Limiting beliefs – the beliefs we have that limit us from doing what we want to do.
I can’t think of a clearer definition of ‘a limiting belief’ than that. As there are times and situations when we don’t do what we know we can do, there are limiting beliefs which reinforce this. They could be varied, from the incredibly common ones such as “I don’t have the money” and “I don’t have the time”, to more specific ones such as “I don’t think he would accept my proposal”. But we all have limiting beliefs of all shapes and sizes.
A fun test of mine when I encounter someone who claims he/she doesn’t have limiting beliefs is to ask them to think of the most outrageous, grandest dream they have. Sometimes this is to ‘become a billionaire’, or to ‘travel the world’, or ‘to find lasting happiness’. Once they’ve told me that dream, I then ask them “What’s stopping you from reaching that dream?” They usually roll off the regular excuses, and once they’re finished, I say “Those reasons you have just listed, they’re limiting beliefs”.
How Do Limiting Beliefs Limit Us?
As you can tell from the name, ‘limiting beliefs’ limit us. They exist for a sole purpose – to limit our views of what we are capable of. This is the opposite of ‘empowering beliefs’, which empower our views.
When we initially think we can achieve something, such as becoming a billionaire or even a millionaire, we fill ourselves with empowering beliefs that bolster our perceptions. We honestly think we can do it. But when we think of a limiting belief, such as “I won’t have the time” or “I’m not talented enough”, then the passion we previously had fades away, and we feel drained.
Our views have been shackled, and the end result is that we no longer feel that our desire is within our reach, even though we previously thought it was. We have ‘downplayed’ our abilities and potential.
To go deeper into this, here are three ways in which limiting beliefs can limit us:
- They Affect Our Chances Of Meaningful Relationships
Relationships are the soul, the heartbeat of society. Without meaningful relationships, our societies would crumble. So, as society is still around, it’s good to know that there are such relationships in existence in our society, where people can communicate with one another without fear of criticism or put-downs. However, meaningful relationships are the exception rather than the norm.
The majority of relationships aren’t deep at all – they are based on shallow waters. For example, our relations with the majority of our colleagues only exist because of work, or others don’t speak with distant relatives for years even though we can easily communicate with someone on the other side of the world. Instead of taking the time to cultivate relationships with more fruit, we let the possibilities wither and fade.
The reasons for this are down to our limiting beliefs. These beliefs damage our chances of meaningful relationships with others by damaging our perceptions of these relationships.
Instead of taking the time to phone or e-mail a distant relative or friend, we let our limiting beliefs tell us that they should make the first move. Instead of spending time with an important colleague during our lunch break, we let our limiting beliefs tell us that it’s not worth the time. We limit our chances for relationships on a deeper level because we’re unwilling to make room for deeper levels.
It’s like if we have a pond in our garden and we want to put more fish in. To do this, we need more water and more space for the fish. But if we don’t think it’s that important, then we don’t do it, and the pond will remain shallow.
- They Distort Our Perceptions Of Reality
As previously mentioned, limiting beliefs have one purpose, which is to limit our views as to what we are capable of. This, in turn, limits and distorts our perceptions of reality.
I talked a little about our perceptions of reality in Through The Stained Glass Window, where we have the tendency to believe our own lenses rather than what lies out in the world, beyond our lenses. These ‘lenses’ that we possess, which act as a stained glass window that distorts our vision, are formed from our limiting beliefs.
Let’s take a goal that many people have made a reality – become a millionaire. If you had limiting beliefs that were against you becoming a millionaire, then you wouldn’t believe that you could do it. And yet, it has been done by numerous people from numerous backgrounds who didn’t let their limiting beliefs distort their perceptions of reality. They chose to believe in the reality that they could become a millionaire, even though their limiting beliefs would try to tell them otherwise.
In reality, it could be possible to become a multi-millionaire, or even a billionaire. But what matters is whether we believe that this is possible for us.
- They Prevent You Living The Life You Want
This is perhaps the greatest ‘sin’ of limiting beliefs – preventing you from living the life that you want.
We all want certain parts of our life to improve, and we all want other parts to stay as they are because they’re so good. To take myself as an example, I wish my relationship would stay as it is, yet I wish I had enough money to buy a beautiful house where my girlfriend and I could live. To wish for change in some areas of our life, and yet resist change in other areas, is normal.
The problems lie with our limiting beliefs preventing us from changing the aspects we don’t want, and our appreciation of the aspects we do want.
To be content with something is to be happy with it, to accept it as it is. However, our limiting beliefs limit us because they hold us back from experiencing this appreciation. We start wishing for change when, deep down, we know we don’t need it. Our relationships are already great, yet our limiting beliefs may be constantly searching for the little ‘niggles’ that are wrong.
On the other hand, we may wish to change our jobs because we aren’t fulfilling our needs, yet our limiting beliefs may prevent us from changing because of the fear of risk. We don’t want to risk what we have, even though what we have isn’t ideal. So we don’t bother.
Recognise where and how limiting beliefs are limiting you. This will help you gain a clearer perspective on your situation, and your life.