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6 Self-limiting Beliefs That May Be Holding You Back

(and how to Use Empowering Opposites to conquer them.)

A self-limiting belief is a story you tell yourself that excuses you from achieving your potential or otherwise causing your life to be less than you desire. 

The problem is, a limiting belief has the power to crush our dreams, and when we reinforce this belief, day after day, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Some of the most frequently used limiting beliefs include:

  1. I can’t…
  2. I’m too old to…
  3. I’ll never be able to retire.
  4. I’ll probably fail.
  5. I’m not smart enough to…
  6. I can’t trust anyone.

These beliefs are mostly irrational and unproductive. They rob you of what you want to be, do and have.

Sometimes these beliefs are sneaky, because we may not realize we even think them. But they are a huge factor in how we respond to people and events. These unhealthy beliefs lead us to doubt and insecurity. They are also a key ingredient in our self-esteem – the way we see ourselves. 

Our self-esteem is programmed from early childhood, at a subconscious level to see ourselves and the world in certain ways.  This comes from a variety of sources, including our own interpretation of the world as we become adults.  

While we believe these thoughts to be true, we have the amazing ability to take any limiting thought and turn it into a positive, reinforcing thought – a belief that when repeated, and practiced can be a more positive, productive, and empowering belief. 

Question Your Thoughts

Recognizing your self-limiting beliefs is the first step in opening up your full potential. Anytime you feel like limiting beliefs are holding you back, question your thoughts.

Answering these questions can help you determine a more realistic, rational view of the situation.

1. What evidence supports or is contrary to my limiting thought?  Is this really true? Look for evidence to the contrary and don’t ignore positive feedback.

For example, do you receive constant praise for your talent or ability from others, but because you feel you are still inadequate, you shy away from pursuing that talent? 

Absent any supporting evidence, you can always choose not to believe this limiting thought.

2. Is there something in my past that helped create this feeling of inadequacy? 

Studies show a negative environment of constant criticism as a child can foster an insecurity as an adult.

3. Is this important enough to me to change my thoughts about it?

What will happen if I change my limiting thoughts to more positive, productive thoughts.  Genuinely examine them and consider the change that your life would experience if you weren’t held back by that belief.

4. What is my “Empowering Opposite” to this thought?

Once you are aware of the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back, create a new belief that I call an Empowering Opposite.

The Power of Empowering Opposites

Here are some “Empowering Opposites” and positive self-talk to help overcome some of the common self-limiting beliefs. 

“I can do anything I set my mind to do.”

(instead of, “I can’t”)

“I can’t,” usually means “I don’t want to,” or “I believe I can’t.” Too often, when we lack confidence in our ability to do something we refuse to try. In reality, when we really want to do something, we figure out a way to do it.

The way we talk to ourselves plays a huge role in how we perceive ourselves and whether we choose to take on challenges and pursue our dreams.

Many of our self-limiting beliefs (as well as our can-do attitudes) are instilled in us by our parents at an early age. This is why one of the best ideas a parent can instill in their child is a strong ‘Can do’ attitude. It gives children a solid foundation to build upon.

“It’s never too late to …..”

(instead of, “I’m too old to…”)

Well, what are you doing the rest of your life?  I know a person who attended night classes for 14 years while working full time and raising a family.  During weak moments she repeated to herself, “I can be 40 years old with a degree, or without a degree.  What would I be doing with this time otherwise.” 

Love getting older…. It beats the alternative.

Here’s what I want to do in retirement and this is how I will create it.”

(instead of, “I’ll never be able to retire.”) 

I will plan my life, and my future around what I want it to be.  All I do will support my goals. Is what I am doing now contributing to my life goals?”

“I’ll keep trying until I succeed.”

(instead of, “I’ll probably fail.”) 

Failure is success in disguise, because each failure is a lesson in what doesn’t work, and a step closer to success.”

One of the presuppositions of NeuroLinguistic Programming (the science of personal excellence)  states that there is “no failure, only feedback”

“I can learn how to ….”

instead of, “I’m not smart enough to…”

This is a sneaky one sometimes programmed in us in early life by overly critical people.  

One of my favorite quotes is from Grace Lever (7 figure entrepreneur). “I am an intelligent person, and everything is work-outable.”

Figure our your genius zone and build on it.

“I will trust myself to do the right thing, and I will give others the benefit of the doubt.”

instead of, “I can’t trust anyone”.

A part of not trusting others is sometimes a projection of the lack of trust we have in ourselves.  Giving people the benefit of the doubt can actually lead to stronger relationships.

Any time a limiting thought creeps in, quickly replace it with your Empowering Opposite thought that supports the direction and action you have chosen to take. 

Our lives and feelings are a reflection of our beliefs.

When our beliefs change, our life changes. Stating new beliefs and intentions can have profoundly positive effects.

When you choose your thoughts you choose your future.

Choose empowering thoughts that will help you to move forward.

What are your ‘can do’ desires and your self-talk about these desires? Why do you want to do this? What will it take to get there? What are the trade-ups.  Are you willing to do what it takes? 

There is no such thing as “I can’t.” Because you always have a choice. 


4 Replies to “6 Self-limiting Beliefs That May Be Holding You Back”

  • Welcome back, Ms. Marshall. Enjoy your topics. Your work sort of reminds me of the Erhard Seminar Training (EST) Don and I took several years ago (living in TX) — like in the 70s (pre Bob). One of my sessions was with Werner himself — very powerful! It was probably the most enlightening time of my life and an excellent foundation for today and tomorrow. I was active with EST for several years and have fond memories of my time. Keep those empowering word a coming. In today’s climate we could all use them. 🙂

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