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Published on July 22, 2019

9 Self Limiting Beliefs That Are Holding You Back from Success

9 Self Limiting Beliefs That Are Holding You Back from Success

It’s easy to blame situations or other people when we don’t reach our targets.

Have you ever wondered though, if it could be YOU holding yourself back from achieving success or, if you possibly limit your results because of what you believe?

We hold beliefs about all things and they have a direct influence over what we achieve or not. When we have empowering beliefs, our achievements can feel almost effortless. If our beliefs are self-limiting, however, then it can often feel like we are pushing a big rock up a steep hill.

Limiting beliefs have a way of creeping up on us; they reveal themselves in different ways. Even if we think our beliefs all support us, a limiting belief can often rear its ugly head just when we least expect it and completely stop us in our tracks or make things feel harder than they actually could be.

A belief is simply a feeling of certainty about what something means. The reason it can feel so certain is because it’s a story we have been telling ourselves throughout our lives unconsciously looking for proof of its truth. We find plenty of proof because that’s what we are looking for and, the more proof we find, the more certain we feel. This means we can either create more potential, or more limitation depending on what the belief actually is.

My question to you is this:

If your beliefs have this powerful influence on your results, can you imagine how much more personal potential you could create and what you could accomplish, if every belief you had really did completely sustain, support and nurture you?

And, can you imagine how much you could be getting in your own way if they don’t?

That’s why it’s essential to become aware of what your beliefs are.

Here you will find 9 of the most common self-limiting beliefs you need to be aware of and some practical tips to assist you to move through them. Even if you implement one simple tip, it can have a profoundly positive effect on your results.

1. I Don’t Have Time

This may be a statement; the truth is though, when you repeatedly say the same thing, you start to believe it and this means you will never find the time to do what you want.

Holding on to this belief can keep you stuck for years.

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Nathan Palmer, a sociologist and lecturer at Georgia Southern University said “Time is a social construct’. To me, this means time doesn’t really exist, it’s just an idea or concept we believe as a society and we all live by its rules. This might explain why we all have 24 hours in a day, yet some of us achieve so much more than others.

When you start to see time as it really is which is just a social construct, you empower yourself to create a belief that works for you instead of against you. There is a simple and practical way you can do this:

Use a spreadsheet to measure the way you use your time and being truthful with yourself about what you find.

As you look closely at how you use time, you will notice patterns of behavior that can cause you to get in your own way. Patterns such as doing the easy repetitive tasks first or putting everyone else’s demands or requests first really limit you.

Making a few simple tweaks in your own behavior, you will notice that you “always have enough time”, it’s just your choice as to how you use it, and you can begin to nurture that new belief.

2. I Can’t

This is one of the most limiting beliefs you can imagine, because it gives no opportunity of you being able to do what you are telling yourself you can’t. You might as well tie your hands behind your back.

The more you repeat this statement, the more you begin to believe it. Your unconscious mind is always listening and it responds to what you are telling it. Some people have even described this response as physically feeling blocked.

Even if you are just using this phrase to excuse yourself from doing something for someone else, then find another way of saying it, for example “I am unable to do that for you right now”.

There is no such thing as, “I can’t” and this is because you always have a choice. You can do anything you set your mind to and even if you don’t have the skills yet, then you have the ability to learn those skills. If you truly believe you can’t at the moment, then add the word “yet” to the end of your statement to create more potential.

And whenever you hear yourself say, “I can’t”, immediately remind yourself that you always have a choice. You either choose to or choose not to.

3. I Can’t Because I Am Not…

Adding a reason to “I can’t” gives the limitation even more power, especially when that reason begins with the words “I am”.

When you use the words “I am,” you are making a statement about yourself, your identity and who you believe you are. It’s called an identity belief and this type of belief can be the most self-limiting you can have. Let me give you an example of this;

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Many years ago, I would frequently say “I am not creative”, it was a belief I had hung onto since childhood. Because of this, I never attempted anything that had a creative feel to it.

I used to excuse myself telling people “I am not creative”. That was all fine until I became an entrepreneur. It was then I realized how much that belief had the potential to limit me, because entrepreneurship is all about being creative!

Identity beliefs are statements you make about who you think you are and who you think you are not. To give you a few examples, “I can’t get organized because I am not a planner”, “I can’t go networking because I am not a people person”.

Can you imagine how much these beliefs can hold you back?

