have a very special woman in my life who has always said that she wishes that she was as courageous as me. I’m flabbergasted by that, because I could write down fifty things that she’s done that I define as courageous.

She puts her artistic work out there. She tries new things. She travels on her own. She completed a year of yes and constantly puts herself in new situations. She’s emotionally available for her friends. She’s survived trauma. She has embraced a new vision for her life.

If you read these things, I bet you agree that she’s brave.

Here’s what I’ve said to her, and what I say to my clients who feel they aren’t ‘x’ enough. I have them make a list of supporting evidence that shows they are in fact good enough, smart enough, brave enough, confident enough.

I want you to do this right now.

Whatever your limiting belief is, find evidence to the contrary and write it down in a list that you can refer back to. It doesn’t matter the size of the piece of evidence, it matters that you look for all corresponding evidence.

By writing it down and referring back to it regularly, you’re making strong neuroconnections in your brain. You’re essentially teaching your brain that the false belief is no longer valid, and that the reframed belief is true.

And you know what happens when your beliefs start to line up? You stop limiting yourself. Your actions change. You are proactive and don’t stop yourself from living your most vibrant life.

This can be a process, it takes time, because you likely have a lifetime of this limiting belief engrained in your brain. So, while it doesn’t change overnight, believe that you’re on the road to recovery and regaining control of your brain. Learned behaviours can be unlearned. We can rewire ourselves through effort, intention and time.

That’s all for today, but I hope that you take on the challenge this week to tackle one of your limiting beliefs, because you are stronger than you realize.

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