Identify Your Limiting Beliefs

The first step to rising above your limiting beliefs is to identify them.

That may seem obvious, but limiting beliefs can be very sneaky. Sometimes they masquerade as facts which are supported by evidence. Sometimes they hide behind other limiting beliefs, like nesting dolls. You might start by saying, “Oh, I can’t wear miniskirts.” As you look at the why behind that belief, you might discover another limiting belief, like “I’m fat,” or “my knees are ugly.” But “ugly” is a subjective word. You can’t definitively prove that your knees are ugly.

One way to identify limiting beliefs, then, is to look at their common traits.

  • Limiting beliefs use generalizing words like always or never.
  • Limiting beliefs often contain the word “should.”
  • Limiting beliefs usually trigger strong emotions of shame, anger, failure, or sorrow.
  • Limiting beliefs often use derogatory language, words and names you would never let your kids use.
  • Finally, limiting beliefs may seem true and reasonable, but they are subjective rather than objective, so they can’t be proved or disproved.

Let’s look at the nearly universal limiting belief of women: “I’m fat.” Your version may have some embellishments: “I’m TOO fat.” “I’m fat and lazy.” “I should lose weight, but I can’t – I’ll always be fat.” But we don’t need any embellishments to see many of the qualities of a limiting belief. Calling ourselves fat generally elicits some kind of emotional response. We might feel shame over allowing ourselves to gain weight, or anger that we had to take a medication that caused weight gain, or hopelessness about our body. The word “fat” is usually derogatory. Just think – when was the last time you used the word fat as a compliment? Finally, for many women, there’s an element of truth to this statement. Almost all of us weigh more than we did in high school and college. But because we say “fat” instead of being objective and specific, the statement can’t be proved or disproved.

To find the limiting beliefs in your life, pay attention to what you say to yourself and to others.

What generalizations do you make? What are the “facts” about you that you are embarrassed to admit? How often do you use the word “should” to describe an area of your life? Also look for the things you haven’t done but want to do. Maybe you want to buy a house, but you can’t because you’re “no good with money.” Maybe you want to start a business but you can’t because you “don’t have enough time.” Maybe you want to travel to Europe, but you “terrified of flying.”

I encourage you to really spend some time paying attention to your words. Our limiting beliefs are pervasive and often affect far more than we realize.

Recently my husband found an article about a picture puzzle that was confusing people. A simple black and white picture came with 9 questions that people found completely impossible to answer. So my husband and I sat down to figure it out together. Some of the questions seemed ridiculous. But we knew that there were visual clues, so all we had to do was put the clues together. Working together, we answered all the questions. Not all our answers were right, but we did have answers. I believe a lot of people looked at the picture and simply gave up. They didn’t believe that there was any way to find an answer to the question, so they didn’t try.

That’s how limiting beliefs affect us. They block out even our ability to believe that there are solutions.

Join me next week to learn about how to neutralize your limiting beliefs once you’ve identified them.