Let’s begin with a little flashback. This instance is about 12 years old now. I was in between jobs and I’d picked up photography as a hobby. I’d even started a ‘Project 365″, pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and documenting my progress every day. I was mentally stimulated and thoroughly enjoying this phase!
A few months into my photography journey, a school friend of mine contacted me out of the blue – his message was unexpected and flattering. He was working on the production side of a mega-TV project being helmed by an acclaimed director, and they were looking for photographers and videographers to add to the team. My friend had seen my recent photo updates and he wanted me to come in for a chat because he thought I had potential.
Guess what I did? Turned it down pretty much immediately. Why? Simply because of my sheer lack of confidence in myself. These were my justifications – I was too new at this, I wasn’t any good, I had no real skill – whatever I was doing was just a fluke, and so on and so forth. I didn’t even agree to meet with the team or submit any of my photos.
Admittedly, getting into a TV or movie production team wasn’t really a dream that I was fostering at that point in time (or even now!) but regardless, it wouldn’t have hurt me in any which way to at least go in for a conversation!
In hindsight, I can see that my reaction came from a place of fear – it was a combination of not wanting to push myself too far beyond my comfort zone topped up by a fear of potential rejection and failure.
I’ve seen similar reactions play out over time with myself as well as friends – not seizing opportunities that come our way, not asking for what we want – and almost all of them have roots in our own self-limiting beliefs.
What are Self-Limiting Beliefs?
Self-limiting beliefs are negative thoughts or ideas that you hold about yourself or your abilities, causing you to place unnecessary self-imposed constraints on your potential. They’re like uninvited party guests who show up just when you’re starting to have a good time.
Stemming from either childhood conditioning or past experiences, these core limiting beliefs can be deeply ingrained in your subconscious mind, preventing you from achieving personal and professional success. They become a core part of your psyche, and you begin thinking of them as absolute truths.
I am not good with numbers. I am a bad driver. I am not interesting enough. I am not good with money. I am not lovable. I am not enough. I am sure you’ve gone through some variation of these limiting beliefs in your life. And you might even have had instances where these limiting beliefs have led you to self-sabotage and become a self-fulfilling prophecy in itself.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, let me make the point again: it’s important to recognize and overcome our self-limiting beliefs because they can really hamper your self-confidence, stand in the way of you achieving your true potential, and consequently prevent you from living your best life.
How Do I Find My Self-Limiting Beliefs?
Self-limiting beliefs are often so deeply ingrained in our subconscious minds that they can be difficult to sift through from our sense of identity. However, there are a few strategies that you can use to uncover your self-limiting beliefs:
- Pay attention to your self-talk: Listen to the way you talk to yourself and notice any negative self-talk or self-defeating thoughts that come up. These thoughts can be clues to your self-limiting beliefs.
- Identify patterns: Look for patterns in your behavior or thought processes that may be holding you back. For example, do you consistently avoid taking risks, going after new opportunities, or trying new things?
- Challenge your assumptions: Question your assumptions about yourself and the world around you. Are these assumptions based on fact or are they simply beliefs that you have accepted as true?
- Seek feedback: Ask trusted friends or family members for feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. This can help you identify areas where you may be holding yourself back.
Remember, identifying your self-limiting beliefs is just the first step. Once you have identified them, you can work on replacing them with more positive and empowering beliefs.
Needless to say, journaling can be a powerful tool in building this self-awareness – write freely and honestly about your fears and insecurities, and you might just start to notice some patterns. You can even use the help of some guided journal prompts to help uncover your self-limiting beliefs.
What are the Most Common Self-Limiting Beliefs?
As a starting point, I have put together a list of the top 10 self-limiting beliefs that I’ve encountered commonly in myself and my friends.
As you read through these examples of self-limiting beliefs, consider whether any of these resonate with you and if you’ve fallen prey to these negative thoughts which prevent you from living a better life.
Such a tiny little phrase, but it’s unbelievable how these two tiny words can hold you back, right?
