The Bad News: Limiting Beliefs Are Blocking Your Success.
The Good News: You Can Fix It.
I'm not good enough. I am not as smart, beautiful, or successful as... I can’t.
I’m sure you've told yourself those (or similar) things at some point in life – I have.
These limiting beliefs are the reason many of us feel stuck wherever we are.
We’re supposed to be our own biggest cheerleaders, but it’s easy to become our most powerful enemies, blocking ourselves from achieving our real potential.
Mid-century American journalist and author Mignon McLaughlin once said, “Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.”
That’s the thing... as women, we are powerful. We create and nurture our families, we multi-task, we create Pinterest-worthy living rooms on thrift store budgets – and yet at the same time, we also have the power to make ourselves feel powerless.
To reach our potential and to become the women we’ve always wanted to be – at any age -- we must first overcome limiting beliefs.
It's only then we are able to aggressively pursue the path to success.
I know. It's easier said than done.
Limiting Beliefs. They’re the ideas and beliefs we hold onto, but that constrain us. They hold us back, hamper us from progressing, and prevent us living up to our potential.
And limiting beliefs are a part of the negative monologue we replay in our heads.
They clip our wings.
These beliefs begin in childhood, and are developed over time.
They form in different ways, but commonly by our holding onto negative thought patterns, opinions and comments of others relative to ourselves, or by taking what often amounts to one negative experience and cementing it as our new normal.
Forming limiting beliefs is an internally damaging way of making your flaws, even (and sometimes especially) imagined ones, the truth of who you are.
Then constantly repaying those flaws or negative experiences on a mental loop when you are faced with unfamiliar situations, taking risks or trying something new.
Most women have a set of limiting beliefs ranging from a mild form of protective discouragement to the much more extremes of pure self-hatred.
Regardless of how long you’ve cultivated them, limiting beliefs do not have to be your reality.
Developing methods of identifying and circumventing these negative thought patterns and monologues is a critical step in building a healthy self-image and helping you to live a life you deem successful.
Surprisingly enough, we have common limiting beliefs. Following is a list of twelve quite common limiting beliefs that stop us from achieving our true potential along with some helpful tips for overcoming them. Some you may recognize from your own experience.
Twelve Common Limiting Beliefs and
What You Can Do About Them
1. I don’t have enough (time/money/resources…etc.)
Focusing on what you don’t have is easy.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’d all be happier with a little more time on our hands, cash in our wallets, and so on.
Most of the top ten limiting beliefs focus on what we don’t have.
But it’s easy to focus on what you don’t have.
Instead of doing that though, take a moment to express gratitude for what you do have.
Then move forward out of that familiar place of concentrating on what you lack.
Instead, use the resources you already have to get more money (whether it's putting yourself in position to get or request a raise, actively seeking better-paying job, starting a side-hustle etc.), to gain additional skills, to better manage your time, to become the person you ultimately want to be.
2. It’s too late
At the end of the day – especially in the age of social media – it’s so easy to compare ourselves against others' accomplishments. This makes the notion of “too late” one of the most common limiting beliefs, but it’s a limiting belief we can overcome.
Maybe you grew up with a mother who constantly reminded you that your biological clock is ticking.
Maybe you've found something you’re passionate about later in life and feel overwhelmed by the steps it would take to turn that passion into a career...
Women are especially sensitive to “watching the clock” in terms of how old we are and how much less time we think we have to accomplish the things we'd like, compared to someone who is younger.
Society conditions us that way.
We’re surrounded by images of youth as a symbol for women’s health and importance - a system which is not only unfair, but extremely negative and harmful.
By the time we're 25, others often feel the need to remind us that we had better get a move on.
Find the career, get married, have kids, acquire a nice house . And don’t forget to hide any wrinkles, blemishes, gray hairs, or other imperfections flawlessly while you’re at it.
As women, we tend to fall straight out of our teen-aged years and young adulthood into a vast limbo between “not that young” and “not yet elderly”.
In the rush, many of us lose track of what really brings meaning to our lives.
By the time we rediscover them again, the “It’s too late” voice comes through loud and clear.
