Updated: Jan 18
I used to be resistant to addressing the limiting beliefs I knew I had about myself. I read the books, bought the courses and listened to all the advice but I’d stop short of actually doing the work to make a change. In the short term, it felt more comfortable to ignore them but, inevitably, I reached a point where the feelings of dissatisfaction caused more pain than pleasure.
When I finally committed to making a change, I used the questions below to guide me. I found them to be the most effective method to identify, understand and overcome what was holding me back.
Making lasting change is a process and it’s rarely a quick one. We need to be ready for it and willing to let go of old habits that are keeping us ‘safe’ but also stuck.
Limiting beliefs become engrained in our subconscious mind without us realising. We unknowingly adopt them as a method of defence and self-preservation. However, when they no longer serve us we need to let them go in order to move forward.
Where did these beliefs come from?
First, it's important to know what beliefs you have about yourself and where they came from. Set aside time to work through the questions below, it may take some time to uncover complete answers.
What do I believe to be true about myself? Why do I think believe these things?
Think about how you describe yourself to others or internally.
Do you believe you’re not good at maths, that you’re always late, that you don’t know how to strike up conversation?
There will likely be a mix of empowering and disempowering beliefs in this list. For this exercise, only note down the disempowering beliefs.
What thoughts do I think repeatedly each day?
It might take a few days to get a comprehensive list here. So many of our beliefs are subconscious that it will take some real focus and attention to become aware. Set reminders each day to reflect on the thoughts you've had and how you reacted to different situations.
What stories do I tell myself repeatedly?
Another subconscious habit we all have is creating stories around the situations we experience to feel more in control. When we lack the information to make truly informed decisions, we feel uncomfortable and are more inclined to make up stories to explain the behaviour of others. Maybe a friend is taking time to reply and your brain defaults to thinking, “They don’t like me” or “I annoy them when I message”. Observe the stories you tell yourself and note them down.
What do I hear from the outside world about my goals?
Whether we realise or not, even if we’re not paying full attention, our brain is constantly alert and taking in our surroundings. This information is a significant factor that influences our beliefs and, as a result, how we make decisions. What do you believe as a result of the things you hear or that society tells us we should expect from ourselves or our lives?
When I envision myself in 5 years, what do I see?
There may be two different responses to this question. You might have grand plans that you’d love to achieve, but part of you doesn’t believe it's possible. Another part of you might be more ‘realistic’ and doesn’t see your life much different from how it is now. There’s no wrong answer here, write down what you feel is true for you.
Now you’ve identified these beliefs, it’s time to analyse where they came from and what you’re preventing yourself from experiencing by continuing to believe them.
Does it still serve you to believe them? Probably not.
Answering the following questions is a good place to start. As before, it will take time to consciously unlearn these beliefs and the habit of repeating these stories to yourself.
Rewrite your limiting beliefs
Using the list you have created after answering the first question above, start by naming the limiting belief you want to address.
Does this belief serve me?
How has this belief negatively affected me?
Where did this belief come from?
What’s the earliest time in my life I remember holding this belief?
Why am I continuing to hold this belief?
How would I feel if I let it go?
What actions and emotions would become available to me if I adopted the opposite of this belief?
Repeat this at your own pace until you rewrite all the limiting beliefs you've identified.
As I’ve mentioned, this will be an ongoing process. Not only to remain aware when you begin to repeat old stories or slip into previous negative patterns of thinking, but also to keep working through new subconscious beliefs as you become aware of them.