You can make gradual changes by looking at different ways of describing yourself. For example; “I am becoming more organized as I learn to plan each day” or “I am learning to network as I meet new people”. Then take the actions that support those new beliefs.

4. I Am Not Good Enough

This is probably the most fundamentally limiting belief there is; and it’s one that most of us can attest to having been at the mercy of at some point in our life.

We are always good enough and that’s the reason why we are here. We are good enough for each person, situation and opportunity that presents itself. Yet at some point in our life when our safety and certainty was threatened, we chose to believe that wasn’t true.

Because of this experience and what we decided to believe, we run patterns of behavior that are designed to protect us. When we are about to do something that will stretch our capabilities, we have a little voice that warns us of danger and tells us we can’t do it or we shouldn’t do it. This means we can often get in our own way and miss out on those opportunities, relationships and situations that can help us achieve what we want.

You can change this by negotiating with your little voice. It may sound simple or even silly but, it works. Remember that what we resist persists; and the more we try to ignore the voice, the more it will persist.

Start acknowledging the little voice by thanking it and letting it know you are okay and, you will give it a go anyway. As you repeatedly give things a go, you will begin to build more belief in yourself and see how good enough you always are.

5. I Will Be Judged

We can often hold ourselves back from doing new things because we are afraid other people will judge us and see us as lacking in some way. Remember, we often focus on our fear; and the more we focus on this, we will see more examples of people judging us.

You have no control over what others think or feel and most of the time, they don’t think anything about you at all. They are more concerned with what they think or feel about themselves, just like you are.

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If you feel judged by other people, it’s more often than not just a reflection you see of your own thoughts and judgments about yourself.

When fear of judgment comes up for you, ask yourself “Where am I judging myself right now?” Remind yourself that no matter what outcome you get, just the fact that you are showing up and giving things a go means you are always more than good enough, and that deserves acknowledgment.

6. I Am Not as Good as Them

This is a self-limiting belief based on comparison. When we compare ourselves with others, it can really freeze us in our tracks.

This very limiting belief has become more prevalent since the upward surge of social media. It can cause us to waste precious energy, feeling we don’t have what it takes.

If you find yourself comparing and feeling emotions like jealousy, loss of confidence, annoyance or self-consciousness, then you can bet your bottom dollar this belief is playing out unconsciously.

Remind yourself that we are all different. This means we all have unique personalities, a range of different strengths and natural talents. It also means we all have different traits that require development. No one does everything perfectly and this is why we can all easily compliment each other in different ways.

There is no less than or more than, there is just difference. Just because they do it differently to you, doesn’t mean you are not as good as them; it just means you are unique and that is a good thing.

7. I Have Failed

If you often tell yourself you have failed, then you will eventually stop giving things a go.

Believing that you have failed is so disempowering, because it is very closely linked to the belief that you are a failure, and it means you will avoid doing things that may lead you to feel that way about yourself in the future.

Remember, the more you repeat a statement, the more you believe it to be true. This is why it is essential to completely banish this phrase from your vocabulary.

Just because something hasn’t worked out the way you wanted it to, does not mean you have failed. Neuro Linguistic Programming is a modality that develops a person to achieve excellence. One of the presuppositions of NLP states that there is “no failure, only feedback”. The feedback being the information you receive, which can help you change things next time around. This means there is learning and growth in the experience.[1]

Instead of telling yourself you have failed, see the experience as a lesson. Ask yourself what you can learn from it and how you can use that feedback to assist you in the future.

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8. I Am an Idiot

If you tell yourself you are an idiot, please stop.

This is a statement you may use a bit tongue in cheek, when you have made a mistake. Here’s the thing though:

Even if you say something in jest, your unconscious mind is always listening and will respond and remind you accordingly.

If making a mistake means you are an idiot, then you will avoid doing things where there is a chance you might make a mistake. This can massively keep you inside your comfort zone when outside your comfort zone is where you need to be.

Mistakes are part of achieving success. If you are like many of us, you probably do something at least three times before you do it well. And for each mistake you make, you get closer to the result you want.

Totally banish this belief statement from your vocabulary and just remind yourself that when you make a mistake, you are that much closer to where you want to be.

9. I Can Never Do This

This is a personal capability belief teamed up with a gross generalisation. Generalizations are words like, “always”, “everything”, “never;” and when we use them, we delete any possible exceptions of the opposite being true.

