How to Free Yourself From Limiting Beliefs


October 27, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

“From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.” – Stoic philosopher Epictetus

Whether you want to believe this or not, we all have the capacity to be extraordinary, to live our passion, to realize our full potential. When you get right down to it, what holds us back are limiting beliefs that run through our minds. These are mental habits repeating in an endless loop, making us believe that we are incapable and that our dreams are impossible to achieve. They trick us into thinking we are less than we actually are.

It is absolutely the case that when these beliefs are seen in the light of day and put to rest, our lives begin to soar. Whatever is in us that is begging to be expressed finally has a conduit into the world.

When you are free of limiting beliefs, you experience the following:

  • Space for creativity to flow through you
  • Clarity about your everyday decisions as well as your life path
  • Happiness and confidence
  • Energy for the activities and people that bring you fulfillment
  • Greater ability to focus

Sounds great, right? So how do we free ourselves from these beliefs once and for all? The two-part answer is:

    1. Identify the beliefs that hold you back. 
  • Break up with these beliefs. That’s right – let them go, it’s time to walk away. 

Step #1: Identify the beliefs that hold you back
We all have our version of limiting beliefs that creeps into our minds and keeps us small and constrained. To help you identify your mental habits, see if you recognize yourself in any of these common patterns:

    • The perfection-seeker is hard-driving, critical, and pushy. The tone of this inner voice can be very harsh as it tries to motivate you through judgment and ridicule. It starts sentences with, “you should…,” “you really need to…,” “you have to…,” “you better…,” “if you don’t…” 
  • The naysayer is negative about everything – you, your abilities, your ideas. It’s signature phrase is, “I can’t.” It tells you you are worthless or stupid and finds every reason in the book for you not to be succeed. It says your ideas are too difficult to carry out, they cost too much, you will have to work too hard, other people will think you are crazy, and on and on. 
  • The doubter is full of worry and mistrust. It incessantly questions everything, as in, What if I fail?…Should I do it this way or that way?…What will they think?…What do I think?…I should have…I shouldn’t have… The doubter second-guesses so much that you are paralyzed to take any action. 
  • The procrastinator’s favorite word is mañana, tomorrow. It constantly encourages you to put off taking action until another time that never comes. The procrastinator can be seductive because it loves watching TV, surfing the internet, and having a few beers. It also turns dreams into chores, as in, “Do I have to join the networking group?” 
  • The blamer holds other people and circumstances responsible for your failure to shine. Everyone and everything else is at fault, while the blamer feels victimized and powerless. The blamer says, “If only…” – if only someone or some situation were different, then you would be able to move forward.
  • Step #2: Break up with the beliefs.

These limiting beliefs have incorrectly defined who you are. If you give them attention, they will continue; if you disregard them, they will eventually lose their power over you. You have had a relationship with them for a long time, and now that relationship is coming to an end. Make it a gracious breakup. Thank these thought patterns for trying to protect you, for that is why they have been present in you. Let them know they don’t serve you anymore, then move your attention away. This is the key. Tell yourself:

  • They are not true;
  • I don’t need them;
  • They hold me back;
  • They bring me unhappiness;
  • They are distortions of reality;
  • They keep me from realizing my potential.

Here is a technique that can sometimes help. I’d like you to stand up and feel the full effect of these limiting beliefs on you. Now, take a step to the right, and as you do, leave all of these unwanted beliefs behind. You are standing in a fresh place unencumbered by old stories of inadequacy and negativity. See how this is possible?

You may find a resurgence in your inner voices when you begin to walk away. Know that this is just more limiting mind activity that doesn’t deserve your attention. Recommit to the freedom you truly long for, and politely turn from these beliefs – every single time. I promise you that you will be liberated from them once and for all. Break up with these beliefs, and watch your life sparkle.

Can you identify your own limiting beliefs? Have you been able to let them go? I’d love to hear your stories, insights, and questions.

Written on 10/27/2009 by Gail Brenner, Ph.D. Gail offers practical wisdom for clarity, freedom, and happiness on her blog, A Flourishing Life, focusing on real solutions for self-defeating habits. Photo Credit: zakulaan@zainiabdullahpjk

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