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Those Limiting Beliefs You Have (or do you?)

It’s been said that whatever you believe becomes your reality. You do not believe what you see; rather, you see what you already believe. For this reason, two people facing the same situation may interpret it differently, act according to their different beliefs, and experience different outcomes.

Our beliefs are assumptions we have about the world. They grow from what we see, hear, experience, read, or think about. They also grow from what we absorb from our parents, our family, our culture, and our childhood experiences. They are built as we go along so we tend not to question them. Once a belief is formed, you will work overtime to prove it right, even if the belief is something negative like ‘nobody likes me’ or ‘I am a failure’.

Beliefs can change.

In NLP, beliefs fall into one of two overarching categories: empowering or limiting. Empowering beliefs help us confidently make changes and decisions. Limiting beliefs do the exact opposite, and can prevent us from changing or trying something new and diminish our energy. Limiting beliefs typically sound like ‘I am ugly’, ‘I will never be successful’, or ‘I can’t work with those kind of people’. They are usually outside of our conscious awareness, meaning we don’t even know that they exist.

It is only by identifying and understanding our beliefs, which are at the core of who we are, that we can use them, or change them, to guide our decisions and behaviour in all areas of life. This in turn builds our commitment to achieving something.

Our beliefs govern us, even if they are harmful. The more understanding and control we have over our beliefs, the more choice we present to ourselves. Admit and nurture only those thoughts that enhance your positive programming and move you towards your goals.

Sometimes a belief may have been useful as a child, such as the belief instilled in many of us to ‘not talk to strangers’. However, this isn’t a useful belief as we grow up and have a need to build new connections (either for work or for relationships) with people we don’t know. This belief doesn’t serve us beyond a certain point in time and may become a limiting belief.

Limiting beliefs can also be based on assumptions that are not true. For instance, some of us may say ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I’m not creative’, which becomes true because we believe it.

Beliefs can be a result of significant experiences in our lives. A wonderful belief I formed at a young age (around ten­­ years old) was that I was an awesome swimmer, as I had won the swimming championship for my primary school region for three years running. The following year this belief was completely busted when I moved to a much larger high school and competed with a much larger group. I found that actually I was an average swimmer, and struggled to even get a place in the races I competed in! 

The reason I focus on people’s limiting beliefs is to help them to understand that they can change how they ‘do’ the world. Having someone becoming aware of what beliefs are limiting them or preventing them from achieving their desired state is often all that is needed to move on and achieve it.

When attempting to overcome limiting beliefs, the first step is to become aware of them. With my swimming I didn’t consciously make a decision to not try so hard after the first year in high school. However, I developed a limiting belief from that point on as I unconsciously believed I couldn’t compete against town kids who had access to swimming pools every day when I didn’t. It was only many years later that I understood why I had given up on my dream to be a champion swimmer.

Our limiting beliefs have a way of hiding from us, though you may be aware of other people’s limiting beliefs due to the way they may say things. For example:

  • ‘My goal cannot be achieved.’
  • ‘My goal could be achieved, but I don’t have the ability to do it.’
  • ‘I don’t deserve this because of [something I am or am not or something I have or have not done].”

Think about the way you say things to yourself or others. If you find yourself saying things like this you need to ask yourself:

  • Why is this goal unattainable?
  • What skills do I need to develop to achieve this goal?
  • Why don’t I deserve to achieve this goal?

Limiting beliefs have formed for a reason, which was generally in your best interests at the time of forming. Think about the reasons behind some of your beliefs. Simply thinking about why you believe something is sometimes enough to see how limiting or ridiculous the belief is.

Sometimes evidence that we can do something is all that is needed to change a limiting belief. Just try doing it. Once proven wrong, the belief will change instantly and lose its power.

We explore this as part of our NLP training – coming up soon.

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