What are limiting beliefs? Essentially, limiting beliefs are false thoughts, ideas or opinions that one considers to be the truth. In most instances, limiting beliefs are subconscious thoughts that act as a shield to keep our lower, more primitive emotions (e.g. frustration, fear, anger, disappointment) from rising. Limiting beliefs can prevent us from being in touch with our authentic emotional side, so instead we resort to rationalize away our feelings.
There are different types of limiting beliefs, some that arise from childhood, some that emerge during life experiences and some that we grow into adulthood. One of the most harmful forms of these beliefs is to convince ourselves that there is no alternative to accepting whatever our beliefs tell us to believe. For instance, a person may convince themselves that they are not good enough, that they must be perfect in order to get ahead in life, that they are poor people who deserve to be alone, that they cannot succeed because they do not feel safe or secure enough.
In order to work towards changing self-limiting beliefs, it is necessary to determine what these are, exactly, and how they impact your emotions. As you begin to understand your emotions and what causes them to rise, you can begin to unravel the self-defeating patterns that have developed in your mind over time. One of these self-defeating patterns is to think that our happiness or sadness depends on what others think of us. In this example, instead of recognizing that the way that you respond to being left alone, for example, does not depend on the opinions of other people, you could instead acknowledge that when they leave, this can affect your mood in a positive way. If you are able to shift your focus to something else besides the judgment of others, you will then begin to feel better and less reliant on the opinions of others to bring you down.
Another example of a self-defeating thought pattern is to believe that our bodies serve us more than our opinions or our faith. The belief that our bodies are somehow “important” serves us well only when those things are valued and respected by others. If, for example, we are attracted to a person because of their body, we may find ourselves unable to let go of that person despite the criticism others may make of our body. Self-defeating beliefs like this one serve us right if we place their value more importance than our own. However, if we do not value our own opinions at all, our limiting beliefs will prevent us from seeing another point of view. In this way, our bodies may serve us only at our expense.
Our emotions are also directly affected by the thoughts we hold about them. If we take the view that our emotions are “secondary” to the feelings that our thoughts inspire, we will find that we experience similar emotions to those caused by those thoughts. This false belief can interfere with our ability to truly love and appreciate our partners and children. Thus, feelings and emotions are not the primary motivator of our actions, but false thoughts.
When it comes to changing limiting beliefs, a new belief will usually be more successful than an old belief. When we start focusing on the value of our thoughts and feelings and less on our opinion of those things, our beliefs begin to shift. We then create situations in which our emotions serve us well rather than against us. Limiting beliefs will then become a thing of the past.