Welcome back for my second post on limiting beliefs! This post is all about how to overcome limiting beliefs. If you haven’t yet, you may want to check out the first post in this two part series entitled, “21 Limiting Beliefs To Ditch For A Happier & Healthier 2021”.
The first post gives an in-depth explanation of what limiting beliefs are, how they hold us back, and examples of some of the most common limiting beliefs that people face in their goals of becoming healthier and happier.
As a refresher, limiting beliefs are false or irrational negative thoughts that can hold us back from living the life we dream of.
Someone commented on my last post using the word “insidious” to describe limiting beliefs which I feel is the perfect word to describe them.
Insidious is defined as: “stealthily treacherous or deceitful, operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect”.
Limiting beliefs can be surprisingly easy to collect, and once we have a few they tend to attract more, like moths to a flame. They gradually accumulate under our radar until all of the sudden we become a hoarder of limiting beliefs, too scared to do anything but maintain the status quo.
The purpose of this second post is to give you a straight-forward plan of attack to overcome limiting beliefs by first making you aware of them, and then helping you conquer them so you can go on to achieve your goals and live a happier and healthier life.
How To Overcome Limiting Beliefs
Follow this straight-forward 5-step plan to retrain your brain to recognize limiting beliefs and replace them with more positive thought patterns so that you can chase after your dreams!
Step 1 – Become Aware Of Your Limiting Beliefs
The first step to overcome limiting beliefs is to build your awareness of them. You can’t fix a problem you don’t know you have. Like anything, it can take a little bit of practice to be able to recognize them.
[See the first post in this series for 21 examples of common limiting beliefs.]
For the next few days or weeks, pay a little more attention to your thoughts and inner dialog (especially negative or irrational thought patterns) as you go through each day.
Limiting beliefs come in many different shapes and sizes. Oftentimes, the words we choose can give us hints about the limiting beliefs that we have. Listen for the following words:
- “Can’t”, “don’t” and “won’t” – These are all negative words that can indicate limiting beliefs. Example: “I don’t have the time for _________.” or “I can’t do ________”.
- “Should”, “must”, “have to” – These words indicate limiting beliefs which may have been imposed on us by family, culture, or religion. For example “I should put everyone else’s needs before my own.”
- “I’m not _______ enough” – This sort of negative thinking indicates that you don’t think of yourself as a person who would be capable of something. For example, “I am not athletic enough.” or “I am not smart or motivated enough.”
- “Always” or “never” – These words are extremes and are often limiting beliefs since it is rare something is always or never one way or another. For example, “I always fail at my goals.” or “I never finish anything I start.”
- Telling the future – Another type of limiting belief is assuming you know how things will turn out. For example, “I am just going to fail again so why should I even try?”.
- Labeling or name calling – verbally beating yourself up is another indicator of limiting beliefs. For example: “I am such a loser.” or “I am lazy”.
As you are paying close attention to your thoughts, listen for these different words and situations and ask yourself, “Could this be a limiting belief?”
As you discover your limiting beliefs try to catch yourself in the moment, as you are thinking these negative thoughts.
Step 2 – Discover The Trigger(s) For Your Limiting Beliefs
Now that you know what your limiting beliefs are, the next step to overcome limiting beliefs is to recognize and understand your triggers. Triggers are the situations that cause you to think those negative thoughts.
Pay attention to your thoughts for the next week or so, and make a note somewhere like your phone every time you have a limiting belief.
When a limiting belief pops up, write down the following things:
- The negative thought – What did you think?
- What is happening at the time – Are you craving junk food? Did you miss your workout? Are you running late?
- Feelings at the time – Are you tired, sad, hungry, bored, anxious etc.?
- Where it happened – Were you at work, home, school, a friend’s house, the grocery store etc.?
- Who you are with – Are you by yourself, with friends, co-workers, family etc.?
After you have made notes for a week or so, sit down and look for patterns. Do you want to snack every time you feel bored at home alone? Do you feel like a loser everytime you look at other people’s photos on Instagram? These patterns can give you a lot of information about your triggers.
If you can, try to avoid these triggers. If you can’t avoid them, knowing your triggers can at least help you anticipate the negative thoughts so that they don’t throw you completely off track.
Step 3 – Consider The Consequences Of Your Negative Thoughts
Once you know what your limiting beliefs are, and understand your triggers for these negative thoughts, the next step to overcome limiting beliefs is to consider how those negative thoughts affect you.
- How would holding that limiting belief affect your attitude towards yourself and your goals?
- How would it affect your behaviors?
- Have your limiting beliefs caused negative consequences for you in the past?
- If you continue to hold this limiting belief, how will it affect your future?
