This morning on my way to work, I was listening to a podcast that I love and the host was talking about self limiting beliefs as part of the things that will stop you from being happy. Often times it only takes a bit of courage to admit that we are accountable for how we feel and how things unfold in our lives. After all, we all have struggles and problems, but it is how we decide to tackle these challenges and go through them what will make the whole difference in the way we feel on this journey and on the result.
The problem or the difficulty comes when we are unable to see or even recognise a self-limiting belief as such. So I came up with some ideas on how to go about it to really discover those beliefs that may be holding you back without you even noticing it.
Self-limiting belief #1: I don’t have self-limiting beliefs.
We ALL have self-limiting beliefs. The sooner this is accepted the sooner you can try to look for what is holding YOU and only you back. Most of these beliefs are things we tell ourselves sometimes on a daily basis as a result of what we were told as children, or what we have absorbed from the society we live in. Different society, different expectations and different cultural do’s and don’ts.. Examples of these are :
‘What can I do, I am not funny!’
Or the classic: ”I am too old for this…<insert whatever comes to mind>”,
”I will never be able to ………”
”I am not good at painting, or languages, etc…”. As I teacher I must have heard this a million times. And it is totally false. Nobody is good or bad, people have a predisposition and they may like a subject more or less, but everything can be learned. And as for art,that is not something to be good at, Art is an expression of the self. This means that, as long as you have a mind nobody can be bad at expressing themselves through art and whoever says that do not know the first thing about what ART is. People often think that art is a particular way of drawing or painting like certain painters they see in a museum. This is one of the most ignorant and reductionist view of art out there, and yet it is so common. Art has existed since men were in caves. Human beings have needed to express themselves since forever but we live in the era of the institutions and the stamps. Most of the big famous painters and writers we admire now did not have a degree from a fancy university, yet they produced, they expressed and they were curious. Curiosity as Brene Brown often says in her interviews is the key for unlocking any person potential. So careful with the self-limiting though that you are not good because you don’t do something like it is expected : from family, society…etc…If art is the expression of a person, it can never be wrong. That is why we have conceptual art and abstract art and many other categories, that are only that: CATEGORIES. If you do something in a different way and it can’t be categorised, do not think you are not doing it right, just because you don’t get the stamp. In history there is always a first in everything. Believe in your expression and intuition and be curious without expecting anything else that your own enjoyment from the activity itself. I know this is especially hard in a time where reward and public recognition seem to be the only thing that matters.
Self-limiting belief #2: It is better not to try than to try and fail. I know without trying I’ll be bad at it.
I have seen kids as young as 6 years old telling you : no… I won’t sing this new song because I am bad at singing. How would you know if you don;t try? And even if you are, why would you deprive yourself from the joy of singing with your classmates? These are children who have been taught: If you are not perfect, it is better not to try. So they don’t try anything out of the ordinary and safe as perfection is quite a mark to reach.
I have fallen trapped of this myself even with this blog, not daring to write and to freely express myself because of the fear of failure or judgement. Now I just do it like I paint, because it brings me happiness. And anything that comes with it is a gift. Be careful if your self limiting belief is “I can’t pursue my dreams because I don’t know what I’d do if I fail…”.
And what is failure? Not making enough money? not having a better status? not getting the correct stamp or approval by certain people? or society? Failure for me is to life a life that is not mine anymore. To live by other people’s expectations and standards. Not to be able to feel proud of myself as I am too busy pleasing other’s ideas of what I should be according to external sources. The way that I live my life now, I simply cannot fail as I am true to myself.
We can all aspire to that and to feel truly free if we let go of the external expectations and if we start to pay attention to what we truly need.
Self-limiting belief #3: Everybody is doing that, so I should do the same.
The ‘follow the herd syndrome’.
“I can’t tell the truth because I may get judged…” or ”Nobody has complained so why should I?”, ”That is the way things have always been so it must be ok”…etc…
The fear behind this self-limiting belief is to be the outsider. Nobody likes to be the one that gets singled out, ostracised. We have a tendency to follow the path of less friction. But we should wonder how much of a ‘follower we want to be. I had a module in college named Critical Thinking and I believe that teenagers should study that in school. But at least in Spain, that is not convenient for our leaders as our educational system over there promotes following the herd and whatever authority figures say without even questioning them or what they do. In college I remember being fascinated at British and American students that will come to class and speak up to the professor, ask him questions and challenge his statements during the class. Things in America and England these days are far from ideal, but I though that Spanish students, myself included, would benefit from that courage to speak up our mind and to question the source of the knowledge we are being given. Again, curiosity is the key.
Another great example of this is the topic of bullying. Finland is at the top of this with an anti-bullying programme named KiVa that has proven to be the most effective in the world because it targets the bystanders.Why this is important? Because we see this happening over and over in so many situations and contexts. Situations where you are not the one getting whipped, or bullied or we see someone doing or saying something that is not respectful about someone and instead of speaking up and stating our disagreement with that statement, we decide to remain silent and become the bystander. Well, I agree 100% that bystanders are to blame for bullying just as much as the bully. They are the audience not only tolerating this behaviour but enabling it. People these days try to excuse the lack of morality of this behaviour by hiding behind the fact that it is not happening to them, they minimise the effect of the bully’s actions ( you know: it was a joke, he didn’t mean to hurt his feelings….) Rationalisation is needed for the bystanders to cope with the fact that they are made accessories in this appalling behaviour. I recently heard someone trivialising bullying as ‘Playing politics’ as if because it’s work it is not personal, so it should not affect you as much. This is the bystander attempt to justify his inaction as morally acceptable by trivialising and detaching himself from the bullying behaviour itself.
We should feel accountable for witnessing as well. If you can help someone suffer less in any way by speaking up, you really should do so. It is important to speak up for yourself but sometimes we all need each other to get out of certain situations. A bit of compassion and solidarity can do wonders in this situations as nobody deserves to be treated with disrespect.
Can you think of any other self-limiting beliefs that people or you struggle with? How do you cope with these?
Share your thoughts on the comments below and thanks for reading!