how to overcome limiting beliefs
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I’ve talked a lot about overcoming and changing limiting beliefs in my articles. However, a few readers requested that I go over the topic in a more general view — one that is not attached to unworthiness or love-related beliefs. So this newsletter is my attempt at doing that.
First of all, let’s set the stage: beliefs are not facts. They are made-up perceptions of what we think is right/wrong or true/false that we mostly form in childhood.
When I say “limiting beliefs,” I’m talking about beliefs that somehow harm us, lower our life quality, or, as the name implies, limit us in some way.
A few general examples of limiting beliefs could be: I’m bad at math, I’m a lousy driver, or I’m inherently awkward and “bad” in social situations.
Further, despite the prevailing societal consensus, we can overcome our limiting beliefs. But, don’t get me wrong; this is not easy. On the contrary, it’s a long-winding and challenging feat.
Nevertheless, whining about how hard it is won’t do us much good. Instead, let’s shift to being proactive.
Below, I’ve outline three powerful steps you can implement in your day-to-day life that will help you surmount your limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering ones.
1. Consider if the limiting belief serves you or not
Let’s say that throughout primary and high school, most professors kept telling you how bad your math skills are. Not only that, but you also kept getting bad grades in math exams and even failed a few of them.
Now, X years later, you’re working in accounting (a very math-oriented profession) and believing you suck at math. As you could predict, this belief keeps you stuck in a perpetual cycle of poor work performance. So, how can you begin to overcome it? Well, here’s step one.
Ponder on the consequences of your limiting belief and determine if it is helpful and beneficial or not.
To find this out, ask yourself, “What good am I getting from this belief? Is this piece of information holding me back from achieving my goals? Is this piece of information pushing me forward or backward?”
By asking these questions, you are not labeling your limiting belief as true or false but simply exploring if the overall idea of it serves you. In our example, it does not. With this understanding, you now have a good reason to dislodge your limiting belief and replace it with a new one.
As a surprising side note, even though most people realize that they have one, not many know how that belief harms them.
2. Question the validity of your belief
After you’ve grasped all the mary-ways your limiting belief keeps screwing you over, it’s time to find out if what you believe is actually true. To do this, you need to ask yourself even more questions.
In our case, these are, “When did I first started believing I’m bad at math? Can I prove to myself that I’m bad at math? What instances and events prove that I’m bad at math?”
While asking yourself these things, carefully observe your childhood, for that is, like I said, the source of most limiting beliefs. It also helps if you write the questions you’re asking yourself and their answers down on a piece of paper.
Another alternative (or addon technique) to this second step is simply asking yourself, “what if I’m wrong about my belief.”
“What if I’m wrong about my math-skills? What if they are not as bad as I think they are?”
Most of the time, when you carefully and thoroughly examine and question a particular limiting belief, you realize that it is a mirage — a false or semi-false generalization you formed out of past experiences. Therefore, all that’s left is to dislodge it and adopt a new belief, an empowering one, that takes its place.
3. Disloge and replace
Let’s talk about dislodging the old belief first. To do this, you need to conclude that it’s harmful and false and decide to drop it. Then you need to keep deciding not to take it back.
Obviously, this is way easier said than done. Primarily because we are used to our beliefs — limiting or not. We are often even so attached to them that losing them feels like losing a part of our identity, a part of the self. Nevertheless, I’m not saying dropping a bad belief is impossible; it is possible. It’s just insanely difficult and takes a relatively long time.
When it comes to adopting a new belief, here’s the most vital part you need to understand: this new belief (in our case: I’m not that bad at math) has little to no references fuelling it. Meaning you have little to no proof that tells your brain, “Hey, you’re not that bad at math, buster.”
Therefore, you need to start accumulating as many (and as fast as possible) references or pieces of evidence that will show your brain that this new belief you’ve adopted is legit.
In our case, a reference could be a good grade on a math test, a high score on a math-oriented computer-game (i.e., 2084), or simply a compliment from our boss about some math-riddled-accounting-project we’ve done.
In general, the more new references you acquire for your new belief, the stronger it will become. Soon, it can even turn into your new reality.
As a side note, there are many other ways you can go about overcoming your limiting beliefs. And a lot of those ways work. The steps I described above are simply those that worked for me and most of my clients.
Ultimately, changing limiting beliefs is hard work that requires a lot of grit, dedication, and time. The bigger the limiting beliefs, the more elbow grease you have to put into changing it. But it always is possible to change it. Never forget that.