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Limiting beliefs are false thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions we have confidence in that guide our behaviors for the worse. They force us to make shitty decisions like returning to our ex when they want nothing to do with us. They propel us to indulge in unhealthy habits like excessive drinking to suppress our sadness. And they hold us back from achieving our goals and becoming a better version of ourselves.
All of this is to say that limiting beliefs dramatically impede breakup recovery and personal growth.
For instance: if you believe you’re worthy of love and respect, you’ll be more sure of yourself, make clearer decisions, exude more confidence, be perceived as more attractive, and speed up breakup recovery. Whereas if you believe you’re unworthy of love and respect, you’ll be less sure of yourself, make shittier decisions, exude less confidence, be perceived as less attractive, and prolong breakup recovery.
Current research suggests limiting beliefs emerge from a combination of childhood trauma, faulty social conditioning, and negative self-talk. And it’s these same sources that further solidify them.
Examples of common limiting beliefs people tend to adopt after their breakup — largely due to negative self-talk inspired by it — include:
- I’m unworthy/unlovable/not good enough for X.
- I’ll never get over my breakup.
- I’ll never trust another person again.
- I’ll never find love again.
- My ex is special — I just can’t find anyone better.
- I’m such a loser; no one will ever like me again.
The biggest challenge when overcoming these beliefs is that they’re loaded with insecurities, anxieties, and other emotional baggage that you have to untangle and resolve before you can deal with the beliefs themselves. But fear not, here are five simple steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Consider If Your Limiting Belief Serves You Or Not
To find this out, ask yourself questions like:
- What good am I getting from this belief?
- Is this piece of information holding me back from achieving my goals or not?
- Is it pushing me forward or backward?
- Is it hindering my recovery or speeding it up?
- Is it improving my relationships, or is it sabotaging them?
By asking and reflecting on these questions, you’re not labeling a limiting belief true or false but simply exploring if it serves you. As you’ll find out, it probably doesn’t. So when you internalize that, you’ll have a much better chance of dislodging and replacing it with an empowering and realistic belief. After all, you’ll have a good reason to do it.
Step 2: List The Consequences Of Your Limiting Belief
Think about how it can sabotage your life if you keep buying into it. A few examples:
1. If I keep believing I’m unworthy of love, I’ll keep sabotaging my romantic relationships through needy and overcompensating behaviors like validation seeking, partner pleasing, deprioritizing my own needs, wants, and desires, and altering my identity to receive more affection.
2. If I keep believing I’m unworthy of respect, I won’t bother standing up for myself and my values when I get disrespected. Thus, I’ll open myself up to being used and treated like a second-class citizen or emotionally abused.
3. If I keep believing that my ex is special and that there’s no one better out there, I’ll forever long and chase after them, wasting my time and theirs, causing us both unnecessary stress and turmoil.
4. If I keep believing I’ll never get over my breakup, I’ll never do what is necessary to recover in the first place. I’ll stay stuck in the past, marinading in grief, feeling like a victim, and never mustering up the courage to actually do something to change my situation.
Step 3: Question The Validity Of Your Limiting Belief
After you’ve grasped all the ways your limiting belief keeps screwing you over, it’s time to find out if it’s actually true. The theory goes that as soon as you consider a limiting belief untrue, it loses much of its power. So to get to the bottom of this, a good start would be to reflect on ideas akin to the following:
- When did I first begin believing that I was worthless?
- Can I prove to myself that I’m inadequate?
- What if I’m wrong about considering myself as unlovable?
- What if I could get over my breakup if I tried?
- What if my ex is not special — what if I can meet someone better?
- What if I’m wrong about everything about my relationship?
- What if I’m wrong about everything about myself?
Once you’re done questioning the validity of a limiting belief, write down your findings on paper. For some reason, doing this is more effective than just meditating on them. And don’t forget to be brutally honest with yourself.
Step 4: Dislodge The Limiting Belief (And Don’t Take It Back)
To dislodge a limiting belief, you must conclude it’s harmful and false and decide to drop it. And then you need to keep deciding not to take it back.
Obviously, this is easier said than done.
For one, you need to adhere to steps 1, 2, and 3. Then you need to work on the occasional emotional bullshit tied around certain beliefs. And last, you must realize that some limiting beliefs — especially those cultivated early on — are fused with your identity. And whatever is a part of our identity is almost always a pain in the ass to change or modify because to do so, you literally need to rewire the essence of who you are.
Don’t get me wrong: all of this can be done. But it’s not a weekend spa retreat. And you’ll usually have to resort to therapy or some other form of professional help.
Step 5: Replace The Limiting Belief With A New One
Get creative and think of an alternative belief to adopt — one that is empowering and can fill in the hole where the old, limiting one used to sit.
Maybe you’re not an unlovable and unworthy sack of shit. Maybe you’re just a sack of shit who made some mistakes in their last relationship — as we all do. Or maybe your ex isn’t special. Perhaps you just bought into that lie because you never dated many people and don’t have anyone worthwhile to compare your ex to.
This line of thinking will force you to realize that the limiting belief you harbor is not set in stone and that you have options. Remember: in each and every moment, you are choosing what to believe, even if you aren’t conscious of it.
Now once you decide on and adopt your new belief, start accumulating evidence to support it ASAP — small wins that go against your limiting belief but align with the new, empowering one.
The theory goes that any new belief is frail at its inception. And for it to grow stronger, you need to prove to yourself that this new belief is legitimate. You need to collect evidence that signals your brain, “Hey, this belief seems legit! You should probably take it more seriously.”
The more evidence you acquire, the stronger the new belief becomes. Keep doing this for long enough, and it may eventually even become your new reality.
Replacing a limiting belief with an empowering one is ultimately like buying a new pair of leather boots. At first, they feel rigid and stiff and like they don’t fit. But after time and with wear — the more intently and longer you embody your new belief — the leather molds itself to the shape of your feet, and the boots start to feel comfortable — the new belief begins to feel natural.
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