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How to Recognize Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are those unhelpful, negative thoughts we all have from time to time. Often, we don’t recognize self-limiting beliefs as they creep into our minds. They can significantly impact how we see the world, ourselves, and our potential.

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These beliefs keep us playing small and prevent us from becoming the person we could be. Fortunately, we can do something about them! The tips in this post will help you recognize self-limiting beliefs and transform them into more positive ones.

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Recognize Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are the thoughts that hold you back from achieving your very best in life. These beliefs are often so ingrained that learning to recognize them takes time.

Self-limiting beliefs are always negative. The voice in your head lists all the reasons you won't succeed. You may think negative comments like, “Who are you to do this? Nobody is interested enough to listen to what you say. You're too dumb to succeed. Everyone will laugh behind your back if you try this.”

You may not realize this, but these negative thoughts are often a defense mechanism. You never have to try if you believe that you're automatically going to fail; if you don't try, you don't have to risk getting hurt or failing. Your fear of failure allows those negative thoughts in, and you don’t even realize it’s happening.

Crop disappointed young ethnic female with dark hair in casual clothes grabbing head with hands and looking down while sitting against white wall at home

Be aware of your self-talk

You have a lot of self-talk inside your head all the time. This can be a good thing if it's helpful self-talk, but it can also be a bad thing if it's self-limiting self-talk. If you have your own personal cheerleader in your head, go you! We should all be so lucky. We need to hear the positive comments, but most of us have a nasty little voice that only wants to point out our flaws or shortcomings.

The first step in dealing with your self-talk is being aware of it and understanding how it works. This can be difficult, but here are a few ways to make it easier:

Record your thoughts.

You can use a digital recorder, a journal, a computer, or anything else that works for you. Make a point of writing down your negative self-talk when you notice it so you can start to see patterns and get a better understanding of how it works.

Ask yourself why.

Ask yourself why you think or feel a certain way whenever you notice your self-talk. This can help you get to the root cause of the negative thoughts and limit their power.

Look for patterns.

Your self-talk may come in the form of unhelpful thoughts or even unhelpful words. Once you notice these, you can start to see the patterns they create and how they affect you.

Look at your self-talk from an outside perspective.

This can be a helpful way to become more aware of your self-talk, as you can see it as though you were observing it from a distance.

How to recognize self-limiting beliefs - sign post with doubt pointing in one direction and Believe in the other

Identify the root cause of your beliefs

To get rid of your self-limiting beliefs, it's essential to identify the root cause of them. The root cause is that unhelpful thought or feeling that triggers the belief.

For example, if you notice yourself feeling unconfident at work, the root cause is likely to be your belief that you're not good enough. Once you know the root cause of your self-limiting belief, you can start working on changing it. This can be accomplished through a process of self-exploration. So, you dig into your past and uncover the source of your beliefs.

As a side note, I know many of us grew up in less-than-supportive households. Often, our self-limiting beliefs started there because we were told that we weren’t smart/capable/good enough and we believed it. We then internalized it and it became that nasty little voice.

Doing this can be long and challenging, but it's well worth it. The more you know about your past, the better equipped you are to take control of your present and future and create a life you love.

can't, can, motivation

Watch Out For Limiting Words

Words significantly impact how we see ourselves and the world around us. They are incredibly powerful and can either help or hinder our ability to achieve our goals and dreams. There are a few words that are commonly used in self-limiting ways. Learning to identify and stop using these words will help you on your journey to self-love. Here are a few common limiting words and phrases and how they can be changed to something more positive:

“I Can't.”

This phrase is often used when you want to avoid something or as an excuse for not doing something. It is easier for people to believe that they can't do something than it is for them to try and fail. If you use this phrase frequently, it could be because you don't honestly believe you can accomplish what you want.

Try “I choose not to” instead of “I can't” if the situation calls for it. Another way to be more positive is to add in the word ‘yet.' Choosing the phrase “I can't yet,” leaves room to believe that you will be able to soon.

“Should” and “Must”

These two words are commonly used negatively, often to make someone feel guilty or ashamed. Try replacing the word “should” with “choose” or “want.” For example, instead of saying “I should be more outgoing,” try saying, “I choose to be more outgoing.” Or instead of saying, “I must do this,” say, “I choose to do this.” This simple change can make a big difference in how you look at your life and yourself.

Once you notice yourself using any limiting words, you can use them as a reminder to think about them from a new perspective. You might even want to write the new perspective down and keep it close by, so you can see it often. Doing this will help you reprogram your brain so you can change your self-limiting thoughts and beliefs.

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Celebrate your small wins

Getting caught up in the negative self-talk and the self-limiting beliefs that come with it is easy. This can stop you from moving forward and achieving what you want to achieve. Celebrating your small wins can transform your self-talk and make it much more positive.

Start a Small Wins journal where you write down everything you accomplish daily. Your accomplishments can be big or small, and it doesn't matter how silly or insignificant they might seem to others. The important thing is that you recognize and celebrate your achievements.

When you do this, you'll start to feel more positive about yourself and your abilities. You'll also begin to see how much you're achieving, which will help you develop more self-love and self-confidence.

Stop Dwelling On The Past

It's easy to let negative emotions from the past affect our present self-talk. You might feel like a failure because you didn't do well at something as a child, or you might feel like you're not worthy of love because of something that happened in your teens. Dwelling on the past will only hold you back in the present.

It can be helpful to acknowledge your past and the negative emotions you feel about it, but you need to let it go and stop dwelling on it so you can move forward. When you dwell on the past, it's easy to get stuck in your old, unhelpful self-talk and feel like nothing will ever change. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, meaning you have no motivation to do anything in the present.

Commit to change

You need to make a conscious commitment to change your self-limiting beliefs and transform them into more positive ones. You want to make this commitment because you want to change – not because you feel like you have to. If you change out of a sense of obligation, it will likely be short-lived and will only lead to more self-limiting beliefs.

When you commit to change, you're choosing to become the best you possible. You're taking responsibility for your happiness and choosing to transform your self-talk so you can achieve what you want to achieve.

Learning to recognize self-limiting beliefs takes time. When you focus on a self-limiting belief, try to counter it with a positive truth. Keep doing this, and eventually, you'll notice a shift in your mindset that will lead to a better life. It is possible to reprogram your brain and transform your self-talk so you can achieve your goals and dreams and become the best version of yourself possible.

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