If you tell yourself you can never do something, you will avoid it at all costs in the future, because it doesn’t feel good when you receive lots of reminders of your inability to do it.

When you change this belief to “I haven’t succeeded in doing this yet” and then, plan small steps to show yourself that you actually can; you will give yourself more opportunity to expand your capabilities and open yourself up to your true potential.

The Bottom Line

Identifying and acknowledging your self-limiting beliefs is the first step in taking back your own power. Blame can keep you stuck for years and over time erodes your self-esteem and can even cause you to go backwards.

True sustainable success is achieved from the inside out, by making the choice to work on your own belief system. It’s vital you weed out any beliefs that are limiting you in any way. This is the way to true empowerment and success, where you will open up your full potential and over time you will notice your life will become limitless.

More About Mental Strength

Featured photo credit: Austin Prock via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NLP UK: No failure only feedback

More by this author

Deb Johnstone

Deb is a sought after mindset speaker and a transformational life and business coach specialising in NLP and dynamic mindset.

9 Self Limiting Beliefs That Are Holding You Back from Success

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

In our diverse world, where everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and has their own opinions just about everything, there is a rather universal idea we all – regardless of age, race, location, gender — embrace…

We all want to be happy.

We want to feel that we matter, are loved, appreciated, problem-free, care-free, and financially secure. And this has become one of the most obsessive quests of our society—to be happy, at all cost, by all means.

Happiness has undisputed benefits—supported by countless studies—to about pretty much everything in our lives—from our mental or physical state, to careers, relationships, finances.

Although the self-help industry is still having a sunshine moment with its advice on how to get to this coveted state, no one (that I’m aware of) has come up with The Magic Potion—that one thing or action or thought—that can make us all content and whole for good.

Of course, we also all are knowledgeable enough to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And that it’s often a combination of things that each one of us should intentionally do daily in order to reach that enchanted place where everything is intensely bright and upbeat.

The reason that there are multiple antidotes to feeling gloomy is that there may be a million different explanations and their nuances of why someone is unhappy. It’s pretty much a different cause, path and experience for everyone.

Top this with the “hedonic treadmill” phenomenon[1] —and you end up with an incessant (and rather tiring) pursuit of something that, quite frankly, no one has been able to define in concreate measurable terms.

The second problem with happiness is that all of us become so hung up on the goal itself—that utopian state that we want to get to “one day.”

Naturally, you can spend your whole life waiting for happiness to finally come knocking on your door, hoping, anticipating, existing in perpetual discontent—and the moment may never come.

And then, looking back, you may ask yourself—was I truly that miserable or did I fall a victim of the happiness craze?

That is—how can you know if you are really unhappy, if happiness means different things for everyone, it’s impossible to measure directly, and it’s rather fleeting?

So, let’s start from the beginning— and examine the cause of why you’re unhappy, the symptoms and the treatment.

Symptoms of Unhappiness

According to the wellness site Mind Body Green, some of the most common manifestations you are not happy are:[2]

  • Feeling like you’re not as good as other people
  • Feeling like a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control
  • Feeling like your daily life is meaningless and task-driven
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic
  • Protecting your heart with steel walls
  • Trying to fit in and belong, but rarely feel like you do
  • Feeling beaten down by the challenges you face in life
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or chronically worried
  • Feeling like you’re not appreciated enough

If this sounds like you, on a regular day, then you are not a happy fella, my friend.

Reasons for Feeling Unhappy

The most important indication that things are not great (at least in your mind) is the sense of “something missing.” You may not know what it is, but you feel hollow, incomplete. And you are aware that something needs to happen to make you come alive again.

Of course, finding the reason for your woes is vital to prescribing (to yourself) the right steps to make it all better.

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So, here are some of the most common reasons why you may feel heavy-hearted, or “like the joy has been sucked out of my life.”

Lack of Meaning

Everyone who’s someone in the happiness-advice trade will tell you that this is one of the main causes (of not THE biggest) of feeling blah. Especially relevant for our professional lives, lack of significance can be a dream-downer.

An excellent piece in the New York Times talks about Harvard graduates who make $1.2 million a year in salary, but still feeling miserable and trapped in what they describe as “wasting my life” existence.[3]

Simply put—you may feel unhappy because you need the “Why” in your life, as I also wrote in a previous post How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life.

