I’m not good enough to lead a team.

My work doesn’t measure up to my colleagues. 

I’m too reserved to speak in front of an audience.

[Insert sabotaging thought here.] 

We all have them. Thoughts about ourselves that are unkind.  

We all possess an inner voice that is perhaps not always the most supportive. Because let’s face it – we are all our own worst enemy. Getting in our own way. Often the biggest obstacle in our lives is how we truly see ourselves. Because how we see ourselves reflects how we see the world. 

And our mindset, our beliefs on how the world works, can be the biggest obstacles in achieving what we want to achieve. 

We call these restrictive thoughts and ideas “limiting beliefs”.

More about limiting beliefs

Asana, defines a limiting belief as follows – 

“A limiting belief is a state of mind or belief about yourself that restricts you in some way. These beliefs are often false accusations you make about yourself that can cause a number of negative results”.

These limiting beliefs are not always just about ourselves either. Often, they can be about how the world works, certain ideas about situations, and how you interact with different people.

And the result of these limiting beliefs? You limit yourself from becoming. Becoming whatever it is that you want to become. You shoot your own ideas down before they’ve even had time to ruminate in your own thoughts. They can keep you in a negative state of mind, preventing you from encountering new opportunities and life experiences while wreaking havoc on your mental health. 

BetterUp describes limiting beliefs as follows – 

“Limiting beliefs can change your life, but not always for the better. They create self-awareness that stops you from chasing after your dreams, forming healthy relationships with people, and creating change in any area of your life. 

And quite frankly – that sucks!

Where do these limiting beliefs come from?

As children we often believe that we can do anything and be anyone. Just think about a 4-year-old in a batman costume – they’re ready to take on the world. 

But something happens as we grow older. Doubt creeps in. Fears rear their ugly heads. And suddenly we forget about ourselves in the proverbial batman costume. We forget the feeling of utter confidence and self-belief. 

This change in self-perception can happen for a number of reasons – 

  • Personal beliefs – the things we personally experience. These can be things that happen on a day-to-day basis as well as big life events. 
  • Family – the things our family believes and how we were raised. It plays a significant role in how we navigate life and the working world. Sometimes it defines who we are and other times it ensures we become the opposite.
  • Religious beliefswhat we believe in and the rules that we follow because of our religious beliefs often influence how we go out into the world and how we go about navigating life. Our faith provides great moral guidance and support to our lives, but rigid application without challenging religious teachings can prevent us from seeing the world from multiple perspectives.
  • Educationit’s often the case that we admire our teachers, and those from whom we learn. So, it’s understandable that we would absorb their ideas and beliefs. Often trying our best to mimic them. 
  • Friends – the people we mix with. How do they see the world? And do you subscribe to the same beliefs? 
  • Society – popular opinion, especially on social media, can impose impossible standards on us.
  • Fear of failurethe excuses you make up in order to stop yourself from acting in your own best interests. 

Discovering what your limiting beliefs are is not always so easy or so obvious. Sometimes we are not entirely sure how we may be limiting ourselves. We haven’t really taken notice of what thoughts could be contributing to our own limitations. But there is a way to discover what they could be – 

Step 1: think about something you may tell yourself all the time. If you are struggling to think of something, ask a friend or family member for help. 

Step 2: write it down on a piece of paper, make it real. 

Step 3: how do you feel about the statement? Does it feel true? Is it helping you? How does it make you feel? Would you make that statement to a friend or colleague?

Step 4:  how will you deal with it? Will you keep the piece of paper? Will you throw it away? The way you deal with the piece of paper should be the way you deal with the thought. 

Step 5: Consider how abandoning the thought would make a difference to your life. Would you push yourself to take the job, give the speech, lead the team? 

Now it’s time to put the above into action. 

Overcoming obstacles to personal growth

Limiting beliefs are often defence mechanisms we use to protect ourselves from pain. Your subconscious could remember past negative experiences and the limiting beliefs are ways you try to prevent getting hurt again. That can be hard. 

