Self-limiting beliefs are the assumptions or perceptions we have about ourselves and the way the world works. These assumptions are “self-limiting” because by holding on to these beliefs, we are in some way holding ourselves back from achieving our goals. An all-too common example of a self-limiting belief among young leaders often sounds like: “I don’t have enough experience to lead this team, what if I mess everything up?” It’s that fear, and others like it, that stops them for reaching for what they really want – and are more than capable of achieving.
Many professionals and entrepreneurs of all experience levels struggle with self-limiting beliefs. These limiting beliefs act as deflectors or even shields from reality. And like a shield, they’re actually trying to protect us. While they’re protecting us from potential embarrassment, failure, risk – they’re also stifling potential. They prevent us from having the life, the career, or even the relationship we want.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the very reason Outside Insights exists! I spend a good amount of my time helping my stakeholders change and grow and set aside their self-limiting beliefs – my job seekers, hiring managers, customers, small business owners, and, of course, my internal team.
Here are a handful of self-limiting beliefs that you’d likely heard others say, if not said it yourself:
“There are no good jobs out there right now for someone like me.”
Coming from the staffing industry, I can assure you that we see and hear self-limiting beliefs from the workforce everyday. We tend to count ourselves out before the game has even begun! The more years you live you realize that every single person is figuring it out as they go. The ones who have determination and grit are the ones who see success
“I could never start my own business. I don’t have the money or the expertise. I just can’t do what other entrepreneurs have done.”
There is always a way. Every day there is “dry powder” or money to be deployed for new products and new businesses. In fact there is more money than small business startups.
“I am a ‘get it done now’ person. I can’t worry about three months from now, let alone three years”
We all have strengths. Being a “doer” and being action oriented is incredibly important to being productive. Yet, it can be self-limiting to not work on the future and decide on a path you want to take. There is uncertainty with planning anything, to reach out goals we must pause, create a vision for the future and then set your plan into action. You don’t have to be the best. You just have to start!
We all have self-limiting beliefs. In my early formative years as a leader, I was known as a leader who straddled the split rail fence all of the time when it came to evaluating and making a business decision. I told myself I did not have enough information to make the decision, so I would obsess over studying a problem until I had more certainty. Like all big decisions, the feeling of absolute certainty never came no matter how hard I looked at the problem, and often missed the natural window to do something by waiting for the perfect moment. My inability to trust my instinct eventually hurt my credibility with my president and my team. To this day, I have to remind myself to get out of my head and trust my intuition.
So, how do you unlearn your self-limiting beliefs? It starts when we begin to realize that our belief might not actually be the truth. You must question your thinking and beliefs and unravel the narratives you have created for yourself. If you can get in the habit of studying yourself, of looking at your thinking and challenging yourself to create alternatives, you will begin to recognize negative thought patterns that are holding you back. Here are quick steps to get you started:
1 – Remember, change is not easy and it will not serve you well right away.
2 – Now, imagine for a moment that your belief could be wrong.
3 – Consider what this belief is doing for you? What is it trying to protect you from? What do you fear?
4 – Now, think of alternatives to that thought. Instead of thinking “I’m not good enough for that job” think “I could be great. I just need to practice XYZ. I’ll start tomorrow.”
5 – The key is to practice and look at alternatives to your beliefs.
6 – Remind yourself what you wanted in the first place and why you’re challenging your beliefs. Change is easier when we are clear with what we want for ourselves and can see the goal we’re working towards. Getting clear on the future you want makes change easier for me – and hopefully for you, too. This step makes the change worth the work!
Whenever you’re having a negative thought about yourself or a situation, I hope you’ll remember to challenge it. Thoughts aren’t reality. They’re just thoughts. And oftentimes, our imagination can feel like our worst enemy. But remember, you always have the power to turn those thoughts around.
Until next time friends,
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