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Got Limiting Beliefs? 4 Ways to Choose More Empowering Ones

Got Limiting Beliefs? 4 Ways to Choose More Empowering Ones
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We all have friends that grew up with siblings, under the same roof, with the same opportunities, but turned out drastically different. One pursued a career, family, and personal aspirations, while the other pursued crime, drugs, or alcohol.

What accounts for the radical difference in these two people? How can two people grow up in virtually the same environment, yet turn out so differently? What makes some people give up when the going gets tough, while others look deeper into themselves than ever before to overcome almost any level of pain?

What’s the answer?

Beliefs

Your beliefs influence everything in your life. Your beliefs have the power to open your mind and your heart; to steer you to a life of contribution and fulfillment; to motivate you to connect with others; or to smother you in a life of misery and isolation. Beliefs are why some of us rise up and relentlessly pursue a life worth living, while others live in quiet desperation.

What are beliefs?

The word belief is thrown around a lot in conversation, but what is a belief? A belief is a feeling of certainty about something. When you say you believe something, you’re saying that you feel certain about it. It’s this feeling of certainty that gives you the drive to accomplish your goals.

Think about the last big thing you accomplished in your life. If you’re like me, you saw yourself achieving your goal long before accomplishing it. It’s like you were just putting in the time necessary, but your results were guaranteed. Your feelings of certainty guaranteed an answer to any question. That’s the power of believing in yourself. That’s the power that beliefs have to bring out the best in you.

Unfortunately we don’t use this power enough. It’s our lack of belief that ends up taking the spotlight and limiting our capabilities. We don’t realize that we can have anything we want if we’re willing to give up the belief that we can’t have it.

Beliefs give us the motivation, certainty, and resolve to take action; or the self-doubt, self-sabotage, and reluctance to do anything. Beliefs can strengthen your abilities or dissolve them.

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Let’s say you’re a good husband. Chances are you’ve made your mind up to be a good husband far before you were even married. You decided what you’re going to do, raised your standards, got certain, and made it happen.

Global beliefs have the ability to filter our entire lives. Global beliefs are the wide sweeping generalizations we make; the broad assumptions we make about other people, work, money, life, and ourselves. Global beliefs affect every aspect of our lives, whether thoughts or actions, either positively or negatively.

What’s great about beliefs is that they’re really just habitual thought patterns. They’re ideas that you’ve developed a sense of certainty around. Therefore they can be changed with consistent effort. You just have to make it a habit to empower yourself instead of limiting yourself.

As time goes on you’ll see that changing only one or two limiting beliefs creates a snowball effect in which your entire thought process changes for the better. You have the power to transform everything in your life, including your future, by changing your beliefs.

How are beliefs formed?

Beliefs are built from ideas. Tony Robbins uses a terrific metaphor to illustrate this. Robbins says to picture an idea as a tabletop with no legs. Without any legs, this cognitive tabletop, doesn’t stand on its own.

But a belief on the other hand, is the idea (tabletop), strengthened with legs. Robbins calls the legs references. He says that if you really believe something (ex: I’m a good student), you have some references to support this idea. You have some experiences to draw from that strengthen the legs and make your tabletop sturdy. Experience builds references, references build ideas, ideas build a feeling of certainty, and certainty strengthens your beliefs.

Personal References

When you’re aware of how beliefs are formed, you have an idea of how to change them. Beliefs can be formed about anything when you connect enough references.

Some of us believe that people from certain areas, religions, political affiliations, or even entire races are not to be trusted. Some of us believe that people in general are good and will always do the right thing.

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I say this because isn’t it true that you could convince yourself of both of these viewpoints? If you tried, do you think you could believe that people are bad and not to be trusted? I’m sure you’ve been wronged or taken advantage of sometime in your life. Do you think you could also believe that people are good and trustworthy? Think of the times in your life where people really came through for you. Picture these references in your mind.

Your references are based on personal experience, information from the news, books, other people, or even your imagination. How much pain or pleasure are attached to these references? The stronger the emotional intensity to a reference, the stronger you’ll feel about it; the stronger your belief will be. Is it possible you’re emotions are clouding your perceptions?

We run into 3 problems with our beliefs:

  1. We don’t consciously decide what we’d like to believe
  2. We develop beliefs based on false interpretations or limited information
  3. Once adopted, we treat our beliefs as fact

We can believe anything we want to believe. Over time our beliefs become unquestioned facts to us. This is terrific when we’re planning our future or envisioning our success, but it can also be a huge roadblock to progress when we’re convinced of something negative or disempowering. Given enough time, emotional intensity, and repetition, the brain literally becomes convinced that what you’re imagining is true.

Choosing more empowering beliefs

It’s extremely liberating when you realize that you can change the meaning around any experience you’ve ever had to an empowering one. This capacity to draw meaningful experiences is available to us all. We simply never notice it or use it.

If you want to succeed in changing long-term, you have to identify what beliefs are disempowering and change them.

Use these 4 methods to shake your associations and references and choose more empowering beliefs.

1. Pain and Pleasure

Pain is the most powerful way to change your beliefs. Drastic changes are possible when you condition yourself to associate immense pain to any behavior you’re trying to avoid.

