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6 Steps to Eliminate Limiting Beliefs

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** New: Audio:

(Intro: listen above or download mp3 file)

I consider myself a frugal person and I’ve always thought that it was a good thing. However, I recently discovered that, while frugality is a worthy and useful quality, the root of my own frugality is based on some limiting beliefs that I’ve held.

It all started with the story of a little dell laptop, and the story went something like this… The computer I use every day is a five-year-old Dell laptop. It was originally my work laptop from Amazon.com, until the hardware lease expired, and I was allowed to purchase it for $68.

This little machine has served me well, but due to its nature (ahem – it runs on Windows) – its gradual decline in reliability and performance was noticeable (even after re-installing Windows and doubling the RAM). I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by the need to reboot my computer at in-opportune moments, and the random crashes and slowness of Photoshop – which I frequently use.

Last week, Jeremy watched as I was hunched over my little laptop, frustrated once again by the slowness of its functions, hinting of the need to reboot. I cursed out loud, not wanting to reboot because I had too many browser tabs open; so I persisted, insisting that I could tough it out. He turned to me, and with a concerned expression, said, “Honey, let’s get you a new Macbook and an external display. I think you’re really gonna love it and you’ll be so much happier and productive.”

I have resisted converting to Apple for about ten years. My excuse was always that I couldn’t stand the keyboard differences. While this was somewhat true, it was also an excuse to stay within my comfort zone and to resist change. That evening, however, I reached a tipping point in my dissatisfaction with PCs, and decided to give Mac a try (while trying to ignore the resistance in my stomach).

So, Jeremy and his friend Dave took me to the Apple Store. Once inside, I immediately felt like a kid in a candy store, drooling over the sleekness of the machines and the beautifully minimalistic store design. We walked into the store with the idea of buying the cheapest laptop + display combo, but when I saw that the current generation of 23″ monitors have a glossy reflective display, I knew that it would distract me more than be a tool of inspiration and productivity.

Then we spotted it, the 30″ Cinema HD Display, which has a non-reflective matte screen and the higher price tag to go with it. The three of us gathered in front of the model display “oooowing and ahhhhing” at the enormous mass of aluminum beauty.

After playing with it for about ten minutes, pulling up Think Simple Now in the browser, and testing out Photoshop with great satisfaction, Jeremy proclaimed, “Babe, let’s get you this.” Dave smiled widely.

And then, it happened, I heard a peculiar voice inside my head say, “You don’t deserve it“.

I observed as the feeling glistened over me. While I was excited for and had always lusted over the Apple Cinema Display, I felt the guilt hover over me and turn the hope into shame, for even wanting it.

I felt sad and pathetic that I had picked this belief up somewhere along the way, and have been unconsciously carrying it with me, for god knows how long. Memories of my childhood began flashing in front of my eyes…

My Childhood: The Story of a Silent Limiting Belief

Growing up in communist China, my family was poor, and lived on a modest salary of 150 RMB ($18.75 USD) that my mother brought in every month. As a little girl, when I needed something, I always picked out the cheapest one instead of the prettiest one. Even today, my mother still tells the story – with tears in her eyes – of my five year old self, selecting the olive corduroy shoes instead of the red cotton ones, because they were 3 RMB ($0.37 USD) cheaper. And I still remember being made fun of by the other kids for what I wore to school.

The idea of not putting a financial burden on my mother became deeply ingrained in me and lasts to this day.

After moving to Canada, my family lived in the one room basement of someone else’s house. I never asked for what I wanted, out of fear that I was burdening my parents.

As I got older and became a teenager, fitting-in with my peers consumed much of my attention. I got into teen modeling, started making my own money and rejoiced that I no longer had to rely on my mom. I would go shopping and buy all the things I thought I missed out on; things that teenage girls wanted in order to secure their identity: makeup, clothes, and teenybopper magazines. Often, I would come home, and be scolded for having “wasted money” at the mall.

Somewhere in there, my five and thirteen year old self came to the unconscious conclusion and false belief that I didn’t deserve nice things.

 

Afterwards

I shared this belief and emotional discovery with Jeremy, and he stared into my eyes with great empathy and conviction and said, “If anyone deserves it, it’s you!” He continued with tears in his eyes, “Think of how many hours a day you sit in front of a computer, and think of the number people you can help if you are happier with your work station.” My heart melted, and a feeling of relief washed over me. He was right, but I still needed some time to let that sink in and start to believe it myself.