“I always wanted to be an artist but…”
“I always wanted to spend a year traveling but…”
“I wish I could study law but…”
“I wanted to be trilingual but…”
While the “It’s Too Late” belief acknowledges that we want more for ourselves, it sets us up against time as the enemy.
“You can’t have it because there isn’t enough time, “ is an illogical statement.
If you are alive, you still have time to pursue the things you'd like.
If you’re alive, it's not too late.
Managing new goals and learning new things later in life may have added challenges, but there are added advantages as well.
You have the grace of hard earned wisdom to guide your choices.
You have the balance of knowing what does and does not make you happy.
You’re not too late.
3. I am not as good as...
The feeling of a lack of self-worth in comparison with others.
This is a belief many people struggle with regardless of gender or age.
It’s a belief you pick up the first time you’re picked last for a team in gym class, or the first time everyone pays more attention to your best friend (rather than you) at a party.
Unfortunately, it follows us from childhood into adulthood.
Feeling less worthy or valuable in comparison to our peers turns into feeling less valuable in the workplace and at home.
“I’m not as good a mother as my sister.”
“I’m not as good as he is at giving presentations.”
“I’m not as fun a wife as...”
“I’m not as good a writer as the guy doing the main story.”
These negative thoughts are fueled by insecurity and can become a hindrance to performing to the best of your ability at work or at home.
If you’re spending your energy reminding yourself that someone else can do things better, you’re not using that energy toward your own best efforts.
What results is that your beliefs become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
They take your attention and presence out of the situation, and you fail to operate at your maximum proficiency.
What's important to remember in these situations is that each of us is an individual, and thus we have different strengths and weaknesses.
Instead of focusing on how you stack up against the strengths of others, remind yourself of your own strengths.
“I’m not as good at giving presentations,” can turn into “I’m a quick learner. I can easily learn how to speak more effectively.”
“I’m not as good a mother as my sister” can turn into “I’m a very dedicated mother, therefore I can learn to better listen to what my kids have to say”.
Change the narrative of your limiting belief to highlight what makes you qualified and create real solutions.
It’s a much better use of your time and energy.
4. I don’t know who I am (anymore)
For women, this is another very common limiting belief.
It’s easy to get lost in our responsibilities – career, family, relationships.
To overcome this limiting belief, make the time and the effort to take some time for yourself.
Think about where you are now, consider your core values and beliefs, and what it is you want from your life.
5. I already tried
We’ve all heard the saying “once bitten, twice shy.”
It’s as true as they come.
Once we’ve experienced negative results to an endeavor, we're hesitant to venture into that territory again.
It’s a protective measure of our inner self to shield us from pain and disappointment.
Trying and failing happens to everyone, and by no means makes us failures.
“I already tried to get a book published and it didn't work out.”
“I’ve already been married and it didn’t work out. I don’t want to go through that again.”
“I tried to finish college, but it didn’t happen. I don’t see the point in going back.”
These statements are half-truths followed by a barrier. You acknowledge that you tried something new, but immediately bar yourself from trying it again.
Without trial and error, we don’t grow - we don’t learn and evolve.
Instead of not trying something again, identify a lesson in each failure and use it as a stepping stone for the next attempt.
“I will make sure to avoid these red flags in future relationships and find someone who really wants to grow with me.”
“I had an issue dedicating the time I needed to studying in college. This time around, I will make certain to manage my time more efficiently.”
Identifying what aspect of the last attempt did not work and developing a new plan of action is the best way to combat the “I Already Tried” belief.
Explore your failures or negative experiences, no matter how severe, learn what you can from them that will be helpful in the future, then learn to let them go.
6. I’ll be judged
Let’s take a page from the playbooks of two contemporary and empowered women: Oprah and Beyonce.
As each has grown in age, womanhood, and her career, she has become more and more of herself, unapologetically.
In turn, her authenticity draws people to her.
Of course, it also serves as a magnet for people interested criticizing her every outfit, life choice, and career moves.
Does either Oprah or Beyonce care? Maybe, but I sincerely doubt it.
Does it stop her? Absolutely not.
Being afraid of what others might think is a common limiting belief but being true to yourself will make you more confident, more empowered – more like Beyonce.