But it’s important to remember that these subconscious boundaries can lead to mental health issues like imposter syndrome, stress, and anxiety. And those are not issues you want to cause yourself over a belief that holds no merit. So, while the above steps are a good way to come to terms with your limiting beliefs and what you are going to do with them, the next logical step is how you will overcome the obstacles you have put in your own way. 

It’s a difficult thing to do – coming to terms with the ways you are preventing yourself from taking the next step. And it’s a hard thing admitting that you have been the cause of it. We get that. So, to help you, we have set out some steps you can take in order to overcome the obstacles preventing your personal growth –

Start with challenging your current limiting beliefs – from the steps above you will already have identified what your limiting beliefs are and what you want and need to do with them. Now you need to challenge yourself. Challenge how you think, challenge how you got to the thoughts you did and challenge yourself to do away with them.

Plan – once you have challenged yourself, it’s time to put words into action. Know what you want to do with your thoughts and how you can go about achieving the very thing your beliefs were stopping you from achieving. Now make a plan. Assess the optimal outcomes and plan how you’re going to achieve them. 

Be realistic – sure we want you to change your inner dialogue but there’s one thing being overly optimistic about something and an entirely different thing to make a plan that’s actually achievable. Don’t set yourself up to fail by having unreasonable expectations. Instead manage your expectations and take a grounded approach to your plans.

Don’t compare yourself to others – this is key. Those of us that have imposter syndrome will understand the weight of comparing ourselves to other people. Remember that we are all unique individuals fighting our own battles. We all have our own goals and what we want to achieve in life. Likewise, we will all have different plans on how to achieve our goals. Taking advice is one thing, but comparing yourself to someone else is a sure way to see yourself fail before even getting started.

Feel all the feels – it’s one thing being optimistic and having a sunny disposition, it’s an entirely different story when you are masking how you really feel. Emotions can be hard to deal with at the best of times. We understand that. But don’t put a plaster over how you feel thinking that your attitude will change everything. Explore your emotions. Feel your feels.

Ask for help – this is an important one. As you explore your thoughts and feelings, you may encounter certain emotions that have you stumped. Not knowing which way to turn. You don’t have to “go at it alone”. Get help. Whether you speak to a professional, like Freida Levycky of Braving Boundaries, or you seek the counsel of a friend, get help. You are not alone.

Keep it simple – keep your end goal in mind but understand that your plans don’t need to be bombastic. Easy does it. Sometimes what you want to achieve can seem massive and that, in itself, can be overwhelming. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, break things down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Deal with one obstacle at a time. Eventually, by continuously working towards your goals – managing one thing at a time – you will get there. 

Adopt positive affirmations – this may seem a little cliché but having a positive affirmation can help drown out the negative commentary in your head. Instead, combat negative thoughts by reframing them into positive ones. For example, change “I can’t lead a team” to “Before I can lead a team, I still have some learning to do”. 

Don’t give up – consistency is key. With everything really. But most importantly here. Going after one’s goals, with the best laid plans in tow, doesn’t mean it will be easy. You may fail. You may trip and fall. That’s ok. Get up again, dust yourself off and realise that failure can be a learning experience. Think to yourself – “Ok that’s how not to do something”, make a note of what you learnt and move on. You owe it to yourself to continue on the path you chose for yourself. 

As always, you don’t have to implement everything we have set out above. But what you do need to do is change your mindset and then act accordingly – 

“It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life story will develop.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf 

Remember it’s our determination to succeed and to overcome that is the most important thing. Sure, we are influenced by the world around us. But it’s how we see ourselves and it’s how we go after the things that we want that are important. If there’s anything this article should leave you with, it’s this – believe in yourself, believe in what you can do, take the time you need and you will succeed. 

About the Author, Alicia Koch, Founder of The Legal Belletrist. Alicia, an admitted attorney with over 10 years PQE, and now a legal writer and researcher, has established The Legal Belletrist to assist companies (in different sectors) to write well-researched articles that speak to each company’s core business, enabling growth and commercialism.

Click here to visit The Legal Belletrist website. Email: alicia@thebelletrist.com