5 Ways to Overcome Limiting Beliefs

limiting beliefs

“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

Recommend Resources

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45 thoughts on “5 Ways to Overcome Limiting Beliefs”

  1. So glad you were able to make that happen, Leah. Taking action has been key for me too – from beliefs that I had to stay in a job that was sucking every last bit of energy from me (actually that was me letting it suck the energy out of me because I had to prove I was good enough). Taking back my life, my time, and my health has been so much fun!

    I love your idea of noting changes in mood in a notebook. I carry little notebooks for writing, planning, and wacky ideas, and now I have another little use for them! Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Hi Tammy! Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, over the past year I’ve really learned that taking action is always the most important thing when looking to solve any problem. What you say about your job and that actually it was you allowing it to suck the energy out of you is really interesting…that’s where I was at too: I probably didn’t need to invest so much energy into my job but I was constantly seeking approval that I was good enough and beating myself up when I thought I wasn’t (most of the time). It sounds like we’re both in much better, healthier places now!

      Thanks again for leaving a comment.

      Take care,

      Leah

    1. Hi Sheryl! Yes, there are always so many more people than we think experiencing the same things that we are going through – no need to ever feel alone. Thanks for leaving a comment.

      Take care,

      Leah

  2. What an awesome post! I lived with anxiety for YEARS and didn’t even know what it was until this year. I also didn’t realize that I was controlling it with my thoughts. I have so many limiting beliefs that I need a limiting belief organizer lol. It is time to take action! Thank you for sharing this. I am thankful!

    1. Hi Michelle! Thank you so much and I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. Ha ha, I love the idea of a limiting belief organise! Just know that whatever your limiting beliefs are it really is possible to change them and have a much healthier view of yourself. It might take time with lots of ups and downs along the way but it’s definitely possible. I think just being aware of it is a massive first step. Knowing them for what they are instead of just thinking that’s just how you are.

      Take care,

      Leah

    1. Hello Paul! I’m so glad this post was of some help to you. Before starting my own blog I didn’t read any others and I think if I’d have spent some more time reading articles about how other people had come through something similar it would have helped a great deal. I hope you are doing ok. Just keep going and no matter what you’re struggling with, you can get through it. We’re so much stronger than we often give ourselves credit for.

      Take care,

      Leah

    1. Hi Taynia! Thanks for your comment. LIfe is certainly very different now and I find it hard to understand how or why I thought the way I did for such a long time. The future is very bright indeed. Now I just want to scream from the rooftops to everyone else suffering from something similar that it doesn’t have to be that way!

      Took a look at your blog – totally amazing!

      Take care,

      Leah

  3. Leah!!! Fantastic post!!! I love the Albert Ellis stuff. I wish that this type of thinking could be set loose on all dogma – all of it. Since when did evidence become optional? Glad you got out of your crappy job and that you are comfy with yourself even if other may have difficulty with that. Have a brilliant day!!

    1. Hello Jollyhoombah! Thanks for your comment and for the compliment on the post (massive confidence boost :-)). I used to think I was the only one out there who thought I wasn’t good enough. Now I discover a huge part of the population suffers from it. And it’s such a shame because it stops us reaching our incredible unique potentials.

      Congratulations on all your big life changes too – it sounds much more fun the new way.

      Take care and thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment

      Leah

  4. Hi Leah,

    I can tell you that my fourth grade teacher instilled in me a “limiting belief” that I must know how to do everything correctly before I start. Imagine, she literally screamed at us (me) if we didn’t know an answer to something; to the point her neck veins bulged.

    That kind of event changes a kid and the adult he will become. Like you I finally unloaded to a therapist and have worked through a lot of that. It can still be tough though because it was so traumatic.

    You got thinking backwards and a bit worked up but I really appreciate your honesty and sharing. Thanks.

    Darrell C

    1. Hi Darrell! Wow, thanks for sharing that story. I wonder if our teachers of the past realised just how big an impact they were having on our future selves? I had a phobia of most team sports most of my life too thanks to a certain teacher…I had weedy arms and wasn’t great at throwing. And being told that you need to do everything right before starting…that’s pretty much the worst advice in the world. If we all did that, we’d never get anything done and we’d never make any new and exciting discoveries. I’m glad to hear things are better (if not all of the time) for you now. You might like this video that I came across the other day which talks about the importance of making mistakes.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWNgwJZDW3E

      Take care,

      Leah

      1. Leah,

        How nice of you to share the video with me; I will check it out tomorrow.