Happiness Disruptors

Even perceived problems can feel quite real to many of us. Undeniably, though, any personal, financial, career, physical complications can make your happiness aspirations plummet.

The constellation of all the issues or walls you can run into can be quite vast. For instance, you don’t like the way you look, you don’t make enough money, don’t have any friends or significant other, your health is fragile.

All these can be serious impediments to an undisturbed-joyfulness type of life.

Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

Few years ago (2003), a paper by the psychologist Roy Baumeister rocked the science world. Titled “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” it presented the idea (supported by research) that self-esteem and happiness are linked.[4]

Specifically, high self-esteem leads to greater happiness.

In addition, according to the famous American author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, the main reason people are unhappy is because they lack self-respect—that is, they value others’ opinions above their own. Of course, it makes sense—and surely, it rings true with many of us too.

Personality

Linked to the above is another hindrance to becoming relentlessly upbeat, which may prove slightly challenging to overcome, if even possible—your personality.

Of course, not per the self-help industry which thrives on the assumption that you can, with your own willpower, become a different person altogether. Namely—a much better version of the current you.

But what the Wise Men also tell us is that you are either born to be a silver-lining kind of person or you are not.

You can, of course, work on yourself to start seeing the glass half-full (vs half-empty). But you may never reach the gregariousness of someone who is just born with a more care-free temperament.

Unreasonably High Expectations

Having high expectations of yourself can be beneficial, according to research.[5] It leads to higher performance—a phenomenon called the Pygmalion effect.

Having too high expectations of yourself, though, may be counter-productive. You can run into all slew of mental health issues—depression, self-sabotaging, self-punishment, etc. And it can spill over all areas of your life.

It’s certainly a case for future investigation.

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Social Trends

It will take perhaps at least few articles to list all the reasons why we can feel unhappy (a book even!).

So, some of the other causes of being disgruntled with your life can be: long hours at work, “always-on” culture bread by the internet, increased screen time,[6] or boredom with one’s life (i.e. lack of excitement).

Addiction to Unhappiness

Apparently, you can also develop an addiction to unhappiness[7] —that is, some people like negative feelings and are “happy to be unhappy.” Rather disturbing, indeed.

Unexplainable Reasons

Or, sometimes, you just can’t put your finger on one thing, or on anything, for this matter—you don’t know for sure what makes you feel unhappy, nor what will make you happy. It feels like it’s everything—your whole life is a mess.

But that’s not the end of the story. The most important questions you should be asking yourself are:

Why? What’s the cause of my unhappiness?

Because you can’t fix it when you don’t know what’s broken, right?

5 Steps You Can Take to Figure Out The Why

So, if you tick most of the symptoms above, it’s very likely that you are not living in Dream-land right now.

Here is my advice on how to find your lumps in the batter.

1. Mull over What “Happy” Means to You

Happiness can take different shapes—hedonic pleasure, life satisfaction, desire fulfillment.[8] All of these—separately or together—can deliver to us sprinkles of joy.

And because our lives are so diverse, the above will translate into different pursuits for each one of us.

For instance, my hedonic weekend happiness means reading a book or writing, while for someone else—it’s socializing, taking a walk, or going on a shopping spree at the mall.

Or, my life satisfaction can be to have a big family and leave a mark in the world this way. For others, it may be going after fame and fortunes. But either way, don’t fall for the society’s “narrative traps”[9]—that a bigger pay check, house, a certain job, person, etc. will give you a never-ending stream of bliss. It won’t, science confirms over and over.

So, once you know what your happiness vision board looks like, you will have a better idea of what’s “missing” in your life.

2. Re-Visit Your Expectations

As I already mentioned, unreasonable expectations you or others have set for yourself can be deterring you from feeling gleeful.

For one thing, aspirations often can become outdated. What you wanted ten or five years ago (or even six months ago) may not be relevant to your situation today and will need to be filed into a mental cabinet.

Another issue is that our culture is putting an exponential pressure on all of us to perform more and better, to try and stretch the 24-hours a day into 30, to chase kudos and recognition. Any outcome that has earned less than the gold is punishable by exclusion for the cool crowd, by receiving less in perks, bonuses, and appreciation even.

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As a result, anxiety, depression and all their dark friends start creeping into our minds and tint everything else that may be giving us joy and satisfaction.