Any personal breakthrough you’ve experienced started with a change in belief. If you read my post “Want Lasting Change? Make Pain Your Friend,” you know that the quickest and most effective way to change is to associate enough pain with the behavior you’d like to change, while also associating enough pleasure to the behavior you’d like to adopt.

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If you’re able to realize how much this belief has cost you; how much pain it’s brought and will continue to bring; and how much better you’d feel to get rid of it; you’ll change in an instant. If you’re able to leverage your emotion by realizing that this belief is robbing you of your life in the present moment, you’ll be eager to let it go.

Everything we do, is to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. The bottom line is that we’ll change anything if we associate enough pain with it. Do this while envisioning all the good that will come from your new belief, how much less stressful life will be, and how much more at peace you’ll feel.

2. Doubt

All of us have beliefs we used to be certain were true, but have now long been abandoned. What caused this change? Perhaps more life experience, more information, or different reasoning. Whatever the reason, something caused you to start questioning your references. If you question any of your beliefs long enough, eventually doubt will creep in.

New beliefs don’t automatically arise from new experience though. All the evidence in the world won’t make a difference unless it causes you to question your beliefs. In fact it can have the opposite effect. You can be presented with countless information in contrary to your belief, yet interpret it to confirm what you already believe. This is called the backfire effect in psychology.

We rarely question our long held beliefs, but they influence everything we do. We have a habit of forming beliefs based on information we’ve received from others, often failing to evaluate them ourselves.

3. Modeling Others

Spending time around others that share your goals and are producing the results you want is essential. At bottom, all great achievers have adopted a set of empowering beliefs. Modeling those achieving the results you want is vital to shaping your life. Getting around others that are motivated to improve will help you to realize what they believe that you don’t. You’ll find out what’s separating them from others.

Who you spend your time with is who you become. Let’s say you’ve decided to diet and lose weight. Getting around other people with the same goals with strengthen your associations and increase your motivation. You’ll be raising your standards by spending time with others looking to raise theirs. Talking to people with the same goals will help you to relate when they have the same reasons for wanting to lose weight as you do. You’ll also hear about the pain being overweight is causing in their lives, strengthening your pain/pleasure associations even further. You’ll begin to seriously question the consequences of not losing weight. You’ll imagine it over and over and start to visualize the consequences. You’ll see yourself not fitting into your clothes, getting winded from everyday tasks, ending up diabetic, and not attracting relationship partners that you’d like. Take it as far as you need to. This will create the emotional intensity you need to develop the conviction to lose weight. But this isn’t where it stops. Now you have to act. Take your goal public. Tell your family and friends. Put some pressure on yourself to follow through. Take action, develop a daily ritual, condition your thought patterns and behavior, and you’re home free.

We must evaluate or beliefs, what they’re costing us, and make sure they’re empowering us. Your beliefs control your decisions and your future.

4. Belief Examination

We accept our beliefs as reality, but they’re merely ideas that we’ve developed a sense of certainty around. It’s often useful to examine the advantages and disadvantages of continuing to hold a given belief. You can then discover what beliefs are empowering you and what beliefs are limiting you.

When reviewing your beliefs, ask yourself:

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  1. What would I have to believe in order for this belief to be true?
  2. What is the evidence supporting this belief?
  3. What is the evidence opposing this belief?
  4. What would I tell a friend or loved one with the same belief?
  5. What will my life be like in a year if I keep this belief?
  6. What will my life be like in 5 years if I keep this belief?
  7. What will my life be like in 10 years if I keep this belief?
  8. What experiences will this belief cost me if I keep it?
  9. How much happiness am I denying myself if I keep this belief?

Take some time to answer those questions and really let the answers sink in. Realize how much these beliefs are limiting you and will continue to limit you if you don’t change them. Associate enormous amounts of pain to holding onto these beliefs. Use this pain to get rid of them.

What are the beliefs you should abandon? Build your references and emotional intensity towards the empowering beliefs and associate pain with holding onto the disempowering ones.

Replace your old limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs

Just getting rid of your disempowering beliefs isn’t enough. You have to replace them with empowering ones. Focus on the belief that you feel is limiting you the most. Write down the polar opposite of this belief. If you thought “I’m not good enough,” replace it with “I am too big of a gift to the world to sit around wasting time worrying about my imperfections.” What references do you have to support this new belief? I bet you could find them if you wanted to. As you strengthen this new belief, your mood and behavior will change for the better.

Finally, notice your feelings when evaluating your beliefs. Do you feel good or bad, empowered or disempowered? Condition yourself to choose beliefs that make you feel good. Realize that if you’re able to take what life gives you, and find an empowering meaning, you can transform your quality of life. Decide to consciously choose what things mean to you, and your beliefs and actions will help you tap your fullest potential.

Conclusion

All of our actions stem from our beliefs, whether consciously or unconsciously. Some of us believe that external events control our lives. Some of us believe that our environment makes us who we are. This is not true. It is not the events in our lives that make us who we are, it’s the meaning we associate with them. It’s our interpretations that determine who we are and who we’ll become.

Featured photo credit: ruslan.gorsky via flickr.com

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Bob Dempsey

Psychology Major

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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