7. I have never been good at.../ I am not good at...
When looking at gender differences in math and science, for many women, there is a perception that they simply cannot be good at math.
For me, higher math was the bane of my existence in high school and throughout my entire college career.
I was never good at it in school, and avoided it like the plague as an adult.
For women, this limiting belief is one of the most damaging.
It functions as an excuse for ignorance and poor performance, keeping untold young girls from pursuing successful and often lucrative careers as scientists, computer technologists and engineers, as well as mathematicians.
“I was never good at math, so I can't pursue technical studies.”
“I have never been good at telling significant others how I feel, that’s just me.”
“I’m not good driver, so I don’t drive on trips.”
These statements acknowledge a flaw or weakness, and then bolster it as a valid limitation. As if nothing can be done to change or overcome it.
Living with these kinds of beliefs can keep you from performing at your best , and diminish you as an asset to those around you.
Identifying our weaknesses is actually a good thing. Of all people, we should know our weaknesses and true limitations.
However, we should not allow our weaknesses to be limitations when we're perfectly able to do something about it.
“I have never been good at telling significant others how I feel, but I’m working on being much better at communicating this time around.”
“I’m not the best driver, so I signed up to take a driving refresher course.”
Instead of turning deficiencies into a mental block, use them as a reason to learn something new.
8. I can’t pull off...
This is a vanity belief, or the exact opposite of one.
Immediately counting yourself out of fashionable trends and styles that interest you only assures that you won’t find a renewed confidence in yourself.
"I can't wear pink, it doesn't look good on me."
"I've always wanted to try that eyeliner, but I can't pull it off."
"I love some of these sun dresses, but I'm not a dress person."
For some of us, there are set boundaries in our heads that develop after a questionable or bad experience.
This is equally true with what we perceive as possible with regard to our physical appearance (age) and wearing stylish clothes.
Does that mean you should go out and buy the same outfit your teen-aged niece wears?
But don't wall yourself into a set look or a set way of being, when other things interest you.
If you've always been a laid-back dresser and suddenly you feel like dressing up a little - do it!
Your physical appearance (age) does not have to be a hindrance to looking fashionable or stylish.
Don't count yourself out of finding a look that makes you happy before giving yourself the opportunity to experiment with a variety of fabrics, styles and looks that appeal to you and learning what helps you to look and feel your best.
9. They don't want me
When the voice in your head convinces you that you're unwanted or don't fit in, it can cause self-isolation that is both damaging to your self-esteem and to your relationships.
It can happen in a variety of situations - in romantic relationships, friendships, family situations, and even with simple acquaintances.
"All of the mom's in PTA sit together at the games, but I don't think they want me over there."
"My coworkers go to happy hour every week, but I'm sure they wouldn't want me to come."
"The guy who approached me and my friend at the party is nice, but he definitely didn't come over for me."
"They're hiring for a position I'm really interested in, but I'm sure they want somebody different than me."
Counting yourself out before you begin guarantees that you miss out on opportunities and experiences you may well have enjoyed and benefited from.
Even if you are not typically an assertive person, it's possible to navigate inclusion without being pushy.
Strike up a conversation, say “hello”, let someone know you're interested in an opportunity or want to be a part of a group.
Don't sideline yourself in your own life, and don't assume you know the minds of others whom you may mistakenly believe don't want to consider or include you.
Remember that you have something to offer the world, and removing yourself from opportunities before you can be considered for them deprives those around you from what could be a meaningful and beneficial partnership for you both.
10. I am less valid
This is a particularly difficult limiting belief to navigate. Feeling invalidated, or of somehow less importance or significance than those around you, strips you of the very basic sense of belonging within the human experience.
Self-esteem and more importantly self-worth are critical components to your sense of well-being.
"I want to share at the club meeting, but I've never gone through anything as meaningful as some of the others in the group, so I don't."
"I'm in a bad place right now, but my friends have more important things to do than to worry over me."
"I'm uncomfortable with this person's behavior at work, but she's an important person and I'm just administrative support, so I'll just have to deal with it."
Realize that you have a story, you have an experience, you have a point of view.
These are things that every human being gets.
While you may not have it as good or as bad as some others, that does not make your story any less real , significant or valid.
