Written by Sharon Lee
Limiting Beliefs. They seem to have a way of creeping up and joining the party, right when things are getting good. Or right when you're about to embark on a new adventure, challenge yourself, or step outside of your comfort zone. They pop up unannounced and immediately get to work by planting the seed of self doubt in your precious mind. And like a weed, our negative thoughts start to rapidly spring up from that seed. Limiting beliefs can be a showstopper but by identifying these thoughts early and countering them with evidence of success, compassion and the bravery to let them go, you can kick those suckers right out of your invite-only event.
So what are limiting beliefs? Simply put they're your insecurities, fears, self doubt, and negative patterns, manifested into a powerful wall that brings to a halt your plans to be and feel like a badass. Oftentimes, it's the abrupt curtain call to a show that has barely gotten started. Does this sound familiar? You get an amazing opportunity to speak at an event about something you really believe in. You're excited, you're honored, and you want to say YES! except there is a little (but strong) voice inside of you that says "Oh HELLLLL no. You can't speak in public!!! You'll turn red, your voice will shake, and people will be judging you and they'll know how little you actually know on the topic." I've been there, plenty o' times. You aren't alone, and you aren't weak for having these limiting thoughts. But instead of letting these thoughts dis-empower you from achieving your goals, let's talk about how you can combat them for good.
1. Think about the challenge before you and speak honestly to yourself about what that challenge means to you.
Be honest with yourself and give yourself room to speak the truth. This is where you find a quiet corner and ask yourself, why is this challenge important to me? Let's use the public speaking example. Why is doing this speech important to me? As scary as it is, I do want to become a great public speaker. I see public speaking as a platform for expressing thoughts and ideas by captivating an audience and articulating why I believe something to be important. I also process and explain best when I am speaking - it's the mode of communication that works for me and I want to get better at. As much as I really dread it, I know it's one more step to getting better at it. Now the next question - is this something that I truly want to overcome. If there is a voice in you that says "yes", no matter how little that voice is, it's worth listening to. You've now put value to the challenge, which makes it important.
2. Give these limiting thoughts a name and a purpose, and ring fence their role in your life.
That voice? It's real, and it's oftentimes very strong. But it's you're fear talking, and it is taking a potential negative outcome and making it a guaranteed fact. And for some reason, we are so inclined to believe the negative rather than to believe that a positive outcome is just as much likely to happen, if not more with some prep work. So take a step, gather your limiting thoughts and give them a name and a purpose. By doing so, you gain some control - you create a ring fence around the power and capability of these thoughts (limit your limiting beliefs) and you can dictate the role they have in your life (which, is minimal). For example, these thoughts are Limiting Beliefs. Their purpose is to prevent me from doing the thing that makes me uncomfortable or challenging, but can propel me towards achieving my goals or becoming the person I know I can be. These thoughts come from a place of fear, not from a place of love, not from a place of reality, and certainly not from a place that is protecting you from a bad outcome. It may seem like these thoughts are protecting you, but they are not. They are literally limiting you from reaching your goals and from experiencing new challenges that can be the building block to increasing your confidence. Don't give these thoughts more power than they actually have and definitely don't give them a story line.
3. Combat the limiting thought with actual concrete evidence.
Here's an exercise that I would provide to my coaching clients who struggle with limiting beliefs. Also, keep in mind, that no matter how far up the ladder you go, or how calm, cool and collected one seems, women and men suffer from limiting beliefs ALL. THE. TIME. So here's what I'd do with my clients. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center of the page. On the left side, write a list of the limiting thoughts that come up when you're facing a particular circumstance. Right across each item on the right side of the column, write down a real example or thought that defeats the limiting thought. For example: Limiting thought: I am going to screw up this presentation because my face will get red, my voice will shake, and everyone will know that I lack confidence in my work. Real Fact: The last few times I've given presentations, they've all gone very well. I'm actually really good on my feet and others thought my prior presentations came off very strong. I freak out before every presentation, and every presentation has ended up going really well for me.
OR. Say you have no factual evidence to disqualify your limiting thought. Then write down why this is something you want to do, and that you are choosing to do because you know that it will benefit you. The idea is that while the limiting thought tries to make you feel powerless, you can combat it with a thought that empowers you. You are choosing to take this action, because you want to get closer to your goal. You choose to do this, you are not powerless to it. It didn't just happen to you, the opportunity presented itself to you because you are capable of doing it well.
4. Two mantras that have helped me through many stressful situations.
I love mantras because they are a quick tool that I can whip out and use immediately and without anyone knowing. When I remember them, that is. But when I do, they are immensely helpful.
Here's mantra 1: "I am willing to see this differently". I have a tendency to stick to old patterns of thought. I cling on to certain negative thoughts like it's a safety blanket, to prepare me for my worst. But the worst never happens. Ever. So I say this mantra because it reminds me that I don't have to approach this situation like I always do. I can choose to see it differently. I can choose to see it as a new situation and not an extension of my past freak outs. I choose, it's my choice, to see this differently.
Here's mantra 2: "I choose again". Not quite your typical mantra, more of a reminder. When I have that self doubting voice that comes up, I say to myself, "Nope. I choose again." I choose again, and again, and again, until I finally choose a thought that doesn't negate my abilities. The beauty of this is that you can choose to choose a different thought and perspective, again and again until you get to a better one. Just because you felt one way, doesn't mean you have to stick to that one thought or feeling.
These two mantras have really helped me when facing challenging situations. For me, the subtle shift in my perspective can be a powerful one because I realize that I am not a victim to my limiting thoughts and self doubt. I can always choose differently. Next time you have a limiting thought, give these 4 steps a go and see how you do. The effects are cumulative and over time you'll be able to look back and see just how effective they were.
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