“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” – Mark Victor Hansen
“I’m not good enough”
“I’m not pretty enough”
“I’m not clever enough”
For many years, as far as I was concerned, the statements above were complete fact. Unquestionable. Absolute. Fact. Of course, there was also a part of my rational brain that knew they couldn’t be. But this is the power of the mind and our thoughts, it laughs in the face of rationality.
It was around the age of 24 that I finally went to my GP about my anxiety. It was starting to get in the way of my life. No. Wait. Anxiety was my life. It was my operating system and it took up all my energy.
The slightest incident at work left me unable to sleep and worrying for days or weeks on end. Socializing was painful and I felt ill at ease around large groups of people. In public places it seemed that everyone was looking and laughing at me. And worst of all, I couldn’t breathe properly. I felt as though my chest was going to explode. I just couldn’t get enough air.
The GP suggested I take up some CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but anything was worth a shot. Things couldn’t continue as they were. It was during those sessions that I first learned the term ‘Limiting Beliefs’.
A limiting belief is a belief you have about yourself, other people or the world. It’s called ‘limiting’ because it holds you back, prevents you from reaching your full potential and from living a happy life.
Limiting beliefs often stem from events in our past. Maybe a teacher once told you your work wasn’t very good. Perhaps a sibling called you ‘stupid’, or maybe a boy you liked said you were ugly. Remarks like this, at an age when you’re already vulnerable and still forming your sense of self, can cause a limiting belief to take root inside you.
Over time, you collect evidence to support the belief until you’ve reinforced it so much through the evidence that you’ve collected that the belief become an absolute truth. There’s too much evidence. It has to be true!
The problem with limiting beliefs though, is that we are selective in the evidence we collect. We actively seek out evidence that supports the belief and ignore or disregard any evidence that refutes it. Crazy. But true. We are our own worst enemy.
And because beliefs determine the way we live our lives, ‘limiting beliefs’ can mean that we’re cheating ourselves out of a lot of happiness and setting ourselves up for a lifetime of misery.
For years and years I believed I wasn’t good enough. I believed I was a failure. I believed I would never make anything of my life. And these beliefs shaped my action. I already knew myself to be ‘not good enough’ and there was therefore no point in even trying to change my life. Your limiting beliefs prevent you from taking action to change things. They therefore become your reality.
But wait! There’s good news! It IS possible to change your limiting beliefs and start living a happier and healthier life. Here’s how I did it:
1. Know your limiting beliefs
We’re often not even conscious of our limiting beliefs. Because we believe them to be a reality, we don’t recognize them for what they are. Make a habit of carrying a notebook and pen around with you for the next week. Notice when your mood changes for the worse or when you’re feeling particularly down. What triggered that mood? There’s usually a thought behind it.
2. Examine the evidence
Once you’ve discovered what your limiting beliefs are you can start to examine the evidence that supports those beliefs. Usually, you’ll find that there is actually very little evidence at all!
3. Collect new evidence
Now start collecting evidence that disproves the limiting belief. If you think about this properly, you’ll find that there is a lot of evidence out there, you’ve just been unconsciously ignoring it your whole life!
4. Trade your limiting belief for an empowering statement
Repetitive thoughts form our beliefs and so it’s essential to start making your internal dialogue positive, rather than negative. For each limiting belief you have, turn it into a positive affirmation.
‘I’m not pretty enough’ or ‘I’m ugly’, becomes ‘I’m beautiful.’
‘I’m not good enough’ becomes ‘I AM good enough.’
Every time you catch yourself thinking your limiting belief, trade it in for your positive statement. Over time this will become automatic and you will start to form new, healthier beliefs about yourself.
5. Take action
There is no substitute, ever, for taking action. It’s the single most important tool when it comes to making any sort of change in your life. Knowledge, without action, is worthless. It was six years ago that I took those CBT sessions. But it was only eleven months ago that I started to put the tools I’d been given to use. Taking action to change your life is a choice. There’s no quick fix. It takes effort and determination.
Life for me today
Life is different for me today. My limiting beliefs and anxiety took up all my brain space and all my energy. My life was restricted in all directions because of the beliefs I had about myself that I held to be true.
Eleven months ago, after I quit my job to pursue a more meaningful and fulfilling life, I faced fear after fear and took action every single day to change those beliefs I had about myself.
I’ve now collected a lot of new evidence and created some new beliefs. Most importantly, that I am good enough to be, do and have anything I want in this life.
I no longer worry what other people think of me or how I might be perceived. I’m simply free to be the person I know I was born to be. And that is the greatest feeling I have ever known. To know that I am good enough, just as I am.
I’m proof that by committing to taking action, it’s possible to turn your limiting beliefs around to start living a much healthier and more fulfilling life.
Are you ready to start taking action, today?
Photo by Hartwig HKD