SUGGESTED READING FIRST: UNDERSTANDING CORE BELIEFS
By Tania Kotsos
PUBLISH DATE: 23 NOV 2020
Your limiting beliefs are those subconscious core beliefs that are holding you back in life and limiting the success or progress you may desire to attain in specific areas of your life. They are part of your personal belief system, which you use to navigate your life and that offers you a sense of consistency about who you believe you are and what life is all about. Your limiting beliefs yield great influence on your life and more often than not, in unwanted ways.
What you think, feel and assume, as well as the actions that follow, are all coloured by your core beliefs. More specifically your positive beliefs add to the overall positivity of your life, while limiting beliefs deny it. Neutral beliefs are those that you don't have much of a conviction in, or something you've never really had a belief about and can go either way.
This article is the second in a three-part series on core beliefs, and more specifically limiting beliefs. The first article focuses on understanding core beliefs, this article on identifying limiting beliefs, and the third is on reprogramming your subconscious mind to change your limiting beliefs. Below is a list of the three articles with the respective links to the first and third articles. I suggest you read all three articles in order before attempting to change your beliefs. It will be worth your effort.
All beliefs, including your limiting beliefs, are executed on auto-pilot by your subconscious mind with no need for your conscious input, awareness or agreement. This is both the incredible power and the Achilles heel of the subconscious mind because while it carries out the most complex of tasks automatically, it is not rational in nature and hence cannot distinguish between the beliefs that serve you and those that don't. It's up to you to make the subconscious conscious by identifying your core beliefs so that you can overcome and change those limiting beliefs that hold you back.
What follows is a step-by-step guide for identifying your core beliefs with 6 steps. It takes time, effort and a healthy dose of introspection and courage to decode your personal belief system so as to identify the positive and limiting beliefs that are its components in each area of your life. It is worth the effort because by identifying the beliefs behind your current circumstances, you can find the limiting beliefs that need changing and any positive beliefs that can support you in that direction. With this end in mind, you can apply the various techniques for reprograming your mind that is the subject of the third article. Approach each of the 6 steps that follow like a child searching for hidden treasures, you can make it more enjoyable for yourself and easier for your mind to accept change.
I highly recommend that you keep a journal. It is very helpful to use a hand-written journal or create a document or an excel spreadsheet on your computer rather than just thinking about your beliefs. This will also help you to review your progress in the future after reprogramming your mind so as to see how far you have come in changing your limiting beliefs and adopting new positive ones. I recommend reading all 6 steps in this article before starting your journal.
Your life, although one single life, is made up of the sum of its parts. Each part is an area or category of your life. What follows is a list of categories with which to start identifying your core beliefs, and most importantly your limiting beliefs. The first category is your self-concept, which are those beliefs about yourself because they have the most significant impact on your life across the board. The other categories I have chosen to focus on are the areas of health, relationships, other people, money and life in general only because they are the ones most people seem interested in or 'run into trouble' with. Feel free to add your own.
To assist you in identifying your own beliefs, what follows is a selection of possible beliefs for each of the aforementioned categories. You will notice that while the vast majority of beliefs I have mentioned are limiting beliefs, I have also included some positive beliefs for contrast. Of course, positive beliefs can be bolstered and it is important to identify them but it's the limiting beliefs you want to change by understanding, challenging and reprogramming them.
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Your self-concept includes those core beliefs about who you believe you are or else what you believe to be true about you without question. Below are some possible examples, which you can add to or adjust to suit your beliefs.
Limiting Beliefs about Self-Concept: I am a failure. I am ugly. I am such an idiot. I am not good enough. I am selfish. I am a disappointment. I don't deserve love. I have to work hard for everything. I am stingy. I am not attractive enough. I have nothing to be proud of. I am a coward. I am unlucky. I am irresponsible. I am a bad person. I am naive. I am boring. I am such a loser.
Positive Beliefs about Self-Concept: I am loving. I am gorgeous. I am intelligent. I am proud of myself. I trust myself. I deserve the best. I am generous. I love who I am. I am lucky. I am confident. I am a good person. I am inspirational.
