Techniques for Overcoming Limiting Beliefs - Part 1/2
By Tania Kotsos
Article continued from: Building Self Esteem - The Unshakeable Foundation
Your limiting beliefs are those negative beliefs about yourself that stand in the way of your real success and weaken your self esteem. To overcome and transform your negative beliefs you must first acknowledge them and accept them for what they are. As is the case with all beliefs, whether positive or negative, a limiting belief started off as a single thought in your mind in reaction to a certain event, or to what you were told by your parents or society in general. This thought was repeated often enough until it was accepted as an unchecked "truth" by your subconscious mind. In other words, your limiting beliefs are a learned thought pattern and the good news is that they are up for re-programming.
Why Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs? If you are not where you want to be in your life, whether physically, emotionally, romantically or financially (and so on), the chances are that an underlying, deeply ingrained negative belief is limiting your progress. This does not mean that your physical appearance, romantic or financial status should define you or your worth. It simply means that you are free to also succeed in all these areas of your life if you so choose to, not because doing so will make you a better person compared to anyone else, but simply because you want the experience itself. Overcoming your limiting beliefs is the fundamental step in that direction.
The Power of Limiting Beliefs: While beliefs are really just beliefs, you should be careful not to underestimate their power. Since all beliefs belong to the realm of the subconscious mind, their mental influence may not be obvious at the conscious level, but their negative impact on the outcomes you want to achieve, most certainly is. All beliefs are executed on auto pilot by the subconscious mind - with no need for any conscious thought. This is both the strength and the Achilles heel of the subconscious mind, because while it is able to carry out the most complex of tasks automatically, it is not rational in nature and hence cannot distinguish between those beliefs that serve you and those that don't. It is up to you to become conscious of your limiting beliefs and learn to overcome them while consciously reprogramming your mind at the subconscious level.
A Brief History of Negative Beliefs: You will find that most of your limiting beliefs can be traced back to your childhood. The futile exercise of comparing yourself to others as a child and continuing to do so as an adult, has created many of your beliefs and is keeping them alive. Your beliefs are at the back of the subconscious programmes that are still running your life today and usually unbeknown to you. They are nothing more than the learned thought patterns behind your habitual thoughts, words and actions. This is not about blaming our parents or our teachers or society in general for a misguided childhood. Most of our parents and teachers did the best they could at the time and to blame anyone just keeps you stuck and disempowered. Your aim is to simply recognise that these childhood and even childish beliefs no longer serve you, and that if something doesn't serve you, then you should endeavour to move beyond it.
Identifying Your Personal Limiting Beliefs: Using the "Decoding Your Beliefs" exercise outlined in the preceding article about building self esteem, make a list of your personal negative beliefs. You can carry on adding any negative beliefs to your list as they come to you at a later stage. To see how those limiting beliefs have unnecessarily hampered your success, you could choose to write an example of when any such belief has prevented you from doing or achieving something you wanted. For example a belief like "I am bad with money" or "I am a spendthrift" is likely to have left you with a rather unhealthy bank balance.
Stocktaking Your Limiting Beliefs: While this article is focused on transforming those personal limiting beliefs that begin with the words "I am", the techniques can be equally used for any negative belief. It takes time, effort and a healthy dose of introspection to uncover your limiting beliefs in all areas of your life, but doing so will go a long way in understanding and hence enabling you to transform your current circumstances across the board. Choose the areas of your life you wish to work on e.g. relationships, health, finances or your job, and then make a list of your beliefs pertaining to each area.
With regard relationships, your list can include phrases that begin with words such as "relationships are", "women are", "men are", "love is", "family is" and so on. Beliefs for health can include phrases such as "health is", "my body is", "exercise is", "food is"; for finances an obvious example is "money is"; and for your job, "work is", "bosses are", "success is" and so on. Of course, your beliefs in each area will once again be a combination of positive and limiting beliefs. Remember to focus on the positive beliefs as a source of your natural strengths, and seek to transform the limiting beliefs with the five techniques outlined below and in the second part of this article. You may also find that some of your limiting beliefs from your "I am" list, affect a specific area of your life, in which case you can simply add them to the relevant list.
Understanding Causality: It is important to understand that your limiting beliefs are the cause of your unwanted circumstances, while the circumstances themselves are the effect - not the other way round. Using the example about money, it may appear that it is because you are struggling with your finances that you believe you are bad with money but the true causality runs in reverse i.e. it is your limiting beliefs about money that is creating and perpetuating your unwanted financial circumstances.
This should come as very good news because it means that instead of believing you are a victim of your circumstances, you can change your unwanted circumstances by changing your limiting beliefs. The five techniques outlined in this two-part article, when understood and effectively applied, are the most effective steps you can take in that direction. The first four techniques are aimed at consciously re-programming your subconscious mind while the fifth technique is aimed at raising your level of consciousness. While all the techniques can be used simultaneously, the fifth is by far the superior.
Technique 1 - Positive Affirmations: The first technique for overcoming limiting beliefs is positive affirmations. A positive affirmation is simply a positive statement specifically targeted at re-programming an existing negative belief. Remember, that any thought you repeat often enough will in time be passed down to your subconscious mind to create a belief. If the new, positive statement is repeated enough times, it will in time be strong enough to over-ride the existing negative one.
An example of a positive affirmation for health for instance is "My body heals itself efforlessly and quickly", or for relationships is "I respect and uphold healthy boundaries in all my relationships". There are some fantastic programmes available commercially which use targeted recorded affirmations to re-programme your mind. If such programmes are not within your current budget, you can always make your own recording of positive affirmations that are tailor-made for you. It is most effective to use an even, deliberate tone of voice with as little background noise as possible. Mental repetition, without the help of a recording, is of course also effective as long as you do it systematically and persistently.
A World Famous Positive Affirmation: Emile Coue gave us one of the most beneficial positive affirmations that was made famous by the Silva Method and that instantaneously covers every aspect of your life. "Every day in every way, I am getting better and better". Mentally repeat this to yourself throughout the day irrespective of what other programmes you are using. Learn to become more aware of your thoughts. When you catch yourself having negative thoughts calmly and deliberately say to yourself "cancel, cancel, cancel", then take a deep breath and mentally say "every day in every way, I am getting better and better". Notice how "better and better" is not the same as the false target of "I am perfect" - it is simply better and better.
Technique 2 - Act As If: The second method for building self esteem is to act "as if". This is similar to positive affirmations but rather than using your thoughts and words, you are using your actions. It means to act as if you do not have your negative beliefs or, even better, as if you have their positive equivalents. You may have heard it said like this - "fake it, until you make it". If for instance you lack confidence, notice how it feels to walk around with your head held up high and your shoulders back. When you do so often, your mind will "forget" your lack of confidence because your new bodily stance sends a very strong, over-riding message of confidence.
Your Mind Does Not Know You are Acting: Since the subconscious mind is not rational in nature and hence does not judge, it can not tell the difference between when you are pretending and when you are acting on a "real" belief. Have fun acting "as if" and sense how differently you feel inside just by acting out a positive role. This is not about tricking your mind. It is about knowing how the mind works and that we are all already just "acting out" our lives based on a script that is stored by our subconscious mind and that we did not consciously choose in the first instance. Persistently acting "as if" changes the script over time, and when the script changes for the better, then so does the movie.
Article continued here: Techniques for Overcoming Limiting Beliefs - Part 2/2