Stop for a moment and think about what you really want, your biggest dream and deepest desire. Did that feel exciting? Was there a burst of energy running through you simply at the thought? Did your heart even skip a beat?
Now try to remember what that felt like because fast on its heels will come the ‘reality check’. Resistance strikes, fear takes over and all the reasons why that dream is impossible will fill your mind. That light, wonderful feeling is gone, replaced by the heaviness of dread and trepidation. You talk yourself out of your dream and become small again, in effect, put back in your place.
Does this sound familiar?
Whether you are aware of it or not there is a voice in your head that goes on and on all day long. It interprets what’s going on around you and tells a number of different stories about what they mean, what you should think and what you should do about it.
When I stopped to listen, I realised that the voice had an opinion about everything and more annoyingly it talked to me about me …. all the time. This ‘self-talk’, depending on whether it was positive or negative, would have the effect of either making me feel empowered and energised or bordering on the downright miserable. It was a constant battle going on in my mind.
What I learned was that what the voice says depends on what your beliefs are. Beliefs about yourself, the people you interact with, and the environment within which you live. Those beliefs will determine whether you downgrade your expectations or whether you strive to live to your full potential. They will determine whether you pursue a well-balanced, successful life or a limited, unhealthy one. Your beliefs determine who you become.
What is a belief?
A belief is an assumed truth, an acceptance that something exists or is true. You create beliefs to anchor yourself to what is an ever-changing world. They are the lens through which you view the world. They can define for you what is good or bad, possible or impossible. They affect your perception and perspective of events in the world and they help define who you are and what you stand for.
Beliefs influence your relationships, directly affect the actions you take and determine what limits you put on yourself. They are so powerful that they, in effect, define your reality. If you are to achieve your goals and create the life you want, understanding what yours are and whether they are helping or hurting you is key.
Beliefs don’t just appear out of nowhere
Many of your beliefs are ones you adopted growing up. As a child, you created meanings from your experiences (what you saw, heard, and were told). Others were beliefs you inherited from your community and family. You were socialised and in effect conditioned to take on certain attitudes and believe certain ‘truths’. The filters through which you saw and interpreted the world were created.
Your beliefs pervade every aspect of your life and if you look back to your childhood you will find that many of them have existed for as long as you can remember.
Looking back at my life I could see the origins of my beliefs around relationships, what success meant, how I should look and act, even what fields were suitable careers. What astounded me was that many of these beliefs were not ones I had ever consciously chosen. They had been imposed upon me and I had just taken them on.
But beliefs can also emerge as a result of significant events in your life especially those that impact you emotionally. These can influence you and create patterns in your thinking and behaviour. They are sometimes able to completely change your view of the world.
So what’s the problem?
The truth is that we all have a number of beliefs and many of them are perfectly fine. They allow us to function, achieve and progress. They help us live happy, fulfilled lives. Those beliefs that are working for us are not ones we worry about but some of them work against us. These are called limiting beliefs and they prevent us from going for and reaching our goals and desires.
Some limiting beliefs are clear to see: ‘ I’m not smart enough,’, ‘I’m too old to start a business now.’ , ‘ It’s hard to succeed as a woman.’, ‘I’ll never find love.’, ‘I’ll never be happy,’ the list goes on.
When that voice speaks in your mind the statements sound perfectly reasonable and accurate. In fact, you would probably come up with lots of evidence for why they are true. The problem is by believing in those limiting beliefs you see your goals and dreams as out of reach and as a result, you give up without even trying.
Some limiting beliefs are not so obvious – they pervade the things you do, limit the goals you set, and can show up in your feelings in a particular situation. Look beneath the feeling and sometimes a limiting belief is at its core.
Just because you believe it doesn’t make it true
My big AHA moment came when I realised that just because I believed something that didn’t mean it was true.
It may feel like the truth because once a belief is established you don’t question it. As you grow, learn and evolve you don’t challenge what you think, and let’s be honest it’s scary to question what has probably been a part of you your entire life. As a result, you continue along unaware that:
- What you believe is holding us back.
- What you believe is preventing you from seeing opportunities.
- What you believe is discouraging you from even trying.
Your unfulfilled life is your creation
Are you unhappy with the life you’re living? Remember it’s a product of decisions you’ve made and actions you’ve taken as a result. If you want to change it you will need to change your behaviour and the key to that is understanding why you do the things you do.
Are you willing to consider the possibility that your beliefs may be limiting your outlook? Are you willing to question what you are certain you know to be true? Are you willing to be courageous?
You have the power to change what you believe
Remember, no matter what you’ve done and what has happened to you in the past, you can decide to take a different path. You can decide to believe something different. Something that empowers you and moves you in the direction of your goal.
Take that first step today
If you’re going to change these limiting beliefs you need to recognise them for what they are. You need to know how and where to find them. A big first step is to cultivate awareness. Start paying attention to the voice in your head and the things you tell yourself. Do you encourage yourself sometimes but find that it’s mostly negative? In next week’s article, I’ll talk about some techniques I’ve used to hunt down limiting beliefs in my own life.
Now over to you:
Are there any things you believe are holding you back?
Are you aware of that critical voice in your head?
Let me know in the comments.