Last week, I was out with a bunch of my friends and I ran into Jen. I haven’t seen her in a while and honestly, she was looking smashing, so I commented: “Wow! Jen, you look amazing”. The thing that puzzled me was her reaction to my comment: “What? What is wrong with me?” and that got me thinking on how we filter all information through the tinted glasses of our beliefs. Although my comment was honest, Jen did not seem to believe she looked amazing hence her suspicious reaction.
I have noticed that in certain areas of my life I tend to do exactly the same thing as Jen. I understand all events and circumstances as negative or positive depending on my beliefs about the subject. Some of those beliefs help me, some of those hinder me. So, the question here is how can you identify those beliefs that make your life worse (which for this particular post I am going to call “limiting beliefs”) because I am of the opinion that “it’s easy to find a cure for the disease when you have identified the sickness”.
What are limiting beliefs?
To understand limiting beliefs, we need to go a step back to the definition of belief. In synthesis, a belief is a story that we tell ourselves and believe it to be an absolute truth whether it is or it isn’t. Those beliefs are going to colour the way we understand everything happening around us. Like my friend Jen, which her perception of herself and internal beliefs turned a positive comment into a negative one.
So how do we differentiate between negative and positive beliefs? Honestly, that is a hard question to answer. Because even positive beliefs can turn into negative over time. Let me illustrate that point.
Years back, I truly believed that “I was a good lawyer”. I studied law and loved everything to do with the profession. For over a decade I had lots of fun, enjoyment and personal pride on being a lawyer so my belief fit me perfectly. The problem came when I realized that I was not happy anymore doing that type of work and decided that I wanted a change. That belief was so engraved on my personality that it soon became a limiting belief. What would I be if I was not a lawyer? Was that everything I was ever meant to be? Should I resign myself to only be what I thought I should be?
So now you can understand why there is no cut and clear answer in regards to what constitutes a limiting belief. There is only a subjective perception. You are responsible for defining what constitutes a limiting belief for you. But don’t get scared, I am here to guide you. By the time you are done with this post, you will be armed with all the tools you need to find them by yourself.
How to find your limiting beliefs?
I have my own personal process which I will share with you below in the next point, but before I do that, I want to give you some other options so that you can decide by yourself what works best for you.
At this point in my life, I take everything that happens to me as information. Emotions, events or circumstances are my indicators of where my mind is at.
In order to properly uncover what is hindering me, I have adopted what I call the “position of the observer”. From this mental space, I am able to detach from an overwhelming emotion event or circumstance to a place where I am observing my actual reaction to what is happening.
When you take the position of the observer, you too will be able to assess your situation and discover what are the beliefs that are not helping you to achieve what you truly desire. There are two main events to look for: Reaction and dissatisfaction.
Assess your reactions
The easiest way to find limiting beliefs is to look at your reactions to things. It is easy because it is ever-present. You are interacting with the external world on a regular basis and those interactions will arise emotions in you. Make a point of paying attention to those emotions throughout the day.
If that phone call you received made you uncomfortable, note it down. If you got annoyed in traffic, note it down. In case that comment hurt your feelings, note it down. If you stopped yourself from taking in that meeting, note it down.
Ask yourself, why? Why are you having that reaction? And do not take anything for granted. The idea is that you analyse all of your negative reactions throughout the day to uncover the beliefs that you are harvesting.
Look at the areas of your life where you are not satisfied.
Unlike the previous process, this one is a bit more subtle. In some areas of our lives, we take for granted that things are as they are or, what is worse, we blame ourselves for it. Like those 10 pounds that you would like to lose at the beginning of the year and it is a year later and they still there.
When some area of your life is not working to your satisfaction, chances are there is a limiting belief at play. Whether it is health, relationships, money … looking into what isn’t working can have a great pay off in your life.
