Identifying limiting beliefs

Do you ever feel held back? You know where you want to get to, but no matter how hard you try, things just keep getting in your way. Maybe you have a dream of launching a business, but your mind always manages to find reasons to put it off. This could all be the work of limiting beliefs.

Understanding and identifying your limiting beliefs are the first steps to making a change. So, if you’re ready to stop feeling held back, read on. 

What are limiting beliefs?

Let’s start by looking at what limiting beliefs actually are. These are beliefs we have about ourselves or our circumstances that limit our capabilities. Here are some examples:

  • I’m bad with numbers
  • I’m not creative
  • I’ll never have enough money
  • I don’t deserve love
  • I can’t trust others
  • I’m not worthy
  • I know I’ll fail, so why should I bother?

Beliefs like this may come to you in the form of clear thoughts when you’re trying to achieve a certain goal, or they may linger in your subconscious. If they are in your subconscious, you may find you self-sabotage or engage in unhelpful behaviours when trying to achieve your goal. 

How are limiting beliefs formed?

Most of the beliefs we have about ourselves are formed in early life. We’re like sponges when we’re young and can pick up limiting beliefs held by our parents, teachers or other authoritative figures. For example, if a teacher tells us we can’t draw, we may believe we’re not creative, holding onto this belief into adulthood. 

Experiences such as bullying and abuse can also have a profound effect on the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. We may ‘learn’ early on that trusting people leads to pain, or that we won’t be liked by others. 

How can you identify limiting beliefs?

Once we know what limiting beliefs are holding us back, we can do something about them. If you’re not sure what yours are, try the following exercises:

  • Note all of your beliefs. Which support growth and which don’t? 
  • Note unhealthy patterns in your life and recurrent challenges. Could a limiting belief be the root cause?
  • Note occasions when you’ve reacted negatively. Ask yourself: could a limiting belief could be to blame?

These prompts should be able to help, but sometimes we need a little objectivity. This is where speaking to a professional, such as a coach, can be valuable. A coach will be able to ask the right questions to guide you to the answers and help you see the wood for the trees.

Changing the narrative

Identifying your limiting beliefs is the first step in the journey to make lasting change. Next you’ll need to intentionally change the narrative by creating a new belief. This takes time, effort and patience. Here are some steps you can take: 

Improve your self-awareness

Having a good sense of self-awareness will help you recognise when your limiting beliefs are coming up. There are lots of ways you can build self-awareness, including starting a meditation practice, journaling regularly and mindful movement (such as yoga). Try to become more aware of your self-talk too and note when unhelpful or limiting thoughts appear. 

Create an alternative belief 

Now it’s time to change the narrative and create a new belief that empowers you. Try creating an affirmation that says the opposite of your limiting belief. For example, ‘I’m bad with numbers’ becomes ‘I’m good with numbers’. You can soften things if they feel unbelievable too, so if ‘I’m good with numbers’ feels too much of a stretch right now, you could change it to ‘I’m learning to be better with numbers.’

Repeat the affirmation regularly to help it sink into your subconscious. You might want to experiment with vision boards too, let your imagination take the reins to visualise what’s possible. 

Gather evidence

To help release the limiting belief and instil the new empowering one, try to get into the habit of gathering evidence. Every time something happens that proves you can achieve your goal, make a note of it. When you get positive feedback from others, note it down, take a screenshot – anything you can to hold onto it. 

When your limiting belief comes up, ask yourself, what evidence is there to support that? Then remind yourself of the empowering belief and remind yourself of the supporting evidence you have. 

Be gentle with yourself and keep going

Changing beliefs we hold is hard work. There will likely be times where you’ll slip back into old habits, but the important thing is to recognise when this is happening, treat yourself with kindness and move forward. Remember we’re only human and sometimes we all need a little support. 

How coaching can support you

Self-development work can often be helped with some support around you. This may be friends or family, but if you want someone objective and trained to help with this work, you may want to consider hiring a coach. 

The role of a coach is to provide accountability and to help you identify what steps you need to take to reach your goal. They can help you shed some light on what your limiting beliefs may be and offer suggestions on how to change the narrative. 

Having someone to talk this through without judgement or opinion can be incredibly helpful and may be exactly what you need to make a change. Find out more about what coaching involves and find a coach who can help.  

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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