Overcome limiting beliefs with cognitive-behavioural coaching

In the journey of personal growth and development, one of the most significant hurdles people encounter is the presence of self-limiting beliefs. These beliefs, often deeply ingrained within our subconscious, act as significant barriers that hinder progress and prevent us from fulfilling our true potential. Whether it's the fear of failure, feelings of inadequacy, or a sense of unworthiness, self-limiting beliefs can severely restrict our success and limit the pursuit of goals and aspirations.


Cognitive-behavioural coaching offers a powerful framework for identifying and challenging such goal-limiting beliefs. By leveraging cognitive-behavioural techniques, individuals can effectively reframe their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours, thereby empowering themselves to overcome self-imposed limitations and achieve greater fulfilment in their personal and professional lives.

Understanding self-limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are deeply ingrained assumptions or perceptions about oneself and the world that constrain individuals from reaching their full potential. These beliefs often stem from past experiences, societal influences, or negative self-talk, and they manifest in various forms such as:

  • Perfectionism: The belief that we must be flawless and without error, leading to procrastination and avoidance of tasks for fear of failure.
  • Imposter syndrome: Feeling like a fraud despite evidence of competence or success, leading to diminished self-esteem and reluctance to take on new challenges.
  • Fear of rejection: The belief that we are unworthy of acceptance or approval, leading to avoidance of social interactions or reluctance to express oneself authentically.
  • Catastrophising: Expecting the worst-case scenario in every situation, leading to heightened anxiety and reluctance to take risks.
  • Fixed mindset: Believing that abilities and intelligence are fixed traits, leading to a reluctance to pursue challenges or learn new skills for fear of failure.

These beliefs operate at a subconscious level, influencing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours in ways that reinforce a self-limiting narrative.

The role of cognitive behavioural coaching

Cognitive-behavioural coaching (CBC) is a goal-oriented approach that combines elements of cognitive psychology and behavioural therapy to help individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviours. Unlike traditional therapy, which often focuses on past experiences and emotions, CBC primarily targets present-day challenges and empowers individuals to develop practical strategies for overcoming them.

Key principles of cognitive behavioural coaching

Awareness: The first step in overcoming self-limiting beliefs is to become aware of their presence and how they interact with our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Through self-reflection and introspection, individuals can identify recurring patterns and recognise the underlying beliefs that fuel them.
Challenging beliefs: Once identified, CBC encourages individuals to challenge their self-limiting beliefs by examining the evidence supporting them. This can involve questioning their validity and considering alternative perspectives that are both more empowering and realistic.
Cognitive restructuring: With the guidance of a coach, individuals learn techniques to reframe their thoughts and beliefs in a more positive and constructive light. This may involve replacing negative self-talk with affirmations, visualising success, or practising gratitude to cultivate a more optimistic mindset.  
Behavioural activation: In addition to addressing cognitive factors, CBC emphasises the importance of taking action to counteract self-limiting behaviours. By taking incremental steps towards goals, individuals can build confidence and reduce the influence of their limiting beliefs.
Skill building: CBC equips individuals with practical skills and strategies to cope with challenges and setbacks effectively. This may include stress management techniques or problem-solving skills to navigate obstacles and maintain momentum towards their goals. As individuals consistently apply these skills, they are more likely to become better equipped to handle future challenges and uncertainty and ultimately become their own self-coach.

Case studies

The following case studies demonstrate how cognitive-behavioural coaching can help individuals overcome self-limiting beliefs:

Case study 1: Perfectionism 

Emily, a high-achieving professional, struggled with perfectionism, which often lead to procrastination and stress. Through cognitive-behavioural coaching, Emily learnt to identify the activating events that triggered her perfectionist tendencies. By challenging her irrational beliefs about failure and success, she adopted techniques to reframe her thoughts to enable her to embrace progress over perfection. As a result, she developed healthier coping mechanisms and experienced reduced anxiety, allowing her to perform more effectively in her role.

Case study 2: Imposter syndrome

David’s dream of starting his own business was held back by a fear of failure and self-doubt.  At the start of his coaching journey, he described being weighed down by feelings of being an imposter. The story for himself that he had internalised was, ‘I’m not good enough’ and; ‘People will find me out.’

With the support of a cognitive-behavioural coach, David confronted his limiting beliefs about competence and success. He learnt techniques and skills to acknowledge his accomplishments and internalise positive feedback. He also began to recognise that failure was a learning opportunity and embraced a more positive growth mindset. As a result, David gained confidence in his abilities and pursued his aspirations with renewed determination.

Self-limiting beliefs can be formidable barriers that hinder personal growth and success. However, through the principles of cognitive-behavioural coaching, individuals can learn to identify, challenge, and overcome these beliefs, thereby unlocking their full potential and achieving greater fulfilment in life.

By cultivating awareness, challenging beliefs, restructuring thoughts, activating behaviours, and building skills, individuals can rewrite their internal narratives and pursue their goals with confidence and resilience. With the guidance of a skilled coach, anyone can embark on a transformative journey towards self-discovery and empowerment.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Lincoln, Lincolnshire, LN1
Written by Rachel Green, CPsychol., MISCP Accredited Coaching Psychologist, MAC
Lincoln, Lincolnshire, LN1

Rachel Green is a Chartered Coaching Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She is passionate about empowering people to overcome psychological barriers to success and achieve their full potential.

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