One of the resources I use for assessment is the Wheel of Life. The Wheel of Life is a simple visual tool that helps you see where you are in every area of your life: health, career, love, spirituality, family, money, friends and fun. There are many of them online, I personally use this one, cause it is free and pretty simple, but you can use whatever you like or even a paper.
When you identify something that doesn’t work, the same process as before applies, you start asking why. Going as deep within yourself as possible. The idea is to follow every reason for things not working to the very core.
If you haven’t lost those 10 pounds, why? Don’t be afraid of being honest with yourself. Let’s say for example that you concluded that it is because you have been lazy. Do not stop there. If you have been lazy ask the question again: why have I been lazy about this, if I am not lazy about anything else? And keep questioning until you get to the actual core of the problem.
Not only you require to be in the position of the observer, but you required bold honesty. I personally find this exercise hard because I am dealing with a part of me that is resisting facing what is really going on and that is why I devise my own process to identify limiting beliefs.
My process to identify limiting beliefs
I have based my process on the Neville Goddard teachings. In case you don’t know who he was, he was one of the most prominent spiritual teachers on the early nineties. He truly believed that thoughts create reality and he devised great techniques for that purpose. Whether or not you agree with his teachings and perceptions of reality his techniques are of great value to anyone that wants to improve his/her life.
My process is quite simple. It requires a pen, paper and a bit of time. It is divided into 4 levels of depth. In case you need some assistance, you can download the workbook that I use, but you can also use your own paper.
Choose a situation that is frustrating for you. In this case, we are talking about something specific. For illustration purposes, let’s say that your boss is being difficult and treating you in a way you don’t like to be treated.
Divide the paper into two parts and use the left side to write all of the complaints you have about the situation. No one is going to see it, so go for it! Don’t hold anything in, let it all out into the paper.
When you are done, go through all of the sentences again and on the right side of the paper, you will write what you would like that happened instead. Use present tense as it was happening right now. For example, if the sentence is “my boss shouts at me in public” on the right side you will write in the opposite for you in the present tense, which for me would be something like “my boss is always complimenting my skills in public” when you are done with every single one of the sentences is time to move to the next step.
In this stage, you will do the same thing. Divide the paper into two parts and on the left side, you are going to go a step further. Instead of looking at the actual circumstance, you will look at your beliefs about the particular circumstance. So in the case of your boss, you are going to ask yourself “what are my beliefs about my boss?”. Remember to be honest no one is going to read it.
In the other side of the paper, you will write how you prefer your boss to be. So for example, if you wrote on the left “my boss is rude and disrespectful” you will write something of the sorts “my boss is so considerate and nice to be around”. When you are all done, it is time to go even further.
By now you know how it goes, but this time you are going to look inwards, you are going to look at your beliefs about yourself in this situation. Honestly, this is a bit hard to look at, but be as honest and bold as before. Whatever comes up is good, even if it surprises you. Sometimes things like “I am not good enough at work!” or “I deserve to be treated badly” come up. Do not judge anything, write what comes to mind without judgement. Allow yourself to feel what you feel for as long as it is needed. And when you are done, translate those sentences into your ideal positive.
The last thing to look at is your general belief about the situation. In the example, it is around career, “what are your actual thoughts about careers?” list them all without exceptions and make the positives beside it.
When you are done with all of those steps. Take a minute for yourself, grab a cup of coffee, check social media or whatever you fancy for about 5 mins. Then read again your complaints on the first page and your beliefs about the situation. You will realize that the situation is playing out exactly as you believed it would and what are the things that need to be changed in order to change the situation.
You can use any of the subconscious mind programming techniques to change those limiting beliefs, with the clear confidence that you have uncovered one more limiting belief.
Understanding what is holding you back is the first step to free you. Finding limiting belief is a huge exercise of honesty and self-awareness, but the pay-off goes beyond anything you can imagine.
And you should imagine a life that is exactly what you want without anything or anyone holding you back from achieving your dreams. Isn’t this life worth paying the price of looking at your deepest insecurities and doubts?
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