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What are limiting beliefs?

We use this term in life coaching a lot!

This picture describes it quite accurately. When coaching a client it's usually something that we discover quite early on.

These limiting (and often proved false) beliefs are deeply ingrained in our minds and can impact our behaviour, decisions and overall sense of self. They develop over time based on our experiences, upbringing and societal conditioning.

The problem with these is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If we believe we are not capable of achieving something, we are less likely to try, and even if we do, we may not put in our best effort. This can lead to missed opportunities, unfulfilled dreams and a sense of regret and dissatisfaction with our lives.

Common examples include:

"I'm not good enough"

"I'm to old/young to do that"

"I don't have enough experience/education/resources"

"I'm not lucky enough"

I'm not attractive/smart enough"

They can become so deeply ingrained we may not even be aware of them.

For me personally there are two - "I'm not good enough or smart enough". I always felt that academically I didn't have what it takes. I heard this from a family member at an impressionable age and because of this I left school at 16, having been discouraged from going on to do A levels. I completed a secretarial course and went into work, believing that was all I was capable of.

It held me back for years, but at 36 years old, I completed my Level 3 in Childrens Care Learning and Development, ignoring the comments and deciding that I was going to try it anyway. The tutors wanted me to go on and complete the level 5, telling me I was more than capable and could go in as management. Because of my limiting beliefs, I didn't believe them and never applied. I wasn't good enough.

The core of my limiting beliefs came from a sibling, but truth be told they can come from anyone e.g parents, teachers, family, friends. Back in the day when Blockbusters was on the TV and I got a question right, my former husband used to laugh and ask in a surprised tone "How do you know the answer to that?", further reinforcing this belief long into adult life. It often happened during quiz shows. It' didn't help that he was an academic and had got into Queens to study law, it all seemed so easy for him. And I felt so stupid despite knowing the answer.

It took me a further 6 years to attempt to do something I actually wanted to do.

A friend encouraged me as she saw something in me that I couldn't see and for that I will always be grateful. It has been life changing. From that moment onwards, I decided that I would try and, even if I failed, I haven't failed myself. By this I mean that I intend to get to the end of my life knowing that I have tried and have no regrets, instead of regretting the fact that I didn't.

The limiting belief is still there, raising it's ugly head every now and again, but I know what it is and I push it aside. I challenge it because no one else is going to do it for me.

Now I'm in the business of helping people challenge their limiting beliefs. For some it's reassurance and a reminder of what they have succeeded in so far, knowing they are aware of what these beliefs are and are part of the way to proving it wrong. For others it goes a bit deeper, as we question where they have came from and if they still apply today in the here and now.

The first step is identifying the limiting beliefs. Reflecting on your thoughts and attitudes towards different aspects of your life e.g. career, relationships, health etc. We notice any negative thoughts or beliefs that come up repeatedly.

We question them. Are they based on facts or assumptions? Do they serve you or hold you back? What evidence is there to support them?

Then we challenge them. What evidence is there that proves them wrong. If you're still reading up to this point and can't seem to find any, you can try talking to people who have achieved what you want to achieve or who have a different perspective. What do they see in you? You can talk to friends, family, colleagues, partners or even a life coach, if you feel the conversation isn't one you wish to share so close to home.

The next stage is taking action. Start small and build up gradually. Celebrate your successes along the way, even if they are small. Remember big changes start with small steps.

The art of self-compassion is also important. Limiting beliefs are challenging. It's ok to make mistakes or experience setbacks. Talk to yourself with the same kindness you would offer a friend who has suffered a setback.

I know from personal experience that change takes time and while it is challenging, if it's something that you enjoy that you are attempting, sometimes it doesn't seem like so much of a challenge.

Letting go of limiting beliefs is also an opportunity to prove others wrong, but what would happen if you could prove it to yourself?


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