Limiting Beliefs – What They Are and Why You Shouldn’t Have Them


You have limiting beliefs. So here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to understand what limiting beliefs are. You’re going to learn about all the problems they cause. Then, you’re going take a deep look inside yourself and find out what your limiting beliefs are, and you’re going to work on ridding yourself of those limiting beliefs. This may seem scary, or confusing if you don’t know what limiting beliefs are, but fear not, for I shall help guide you through this process.

What are Limiting Beliefs?

As the heading to this section suggests, let’s start by talking about what limiting beliefs are. A limiting belief is any belief you have which prevents you from doing something or hinders your ability to do it. These beliefs can manifest as a result of many different things such as your relationship with you parents, a traumatic life events, social conditioning, etc…

There are a couple questions which need to be addressed immediately. Limiting beliefs are always wrong. When I say ‘wrong’ I mean that they do not correspond to reality. The reason a limiting belief will always be incorrect is because a proper assessment of reality can never hold you back, even if the assessment identifies a roadblock to success. An accurate belief will allow you to navigate the world more effectively and actually accomplish what you would like to accomplish.

Identifying Limiting Beliefs

We are biologically constructed to have limiting beliefs, but we are also biologically constructed to have adverse physical reactions when we process or think about these beliefs. Concurrently, and I’ll elaborate more on this in the next section, we are biologically constructed to physically resonate with actual reality. Through our perceptions, we have an actual print of reality somewhere in our minds. When we cognitively process that image and put it into words our brains can consciously work with, we recognize that, and it triggers a physiological response. So how can you identify limiting beliefs?

Throughout your day, you will find yourself thinking about particular assessments of the world and of other people. When you think about these things, take a moment to look at how your body is responding. Do you have a dull weight-like pain in your solar plexus? Have you started sweating a little bit more? Are the muscles in your back and neck suddenly carrying more tension? Are you losing track of where you are and what you’re doing because you’re lost in your thoughts? Are you losing motivation to act? Is your mood becoming increasingly sad or worried? If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are processing a limiting belief.

Let’s take a common example that many students deal with. The belief looks something like this, “My major gives me way more work than anyone else.” When students, particularly in the hard sciences, think about the work they are faced with, they often have the adverse physiological responses mentioned above. This belief is perpetuated throughout our college education system by students and faculty alike. The trouble is that this belief limits a student’s ability to act to resolve the tasks they have to complete. The student accepts his/her reality as one of constantly being stressed and overloaded with work. In reality, the national average of difference in hours of weekly work between the most demanding and least demanding majors is approximately 5 hours. That’s it, 5 hours over a 7 day week, less than one hour per day. However, stress assessments of students across the country consistently show that students studying in the “more demanding” majors have much higher stress levels completely disproportionate to the amount of work they have to do. The reason for this is that the limiting belief prevents students from actually searching for ways to improve their workflow and task management. It also prevents them from completing their work as efficiently as they would otherwise.

There are some key types of limiting beliefs you need to be aware of. One type is the example used above. It’s a perpetuated inaccuracy about a quantitative aspect of reality. Another good example is, “There aren’t enough hours in the day for everything I need to do.” Another type of limiting belief is a perpetuated inaccuracy about a qualitative aspect of reality. So, for example, “Engineering is harder than Anthropology.” There is quantifiable way to measure “harder,” and the difficulty of any discipline is relative to the person studying it. A final type of limiting belief you should be aware of is the affirmation. Sometimes, limiting beliefs will disguise themselves as false appreciations or happiness. For example, “I am happy with my relationship,” or, “My career is right on track.”

Learning to identify your limiting beliefs is the first step to getting rid of them and opening up your world to an entirely new set of possibilities.

Getting Rid of Your Limiting Beliefs

As I mentioned earlier, we are biologically constructed to resonate with reality. Think about any time in your life when you have had an epiphany. Relive the physical responses that your body underwent. You probably sat up straighter, your eyes widened, you facial muscles lost tension, etc… The reason is because your brain recognized that you had processed an image of reality which you already had but were not consciously aware of.

Let’s think about this logically. For every statement you make like this ones I used as examples above, there are a total of five logical permutations. One of these permutations must be true. Let me use an example to explain what I mean. Take the statement, “All apples are red.” It has the following 4 permutations:

All apples are red
All apples are not red
Not all apples are red
Not all apples are not red

At least one of these statements has to be true. And, you may have noticed that when reading them, you realized that #3 and #4 were both true, and you probably responded to that realization physically in some way. In order to rid yourself of your limiting beliefs, you need to phrase them in the statement form like this one and write down each of their permutations. Then, read the statements aloud to yourself. When you get to the one (or two) which are true, you will know it immediately. Some of these realizations may scare you initially, and you may be reluctant to accept them. The key to ridding yourself of these beliefs is to approach the process with a completely open mind.

Once you arrive at reality, you will no longer cling to your limiting belief. The next step is to actually act on your newly discovered knowledge. If your realization is about another person, go talk to them about it. If it’s about your work management, talk to people who can teach you ways to better manage your time. Acting on your realizations reinforces them and prevents your limiting beliefs from taking hold again.

I realize this may seem like a tall task, but it is definitely manageable. Follow this simple outline, and you will become a completely new person.

Good luck!