12 LIMITING BELIEFS AND HOW TO CHANGE THEM

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If you don’t believe the impossible can happen, then you are right.

Shannon L. Alder

The mind will always find evidence for whatever we believe is true. What truth we choose, will shape anything we create and experience.

Research published by Anthony Bastardi, Eric Uhlmann, and Lee Ross in the June, 2011 issue of Psychological Science suggests that people are biased to interpret the evidence in ways that are consistent with their desires. That means that people may ultimately come to believe that the weight of evidence supports the position that they already wanted to believe was true.

For most of my life, for example, I believed that I am lonely and not worthy of deep long-lasting connections. I grew up as the only child of my parents and because we moved a lot, I didn’t have many permanent friends. After my parents divorced, I was afraid of connection because I had knew the pain of rejection and abandonment. Today I can see how these outside circumstances created beliefs that I don’t belong and that I am not worthy. Subconsciously, they felt so real and persistent that they carried themselves into my every-day present experience. When I tried to challenge my beliefs, I found all the evidence in the world that they were still as true as they were back then – because that was the only window through which I knew to see the world.

That’s why if we want to improve our health, change a habit, a life-style or parts of our personality, we need to become aware of these beliefs.

Here are the 12 most common subconscious and unconscious beliefs that limit us.
1. I’M UNWORTHY
2. I’M NOT (GOOD) ENOUGH
3. I DON’T BELONG
4. I NEED TO CONTROL MYSELF
5. I CAN’T TRUST MYSELF, OTHERS OR THE WORLD
6. I’M INSIGNIFICANT / INVISIBLE (A VARIATION / STRATEGY OF TRUST)
7. I DON’T HAVE THE CAPACITY
8. THERE IS A “RIGHT WAY”
9. THERE IS A “WAY THINGS ARE” (THE WORLD IS)
10. I’M POWERLESS
11. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO BE CAPABLE
12. I NEED TO BE PERFECT

How to work with these 12 limiting beliefs.

Sadly, most people either never even become aware of these beliefs or spend years trying to change them through therapy, participating in course after course, and constantly ‘working on themselves’. These are the self-development ‘addicts’ and ‘positive affirmation’ believers. But we don’t need to change our beliefs. Expert such as Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Jason Capital, and William Whitecloud say that our actions are what changes our beliefs. We can outgrow them over time by increasing our awareness, and giving our subconscious daily new information about who we truly are instead.

Understand them like you would understand an addiction: there will always be hooks that will trigger us to ‘think’ that way. But once.we have the awareness to know what belief we are responding to, we have the capacity to re-choice. If you have a difficult relationship with someone and in the past got triggered into a certain limiting belief when you connect with them, you might still experience the hook. The difference is that once you made a decision to quit reacting to a thought that isn’t true anymore, you don’t act upon the thought no more. Over time, your brain will realise that the belief is ‘outdated’. It will begin to re-wire.

The following descriptions of beliefs and coping strategies aim at helping you to know when these subconscious beliefs are at play so that you can make a choice to not act upon them.

1. I’M UNWORTHY

Most people believe at some point in their life that they are unworthy. It’s the belief that forms as a result of a perceived lack of nourishment and love from the mother. I say perceived because most mothers do love their children more than their own life, however there are circumstances where the child feels cut off from the mothers love. Examples are sore breasts that don’t allow breastfeeding; the cutting of the cord after birth leading to oxygen deprivation and shock; financial circumstances that force the mother back to work at an early age.

We know this belief is at work we you find ourselves seeking approval, but then rejecting it. Or when we unconsciously arrange to be rejected. We might find ourselves taking steps to attract love and to belong, but then we end up sabotaging a situation. This belief is especially active when we find ourselves often taking everything that other people say personal, as an assault or criticism. We also tend to do things a ‘worthy’ person would do; e.g. being a good Christian, environmentalist, be punctual, very successful etc. or we do exactly the opposite to test others and then ‘win our game’ of being rejected because we are not worthy. Our worth is defined by looking at what others consider to be worthy (not what we think ourselves – because they’re unworthy).

2. I’M NOT (GOOD) ENOUGH

This belief is created as a result of perceived lack of acknowledgement from the father. It is the father’s job to affirm us, to see us, to be present with us and respect us for who we are in the world and how we hold ourselves. If that hasn’t happened in the way we needed it as a child (which is most often the case), we struggle to believe in ourselves and often get trapped into a treadmill of trying harder and better – until we burn out or die.

We know this belief is active when we compulsively try to make something work – we keep trying because we’re good, but not good enough. The goal is to become whole through success and hard work. (Anything that is done easily is suspect). When we run this believe, we set up achievements that don’t get acknowledged. We are always looking to better and improve ourselves – enough is never enough — even if we just try to change the belief that we are not enough. We can easily detect this belief when we rush ahead and are more future orientated than present with what is here right now. This belief is also characterised by feelings of emptiness and ‘nothing that is really making sense’.