“I can’t” is often code for “I’m scared.” And you know what, that’s okay. Fear is a part of being human. It’s a sign that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, that you’re pushing your boundaries, and that you’re growing. And that’s a good thing!
Or when you say “I can’t” are you really saying “I won’t.”? Maybe because it feels too hard, or you’re just used to doing things in a certain way?
Remember, “I can’t” is just a thought, and thoughts can be changed. Start by breaking down the task into smaller, manageable steps. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?
Next, challenge that thought. Ask yourself, “Is it really that I can’t do it, or is it that I’m scared to try?” Often, you’ll find that it’s not a matter of ability, but a matter of mindset.
The truth of the matter is, you CAN do whatever you truly want to do. Don’t let negative self-talk, or a critical inner voice, stand in the way of your true desires.
“I’m not good enough.”
Truth be told, this is the biggest one that I’ve struggled with. It still rears up its pesky little head from time to time, but I’ve worked really hard on trying to step away from this negative self-belief!
Let me tell you this – you are more than enough, just as you are. You’ve got talents, skills, and a heart bigger than you can imagine. And what you do not know, you can always learn. Don’t let anyone, especially not that little voice in your head, tell you otherwise.
“Success is for other people, not me.”
It’s easy to look at others – especially those who’ve achieved the kind of success you want for yourself – and think, “They’ve got something special, something I don’t have.”
But here’s the truth – the only difference between them and you is that they’ve decided to believe in themselves and gone after what they want. So, don’t give up on your dreams before you’ve already begun.
“I’m too old or too young to start something new or meaningful.”
Age is just a number, a state of mind. Don’t let it define your potential. Whether you’re 20 or 60, every day is a new opportunity to learn, to grow, and to step into the life you’ve always dreamed of.
Take Toni Morrison’s example: she was 39 when she published her first novel, and she went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her journey is a powerful testament to the idea that it’s never too late to tell your story.
Or, Vera Wang: Today, she’s known worldwide for her iconic wedding dresses, but she didn’t begin her fashion career until age 40. Before that, she was a figure skater and journalist. It’s really never too late to start anew.
Or, Peter Mark Roget: You’ve likely used Roget’s Thesaurus at some point in your life, but did you know that Roget didn’t publish it until he was 73? Again, it’s never too late to contribute to the world.
And no doubt, you’ve heard of Malala’s story: she was 15 years old when she was shot by a Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt to target her for her activism about the education of girls. She went on to become a prominent activist for the right to education and received the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17.
But it’s not all about becoming a major celebrity or acquiring worldwide fame. It’s about having the courage to create a fulfilling life that is meaningful to you – no matter what your age!!! One of my aunts learned to drive at the age of 47! Or, take Jay Yang for example. You’ve likely never heard of him unless you’re a part of (what I like to call) ‘creator economy Twitter’. He’s a teenager, and yet, he’s already garnering some serious influence (and money) through his account.
So really, stop hiding behind your age as an excuse to avoid doing the hard things or things that push you outside of your comfort zone – whether it’s starting your own business, or trying out a new hobby, or going after the love you seek.
“I am not intelligent or smart enough/I don’t have what it takes.”
Each of us has a unique set of skills and talents that we bring to the table. Your talents are unique, valuable, and worth celebrating.
Remember, success doesn’t come from having all the answers; it comes from having the courage to try, even when you’re not sure of the outcome. And don’t let your impostor syndrome dominate your life.
Also, how you define success is really up to you! You do not have to follow the conventional route to success (college degree, X amount of net worth by Y age, married before 30, kids before 35, owning a house, etc.) if that does not feel true to you. But again, do not hide away from milestones (conventional or not) because it either seems like a lot of hard work or because you don’t think of yourself as capable enough.
“I don’t deserve happiness or success.”
