4 Steps to Release “Limiting Beliefs” Learned From Childhood
This works whether you've adopted limiting beliefs from childhood or adulthood.
Posted Nov 05, 2013
"We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience." –Louise L. Hay
Last month, I talked about limiting decisions, how they can be formed and how they negatively impact our lives. (If you missed that article, check it out).
I asked you to start unearthing your own limiting decisions by asking yourself a few questions:
- What are the results you’ve produced in the various areas of your life?
- Where are your results not in alignment with what you really want to be, do or have?
- What area of your life have you really tried to improve but, no matter what, things just didn’t get better?
Your limiting decisions are hiding out in the areas where you’re producing results that you don’t want.
Your limiting decisions have shaped everything you do. They have prevented you from seeing opportunities and maybe even discouraged you from trying at all. Time to bring them out of hiding. Once you do that, you have choice.
So how to identify those pesky devils? First, what do you say to yourself about that area? For example, if you’re having trouble finding a relationship, maybe you explain it with something like, “Women only want men who have a lot of money” or, “Guys are only interested in younger women.” Anything you say to yourself to justify why it isn’t working out for you is a limiting belief.
Will that belief sound true to you? Of course! It will sound perfectly reasonable and valid and you probably can come up with lots of evidence supporting it! But it’s still a belief that is getting in the way of what you want. So unless you’re willing to totally give up on your goals and desires, it’s a limiting decision that you don’t want to keep around.
Sometimes limiting decisions are not that conscious. Maybe you’ve learned to squelch your negative thoughts before they get revved up, and you’ve have gotten good at positive self-talk. So you don’t hear any limiting beliefs in your head. But you’ll know you’ve still got a limiting decision lurking if your emotions are negative about that area.
For example, if you’re bogged down with financial pressures, how do you feel about it? Anxious? Angry? Hopeless? If you stay with that emotion and acknowledge it for a moment, you’ll find the limiting belief right beneath it. For example, anxiety might be saying, “What will people think of me?” Anger might reflect, “Life isn’t fair to people like me.” Underneath hopelessness might be, “I’m just not strong enough or smart enough to figure this out.”
Now that you’ve dragged some of those limiting beliefs out of the closet, what do you do with them? In the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) I teach, we have several specific processes to unearth and eliminate limiting beliefs. I can’t teach them fully in this article, but here are some steps to get you started:
Step 1: Write the limiting belief down. Play detective and follow your thoughts and emotions to discover the limiting beliefs that hold you back. Put them on paper and stare them in the face! You might note how strong each belief is and what emotions they elicit in you.
Step 2: Acknowledge that these are beliefs, not truths! This is often the hardest step. “But, but, my limitations are real!” Here’s the place where choice comes in. Which are you more interested in: defending your limitations to the death or achieving your goals and desires? As author Evelyn Waugh wrote, “When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them.” You choose.
Step 3: Try on a different belief. Use your imagination and try on a belief that is aligned with what you want. It might be something like, “My financial difficulties in the past have taught me so much that I’m fully prepared to handle them now!” Or, “Now that I’ve been in an unhealthy relationship I’ve learned what to look for in a happy, loving partner!”
The trick is to go beyond just saying it. You want to really step into this new belief and feel how it feels. Done thoroughly, Steps 2 and 3 will go a long way to dismantling your old limiting decision.
Step 4: Take different action. This might feel scary, but act as if your new belief is true. In other words, if you really are the kind of man women adore, how would you act at parties? Who might you ask out? If you really are capable and have learned a tremendous amount from past financial difficulties, what steps would you take? If you really are the kind of person who eats healthy food, what will you put in your grocery cart?
If you avoid taking any steps based on your new belief, you will just feed your old limiting belief. Taking action, even the smallest step, will help solidify your new un-limiting decision. Your first steps don’t have to be perfect, just headed in the right direction. And be sure to acknowledge yourself when you’ve taken that step.
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is president of The Empowerment Partnership, where students learn Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna and Hypnosis.