For many people, believing in themselves can be their biggest challenge. Our beliefs act as an on/off switch in our brains yet they are often largely unconscious in that we may not be aware of them. I call these ‘limiting beliefs’.
For example, you may have a goal of starting your own business, so you study hard to develop the skills and abilities to enable you to do it well. You visualise that goal every day. You imagine what it will be like – what you will see, hear and feel inside when you have achieved your goal. Yet, if you also have a little voice in your head telling you that you’ll never be good enough to achieve that dream, you are unlikely to have the confidence to ever to get going. And if you do get started, you may well give up when the going gets tough.
In this Attitude we are going to explore how to change these limiting beliefs or fixed ideas that we have about ourselves. Everyone has them; the good news is that they can be changed! So what are beliefs?
Our beliefs are views or ideas we have about ourselves, other people and situations that we hold to be true. Like our values, our beliefs are formed early on in our lives. We collect beliefs from those closest to us at that time, such as parents, teachers, church leaders, close family, and any other important people in our lives.
For example, my personal upbringing in the East End of London greatly influenced my beliefs about work and money, and limited my thinking about what was possible for me and my business for many years. The most important thing to understand about beliefs is that they are generalisations that we create from life experiences. Most of us do not consciously decide what we believe. Furthermore, once we have a belief we forget that it can be changed, and it becomes our reality. Now that’s scary.
Changing our scripts
We can take steps to change our beliefs and I’m going to show you how to do this. We’re going to start by noting both the limiting and empowering beliefs you’ve noticed about yourself. If you’re not sure how to get started, think about areas in your life where you are not yet getting the results you want. I guarantee there will be limiting beliefs that are holding you back. What do you think they are? What are the recurring patterns you’ve noticed in your life so far?
Step 1: My limiting beliefs
Examples of limiting beliefs include:
- Negations – e.g., I’m not capable, I can’t make money, I’m too old, etc.
- Comparatives – e.g., I’m not good enough
- Generalisations – e.g., My partners always let me down
- All beliefs – e.g., I don’t believe I can do it
Have a go at writing down your own limiting beliefs. If you aren’t sure what they are ask those close to you or keep a journal every day and record when you have any thoughts or negative feelings that hold you back in some way – whatever they are. Sometimes bringing these things into your conscious awareness is actually enough for you to realise that it’s time to let them go.
Step 2 – My Empowering Beliefs
Examples of empowering beliefs include:
- I’m good at what I do
- People like me
- I’m a confident person
Next, consider areas where you are getting the results you want. What empowering beliefs are helping you to achieve that? Have a go at writing down these too.
Step 3: My Three Most Empowering Beliefs
Choose your three most empowering beliefs.
Step 4: My Three Most Limiting Beliefs
Next, circle your three most limiting beliefs and ask yourself the cost of failing to let go of these beliefs, in terms of your goals. In other words, if you don’t let them go, how will your goals be compromised? Write down the answers below and be honest with yourself. That wasn’t pleasant was it? It wasn’t meant to be. If we associate enough pain with a situation it often provides the ‘tipping point’, or impetus, for change. You may find that your limiting beliefs have already begun to be shaken up just by being aware of them and recognising the negative impact they have on your life.
Step 5: Changing your limiting beliefs
We are going to work with each of your limiting beliefs in turn. Take your first limiting belief – e.g., ‘I’ll never have a successful relationship’. As you think about that belief, notice the image you create in your mind. Notice what you see, hear and feel. Play around with the image by turning down the brightness of the picture, moving it further away from you, turning down the volume of any sounds and making any feelings less intense. Sounds weird, I know, but our brains can do this easily!
Then ask yourself: What’s the opposite of that limiting belief? In this case it is ‘I will have a successful relationship’. As you think about having a successful relationship, notice the image you create in your mind. Notice what you see, hear and feel. This time really ramp up your senses and especially your feelings. Make the picture brighter, the sounds louder and the feelings stronger. Make sure you are looking through your own eyes. You’ll know you’re doing this right when you start to feel good about this idea. Now we are ready to start:
- Get back the image in your mind that you will never have a successful relationship. Now, replace it with the image that you will have a successful relationship. Make this image even more compelling each time you access it. Really go for it!
- Continue doing this until you can no longer access the first image – all you have clearly in your mind is the new empowering image of you in a successful relationship.
At first, you may find that you can get the idea of the limiting belief very easily, and the idea of the opposite or more positive idea may take longer. That’s fine. As you as soon turn up the brightness, sounds and feelings, the intensity will change. Even if you can only get the opposite or positive ideal briefly at first, it is fine. You will notice that it becomes easier as the old limiting belief fades away. Once the old belief starts to fade away you know you are close to being finished. Keep going until it disappears completely.
Now ask yourself how you feel about that old limiting belief. Do the same for your other limiting beliefs and notice them freeing up and moving out of your system.
Find somewhere quiet to relax. Close your eyes and imagine a point in the future when you totally believe in yourself. What will you look like, feel like and sound like when you truly believe in yourself? Now look back from that point in time to where you are at present. Notice how all the events between then and now can and will re-evaluate them in light of your new beliefs about yourself. It’s totally possible! As soon as you take the first step forwards you will begin to re-programme your future.