This belief is as common as it is untrue. If you struggle with toxic shame and poor self-worth because of past negative experiences, you may often feel undeserving of success, happiness, or healthy relationships. Not surprisingly, this belief can lead to self-sabotage and missed opportunities.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, deserves happiness and success*. You’re no exception to this rule. You deserve all the joy, love, and success this world has to offer. You may have made mistakes along the way, even hurt people knowingly or unknowingly. But with self-awareness and by demonstrating changed behavior as a form of true apology, you can move past your mistakes towards self-forgiveness.
*unless you’re a blood-thirsty serial killer, which, if you’re reading this, I am taking a chance that you’re not :)
“I can’t change. This is just who I am.”
Change is the only constant in life. We are all works in progress, continuously learning and growing. So, don’t put yourself in a box. Embrace the beautiful, ever-evolving being that you are.
The world has been ever-changing, ever-evolving since the beginning of time. As humans, we have evolved through many shapes and forms to be as we are today. Why would you want to limit your growth, and your potential, just because pushing yourself feels uncomfortable?
I get it, some of our behaviors, our habits are defense mechanisms, or things we’ve learned along the way just because we didn’t know better. But if they’re the only thing standing between you and your true desires, your best life, you need to ask yourself whether being stuck in a box is worth giving up the life you truly want.
“If I try and fail, it’s worse than not trying at all.”
Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s part of the journey. Every misstep, every stumble, is a lesson learned, a stepping stone on your path to greatness. So, give yourself permission to try, to fail, and to grow.
Fear and anxiety can prevent you from taking risks, as the possibility and price of failure or rejection may seem too high (perhaps from previous experiences). Overcoming this belief requires recognizing the inherent value of trying new things and learning from experience.
“I don’t have enough time or money.”
Time and money are resources, but they are not the be-all and end-all. You have within you something far more valuable – your passion, your creativity, your unique gifts. And those are priceless!
Of course, I understand that in the face of responsibilities and obligations, both lack of time and money can feel like severe constraints. But the key lies in flipping the perspective. When faced with time constraints, ask yourself – are you spending time on what truly matters to you? Or are you getting caught up in tasks that could be delegated, eliminated, or simplified by letting your ego get in the way (“Only I can do this in the right way”)? Can you reframe your thinking about how much time you really need to do something? If you’re struggling to find 60 minutes for exercise, can you start with a 15-minute block and then work your way up?
In a similar vein, when it comes to money, start by shifting your mindset. Instead of thinking, “I can’t afford this,” ask yourself, “How can I afford this?” This simple shift can open your mind to new possibilities, new solutions, and new paths to reach your goals.
And remember, many of the world’s most successful people started their business ventures or passion pursuits with little to no money. They bootstrapped, they got creative, and they never let a lack of funds stand in the way of their dreams.
So, stop letting ‘not enough time’ or ‘not enough money’ hold you back. Let’s start dreaming, start doing, start making the most of what we have, right here, right now. Amazing things can start to happen once you get let go of your self-imposed constraints.
“I am not good at …”
This is one of those personal beliefs that can manifest in various areas of our lives, but let’s focus on two crucial ones: relationships and money.
Relationships: How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I’m just not good at relationships”? Maybe you’ve had a string of difficult relationships, or maybe you’ve been hurt in the past. And now, you’ve built up this wall, this belief that you’re just not cut out for love.
But let me tell you something – you are worthy of love. You are capable of giving and receiving love. Past experiences may have left their mark, but they do not define your future.
Instead of saying, “I’m not good at relationships,” try saying, “I’m learning to create healthy and loving relationships.” Because that’s just it – relationships are a learning process. And like any skill, they take practice.
So, take each relationship as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to become a better version of yourself. Remember, it’s not about finding the perfect person, but about learning to love an imperfect person perfectly.
Money: “I’m not good with money.” Sound familiar? This belief can stem from past financial mistakes or a lack of financial education. But here’s the good news: financial skills can be learned.
Instead of saying, “I’m not good with money,” try saying, “I’m learning to manage my money wisely.” Start by educating yourself – there are countless resources out there, from books to blogs to online courses.
