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How Your Limiting Beliefs Keep You Safe… And Miserable

Imagine this scenario: You are a successful business owner or corporate employee. You’ve been working hard and putting in more hours every year but you never have much to show for it. Your income never grows, but your debt just keeps climbing.  You are exhausted and stressed and you don’t see any way you could work any harder.

When you lie awake in bed at night, you start asking yourself, “Why me?” You wonder what’s wrong with you that keeps you from getting your life together.  Why are so many peers doing better?

Here are just a few of the things I hear my clients say about themselves:

  • “I am no good.”
  • “I will never be able to change”
  • “life will never get better”
  • “my body is disgusting”
  • “nobody will ever love me”
  • “I don’t deserve to have what I really want”
  • “I’m not worthy of anything”
  • “I actually hate myself…”

Can you imagine speaking to a co-worker or child like that everyday?  And if you did, would you expect them to perform well or have stellar behavior?

When we narrate our own lives with this kind of language, is it really any surprise that we can’t ever seem to profoundly change?

Changing How You Think Will Change Your Life

Look, we all want to feel happy and fulfilled in our lives. To do that we have to understand and change how we make meaning. And we have to learn where these beliefs about ourselves come from to begin with.

If you pay close attention to what I’m about to share with you, you will learn the ability to make new meaning which will allow you to move past your limiting beliefs.  You’ll gain deep clarity with zero illusions.  This is like getting the ‘keys to the kingdom’ of creating happiness and fulfillment in your life.  But tools aren’t enough, you first have to be open to change.

How We Make Meaning

Our ancestors had less choices when it came to truth and beliefs1.  If they were walking back to their tribe through a field of tall grass and they heard  a rustle, they could assume, “That’s just wind,” and keep on walking…or they could worry “That’s a tiger!” and go home the longer but safer route.

Even if they guessed correctly some of the time, the people who thought “it’s just the wind” were going to be wrong eventually, and that was the end of their blood line.  But the people who thought there was a tiger even when there wasn’t still got home safely, even if there was never any real threat.  And while there may have been a small cost of going the longer way home, they got to live, and they passed on their genes and teachings to us.

That means we’ve actually been bred to make meaning that keeps us safe. We actually seek patterns in every situation because those patterns are what’s kept us alive for thousands of years.

The problem is when you identify patterns – especially about yourself – that aren’t true at all:  I can’t dance, dieting doesn’t work for me, I’ll always be poor…  

Just like believing there’s a tiger waiting in the grass for you, these beliefs can seem to keep you safe, even when they’re wrong.  

Wrong Beliefs Are Dangerous

Let’s be clear, even if they do keep you safe, your negative beliefs will fail miserably at helping you feel happy, confident, and fulfilled in your life.  

You see, a belief is simply taking an opinion and treating it as a truth.  Beliefs are everywhere and they are incredibly powerful – they can be motivating when they are useful, but they can be downright dangerous when they aren’t.

Let’s imagine a woman who was told in middle school that she “looks fat in that outfit.”  I can’t tell you how many clients of mine have this kind of experience.  And what happens is that the embarrassment of that moment creates a pattern to not believe we are attractive.  Staying ‘safe’ becomes believing we are unattractive.

The cost of believing we are unattractive is huge, yet it’s a way our system keeps us safe. If we stop standing out, risking things with trendy clothes, etc. – we can avoid ever being embarrassed like that again.

One… simple… comment… can have a lifetime of negative effect.

Look back at that list of common negative self talk – do you say any of those things to yourself?  Take a few moments to consider the negative things you say about yourself on any given day.

Now, can you honestly say that those are true?  Or have you just formed an opinion – maybe because of things parents or peers said to you when you were younger – and since that opinion kept you ‘safe’ in some way, your subconscious went ahead and turned it into a belief.

Learn to Challenge Your Beliefs

You have to break the cycle of turning these patterns into beliefs.  And if you already have the limiting beliefs, you’re going to want to learn how to reverse them.  The simple way out is by learning to challenge the beliefs that are holding you back.  

If your brain says, “This is really hard, I’ll never get it done.”  Then you say, “Nah, this is easy. I got this.”

If your brain says, “I’ll never have real money.”  Then you say, “I wonder how I can GROW my wealth this month.”

It’s so simple, but until we shift our identity it takes commitment.  It takes doing this same process over and over again, day in and day out, until it becomes an unconscious habit (the identity shifts).

What Happens If You Master Meaning?

Recently I worked with a client who told herself that making more money in her business would make her life harder.  So she had a money ceiling – her belief was keeping her ‘safe’ from the complexity of a bigger life by preventing her from earning more money.  And because of this, she was stuck and getting deeper in debt.  

Simply learning to question the belief that more money would equal more problems has completely changed her income and business growth.  She’s paid off all her debts and is doing better and better every month.

But what if she’d held on to that belief that money just complicated her life?  How much time and energy and money (that she didn’t have) would she have wasted on workshops and books and tools – only to sabotage her results and keep the ‘less money is better’ story alive?  

Strategies and tactics wouldn’t do anything for her until she eliminated the limiting belief. And they won’t do anything for you until you eliminate the beliefs that are fighting to keep you ‘safe,’ but are actually sabotaging your goals.

Next Steps

I hope this is all you need to begin identifying your ‘truths’ that are really just beliefs, and to then begin challenging those beliefs in the moments when they hold you back.

Some beliefs are easier to challenge than others.  Some are so deeply ingrained in us, that we might need some mental power tools to get to the root of it.

But I want you to have some fun with this.  You’re embarking on a huge shift in your life – it’s intense – but it doesn’t have to be hard.  You can enjoy it and make it a game to uncover all the old beliefs that have been holding you back for years.

Remember, this isn’t about forcing old habits onto your current identity – this is about completely shifting the way you see yourself and the world. It’s about permanent change through shifting your identity.

And once you’ve got your new identity locked in, overturning limiting beliefs won’t be a decision you need to make in the moment…it will just be a normal part of your day. Making positive meaning can become totally automatic for you.

 


  1. This example comes from author Dr. Michael Shermer. For more on his concept of “patternicity,” check out the book How We Believe.
About Rob Scott

Master coach, teacher, and lover of presence. I shift people's minds, and help them massively transform. Get in touch here.