What is a limiting belief?

Something that can often prevent us from doing the things that we want to do, is what is known as our 'limiting belief' system.

Belief : A principle accepted as true or real without proof.

Limiting beliefs are so called because - surprise, surprise - they are beliefs that 'limit' us! But, as is the case with any belief, they are not based on fact.

Limiting beliefs may come from a lesson or experience that has been learned by one person, and passed on to another. The 'limiting' part relates to the fact that they generally come with a message of impending failure or warning, based on a perception that something won't go well. That we will fail. Or that there won't be a positive outcome.

Or we may be ascribed with a particular label or behaviour. Perhaps admonished or shamed for something that we have (or haven't done). A few examples are

'You always get things wrong!'
'Why do you keep making mistakes?'
'Don't show off!'

We start to pick up on these limiting beliefs from a very young age. Initially these beliefs are passed to us from others. This can be from anyone that has an influence over us. They tend to start in the home, and they are reinforced as we navigate through our childhood.

We receive many messages as children. Both positive and negative. It is said that we naturally store and recall more of the negative messages. Quite often, there is no ill intent behind these messages. It is also useful to bear in mind that many of us were raised in generations where the mindset was quite different. Many of these messages will have come from a place of someone wanting to protect us. However, as children we accept all messages in the same way - good or bad. And as is the need of a child to seek approval, we may notice that there are some behaviours and responses that gain us more favour than others.

Some of these things may have been said over and over to us. So much so, that we may find that we avoid things or perhaps even pass these message on to others by way of warning.

And because we have had these beliefs from a very young age, we tend to move towards situations and behaviours that reinforce the belief and the warning that it carries. We become practised at avoiding things based on these thought patterns. We don't attempt, or do certain things because the outcome has been predetermined as undesirable. We may stifle our behaviour or the way that we do things in line with these beliefs. Our natural tendency as children is to want to comply and be liked.

In some cases, those present at the time may have introduced the concept of us not being enough. Foolish perhaps. Not good enough. Wrong. Always messing up. Failure. We start to carry these comments around as our labels. And throughout the course of our lives they are reinforced by the other things that are said to us.

Things like :

'I knew you wouldn't be able to cope'
'I told you so'
'I'm not surprised. You never seem to be able to do things right'

As we grow into adolescence, we receive further messages that add to our belief system. Our self image can be quite fragile at this time and these belief patterns, along with the opinions of others, if left unchecked or challenged, start to inform who we are.

And so, the problem becomes that our minds are still banging out the same lines that were fed to us years ago. These beliefs become ingrained. They are our thoughts. We don't even question them. They are our truth. The code of conduct that we live our lives by. Our rule book.

We don't always know how to think differently. Or change our perspective. We become stuck with a set of beliefs that have come through life with us. And just like the 'yellow car' analogy, we get more of what we focus on.

And, why would we know to challenge them? If we don't know any different - we may assume that everyone is singing from the same hymn book.

In fact, if you are particularly wedded to these beliefs, you may find any suggestion of an alternative positive outcome - rather preposterous. In fact, so ingrained are these thoughts that we may even see the person who exhibits a more positive and enabling mindset as a little fanciful - deluded even!

And as with all things, if we don't know that there are other choices available, we continue to operate from the same viewpoint.

I should also point out at this stage, that beliefs are only a problem if they are limiting us and stopping us from moving forward and doing the things that we want to do.

Evidence to suggest that they are a problem may be that we don’t do the things that we want to do or we dismiss things as out of hand before we have even started. We may count ourselves out of opportunities and not participate in things, because we carry the thought that we will fail. We may say things to ourselves, such as

'That sounds risky - I remember what happened last time I tried something like this'.
'That won't work'
'That's not something that someone like me could do'

These statements are all evidence of limiting beliefs. If questioned, it is likely that they are based on something from the past. It may also be that you've never actually attempted a particular task because you've been convinced (or convinced yourself) that there is little point in trying.

Along with our mindset, limiting beliefs are a big part of the coaching conversation. We often don't recognise them as being a problem because they are so ingrained within us. We are more likely to notice these traits in others.

But once we are aware that our beliefs are just 'beliefs' and not based on fact, we can start to look at whether they actually hold true for us. We are then in a position to decide whether to leave them behind and to start to introduce new perspectives into our lives. Perspectives and thoughts that are more positive and enabling. And ones that are actually based on evidence of what we can do, rather than what we can't.

This is a much healthier approach that allows us to choose our response based on where we are now. We can then operate by acknowledging our capabilities and use them to move forward. Rather than relying on old narratives that serve only to keep us stuck.

If you found this post helpful, you can download my guide and workbook to 'Unlocking your Limiting Beliefs' here.

If this post has resonated with you and you feel that you are being held back by some of the thoughts, emotions or feelings that I discuss, I invite you to book a call with me to discuss whether coaching could help you to move forward.

My name is Nicky Kentisbeer and I am a Mindset & Confidence Coach. I support women to work on their mindset and develop the confidence that they need to move beyond the challenges that are keeping them stuck, towards a place that they would much rather be. I do this based on the belief that we have within us the most incredible resources and capabilities to find our own solutions - irrespective of our background or starting point. There is no barrier to entry.

Maybe you have a feeling of being stuck, going round in circles or living the same day over and over? Or, are you finding that the way you approach problems and challenges always gives you the same result? And it’s not the one that you want. The feeling of being stuck is incredibly disempowering because it brings about feelings of indecision, procrastination, overthinking and fear which in turn can affect our self-belief and confidence. And if you stop to think about it, you may find that you fear success as much as you do failure. Sometimes staying stuck may feel like a safer place to be when the alternative means change and stepping outside of your comfort zone? There is nothing unusual here as we do all have a tendency to stand in our own way at times. This may happen because you have lost sight of how resourceful you are. You may also allow old beliefs and stories to inform your response to what is going on for you currently. Yet, much of this narrative is historical and it is no longer relevant to your life now and the choices that you make. As your coach, I can support you to understand and address the things that may be holding you back from achieving your goals. Through 1-to-1 coaching sessions, we will explore what it is that you want and the steps that you need to take to get started. I will ask lots of questions! Questions that you may not have asked of yourself. It is through these questions that I invite you to look at things in different ways, from a different perspective and access your own solutions accordingly. I will invite you to look at old beliefs and the stories that you may be telling yourself about your abilities. I do not teach nor tell you how things should be done. And there is no judgement. If this resonates with you, I invite you to book a free 30-minute call with me to discuss whether coaching would be the right approach for you to start turning your ideas and aspirations into action.