April 8, 2021
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
My father didn’t want me.
He left before I was even born. He never wanted to be a father in the first place.
Logically, I know that not everyone wants to be a parent. Some people don’t have a maternal/paternal bone in their body. Or they believe they’re not cut out to take on such an immense responsibility. But a child’s brain isn’t logical. In my mind, it all boiled down to those five words: My father didn’t want me.
And those five words morphed into something else. A core belief that I held on to well into my adult years: I’m not worthy.
That core belief impacted my self-esteem. It kept me stuck in toxic cycles and relationships. It kept me from pursuing my dreams.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I learned about “limiting beliefs” and how to shift them into something more positive.
So, what are limiting beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are beliefs, world views or states of mind that limit you in some way. They can be about you, other people or how the world operates. They can keep you stuck making decisions that block you from living the life you want.
Guess what? Most of us have some form of limiting belief. Entrepreneurs are no exception! I’ve spent the past seven years helping entrepreneurs from all types of backgrounds build thriving businesses they love. I’ve worked with life coaches, publicity experts, energy healers, trauma healers, designers, dancers, teachers, VAs, writers, real estate agents and more!
Just about every one of them needed to work through limiting beliefs. The ones who didn’t had likely already done that mindset work before we worked together.
I’ve also found that there are some myths surrounding the idea of limiting beliefs that make it harder for some people to get rid of them. That’s what I want to debunk today.
Related: 3 Ways You Block Yourself From Being as Successful as You Could Be
Myth #1: They’re just thoughts stuck on repeat
Limiting beliefs are, as I mentioned, core beliefs. They’re deeply embedded in your psyche — often during childhood or as a result of some type of traumatic event. (Note: A traumatic event can be anything that has a profound negative impact on you.) Yes, they can manifest in the form of thoughts and “voices” in your head that tell you negative things about yourself that you believe. But they’re more than that.
In fact, limiting beliefs are such a deeply-rooted part of you that they can be hard to even recognize for what they are. For example, Gay Hendrix talks about a limiting belief called “the upper limit problem”. It’s the belief that we’re only allowed a certain level of happiness in life. And when we feel like we’re reaching that limit, we self-sabotage through things such as self-doubt and procrastination.
Limiting beliefs are like poison ivy. You can’t just cut the vines — you have to get to the roots. And part of that is realizing that core beliefs are broad, not specific. For example, you may hear yourself saying, “I don’t know enough about business to do well.” However, if you dig deep enough, you may realize that your true core belief is I’m not good enough. And I bet that once you realize that that core belief is, you will see how it impacts all areas of your life — not just your business. That’s when you know you’re getting somewhere!
Related: It’s Time for Startup Culture to Talk About Mental Health
Myth #2: You simply replace them with positive thoughts
I wish this were true! It would make life so much easier. If limiting beliefs were just thoughts stuck on repeat in your brain, then getting rid of them would be as simple as thinking other thoughts just as frequently.
But that’s not how it works. I’ve seen so many people give up because their limiting beliefs didn’t disappear after a couple of months of repeating positive affirmations. Don’t get me wrong, I think that these things can help. But they’re not the solution in and of themselves. In reality, shifting limiting beliefs for good is a process that takes more time and work. And it starts by getting down to that core belief and reprogramming that first. After that, the positive affirmations can do the work they’re meant to do.
Myth #3: You can’t change them
Some people believe that since limiting beliefs are a part of who you are, you can’t change them. That’s not true!
There’s evidence that the brain is malleable and changeable. You can use methods such as theta healing and hypnotherapy to change the way your synapses fire, which means you can change beliefs that have been programmed into your brain. One book that covers this beautifully is The Brain That Changes Itself (2007) by Norman Doidge, M.D.
Myth #4: They take a lifetime to change
This isn’t one that I hear often, but I feel like I have to address it. Some people believe that if you’ve had a limiting belief your entire life, it can take about that long to get rid of it. While I 100 percent believe that shifting limiting beliefs for good takes time, I do not believe that you have to be stuck with them for years or decades once you decide to do something about them.
Will it take effort on your part to overcome limiting beliefs and shift them into something that supports you rather than holds you back? Absolutely! But what type of change like this doesn’t take work?
There are a lot of methods and tools you can use to help you shift your limiting beliefs. They include therapy, hypnotherapy and energy healing.
Myth #5: The ones from family can’t change
Another thing I’ve come across is the belief that the limiting beliefs that were instilled in you during childhood or by your family are impossible to get rid of. I think the reasoning behind this is that your family knows you better than anyone — maybe even better than you know yourself. So if they tell you something about yourself, it must be true!
The truth is that no one gets to tell you who you are but yourself. And you can choose what to believe.
Another thing that I believe factors into this myth is fear. As humans, we ache to belong and be loved — and family members are often the only ones we believe are supposed to accept and love us. But there’s the fear that if we change the way we believe or behave, our family will no longer offer us that sense of belonging, safety and love. We don’t want that!
The thing to remember in those cases is that you can let go of familial beliefs that don’t serve you and still be loved, safe and accepted. And that if letting go of toxic or limiting beliefs ends up repelling toxic/limiting people … that’s not a bad thing. In fact, sometimes the idea that you have to accept toxic relationships with family is the limiting belief you need to let go of.
I trust this helps you to think differently about limiting beliefs — and the power you have to shift them into something that supports your big goals and dreams.
What’s one limiting belief that holds you back?
Related: Looking Inward Can Make You a Better Leader