Expressing yourself and seeking support when you need it is not a selfish thing to do, so long as it's done in a way that is mindful of those around you.
You may know that someone in your workplace is disrespectful to you and to other coworkers who have chosen not to say anything.
But that does not negate the discomfort you feel.
Your unique experience is valid and real.
Others experiencing different (or worse) conflict than you without speaking up does not mean you did not experience your own conflict.
This limiting belief of feeling less valid can be one of the most harmful.
It keeps women from reporting situations of abuse and harassment and seeking the help they may need in order to put an end to bad behavior and heal.
Remember that what you experience and feel is just as valid as any others' experience.
Pain and difficulty are not a contest.
What you're going through in no way diminishes the experience of others, nor what they experience should diminish yours.
Everyone is valuable regardless of situation or circumstance, and all have a right to feel safe and be heard.
11. I always do this
When a negative behavior becomes a pattern, we can sometimes turn it into an excuse for why we do not change.
"I know I shouldn't yell at him, but I always do when I'm stressed out. He knows I don't mean it."
"I'm always late, everyone who knows me expects it by now."
"I'm a jealous girlfriend, I've always been like that."
Accepting poor behavior as a part of your character limits you from growing as a person.
Part of adult life is responsibility.
Taking responsibility for your actions and behaviors and working to keep them from hurting those around you is an important step in being a good friend, partner, coworker, and family member.
While it may be difficult to break habits, taking gradual steps to improve a little at a time will change your behavior as a whole.
Instead of lashing out when you feel upset or jealous of a partner's activities, remind yourself that while your emotions may be natural, using them as an excuse to say or do hurtful things is not okay.
If you're always late for work, start by waking up 3 minutes earlier every day, then 5, then 10 until you've reset your inner clock to be on time.
Changing this belief is not easy, but it is an important step in being the best version of yourself.
12. I deserved this (negative consequence or punishment)
When we mess up, even in a big way, there is sometimes a piece of ourselves that never lets the event go - even long after those around you have.
"I cheated on my last boyfriend, so I guess I deserve it when my new man doesn't respect me in the way I'd like."
"I was such a brat to my parents growing up, so I guess I deserve to have such a difficult time with my son"
"I didn't listen when my parents told me not to marry him, and now look at how unhappy I am"
This belief, that you deserve bad things, limits your ability to process and ultimately deal with the adversity we face in a healthy way.
Assuming that karma or fate are the cause of your unhappiness functions as an excuse.
If you deserved it, there's not much you can do to fix it.
This is inherently wrong.
Cheating on someone in the past is a terrible thing to do, but that does not mean that you deserve to be in a relationship that harms you or is demeaning to you.
Learn from your mistake, and take yourself out of a situation that is unhealthy.
If you believe another person's bad behavior is recompense for the way you've behaved, it guarantees that you won't effectively communicate your concerns and try to find solutions.
Try considering the circumstances and lessons from your past experience and apply it to what is happening now.
Perhaps after your relationship experience, you learned that relationships need honesty and trust to be healthy.
Is there honesty and trust in your current relationship?
If not, what are you willing and prepared to do to solve the problem?
If you were a problem child who now has problem children, consider what actions and advice got through to your younger self?
What methods of discipline did not work?
Identifying what did and did not help your relationship with your parents can lend some insight into how to communicate with your kids.
They say history repeats itself for those who don't learn from it.
Instead of thinking the negatives in your life are karmic punishment, focus on what you've learned and how you can apply it to better your life now.
Limiting beliefs are something we create. They stand between you and all of the amazing things you can do, and be, and can accomplish.
Don’t stand in your own way. Don’t let the mental blocks keep you from finding a path that immensely enhances your life.
By not merely keeping those limiting thoughts in check, but truly eliminating them, your life becomes fuller, and your unique experience deeper, sweeter, brighter, and brimming with possibilities.
Anything is possible.
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Kimberly Clay is the founder and creative force behind What She Say. She’s a business professional, writer and editor who’s been creating and managing digital content for nearly twenty years. Her work is now focused in the areas of self-improvement and personal development, and she is passionate about helping other individuals, especially women, to find a path for living their best life.