Getting in Our Own Way: Self-Limiting Beliefs...
There is a certain irony in that we can be both our own biggest supporters, as well as our largest detractors. Too often, however, we sway to the side that plants us firmly and obstinately in our own way. In a society that largely focuses on negativity, we have become conditioned to tear ourselves down. Whether it be career performance, body image, relationships, or intelligence -- among so many other possibilities -- we have become elite blockers and defenders against our own positivity and success (in fact, as I write this, my spell check is telling me that positivity isn't even a word -- how fun of an example is that?).
During our journey into adulthood, we assimilate so much information -- so many beliefs, values, methods, and habits -- and construct our personalities based on them. For the majority of us, that also means that we carry insecurities, false truths, and generally just negative views about ourselves and our abilities. From the two basic fears we all bear -- the fear we are not enough (fear of failure), and the fear we will not be loved -- we compound and morph our own fears and insecurities to points where they become debilitating. Perhaps you are the perfectionist who strives for the unattainable, and has to cope with incredible anxiety as a result (personally guilty of this one here). Maybe your performance in our vaunted education system wasn't 'up to par', and now you carry the belief that you are less intelligent, or even 'stupid', in comparison to everyone else. You may even be a healthy person who has been bombarded with such ridiculous stereotypes about body image, that you take drastic or extreme measures (that are ultimately unhealthy) in order to be perceived as beautiful.
These examples are just a few amongst so many. They may seem drastically different, and are so from person-to-person. However, a common thread runs through almost all: we perpetuate them within ourselves. It's likely not a very appealing realization, but it is true; we may not have been responsible for the circumstances that created the belief in the first place, but we are absolutely responsible for allowing them to control our lives. So many blame outwardly, and this is not entirely without merit; society as a whole does lambaste us with such ridiculous notions of how to be seen, heard, and act. Ultimately, though, we are the ones in control of our lives, and are responsible not only for our actions, but for the beliefs we carry that directly feed those actions.
The first step in claiming responsibility (and the first in taking back your life from beliefs that are no longer serving you) is becoming aware that we are sabotaging ourselves. Pay attention to any negative self-talk, or common situations that breed stress, anxiety, or depressive states within yourself -- they're pretty clear sign posts that you're on the right track. It may be easy to simply do away with surface-level beliefs or actions we have adopted over time. Inevitably, though, we will discover self-limiting beliefs that require much more work on our part; "I'm ugly", "I'm stupid", "I always have to be in control" are all deeply-rooted beliefs that likely will not be easy to cast aside. Luckily, these beliefs can be bested -- and quite often, it starts with a simple question: why?
Once you've identified what belief is limiting you, ask yourself why you believe that. Something in your past shaped the way you see yourself, and it has morphed and evolved with you -- along for a reckless and hurtful ride. This is where introspective soul-searching becomes difficult for many, and I've surprised more than one client with the depth required to uncover more about their self-limiting belief. Discovering the initial instance that caused the belief within yourself can be gratifying, as you know specifically the issue to work on. In many cases, however, the original instance may not be retrievable, or singular in the first place; a homogenization of similar instances may have bred the belief into existence. Whilst the detective in us may be sated with discovering the real root of the matter, it isn't required in order to change the belief -- only the why is. If straightforwardly asking yourself why you have a certain belief does not glean a clear response, try asking yourself, "How does believing this about myself serve me and my goals/intentions/aspirations moving forward?" Framing your perception of the belief around its usefulness to you moving forward can help to determine whether it's something you want to hold onto.
Ultimately, we choose what we believe about ourselves. We may not have had the original choice when the belief was developed, but we certainly have the power to choose it now. That really is the key -- we choose to let self-limiting beliefs control us. The great thing, though, is that we are constantly changing, growing, adapting, and learning. To remove something from your life that does not serve you now, nor how you want to live in the future, is the act of weeding your proverbial garden. Holding onto self-limiting beliefs diminishes us, our abilities, and our aspirations; they cause us to be small. I argue that we should be the biggest, brightest, and most beautiful we can be. We owe it to ourselves.
** View the video for this post HERE **