3. I DON’T BELONG

Those of us, who actively experience this belief, often wonder who we truly are, why we are here, what our role is in this world and life. We expect to be kicked out (because we don’t belong) and hence often act provocatively and non-conforming in the first place. On the other hand, we frequently find ourselves doing things to be more likeable so we won’t be thrown out. We become part of, or instigate a group, club or cult. This is so we have somewhere to belong. If we don’t have ‘a tribe’ we belong to, we can feel as if we are a hermit – even among people.

4. I NEED TO CONTROL MYSELF

We fear being out of control and losing our control. We want to be in charge wherever we can and do everything to limit our thoughts, feelings, actions and the input we get from others. We tend to intellectuals everything, trying to figure ‘it out in our head’. We avoid taking risks and have a tendency to create rules for everything. Often the rules are ‘should nots’. We manipulate ourselves into ‘holding things together’ by setting up strategies, challenges, routines we must stick to.

“If I don’t control myself, I might not stop eating / drinking / smoking / being violent.”

This kind of control can become quite manipulative, especially when we don’t know how to directly gain control. A yelling person, for example, might appear ‘out of control’, but in reality it is a strategy to get others to step in and force control – but they are actually controlling the situation as others are forced to react and change.

We recognise this pattern is activated when we catch ourselves creating a vision of negative consequences – all the terrible things that might happen if we were to take a certain course of action.

5. I CAN’T TRUST MYSELF, OTHERS OR THE WORLD

When we recognise that we don’t trust someone else, what is really going on is that we cannot trust ourselves and we project our inner experience externally on to someone else. “You can’t trust people, you know.”

In our lack of self-awareness, we tend create situations in which we can blame another person for being untrustworthy. We do this unconsciously, by setting others up to fail and then feel betrayed and affirmed that other people are not trustworthy. This is a pre-emptive strike. We assume others will fail us, which fulfils the belief and gives us a reason to keep our heart closed. We find ourselves setting up a lot of tests for people that often actually destroy what we want. We are looking for trustworthy symbols in a person, a guru, a teacher etc. and then test them to find out why they are untrustworthy.

However, we must recognise our mistrust in ourselves first of all. We don’t trust ourselves because we cheat (even if it’s minor things), we are not completely honest (by not saying what we think, rather than lying), or don’t stick to the boundaries that we said we want.

We are not allowing others to help us feel safe and change. Instead, we are trying to ‘do it alone’.

We are often making plans involving others without telling them. If the other person doesn’t come through, we will feel ripped off and cheated.
When this belief is active, we feel unseen, unrecognised, under-valued, violated, betrayed, ripped off.

6. I’M INSIGNIFICANT / INVISIBLE (A VARIATION / STRATEGY OF TRUST) SEEKING

How easy is it for you to ask for what you want? If the answer is anything less than easy, this belief is active. When we believe that we are insignificant, we also believe we don’t have needs. And even if we do, we certainly don’t trust the world to take care of our our needs (check coping strategies of ‘I don’t trust’ above). Why should it suddenly be different from how it has always been?

We live a life detached from most other people, not really letting anyone close – a strategy that helps us to reassure how insignificant we are.

7. I DON’T HAVE THE CAPACITY

Have you ever wanted to do something really big and then ended up not doing it? Likely it was because you made yourself believe that you don’t have the capacity.

When this belief is active, we believe we constantly need to expand our resources to get the job done. We often get quite excited about acquiring something new, i.e. technology, cars, power tools, money etc, and will spend time and energy to get what we believe we need to have first, assuming that once we have enough resources we will have what we want.

But then there is another way we sabotage this behaviour: by pretending we don’t have the capacity, e.g. enough time to ever acquire the resources we need.

We often find ourselves between getting overwhelmed, over committed or under involved.

We don’t consider ourselves to be very smart (as mental capacity is a resource), and often feel that we have missed the point of whatever is going on. This can lead to a dependence on “expert” advice, as we are unable to rely on their own understanding, creativity and intuition.

Our fear of missing out on something great often leads to difficulty with decision-making, and a tendency to be very passionate about something one day and then totally passionate about another thing the next day.

This belief causes us to talk big but not deliver when it comes to the crunch. That gives us the much needed proof that we don’t have the capacity ( and the resources).

What we deeply fear is being found out.

8. THERE IS A “RIGHT WAY”

What we want, is to predict the outcome of a situation and don’t get tired pre-assessing what’s going to happen. We do love to share that we ‘know how it works’ (and others don’t). We have a lot of intolerance towards other people’s different opinions or life style choices. “Why do they not get it?”
We are trying to establish the right way for everything and take it personal, feel offended and even upset when others don’t consider it.

