Do you ever feel like there’s some invisible force stopping you from reaching your full potential? Like no matter what you do, you just can’t quite be who you want to be? If so, you might be holding onto some self-limiting beliefs that keep you stuck.
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Self-limiting beliefs are thoughts or beliefs that hold us back and keep us from achieving our goals. They make us think we can’t achieve something because of who we are, what we look like, or where we come from.
These beliefs often come from our past experiences — good or bad. They can also result from societal pressures to succeed in specific ways and not others. But whatever their source, self-limiting beliefs will only continue to hold you back if you let them. Once you become aware of them, it becomes easier to recognize when they pop up again so that you can tear them down.
Common Self-Limiting Beliefs
There are endless potential self-limiting beliefs, but these are some of the most common:
- I’m not smart enough.
- I’m not talented enough.
- I don’t have what it takes.
- I’m not creative enough.
- I’m not good-looking enough.
- I’m not fit/athletic/toned/curvy/skinny/etc. enough.
- I’m not successful enough.
- I’m not smart enough.
- I’m not (fill in the blank) enough.
If you’ve ever had thoughts like the ones listed above, you have dealt with self-limiting beliefs. Self-limiting beliefs prevent you from reaching your personal and professional goals and living the life you want.
Although you can’t ignore them, your thoughts are controllable. By understanding how self-limiting beliefs arise, you may gain clarity and learn how to alter your mental soundtrack.
Your self-limiting beliefs will likely vary based on your personal experiences, current environment, and cultural upbringing. Some are more harmful than others, but they’ll all hold you back if you don’t address them. You can’t let your past dictate your future. You must learn how to confront your self-limiting beliefs head-on if you want to change your life’s path.
Unkind Remarks Can Result in Self-Limiting Beliefs
Many people make the mistake of believing that what they’re told about themselves is true. They don’t examine the belief when the words are said. This can cause you to carry around statements about your abilities that aren’t true.
Sometimes the people who love us the most can be the ones who cause us to build self-limiting beliefs. If a parent, teacher, sibling, or friend ever told you that you weren’t good enough, not clever enough, not pretty enough, or anything else, you may have adopted that belief as your own.
Maybe a family member once told you that you’d never be successful, or perhaps you were teased for having an “odd” interest as a child. Whatever the source, unkind remarks from others can significantly affect your self-image and self-worth. Even if the person who said it meant well or didn’t realize the impact their words would have, the fact remains that you may still be affected by it.
For so very many neurodivergent people, this is a lightbulb moment. If you were undiagnosed as a child, you probably feel this one. You’ve always known you’re different, but without being diagnosed, you were probably told you couldn’t do things. Or that you should be more like… That feeling of being less than has most likely stayed with you.
This is especially true if you’ve always struggled with executive dysfunction. Because you have a hard time planning things or remembering or if you’re often late, you begin to think that’s just the way you are. There’s nothing you can do about it.
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Self-limiting beliefs can be very powerful. The more you believe something is true, the more likely you are to act according to those beliefs. Those who struggle with self-limiting beliefs often find themselves in a vicious cycle of low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and procrastination. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, which only reinforce the belief that you’re not good enough.
If someone tells you that you’re not good enough, you have to take the time to examine their words and determine whether they have any truth to them. If they do, you must examine your thoughts about yourself in regard to this statement.
Self-Doubt Can Lead to Self-Limiting Beliefs
It’s not always others who can cause you to build self-limiting beliefs. You can often be your own worst enemy when it comes to self-doubt. Self-doubt is like the chicken and egg problem. It’s hard to pinpoint which came first: the self-doubt or the self-limiting beliefs.
Everyone is insecure and doubts their own abilities at some point in their life. Maybe you weren’t picked to work on a web design project you really wanted, so you assumed that your designs were terrible. Or maybe you applied to be a speaker at an upcoming conference and weren’t chosen.
During times of self-doubt, it’s important to remember that other people’s decisions are not necessarily a reflection of you. There are many possible reasons you missed out on the opportunity to work on a project or speak at a seminar that may have nothing to do with you.
Self-doubt causes you to question your abilities and silently judge yourself. You might think you’re not good enough, smart enough, or capable enough to achieve your goals and dreams. You might feel unworthy of receiving what you want out of life. You may believe that other people are better than you and think you don’t deserve the same opportunities.
If you’ve ever felt like you’re just not good enough or unworthy of the things you want out of life, these are signs of self-doubt. Even though self-doubt can be incredibly frustrating and even paralyzing at times, it’s essential to know that it’s a normal part of the human experience. We all experience it at different points in our lives to various degrees. The good news is that it’s something that can be overcome.
Your Perception of Others Can Cause Self-Limiting Beliefs
Imagine this: you’re at a networking event. You spot a small business owner in the crowd and walk toward them. Before you can reach them, they turn away. You assume they don’t want to talk to you. You might think things like, “I’m a boring conversationalist. No one’s interested in me. Maybe they can tell I don’t belong.”
Your perception of this person keeps you from reaching out. So you stick to talking with people you already know and miss out on the chance to build some great professional relationships.
How do you know this person doesn’t want to talk to you? You have no way of knowing, of course. This is how self-limiting beliefs can affect your relationships with others. You might feel like other people won’t want to associate with you because of what you believe about yourself. But in reality, you’re not giving yourself – or other people – a fair chance.
Another example is when you see someone you consider a peer—another mom who has the same number of kids at about the same age as you or another entrepreneur who has a business similar to yours. You look at what they do, what they’re good at and compare yourself.
The problem with that is that you don’t see the full picture. You have no idea how many years that business owner struggled before finding success. You don’t know if that mom goes home and cries every night because she’s barely holding it together or if she goes home and has other people helping her accomplish everything.
Everything I’ve talked about here could make you feel like you don’t have the right things to succeed, be happy, or that you will never reach your goals or dreams. But the truth is, you can’t let your limitations hold you back. You have to believe that you can overcome them. Otherwise, you’ll find it much harder to move forward.
Learning to change your mental soundtrack is essential if you want to reach the next level in your life. When you hear self-limiting beliefs, take a moment to consider if they’re true or if they are just lies that you’ve accepted as truth.
Perhaps it’s time to get to the bottom of your self-limiting beliefs. Once you identify them, you can begin to tear them down. It all starts with awareness.