This category includes possible core beliefs about what you believe to be true about your physical health and mental well-being. Of course, you are free to add your own.
Limiting Beliefs about Health: I always have health problems. I am fat. I can never stick to healthy eating. Losing weight is difficult. I have an addictive personality. Exercise is boring. I am unfit. I am an anxious person. I am a pessimist. I just can't relax. I am always depressed. It is difficult to be healthy. It is just easier to be unhealthy.
Positive Beliefs about Health: I am healthy. I love exercising. I always have enough energy. I am optimistic. I enjoy taking care of myself.
This category includes possible core beliefs about your intimate relationship with your significant other and about relationships in general. It also includes your beliefs about men and women in the context of relationships.
Limiting Beliefs about Relationships: Relationships are difficult. I am useless in relationships. The person I'm interested in is never interested in me. My relationships always end. Good relationships are hard to find. Being in a relationship is fun. It's just easier to be single. I always mess up my relationships. I am unlucky in love. Men are unfaithful. Men are only interested in looks/sex. Men can't be trusted. A good man is hard to find. Women are clingy. Women are overly emotional. Women are b*tches. Women are gold-diggers. A good women is hard to find.
Positive Beliefs about Relationships: Being in a relationship is fun. I am lucky in love. I am blessed in my relationships. Whenever I really desire someone, they desire me too.
This category includes possible core beliefs about people in general. People other than a life partner or significant others. This includes your friends and acquaintances, as well as strangers.
Limiting Beliefs about Other People: It's hard for me to make friends. People can't be trusted. Human beings are mostly evil. People don't tend to like me much. No one cares about me. People are manipulative. People are fake. Other people are better than me. Other people are jealous of me.
Positive Beliefs about Other People: I enjoy making new friends. Human beings are mostly good. People tend to be attracted to me. I always attract good people in my life.
This category includes possible core beliefs about money and finances both at a personal and broader level. In other words what you believe to be true about money and your relationship with it.
Limiting Beliefs about Money: I am good with money. I never have enough money. It is difficult for me to make lots of money. If I had enough money I'd be happy. Money is the root of all evil. Money is the only route to happiness. You can't make lots of money if you are honest. Money can't buy you happiness. Poor people are better than rich people. There's not enough money for everyone.
Positive Beliefs about Money: I am good with money. I enjoy looking after my finances. I always have enough money to meet all my needs. Money is a useful tool for me to do what I enjoy. I am generous with my money.
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This category includes possible core beliefs about includes your beliefs about life as a broader concept. It is a fundamental category of your personal belief system because its beliefs tend to be very broad and so may affect many areas of your life at the same time.
Limiting Beliefs about Life: Life is unfair. Life is a constant struggle. Life is difficult. Life is meant to be difficult. Life is not to be trusted. Life is boring. There's never enough time. Life is pointless. Life is disappointing. Life never goes my way. Life is filled with sadness more than happiness. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things come in threes. I have to be in control or something bad will happen. Change is bad. If I relax something bad will happen. Good things only happen to other people. If I care about someone I must worry about them.
Positive Beliefs about Life: I love life. Life is fun. Life is always kind to me. I am blessed to have a good life. I always trust life to turn out well. Life is good. I enjoy living life to the fullest. I am lucky in life. I always look for the good in life.
The third step is to now identify your own core beliefs, and most importantly your limiting beliefs. I suggest writing all your beliefs down, both positive and limiting beliefs, in each of the above areas as they come to you without over-thinking the process. To do so, ask yourself what you believe about each area of your life. Start with what you believe about yourself. In this instance, ask yourself, "What do I believe about myself?" Your answers will be along the lines of "I am this... or I am that...".
You can then ask about each specific area of your life and find your respective beliefs in those. You may find that your beliefs about yourself overlap with those in other areas and that's to be expected really because all your beliefs really make up your self-concept, more so when you approach this exercise from the understanding that your circumstances are a projection of your consciousness. It is nevertheless helpful to target and categorize your beliefs.
