Have you ever found yourself wanting to move forward in your life, but your negative thoughts have stopped you from taking the first step? “I’m not good enough for that,” “I’ll never be successful,” “I don’t deserve to be happy.” These automatic thoughts that hold you back from living the life you truly want to live are called limiting beliefs.
These deep-rooted beliefs have a major impact on our reality because they influence our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. When we hold beliefs like, “It’s really hard for me to truly connect with people,” or “I’m not smart enough,” we tend to behave in ways that align with those beliefs.
For example, if you believe, “I don’t deserve to be loved,” you might be less likely to seek support from others when you’re feeling down. Or you might be less likely to work through conflicts in your relationships. Then, when your relationships start to fall apart, or no one is there to support you, it confirms your belief that you’re not worthy of love. After years of behaving in ways that confirm your beliefs, it’s no wonder you’re going to think your life is destined to be this way. However, you can change your limiting beliefs with intentional reflection and effort. Below I’ve outline five steps to help you overcome your limiting beliefs:
Step One - Develop awareness around your beliefs:
Take some time to reflect on what limiting beliefs you have about yourself. Some common limiting beliefs are:
I’m not good enough
I don’t deserve to be happy
Nothing ever works out for me
I don’t deserve to be loved
Do you feel like any of these limiting beliefs apply to you? Try identifying four or five limiting beliefs you feel hold you back the most.
Step Two - Get specific on your beliefs:
The more you narrow down your beliefs, the easier it is to understand why you believe them. For each of the limiting beliefs you identified, try to narrow it down to reveal what you truly mean. For example, if you believe, “I don’t deserve to be loved,” do you mean you don’t deserve to be loved by others or by yourself? Does this limiting belief come up for you when you consider your friendships, familial relationships, or romantic relationships? As you can see, narrowing down your beliefs helps you gain more clarity around what you believe and will ultimately make it easier for you to change them.
Step Three - Figure out where your beliefs came from:
Now that you’ve identified and narrowed down your limiting beliefs, take some time to reflect on when your beliefs started and where they came from. Since most limiting beliefs are deeply rooted in our understanding of ourselves, it’s likely many of them started when we were young. Consider the following questions to help you gain clarity around the development of your beliefs:
How long have you believed this about yourself?
What event (or pattern of events) has led you to form this belief?
For example, if you believe, “I don’t deserve to be loved,” reflect on the relationships you’ve had in the past. Maybe years ago, you were in a toxic relationship with someone who told you, “No one will ever love you if you act like that.” After being told this by someone close to you, you might change the way you think about yourself. Over time, you’ll probably run into situations that seem to confirm what they said was true. Once you start to believe it’s true, you’ll begin to act in ways that align with your belief and the cycle will continue.
Step Four - Reframe your beliefs:
Once you become aware of your specific beliefs and have developed a clear understanding of what caused these beliefs in the first place, it’s time to reframe your beliefs. Think about what your life would be like if you believed:
I am good enough
I deserve to be happy
Everything always works out for me
I deserve to be loved
For each of the limiting beliefs you identified, reframe your statements to reflect the opposite. For example, you’ll take, “I don’t deserve to love myself,” and reframe it into, “I am deserving of unconditional self-love.” After reframing your beliefs, imagine how you would feel if you truly believed the new statements. How would you act? What type of person would you be? What could you accomplish?
Step Five - Choose to change your beliefs:
The key to overcoming your limiting beliefs is knowing you have the choice to believe what you want. Once you realize you are in control of your beliefs and you get to decide what you want to believe about yourself, all there is left to do is change your belief. This is easier said than done, of course. However, with consistent effort you have the power to change your beliefs and rewrite your story.
Don’t worry when your mind automatically falls back into your old way of thinking - this is normal! Your beliefs won’t change overnight, especially when each belief has been around for years. If you feel like you’re struggling to change your limiting beliefs, you might consider working with a Mental Health Coach. Working with a coach can help you gain insight to help you become more aware of the obstacles that are holding you back, and help you learn tools to overcome them.