And remember, everyone makes mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up over past financial missteps. Instead, see them as lessons, as stepping stones on your path to financial freedom.
It all comes down to changing the narrative. Replace “I’m not good at…” with “I’m learning to…” Let’s approach our challenges with a growth mindset, seeing each one as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to become the best version of ourselves.
You are not defined or constrained by your past mistakes or your current challenges. You are defined by your capacity to learn, to grow, to overcome, and that’s what makes this life experience worth it!
How Do You Crush Self-Limiting Beliefs?
Crushing these beliefs is like training for a marathon. It requires patience, persistence, and a whole lot of self-love.
1. Start by challenging these beliefs. Ask yourself, “Is this really true, or is it a story I’ve been telling myself?” Examine your thoughts and internal dialogue for any negative or self-sabotaging statements. Question the basis of these beliefs and challenge them with evidence and logic. Don’t let them hold you back from reaching your full potential.
2. Affirmations and positive thinking. Retrain your thought process towards new pathways by replacing these limiting beliefs with empowering affirmations. Here are a few examples of positive affirmations to reframe your limiting beliefs:
- I am filled with potential and possibilities.
- I trust in my journey and my path.
- I love myself.
- I am deserving of love and respect.
- I am constantly surrounded by love.
- I attract positive, kind-hearted people into my life.
- I am learning and growing in my relationships.
- I am open to change.
- I welcome new opportunities for growth and learning.
- I am a powerful co-creator of my own life.
- I have all the skills I need to succeed.
- I have faith in myself.
- Money flows easily and abundantly into my life.
- I let go of my fears about money.
- I am capable of achieving all my goals.
- I nourish my body with healthy food and positive thoughts.
- Every day, I grow stronger and healthier.
- I am strong and capable.
- My entire life is a beautiful journey.
- I am living my best life.
- I am free to live the life of my dreams.
MORE AFFIRMATIONS TO LIFT YOURSELF UP:
30 Empowering Self-Love Affirmations to Boost Your Confidence
30 Body-Positive Affirmations to Boost Your Body Image
75 Powerful Protection Affirmations for Safety and Grounding
3. Seek emotional wellness and support. Emotional wellness is key to overcoming self-limiting beliefs. Surround yourself with positive influences – uplifting people, inspiring books, motivational podcasts – and seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals when necessary. Your environment can be a powerful tool in reshaping your beliefs!
4. Embracing a growth mindset. Adopting a growth mindset means believing that you have the power to improve and develop your abilities. This mindset is crucial in overcoming limiting beliefs as it fosters the idea that you can become better and achieve more. View challenges as opportunities for growth and learn from your experiences. In contrast, a fixed mindset will keep you stuck in your current beliefs, habits, and lifestyle.
5. Celebrate your progress. Breaking down your goals into smaller, achievable steps can make the process of overcoming your limiting beliefs more manageable. With each successful accomplishment, your confidence will grow as your limiting beliefs start to dissipate. Celebrate your progress and acknowledge the effort and growth involved in attaining your goals! You’re doing so well!
It might take some time to get over your limiting beliefs and you may even stumble from time to time, but that’s all right – personal growth is not a linear journey, after all! Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would a friend who is struggling with self-doubt and negative beliefs.
To recap, here are the top 10 self-limiting beliefs.
- I can’t
- I am not good enough.
- Success is for other people, not me.
- I am too old or too young to start something new or meaningful.
- I am not intelligent or smart enough/I don’t have what it takes.
- “I don’t deserve happiness or success.”
- “I can’t change. This is just who I am.”
- “If I try and fail, it’s worse than not trying at all.”
- “I don’t have enough time or money.”
- “I am not good at …”
Understanding these beliefs and recognizing their impact on our thoughts, emotions, and actions is crucial in overcoming them. By addressing self-limiting beliefs and implementing strategies to change them, we can break free from their chains and create a life of growth and success.