Perhaps the most powerful way to determine your true beliefs is to gauge how you feel about the questions and the answers. You can also ask "How do I feel about myself?" Feeling is the secret behind your circumstances. Your beliefs make you feel a certain way, and those feelings determine your mental frequency and hence what you create in your own reality.
Once you are done with writing all your beliefs down in STEP #3, you want to highlight your major beliefs in each area. To determine your major beliefs you can rate each one. Simply ask yourself how much conviction do I have in this belief from a scale of 1 to 10 and write the number next to it.
Having done this, you can now choose those limiting beliefs that you want to focus on changing. Make a list in your journal of your Top 10 Beliefs (10 positive and 10 limiting beliefs) about yourself (your self-concept) and the Top 5 (5 positive and 5 limiting beliefs) in each area that you want to focus on. You can of course add to your list later or make it longer or shorter from the start. If you don't have any positive beliefs to list in a certain area, that's okay, and rest assured that you soon will have as you learn to reprogram the subconscious mind and change your limiting beliefs.
Now that you have identified your top beliefs on both sides of the spectrum you want to understand them with your rational mind so as to give you the opportunity to challenge the limiting beliefs and bolster the positive. To do so you can look behind the scenes by asking yourself the following six questions about each of your major beliefs. This is arguably one of the most important exercises you can do in changing your life for the better and I recommend that you do so with all your focus. Keep an open mind, do not over-analyze or think too much about your answers and enjoy the process.
It is most important to complete this exercise for you limiting beliefs because they are the ones that you are going to challenge and change. It is also very helpful, however, to ask the questions below about your positive beliefs as well because your answers are likely to bring to mind positive memories. If you do not have an answer for each question for some of your beliefs, that's okay. Again write your answers in a journal or use your computer to keep all your work in one place.
1. WHY? Why do I believe this?
2. WHEN? When did I start believing it?
3. WHERE? Where did I get this belief from? Myself or someone else?
4. WHO? Who else, if anyone, in my life holds the same belief?
5. WHAT? What specifically happened to make me believe this and what is likely to happen in the future if I change this belief (further clarification on the next page)
6. HOW? How does having this belief make me feel and how does it impact my life and expectations?
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The answer to question 5 above about what is likely to happen in the future if you change the belief is aimed at identifying any threats you perceive with changing a limiting belief. In other words, what do you fear may happen if you no longer hold onto a limiting belief because one of the reasons you have adopted some of your limiting belief is to protect you from a bad experience happening again in the future or at least to prepare you for the worst.
Having identified your top beliefs and answered these 6 questions about them, you can now take the next step which is to challenge your negative or limiting beliefs. This most certainly requires a healthy dose of introspection, effort and courage. Effort because you have to challenge what you have subconsciously believed for most of your life and courage because you are about to change much of what you have been using to date to navigate your life. You may also find that you have used many of your negative or limiting beliefs as excuses in the past for not doing the things that you always wanted to do, so no longer having your excuses to fall back on also takes courage.
The first step in challenging your limiting beliefs is to realise you weren't born with them. You adopted them but you could have adopted different ones, better or worse. And since you adopted most of them as a child without the capacity to judge their validity, your beliefs are just you living your life with the mental capacity of a child even though you now have the ability to distinguish between what serves you and what doesn't. You can now decide to choose what serves you because why wouldn't you? Indeed, to decide to change your limiting beliefs is one of the most beneficial and selfless decisions you can ever make for yourself.
You were born with a clean belief slate and you can mentally make the decision to wipe the slate clean not because your limiting beliefs no longer exist but because you know you can change them. And since you can change them it means they are not objective facts. That the sun will rise in the morning is an objective fact, that you're unlovable is not. The latter is just an assumption—a limiting belief that you adopted somewhere along the line.
