As children, we experience the world without a filter. We’re free to approach life without prejudices or opinions as we encounter everything for the first time.
But as we grow older, we begin to develop beliefs that form structure within our lives.
Some of these beliefs are useful – they stop us from saying something inappropriate during a meeting or from crossing the road without looking either way.
However, many of the beliefs we develop over the years are self-imposed restrictions that can have a negative impact on the quality of our lives.
We call these limiting beliefs.
What Are Limiting Beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are beliefs that keep us from being able to renew ourselves or grow.
We all have ideals, and we all fall short of our ideals, but a limiting belief tells us that we will never achieve our ideals or our potential. We must have faith that we can achieve what we want to achieve, however big, hairy, or audacious that achievement seems to be.
On the other hand, we can also be ruined by fantasizing that facts are not what they are. So, to believe that a fact is not a fact is also a limiting belief because it prevents us from dealing with the actual situation that we need to deal with in order to achieve what we want.
Therefore, we are always in the paradox of having to have faith in our ideals while at the same time facing the brutal facts that stand between where we currently are and where we ideally want to be.
So, a limiting belief is one that keeps us from confronting the brutal facts that we need to confront if we want to grow.
Also, a limiting belief is any belief that causes us to lose faith in achieving our ideal. If you cannot hold this paradox as you grow you will likely not succeed and fall into false, limiting beliefs.
This is something like the central form of despair Kierkegaard describes in his work The Sickness Unto Death.
Examples of Limiting Beliefs
A good example of a limiting belief is the either/or dichotomy which is a false dichotomy.
One common manifestation of this limiting belief is that “I must do one thing or another,” when, in fact, it may be possible to do “one thing and another.”
For example, you may have a passion for teaching wellness, but there is always more to know about wellness since the world of healing and wellness is an infinite body of knowledge that would take many lifetimes to master and exhaust.
One response to this might be to think that you don’t know enough to start, therefore you’re an imposter.
The limiting belief here is that you must know everything about wellness to start to teach it otherwise you’ll be an imposter. This thought is a kind of perfectionism that will cause you never to start because you can never know everything about wellness.
But another way to think about this is that you can teach wellness AND not know everything about it and NOT be an imposter.
And in order to do this you must hold the paradox mentioned above (also referred to as the Stockdale paradox) that, for example, “I am the best teacher about wellness in America” AND the brutal fact that “There is an immeasurable amount of knowledge to master in the universe of wellness and I’ll never know it all.”
By embracing the fact that wellness is an infinite body of knowledge that no one can master in a lifetime you can start without first having to have perfect knowledge of wellness.
Perfection is, oddly, more often than not, a limiting belief. And yet—you must know something to start. You have to face the brutal facts and do the work, enough, at least, to start. And how much is enough is what’s determined by society and what society says is enough.
Perhaps you need to take some classes, become an expert, get a license, work as an intern, apprentice, or study something.
So, in such a case you’d take your cues from society as well as your own standards—what’s enough for you to be able to start, though not necessarily perfectly.
Thus, you can see that to start, you have to be willing to be imperfect and not imperfect at the same time!
How To Identify Limiting Beliefs
One of the best ways to identify your limiting beliefs is to read widely and ask yourself how your life stands up to the people whom you admire in your readings. Then, hold yourself accountable for having a life that is better than theirs.
In general, you can figure out a good way to live by thinking about three concepts:
- What you’re passionate about;
- What you can be the best in the world at;
- How can you make money in a way that supports what you’re passionate about and what you’re the best in the world at, or vice-versa: how can you use what you’re passionate about and the best in the world at to make money.
This sounds easy, but it’s not always so simple.
One of the best ways that I’ve found to accomplish this goal is by working with a good teacher or coach—someone who holds you accountable to your own high standards, who doesn’t let you ignore the facts while at the same time helping you to cultivate and nourish your vision for success.
How To Remove Limiting Beliefs
With enough sincerity, passion, honesty, and internal motivation, you can completely eliminate your limiting beliefs and become the person you are destined to be.
This is what great people throughout the ages have done—not just great spiritual leaders such as Buddha, but thousands of personalities throughout the ages including Julia Child, Dolly Parton, Shakespeare, Goethe, Cervantes, Martin Luther King, and thousands of others about whom we’ve never head because their passion was to live a deep, sincere, modest life, unconcerned with the public eye, realizing their true self by tending to their community, friends, or family.
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
The best way to destroy a limiting belief is through action.
By beginning to ask yourself difficult questions, focusing on creating alternative beliefs, and truly putting your beliefs to the test you can begin to overcome the beliefs you’ve imposed on yourself.
Limiting beliefs develop and thrive with inaction—if you don’t act, you’re only proving that you’re paralyzed by some hidden, limiting beliefs.
With simple steps, it’s possible to destroy any limiting beliefs in a moment with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Believe in yourself—face the brutal facts—take action, and your belief will be realized.