        BTW, just to get if off my chest, even though it will screw with my Karma, and even though I don’t believe in hell…if there was a hell I’m sure my 4th grade teacher has a wing reserved just for her!

        Man that felt good!

        Thanks again!

        Darrell

        1. Hi Darrell! No problem, I hope you enjoy the video. It certainly spoke to me. It definitely feels good to get things off our chests. One of my fear-facing missions after I left my job was to do an acting course which was something I’d wanted to try since I was little. On that course, we were asked to do an exercise about ‘unfinished business’ in which we actively had a conversation with someone who had impacted our lives and who we felt we had unfinished business with. In that conversation, we had to ‘finish the business’ and in front of the rest of our class. I had a conversation with my ex-manager at work who I felt had had a deeply negative impact on my experience in that job. I screamed, shouted and cried and man did it feel good. And now I’ve let it go, which also feels good.

          I also believe that these experiences we have that we may sometimes wish we hadn’t had to go through, help us know how good the opposite is. I’m not sure I’d be able to know such happiness today if I hadn’t known such sadness earlier. Nor would I have any point of reference of content for my blog. So in a way I’m also grateful for everything I’ve lived through.

          Take care,
          Leah

  5. So many success thieves around the beliefs we hold. Leah you did a great job on identifying and controlling your limiting beliefs. Well done now every day keep an eye that those beliefs never come back. Limiting beliefs can be like a bad habit – every day you need to choose to avoid those things that hold you back.
    Nice touch

    1. Hello Roberta! Thanks for your comment. Yes indeed, it certainly requires consistent work. I think once you’ve built an awareness of your thoughts and how they operate it becomes much easier to identify much more quickly what is going on when you start to feel down or anxious.

      Take care,

      Leah

  6. Leah,
    First off CONGRATULATIONS to you. I am a hypnotist in the Detroit Michigan area and as I am sure your are aware “limiting beliefs” is something we deal with several times each day. In fact we spend a lot of time talking about the words can’t and won’t and how much damage/control they have over you. We just launched a Facebook page that will be dealing with living your life with positive thoughts. I am going to post your BLOG entry to our followers so that they can find value in your words. The name feet hit the floor….stands for the concept that tomorrow when you wake up and “your feet hit the floor” you can decide to change your life in an instant.
    Thanks agin for a GREAT read today……I will be following your BLOG and I hope you are OK if I remind our followers to read your stuff.
    Thanks
    Len

    1. Hi Len! Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I’m delighted you enjoyed the post so much and will be sharing it with your followers! I don’t know much about hypnotism (except a bit of Paul McKenna) but think it must be fascinating. And if it can help people overcome their limiting beliefs, so much the better!

      Thanks so much again and good luck with the launch of your new FB page!

      Take care,

      Leah

  7. Growing older and living in a foreign country for a while, can have the same effect. Good advice to analise the negative feelings and despondency when they occur and turn them around by positive action. Being a trailing spouse also gives me time to read inspiring blogs (thank you for this one) and by writing a blog myself, I gain confidence and remain curious and see the funny side of things here in China.

    1. Hi Gerda! I most definitely believe that starting a blog has changed my life. It not only gave me confidence but also accountability, a growing network of incredible people around the world and most importantly a direction and purpose which was for so long lacking in my life. I hope you are enjoying your own blog too?

      Take care,

      Leah

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you’ve been able to turn things around by taking action and changing your thoughts. I find that this is an ongoing effort and it’s necessary to take action every day to maintain a positive frame of mind. There’s so much negativity out there that it’s easy to get sucked into negative thinking if you’re not careful. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Chim! I agree that it’s an ongoing thing. I guess like with anything in life, if we want to keep in shape we have to keep up the practise. Maybe we can turn some of that negativity out there around by being the best versions of ourselves and being the change we want to see in the world?

