We all have limiting beliefs, and one of the challenges of life is moving beyond them. Everyone deals with self-doubt and self-defeating attitudes, but the successful are able to move beyond them and take decisive action that results in accomplishments, often beyond their wildest dreams.
One of the problems with limiting beliefs is that all too often they turn into limiting behaviors. We sabotage ourselves, first by what we think, and second, by what we do. Best-selling author and lecturer Louise L. Hay taught,
“We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience.“
Limiting beliefs will morph into limiting behaviors, one follows the other. One of the reasons that limiting beliefs are hard to change is that they are buried deep in our unconscious. Some of your limiting beliefs started when you were a small child.
One of the ways to understand your limiting beliefs is to pay attention to your self-talk. What messages are you communicating to yourself in your self-talk? Are any of the following limiting beliefs evident in your self-talk? I bet there are, and I bet they come from one of four beliefs.
4 Common Limiting Beliefs
1. I’m not good enough. Do you remember Al Franken’s Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smiley? In the SNL skits, Smiley starred in his own television program, “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley.”
Franken wrote a novel, using Stuart’s tagline in the title, I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!: Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley. Daily affirmations may work for some people, but the feeling of not being good enough can be so deeply ingrained that it is difficult to overcome.
This is common belief often starts in young children. Parents can project bad feelings onto their kids and those feelings get internalized by impressionable children. Children don’t know any better and they easily soak up all kinds of emotional baggage from their family. While we all want to believe that our families were loving and nurturing, often this isn’t the case at all.
Families often turn out adults with distorted views of reality. Acting out of distorted views of reality makes reality even worse. How can you overcome this? Read on.
2. I’m not smart enough. We often measure ourselves against others, and this can result in any of the many limiting beliefs that plague people. From elementary school through college, or even graduate school, our educational systems are measuring our intelligence and ability to perform.
How do you measure up? Are you an “A” student, a “B” student, an average student, or a below average student? Did you know that it really doesn’t matter?
The truth is that you do not have to be a genius to be highly successful. Some of the most successful people in life where average (or worse) students.
Some of the most successful people are incredibly bright, but they are also incredibly motivated. You are smart enough to create the life you want. You can create a rich and satisfying life with the smarts you’ve got.
3. I don’t know enough. Did you know that it isn’t a crime to say “I don’t know,”? Yet, often, we use all kinds of conversational techniques to avoid saying those three words.
How will we ever learn about our areas of ignorance, if we can’t admit that we have them? Some of us learn by doing, and that can include plenty of errors because of our ignorance. But enough doing can lead to new areas of knowledge.
Others use “I don’t know enough” as an excuse for procrastination. Here’s something I learned many years ago: there is always someone better than you are. It doesn’t matter what field, there’s always someone who is best and it’s generally not us. But that’s okay.
The important trait to overcome this limitation is a hunger for knowledge. Learn what you need to know and get to work! If you don’t know everything you can know about a particular area of your business, that’s okay. Work with what you know, and grow your knowledge base as you go along. You can build your skills while you’re learning.
4. I’m an outsider. I don’t have the connections to pull it off. It can feel lonely when you start a business, but it’s not impossible to meet people. Social media offers unlimited opportunities to meet new people, particularly people in our business niche. Go find them!
However, you may be underestimating how many people you do know. In 2013, the New York Times reported that the average American knows 600 people. If you live elsewhere in the world, do you think it’s different where you live? It might be, but I bet that you still know hundreds of people.
It’s not as hard are you think to expand your network. You can do so through social media, community groups, and professional groups. I challenge you right now to go on reddit and find a group in your niche, start contributing, and network with other contributors.
Or go on Quora and answer a question or two or three in your field. You may be surprised (as I was) when emails start appearing asking you to answer other questions in your niche.
Negative feelings of unworthiness can be difficult to overcome, but it’s not impossible. Here’s where to start:
Reprogramming Your Inner Voice
Let’s get practical by working through a common sequence of negative thoughts related to starting a business.
- The first step to programming your inner voice is to recognize that you have an inner critical voice that is the enemy of your progress. The essential action is to recognize that voice and reprogram it with positive self-talk.
- Recognize that negative self-talk is a natural human reaction to perceived threats and fears. Negative thoughts are natural, but they are a learned response and they can be unlearned.
- To reprogram your inner voice, it is essential that you recognize when it is talking to you. If it has become so predominant that you don’t even recognize that voice within you. What negative thoughts and attitudes plague you? Are you ready to get rid of them?
- To get rid of your negative thoughts and attitudes, determine where they come from. You could be hearing a scolding mother or an angry coach. Parents are often the genesis of negative thought patterns, but so are coaches, teachers, even past neighbors. Once you’ve determined where these thoughts and attitudes have come from, you’re prepared to deal with them constructively.
- This part is actually simple. Just disagree with your inner voice. Positive statements like “I am good enough,” or “I am smart enough,” “I do know enough” (or “I may not know enough right now, but I will gain the knowledge I need”), or “I have what it takes to become an insider, and I’m going to work on that” can powerfully counteract those negative thoughts.
- Growing your ability to challenge and defeat your inner critical voice will enable you to grow out of self-limiting behavior. This is likely not an overnight project, but it is one that is well worth your efforts.
Let’s look at a practical situation.
Starting something new, like a business, can be an open invitation to your subconscious to feed you memories of all the previous times you failed. Worry and self-doubt come quickly to mind, and you can feel defeated before you’ve even started. Some negative thoughts might be:
I can’t start a new business. Why not? What do you believe are the barriers that have convinced you that you can’t start a business? Sometimes, false beliefs masquerade as facts. Separating out false beliefs from facts is the first step toward achieving something great.
Here’s another common fear: It’ll never be profitable? Why not? Why do you believe that you are incapable of creating a profitable business? If you’ll put together a detailed business plan, you can rationally see whether or not your business can be profitable. Here’s some help on putting a business plan together.
Self-limiting beliefs may be the greatest barrier to success you have, but you can overcome them. You can achieve what you dream by taking rational action that is rooted in your genuine skills, abilities, and motivations. Get your inner critical voice under control, and who knows how much you can do?
I invite your comments and questions, and your likes and shares.