So, taking periodic audit of your expectations—their validity and importance place on your happiness list, is pivotal to stopping unhappiness spread into your life.

3. Examine Your Way of Thinking

At the heart of the so-called Rational Emotive Behavior Theory (REBT),[10] which was established by the American psychologist Albert Ellis in 1956, is the idea that it’s never the actual event that upsets us.It’s our interpretation and thoughts about it. By inference, changing our thoughts will reduce (and hopefully remove altogether) our anxiety.

Let’s take this a stretch further. Positive (not delusional) thinking has been long proclaimed to be a winner when it comes to mental health. If you find yourself going down the spiral of negative inner dialogue, you must stop yourself immediately. It’s unhappiness trap.

But it’s not easy-breezy, of course, to do such conscious policing all the time. It can become a habit, though, psychologists tell us. We can teach ourselves to quell negativity, and there are many things that can be done: How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

And don’t forget to be grateful. It’s the best happiness shot there is.

4. The Good Old Pros and Cons

Although it may appear to be a less fascinating way to figure out whether you are unhappy or not, the pros-and-cons list has been around for a long time—and it’s still an excellent tool to let you examine things closely, evaluate alternatives and come to satisfactory answers.[11]

Interestingly, as history tells us, this invention is credited to Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Notorious for his productivity, he applied the pros-cons exercise to almost everything in his life.

The beauty of the method lies in its simplicity too. So, go back to the drawing board and start penciling down the things that you like and don’t like (make you unhappy) about your life, and the things that you know with certainty to make you happy today.

Of the “things-that-make me-unhappy-about-my-life” subset, have a think what you can do to move these along the continuum—to the brighter side.

You may be surprised to discover that you have much greater say in the building of your own happiness than chance, circumstances or others.

5. Mental Cleansing

Mental health is in the limelight quite often these days. And rightly so.

The way we care about our bodies and minds directly links to many of our life outcomes.

Mental clutter can become a well-being stumbling block. Overthinking, old grudges, past events, can all make it very challenging to feel elevated and content.

Doing a mental cleanse once a month can be the remedy to set yourself on the path to happiness recovery.

Pay a visit to the past to confront your fears, get rid of the people who bring you down, free yourself from any emotional baggage. It will help you silence the bully in your head.

Take a periodic stock of all the things that make you anxious and declutter. Why hold on to the things that you know to bring you grief anyway?

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Unless you are one of those unhappiness addicts I mentioned above (which calls for a more radical intervention), carrying emotional baggage without doing anything to unload it, is a anti-glee behavior.

Bonus Advice

Finding our Achilles’ heel of happiness can sometimes be a tall order. It takes time, conscious efforts and an honest desire to make it better. It also alludes that we are ready to take the plunge into the self-help territory and take actual steps to improve our situation.

But it’s not a lost cause, the research tells us. It’s possible to make yourself happy on a consistent basis.

Here are few universal suggestions:

One of the things you can do is to inject some meaning back in your life. And the best way to go about this is to flip the narrative. Case in point—the story of John F Kennedy’s visit to NASA in 1962. He ran into a janitor and when asked him what he was doing, he replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

The happiness guru Gretchen Rubin tells us that there are two major path that lead a more fulfilling life:[12]

One way is through our relationships—having strong bonds and feeling that we belong.

The other route is through developing better self-knowledge—i.e. what things make us us, or glad, or sad. And base our way of living on our own values and goals, not others’.

The feeling that we are not making progress is a definite joy crusher. We should compare wisely, find our passions, and diversify our experiences. These are not magic pills but more so opportunities to make our time here worthwhile and fulfilling.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is notoriously hard to pin down.

There is no one definition of contentment, nor one way to ‘fix’ it. It’s one of those things that you can’t quantify and it’s idiosyncratic.

More and more we hear a murmur from the science world that perhaps the best way to happiness is acceptance—of your failings and shortcomings, of the fact that life is imperfect.

Knowing what makes us disgruntled is, of course, needed to find the right remedy for each one of us. Feeling constantly unhappy is not good and necessitates closer examination.

Finally, beware of the narrative trap that if you are unhappy, there is something wrong with you. It may be normal, for a while at least. Otherwise, how would you appreciate the highlight moments of your life if you don’t see them against the backdrop of the gloomy times?

Or, as the great singer Leonard Cohen tells us:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

More About Staying Happy

Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

Reference

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