  9. Great post. During the period of ‘ limiting belief ‘, it is better to withdraw from the carping critics and work quietly to realize one’s dream , away from the glare. Time will come when people will acknowledge ‘ the work ‘ appreciatively. From thereon the moon is the destination.

    1. Hi Mahavir! Thanks for your beautifully worded comment. I certainly worked away quietly at my own problems and limiting beliefs for some time and eventually, as you say, people will see the changes in you. I know now there are no limits to what I can achieve. And I hope to achieve a lot. Something that truly matters. Hopefully we’re all reaching for the moon.

      Take care,

      Leah

    1. Hi Dan! Thanks so much for leaving a comment. It makes me so happy to hear people say that they have belief that they can do whatever they set out to do. When I started my blog my tagline, ‘believe in yourself…and nothing is impossible’, was a question to myself. Now it’s a statement I have total belief in. Too many people think too little of themselves and we’re all missing out on what they have to offer. Your songs are beautiful. Thanks for connecting. Leah

  10. Leah,

    We’re selective on filtering environmental information because we like to put significance on things to organize and feel comfortable. Any information that does not make you feel content or justify your belief will be filter out. So despite being a negative or positive thought you’ll filter anything to feed your own narcissism.

    Enjoyed your line “knowledge without action, is worthless.”

    By the way Great post!

    1. Hey Richard! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. So true. We just focus on anything that can allow us to support our current beliefs – whether that be positive or negative, as you say. I really believe there’s an element of being comfortable with feeling negative about ourselves too. For me, being a victim of my own thoughts and life was still preferable for a long time to putting the effort in to change them. And I also believe I identified who I was for a very long time with my feelings of worthlessness. Lose those thoughts = lose my self. Or so I thought…

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      Take care,

      Leah

  11. Reading through your post made it feel like a fresh breeze blowing my personal consciousness, which is often filled with limiting beliefs. I admired your strength to realizing and making that conscious decision to make a change and taking action.

    I want to be another Leah, to help myself and many more who find themselves in such a debilitating state.

    Thank you

    1. Lily, thank you so much for your beautiful comment! You know, your name and your words made me think of a friend’s friend, who recently named her baby Lily Hope. I remember thinking how wonderful this was. Lily is a beautiful name and hope is so important. Whatever limiting beliefs you struggle with, don’t ever give up on challenging them! Don’t be another Leah, just be Lily, that’s what the world needs – people being themselves and making a difference.

      Thanks again for such a great comment!

      Leah

      1. Leah,

        Thank you for your encouraging response. And yes, I am Lily and will always be Lily. But it’s the spirit that gave Leah the “oompf” to put her best foot forward. That is the spirit that I seek and want to emulate.

        I want share with you a similar story to Lily Hope. A very good friend of mine and neighbor was pregnant and she and husband named their unborn baby Lily Grace. All through her pregnancy, my family, (husband,son and four daughters) and her children would play and speak to Lily Grace. A day before she gave birth, she found out through scan that her baby was a boy. NO LOVE LOST. We gained Patrick (named after my husband) instead. He is the most adorable little boy of 11 months now.

        I wouldn’t change my friends and all that I have for anything. All I want is to improve our situations and positively impact others in our growth too.

        With sincerest appreciation, Leah.

        Lily

        1. Hi Lily! What you want – to improve your situations and positively impact others – it sounds like a pretty awesome thing to aspire to. You will find your own ‘oomf’ to do that. We all have it in us. Patrick sounds adorable and what a funny story!

          Take care and good look on your own journey…it’s an exciting world out there.

          Leah x

  12. Great Post Leah. No matter how we discover and deal with our limiting beliefs the transformation can be truly remarkable. It can completely shift our perception of ourselves and world. It will open up a whole new world of possibility. Of course the key is replacing the old belief and doing something with the new one. No action, no results. NLP is a great tool to deal with all your limitations.

    1. Hi Brian! ACTION ACTION ACTION! It’s all useless without action! But yes, it really is incredible how changing your beliefs about yourself and the world can completely alter your experience of the world you live in. I’m excited by the world that surrounds me now every day and about the possibilities that lie in wait…it’s certainly a far cry from how life used to be. I would love to learn more about NLP…

      Thanks for your comment.

      Take care,

      Leah

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