Self-limiting beliefs can be incredibly detrimental to your success and happiness. Self-limiting beliefs are the negative thoughts we often have but don't realize are untrue. They tend to be false beliefs about ourselves that limit our ability to succeed and reach our full potential. They are negative statements about ourselves that are either untrue or completely unimportant.
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However, because of their prevalence in our minds, these beliefs become damaging to us. Self-limiting beliefs may seem insignificant, but they can hugely impact your life when left unchecked.
What Are Self-Limiting Beliefs?
A self-limiting belief is a false belief about yourself that holds you back from success. These beliefs usually take the form of negative thoughts about yourself that you have come to believe to be true.
Self-limiting beliefs may be caused by several things, such as:
- Being in a toxic environment and lacking self-confidence in your abilities.
- Being around negative people.
- Failing to take action or being too afraid of failure.
- Being overly critical of yourself and what you can do.
- Not having a positive outlook on life and the things that happen to you.
- Thinking that you don't deserve success or happiness.
- Continually comparing yourself to others and their success.
- Lack of self-love and self-acceptance.
Self-limiting beliefs can also be caused by other people's opinions or perceptions of you. People around you may have influenced your belief systems in a way that is not beneficial to your self-esteem. Often, if we hear something enough, we begin to believe it's true and limit ourselves.
This is especially important to note for neurodivergent people. If you struggle with self-limiting beliefs, it could be because you’ve repeatedly heard how you’re lazy, too emotional, too talkative, or an all-around screwup. You learned early on to internalize those comments and you believe them.
When self-limiting beliefs go unchecked, they can lead to depression and anxiety, making it difficult to accomplish goals and reach your full potential. Mental health challenges such as these can exacerbate your executive dysfunction, which in turn can fuel those same limiting beliefs. It makes it easier to believe them.
When you hold yourself back from reaching your goals because of these beliefs, you lose out on the chance to experience the life you want. The good news is that it's never too late to change your thinking patterns for the better.
5 Common Self-Limiting Beliefs
These five common self-limiting beliefs may be holding you back from success.
1. “I’m not good enough.”
This belief is common among many people and could prevent you from doing what you love or reaching your full potential in life. Unfortunately, this thought pattern can also hurt your self-esteem and lead to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, or low self-worth.
Because of your neurodiversity, you only see the struggles you have. You believe that your neurodiversity makes you less than your peers. You don’t believe you can ever measure up.
2. “I’m not smart enough.”
This is another common self-limiting belief that could prevent people from success. People often believe that to be smart they have to have a high IQ and/or get straight As in school. However, there are many ways to show intelligence, such as being creative, being kind and caring about others, and having a good work ethic.
Often, people who are neurodivergent struggle with “simple” school tasks or life skills because of their executive dysfunction. Because your brain doesn’t work the same way as everyone else’s, you believe you’re not as smart or capable as everyone else.
3. “I’m not good at anything.”
People may be prevented from reaching their full potential because of this self-limiting belief. Everyone has different talents and skills, which makes us all unique. Just because you aren't good at something doesn't mean you aren't good at anything else!
Again, if you have struggled with school or jobs, you start to believe you’re not good at anything. Instead of acknowledging all of the unique, amazing aspects your neurodiversity brings to your life, you focus on what you think you can’t do.
4. “I need the approval of others.”
It may sound harmless to care about what other people think of you, but it can get out of control fast! If you're always seeking approval from others, you will never truly be happy with yourself because your happiness will always depend on what others think of you.
In addition, if you are a people pleaser, you might spend so much time masking your true self, that you will be exhausted. Finding your own happiness will be more difficult because you aren’t being authentic.
5. “I must be perfect.”
Although we know that nobody is perfect, many people struggle with perfectionism. If you always strive to be perfect, then you will never truly be happy with yourself because no one can achieve perfection. Perfectionism will get in the way of your accomplishments because you’ll never be satisfied.
If you struggle with perfectionism, you’ll never be happy. Anything less than perfection (which is impossible) is seen as a failure. Often this belief comes from wanting to hide your neurodivergence so that you can fit in and be “normal.”
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Why Tackle Your Self-Limiting Beliefs?
You have the potential to achieve all of your goals. But you're held back by self-limiting beliefs, so you end up just playing small. You work with clients that don't pay you what you're worth. You decide not to publish that book because you think you don't have the right experience. You don't partner with a life coach because you feel you're not important enough.
You keep listening to these lies not because you love being stuck, but because, in a way, being stuck feels safer than going after what you want. Being stuck keeps you in your comfort zone and it doesn’t challenge those negative beliefs.
All of this is a bit like listening to the playground bully who keeps pushing you around. But, if you want to move forward, you need to stop listening to his taunts and insults. It's time you regain your power and become the outstanding person you were meant to be.
The truth is, you can build a life that you really want—one that nurtures your soul and pays your bills. But first, you have to tackle the self-limiting beliefs holding you back.
The Bottom Line
Self-limiting beliefs may well be holding you back from success. They are negative thoughts that are often untrue. They can be harmful yet tricky to recognize because they are ingrained in our minds. If you've been experiencing a lot of negative thoughts, it's helpful to examine them to see if you can work to change them. You'll probably find that you approach things with much more clarity once you do.