When something fails, we use this as evidence that it wasn’t done in the right way.

9. THERE IS A “WAY THINGS ARE” (THE WORLD IS)

What we seek is certainty – the owner’s manual to life. As that isn’t being taught at school, we have a lot to learn. The more knowledge we have, the more we know how things operate. We might find ourselves reading and studying metaphysics, philosophy, quantum physics, etc. We judge others based on how they think IT is.

We have given up responsibility of our life to the Universe, God, or whatever our theory of ‘the way things are’ is. We promote our believes to save other people who don’t understand ‘the way it is’, or to bolster our theory.

10. I’M POWERLESS

Everything looks unsafe and hopeless when we believe that we are powerless. In order to reassure this belief, we subconsciously set up circumstances in which we get to be a victim. We tend to blame others for what happens to us, and often bottle up anger about this. We don’t take responsibility because we are the victim and thus it’s not our fault. The strategy of the victim is to get saved by the person with the power. So we are ‘helplessly’ waiting for such people to come along, and to protect our own power onto others (and resent them for having it).

This belief is a result of doing things we didn’t want to do in order to be loved by one of our parents. We win their love, but underneath this strategy we store great anger and resent them for ‘not having had the life we wanted’.
Ironically, we sometimes appear very powerful. We like to obtain power symbols (like a status, etc.). This belief often makes us overpower people as “I’ve got to get them before they get me.”

Power seeks results, so we either act power hungry or as a victim because we assume we are powerlessness.

Unconsciously, we might set up situations in which we have to fail or lose: “I don’t have the power to get what I want.”

11. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO BE CAPABLE

We tend to set our lives up so that we can continue to act and be seen as if we are incapable. For example, we are raising the goal posts before even reaching them.

We tend to underachieve compared to what our real capabilities are and make excuses.

We appear less capable than we really are, but we wouldn’t even admit that to ourselves. We avoid situations where capabilities will / might be tested, and sabotage promotions, or looking for more challenging jobs.

We could do this or could do that, but we never really know what we want. This is our way of creating evidence that we are not capable. It might be that our parents still help us out, which helps us further to feel not capable of living the life we want. Slowly, we give up on our dreams and aspirations. Externally, we might still keep us safe in the fantasy that one day we ‘do it’ – until then we keep spinning wheels that are going nowhere. We lack of commitment to follow through with our hopes and dreams as we would need to face our fear of our own genius.

12. I NEED TO BE PERFECT

The belief that we need to be perfect (before we can start or finish) assumes that perfection exists and it’s something one needs to be. When we draw our attention to nature, we can observe how natural imperfection is. Alone the very fact that nature created humans with brains that so readily believe these limiting beliefs is imperfect. The implications of us having these beliefs is horrific. William Whitecloud, award-winning author and Coach, says that 98% of the work that humans do is not an expression of their highest genius and what they really love, they are compensating for who they believe they really are Their life will not be an expression of their true potential. It will be lived as an expression of their wounds.

We, who believe we need to be perfect, never feel perfect enough to begin living the relationship, the career, the life of our dreams.

But instead of addressing our own feelings, we focus on the imperfections and faults of other people so that we make our own imperfection OK. That can lead to compulsive pickiness and fault-finding in other people. If we ever do get around to doing something beyond our day to day work commitments, we mostly excessively prepare for it. Instead of enjoying the process, we are looking for salvation and relief of it being over.

We also fear being found out, so we have a tendency to destroy things before someone realised that we are not imperfect. That can lead to damaging relationships and defensiveness

CALL TO EMBODIMENT

What’s next? 4 STEPS to rewire beliefs that no longer serve you.

Step 1. Take notes of the beliefs that are most common to you. Contemplate on situations where these beliefs have been at play. What did you do? What were the consequences? What would you have done differently if you had the opposite thought? (This might take some time, but you will get a lot out of this exercise).

Step 2. Increase your awareness throughout the day when these beliefs are present and how you respond. You do this by meditating on, writing, and talking about a specific situation.

Step 3. Practice ‘catching the belief’. That means you become able to do something different than you would have naturally done in the past.

Step 4. Begin to act as if you had different beliefs. Your actions will inevitably change your beliefs.

Evidence-based research

Anthony Bastardi, Eric Uhlmann, and Lee Ross: Study that shows that we always find evidence for beliefs we already have

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Creator and Author of Psycho-Cybernetics

Jason Capital, Coach and Public Speaker

William Whitecloud, Author, Coaching Alchemy, Creator of the 12 limiting beliefs that we all have  

Other sources of conversation

You end up believing what you want to believe

12 limiting beliefs

Positive affirmation and hypnotherapy to overcome limiting beliefs

 

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