How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs When Your Triggers Run Deep - 3 Simple Steps
I just got back from Utah where I was a guest speaker and facilitator at a women’s leadership retreat. Wow! What an amazing experience. It’s inspired me to offer group coaching as a stand-alone offering. The dialogue we had as a group allowed for a unique flow of deep wisdom to prime each participant for major breakthroughs.
One topic that came up many times during the group’s dialogue was limiting beliefs. We all have them; we all want to get rid of them, but don’t know how.
But don’t worry, keep reading, I got your back.
What is a Limiting Belief?
We all have beliefs. Some of these support us in our pursuit for authentic happiness, some don’t. You are the best judge of what beliefs are limiting your potential. The most powerful beliefs, in terms of impacting your motivation and behaviour, are beliefs about your identity. Generally, any beliefs spoken or unspoken, that begin with “I can’t,” or “I’m not” in relation to a positive trait are limiting beliefs. Or, it could begin with “I am,” or “I have,” followed by a negative trait. For example, “I am not a leader,” would be an example of a limiting belief. How will you know for sure what you are capable of, unless you have tried and failed and realized that leadership is truly not for you? Perhaps you’re already a leader in aspects of your life and you’re not giving yourself credit for it.
Where Do Limiting Beliefs Come From?
One thing I stress to all my clients, and I will say to you now:
Stop beating yourself up for having limiting beliefs! Like I said, we all have them plus there‘s always a positive intention behind them.
But why do we have them? If they limit us, why have our brains evolved to keep circulating them through our inner dialogue?
The answer is somewhat complex, but let me try and simplify it for you. Our beliefs are shaped by our childhood— how we sought validation, love, and attention, and how we were treated in return. There are many cultural beliefs we absorbed through society or were instilled in us by institutions during our formative years and beyond.
It’s important to note, they also come from an internal desire to stay safe and feel like we belong. For example if you have a fear of failure, often the intention behind the fear is to keep you from being hurt.
Or maybe you haven’t had many people in your circle succeed in the areas you’re interested in. You’ve identified with belonging to that community and you fear upsetting them if you were to be too successful — or on the flip side — not successful enough. People in your circle may also be afraid of losing you on a semi-conscious level and reinforce your limiting beliefs to keep you where you are.
If you’ve been hurt in the past, this has created a trigger. Your built-in emotional defence system may have created and strengthened a limiting belief to prevent you from getting hurt again. You may even have developed a physiological response when you think about that belief or approach the situation that might trigger it.
So don’t hate on yourself! This is all part of being human.
But, if there is a belief that is holding you back from achieving important goals and leading a truly fulfilling life, you probably want to figure out how to override it.
How to Finally Be Rid of Limiting Beliefs
1. Gain Clarity
Figure out the positive intention behind the belief. Sometimes it can be complex and you need to work with a professional coach or therapist to sort through it. But once you’re clear on the positive intention, make note of it so when the belief comes up, you simply acknowledge what is happening instead of identifying with it or cycling it through your thoughts.
Check out My Ultimate Guide to Conquering Your Fear to help you understand more on where the belief is coming from.
2. Replace the Limiting Belief with an Empowering Belief.
What is the opposite of that belief?
What goals are not being accomplished as a result of this limiting belief?
Who do I need to be to accomplish these goals?
What belief would be more empowering?
For example, let's say Amaya has a goal of getting promoted. But, she never speaks up in meetings for fear of people judging her. She has been given feedback that she isn’t a team player and needs to be more involved. So she works with her coach to find out the belief that is holding her back stems from the fear that others will judge her, or disagree with her. She even has had people ignore her opinions before, and was left feeling inadequate and embarrassed.
The thought that precedes the anxiety to speak up is the limiting belief:
"I'm not good enough."
She replaces this belief with an empowering belief:
"I have valuable ideas that need to be voiced. Even if people do not agree, I will practice my delivery and build my confidence each time."
3. Practice the Empowering Belief
Keep this new belief front and centre and find a way to practice this belief. For example, you could repeat it as an affirmation, especially before a triggering event, or you can create a metaphor for it and have a visual reminder somewhere you look often. Get creative!
I know, I know, affirmations can feel silly at first. Remember Stuart Smalley? If you remember him, from the SNL archives, here’s a clip just for giggles:
What keeps me committed to practicing my empowering belief is knowing that there is scientific proof that by doing this, we can rewire our brain so that the empowering belief takes over. If you practice the empowering belief, eventually the neural pathways, or networks attached to the limiting belief actually die off.
Don’t take it from me; watch neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenza talk about this phenomenon in the Ted Talk below. Dr. Dispenza uses the example of negative triggers that your mother in-law might set off. He explains what happens if you replace your existing beliefs, and resulting behaviours, with a new belief around compassion as a better way of being. If you're really keen, you can watch the whole 18-minute video. Or, just fast forward to the 14-minute mark and watch the one minute example of how the new neural pathway strengthens; plus real-time footage of the old neural pathways dying off. This was a game-changer for me. Seeing this process solidified my commitment to coaching.
As Dr. Dispenza says, "routine lulls the brain to sleep." But since we are capable of metacognition (observing our own thoughts and behaviours), we can deliberately change the way we think and behave.
Yes, you heard it right — you actually have the power to rewire your brain to be the version of yourself who can easily accomplish your career and life goals!
I’ve shared before how I’ve struggled with anxiety. The anxiety and potential for a panic attack actually became a trigger for my own limiting beliefs.
In cognitive behavioural therapy (commonly used by therapists to treat anxiety and depression), we sometimes complete thought records— see example at the bottom of this post. Empowering beliefs are even more effective when following this process, and I can personally attest to that.
I share my own story, because sometimes on the climb to achieve bigger things, if we take the time and prepare mentally, everything becomes easier, we avoid self-sabotage, and we can actually prevent mental health issues as well.
I believe I am a living, breathing example of this.
I hope that this article was useful for you. If so, please share with your community. And as always, I’d love your comments and feedback to help me continue this dialogue.
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