As an example, let’s do a little thought experiment:
Imagine that you have a limiting belief that you are not smart which stemmed from the bad grades you got in school as a kid.
Think about how believing that you were stupid might have affected your attitude towards the rest of your schooling and how you might choose to act based on that belief. Would you put in the effort if you believed you weren’t smart?
How would it affect your future? Would you choose to go to college? What about your career choices?
Now try this thought experiment for your own limiting beliefs so that you can realize how toxic they are, and how they have and will negatively affect your life.
Step 4 – Look At The Facts
Now that you know and can recognize your limiting beliefs and understand how harmful they can be to your personal growth and happiness, it’s time to start overcoming them!
Limiting beliefs, by definition, are either false or irrational. It can be pretty natural to catastrophize a situation – to make a mountain out of a molehill as they say.
So to overcome limiting beliefs, it’s important to slow down and examine if what you are telling yourself is true and to put the situation in perspective.
To overcome limiting beliefs, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is what I am thinking true?
- What are examples of times this belief didn’t hold true?
- Am I blowing it out of proportion?
- Am I making assumptions about things I couldn’t possibly know?
Let’s try another thought experiment to see what this would look like in practice:
For example, say you have a limiting belief that you might as well not even try to reach your goal because you always fail and you know that you’ll fail this time too.
To look at the facts, stop and ask yourself, “Is that true, do I ALWAYS fail?” Then do your best to prove that thought wrong. Come up with a list of as many examples of times in your life this negative belief wasn’t true and you succeeded.
Then, ask yourself, “Am I blowing the situation out of proportion?” It may be true that you have sometimes failed in the past, but you haven’t always failed at everything, as your list will prove.
Finally, ask, “Am I making assumptions about things I couldn’t possibly know?” For example how would you know that any new attempts at achieving your goal would result in failure?
That is in the future, and unless you have a crystal ball, you really couldn’t know that until you tried to achieve that goal.
See how that works? When you notice yourself having negative thoughts, stop and examine the truth of them by asking the 4 questions above.
Note that some questions will apply more in certain situations than others, but that the process of examining the facts can work for any limiting belief. And if you’re not sure whether your belief is true or realistic, don’t be afraid to do some research!
Step 5 – Reframe Your Limiting Beliefs
The fifth and final step of the action plan for overcoming limiting beliefs is to reframe your negative thoughts to become more positive ones, and to make a habit of this.
However, reframing ONLY works, if the new thought is a realistic one.
For example, if you had the limiting belief that you were stupid but tried to reframe the thought that you are a genius or the smartest person in the world, it might seem a little unrealistic. Reframing thoughts only works if we can actually believe them.
See the table below for examples of how to reframe your limiting beliefs.
|Limiting Belief||Realistic Reframed Thought|
|“I am stupid.”||“Sometimes I struggle to focus and learn new things, but learning this new skill is important to me and I will put in the effort to make it work.”|
|“I’ve failed in the past, why would this time be any different?”||“I have failed in the past, but I learned what I could from those mistakes, and am now better prepared to try again.”|
|“Diabetes runs in my family, there’s nothing I can do about it so I might as well enjoy my life while I’m here.”||“My genetics make me susceptible to diabetes, so it’s even more important for me to do what I can to manage this disease with diet and exercise.”|
|“I’m lazy and I never follow through on things.”||“In the past, I held negative beliefs that prevented me from putting forth my best effort. But now I know better and can push through when things get tough.”|
|“I missed a workout, I might as well give up on my weight loss goal.”||“I had a bad day and missed my workout, but I learned from my mistake and will get back on the horse tomorrow.”|
When you first learn to reframe your thoughts it will take some time. But, like anything, the skill will become more natural with practice. Don’t be afraid to sit down and actually write down your reframed thoughts when you first start out.
Eventually, you will be able to train your brain so you can reframe your thoughts right in your head as they happen. After plenty of practice, those pesky negative thoughts will start to pop up less and less frequently and may even go away altogether. Imagine how liberating that will be!
Limiting beliefs can change how you see and think about yourself and the world in a way that makes it extremely difficult to reach your goals or even feel happy.
But don’t despair! It is possible to retrain your brain to see things more accurately so that you can stay positive and achieve your goals.
To conquer your limiting beliefs and negative thoughts, follow this 5-step plan of attack:
- Become aware of your limiting beliefs.
- Discover the trigger(s) for your limiting beliefs.
- Consider the consequences of your negative thoughts.
- Look at the facts.
- Reframe your limiting beliefs.
If you’d like to see an example of how I overcame one of my own limiting beliefs – that I wasn’t capable of happiness – check out this post!
Are there any limiting beliefs that you would like to overcome? Have you ever overcome a limiting belief in the past? How did you do it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.
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