Put An End To Self-Limiting Beliefs
Maybe it’s being “another year older” now, maybe it’s because the summer is quickly sliding into autumn … but lately I’ve been thinking about a few of the various “would have / could have / should have” scenarios in my past. Not in a “downer” sort of way … but realizing that my present Life continues to depend on the choices I make at any given moment in time. I’m a product of my choices, both good and bad … they’re an integral part of me … they’re who I am … and “warts-n-all”, I do like myself and the person that I’ve become.
We’ve all (myself included) experienced those times of deep regret though … times in which we’ve made a choice (or not) and then woefully looked back and lamented, “Oh I wish I would have _____ … or could have _____ … or should have _____.” Such a regret is part of Life, and a seemingly harmless thought … but the key is to not dwell on the regret, or ignore it … it’s part of who you are. Acknowledge and accept that regret shortly after it occurs to you. And then dismiss it … it is what it is. Grieving over a regret allows negative thought patterns to begin to nag at us in a number of destructive ways until such negativity becomes a pattern of self-limiting beliefs.
Self-limiting beliefs are the negative self-talk that holds us back and most often sabotages our ideas, decisions, and efforts. Self-limiting beliefs tend to express themselves in three distinct ways: “I’m not _____”, “I’m too _____”, and “I fear _____”. And then we tend to fill-in those blanks with a number of negative descriptions of ourselves, such as “I’m not good enough … not confident … not creative, etc.” Or “I’m too stupid … too shy … too depressed, etc.” Or “I fear rejection … being judged … appearing foolish, etc.” What happens is that after we live with these negative descriptions of ourselves for 20, 30, or 40+ years, they become so entrenched in our minds that we never question them.
Ultimately then, we begin to make choices and decisions based on these negative beliefs about ourselves, and that’s when they become self-limiting. We wonder why our life experiences never seem to be of any better quality than they are. We set goals, and never seem to achieve them. A door of opportunity opens, and we find a way to close it on ourselves before we even walk through. We become caught in the vicious circles of “I must … but I can’t” and “I should … but I won’t”. Self-limiting beliefs are not only damaging to our personal lives, but to our professional lives as well. Such negative belief patterns damage our relationships, limit our progress, and hinder us from taking necessary actions … for the well-being of our families, for our personal health, for continued professional success, etc. In all areas of our lives, our self-limiting beliefs stop us before we even get started!
Here’s an exercise that a former mentor used with me 20+ years ago to defeat my own self-limiting beliefs:
- Take 3 blank sheets of paper … label the first one “I’m Not”, label the second one “I’m Too”, and label the third one “I Fear”.
- Draw a line down the center of each page, making 2 empty columns.
- On the left side of each page, list everything that your “inner critic” has to say (and be really honest with yourself).
- On the right side of each page, list the positive points that will counter each self-limiting belief that you have listed on the left. For example, if you wrote “I’m not smart”, counter it positively by writing “I have many skills and talents, and I’m good at what I do.”
- You might even want to add emphasis to all your positive traits with a yellow highlighter!
There is no hurry to this exercise … take all the time you need, and list / counter your items as they occur to you !
Becoming aware of our own self-limiting beliefs by writing them down, and then countering them with our positive attributes is the key to beating them! Keep your list handy … when you have a negative self-limiting thought, look at your list and counter that negative belief with your corresponding positive attribute! It won’t happen “overnight”, but you will begin to build a constructive pattern in your life … transforming your self-talk … transforming your actions and experiences … putting an end to your old self-limiting beliefs!