By looking at the answers you have written down for each belief you can challenge your limiting beliefs by disproving them. Just because something 'bad' happened once doesn't mean it must always happen that way. Just because someone said something nasty to you as a child doesn't mean that it is true about you. Just because one person betrayed you doesn't mean that no one can be trusted. The only reason a belief holds true for you is because you have declared it to be true. You may argue that you have all the evidence in the world to validate your belief, but you have the evidence because of the belief not the other way around.
For instance, if your first relationship ended in heartache because your partner was unfaithful to you, does not mean all your relationships will have the same fate or that all men/women are unfaithful. Even if every single one of your relationships ended in the same way ever since, the only reason they did is because you adopted the limiting belief. You may even find you think and act in unhealthy ways in your relationships in order to fulfil that belief. Many people go on to have loving relationships even after a bad one, and if it holds true for them, it can also hold true for you. You just need to change the belief.
You may ask why the first ‘bad event’ happened without underlying limiting beliefs. And the answer is usually because your personal belief system has been influenced by so many sources that you are not even aware of the limiting beliefs you may have held before. For instance, in keeping with the above example of your first heartbreak—you may have listened to music about heartbreak over and over again while growing up or watched movies or read books along those lines. Or a friend may have had a bad break-up and by sharing in their pain you too adopted a belief that had nothing to do with your experience. Or else you overheard adults speaking negatively about relationships as a young child. Whatever the case, somewhere along the line you adopted the limiting beliefs.
Remember, the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what it has imagined and what it has experienced. It accepts as truth whatever is persistently impressed with, no matter the source. Nevertheless, while it is helpful to identify the first personal experience that gave rise to your limiting beliefs, your aim is to change the beliefs because you can.
This marks the end of the 6 steps in identifying your core beliefs, both your positive and limiting beliefs, with the focus on challenging and changing the latter. What follows are a few more thoughts about limiting beliefs and what to expect ahead of taking the last step which is to reprogram your subconscious mind to change your limiting beliefs.
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At this point I just want to touch on contradictory beliefs just so that you can see for yourself how a limiting belief may prevent you from acting on the positive. Let's take for instance a limiting belief that so many people seem to subconsciously adhere to—that 'money is the root of all evil'. You may hold this belief but also believe that money is the route to happiness. How then can you ever allow yourself to really make money for the sheer enjoyment of it when you also believe it is evil? Another example is if you believe you are a good person but also that bad things happen to good people. How then can you expect good things to happen to you?
You may find a number of these contradictory beliefs popping up in your above belief lists of positive and limiting beliefs. It's always interesting to notice them and very powerful to change the limiting beliefs that contradicts the positive. For instance you can adopt a belief that money is an amazing resource for doing good (rather than being evil) and that good things always happen to good people and to you (rather than bad).
You may say at this stage that while you have evidence for your limiting beliefs, you have limited if any evidence for its opposite positive belief so how then can you just believe the positive? Again the answer lies in how the subconscious mind works and how your experience of reality is created as a result of your subconscious beliefs. In other words, the evidence you have for your limiting beliefs is because you have those beliefs to begin with, not the other way around. Your circumstances are the effect, not the cause—the belief is the cause.
As you commit to changing your limiting beliefs and adopting their opposite equivalent positive beliefs, then your reality will start to reflect that change. And as your experiences become more and more positive in line with the new positive beliefs, so the old limiting beliefs will lose its power for lack of evidence. And the time will come when you are surrounded with evidence for the positive beliefs and the limiting beliefs will feel like a distant memory that have nothing to do with your experience. What matters is what you believe!
Having completed the 6 steps in this article to identify your core beliefs, you can begin your journey to change the limiting beliefs by actively reprogramming your mind using the powerful techniques detailed in the third article in this three-part series. Before reading the article, I just want to remind you to keep it light. Have fun and enjoy the process. Don't over-think, don't over-analyze.
In the humorous words of Oscar Wilde, "Life is much too important to be taken seriously." By refusing to take your limiting beliefs too seriously, you make them less serious. It's far easier to change what you approach light-heartedly than something you believe is heavy and serious. Your belief in its seriousness alone is enough to weigh it down, sometimes making it seem impossible to move. So keep it light and have fun!