Recently, in an email exchange with a friend, she shared with me her recent discovery that she has always viewed herself as the “wacky sidekick”, and continued with, “I want to be the main character now. I no longer want to whine and complain about life. I no longer want to react to life, I want to be a partner with the Universe in creating the life that I want and am destined to live.”

Wow!

It became clear that I wasn’t alone; although our beliefs were different, they boiled down to the same issue. We all have conscious and unconscious beliefs about ourselves that either drive us forward or act like an unseen weight tied to our ankle. These beliefs either unleash our spirit or hold us back from our potential to BE and to live the best life possible, which is what we all deserve.

What are some beliefs holding you back?

 

Action: What to Do to Overcome Limiting Beliefs

Note: If you are looking for results, don’t just read the following steps, actually do the tasks each step asks. It’s best to be somewhere you won’t be disturbed, grab a pen and paper, and let’s start!

belief2.jpg
Photo: Simón Pais-Thomas

1. What Are Your Beliefs?

Beliefs are mental notions and assumptions we have, about ourselves and the world around us, that we hold onto as absolute truths. They are emotional and psychological and often irrational. They are formed through our experiences and interactions with the world. Dr. Rao says that these beliefs make up our mental model. Others simply call them unconscious beliefs. They often do not serve us but rather hold us back from pursuing our dreams and living freely and fully to our potential.

Many of these beliefs were formed and accumulated throughout our childhood. We picked them up through our interactions with others – like when we were scolded for doing something wrong or not doing something the way our parents expected us to. A common resulting belief is I’m not good enough, which then bleeds into other beliefs that affect us during adulthood, like, I’m not capable enough or I’m not talented or I’m stupid.

Relationship based beliefs are also very common, because the events associated with them are often emotionally heightened and leave lasting impressions on our subconscious mind. If we got hurt early on in our dating career, we might end up concluding that we do not deserve a loving relationship, or associate that love is a cause for suffering.

On a piece of paper, write some beliefs you have about yourself and the world around you that you’ve come to accept as reality. Especially ones that you know are over generalized, and are no longer serving you on your path to personal wellbeing. Some of these statements may seem like you don’t actually consciously believe them, but if you noticed an emotional reaction in your body, then you actually do carry that belief with you.

Here are some common beliefs:

  • I’m not important
  • Making money is a struggle
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I don’t deserve it
  • I am too young, people won’t take me seriously
  • I am too old, it’s too late to start…
  • I am a hard worker. I work hard for money.
  • I’m pretty much doomed, I don’t have good luck, problems always follow me.

In other examples, here are some of my beliefs from the past (I no longer have them, however, I did carry them for many years until I realized that they were hurting me and limiting my potential to be happy):

  • Good looking men are unfaithful or unkind.
  • I am a bad writer.
  • I do not deserve a loving relationship.
  • I have to work hard to be successful, working without rest or having a social life.
  • I am not pretty enough. I do not deserve or am not able to find someone I am attracted to.
  • I am not a good engineer. They’re going to find out really soon that this is true.

I could go on for hours with a list of beliefs I have had about myself. It is something I now consciously watch for and have chosen to change about myself. I can speak from personal experience that unlearning these beliefs has served me well and I was surprised to find the abundance of goodness that was around me all along.

By brainstorming and writing these out for yourself, you become aware of them, and can choose to work on overcoming them.

 

2. Find a Counter Instance

Pick one of the beliefs from step 1 to work on and continue on with the remaining steps.

For your belief, look for one specific example where the statement is not actually true, where you did something or experienced something – even through someone else – that was not in alignment with your belief.

For example,

  • For the belief I am a bad writer: this proved untrue when I wrote (fill in the blank) article two years ago.
  • For the belief Good looking men are unfaithful or unkind: this has proven to be untrue in the case of x person’s husband.

This step introduces the possibility that there are flaws in this belief. As you go about your day, specifically look for examples that counteract this belief statement. For example, if your belief is “nobody likes me”, spend your day looking for “people who like me for who I am”.

If you are not finding an example after trying for ten minutes (please try!), move on to the next step.

3. How Has This Belief Worked Against You?

Think of all the instances where this belief worked against you, either kept you away from taking action towards something you wanted, or negatively affected you emotionally and thus affected other areas of your life – relationships, health, etc. How has this belief hurt me in the past? Write it down.

Change happens when we take action, and pain can be an effective motivator to catapult and accelerate our desire for change. When we’ve experienced enough pain, we will want change and will take action to make it happen.

Now, close your eyes and experience the pain you felt as a result of this belief. Visualize, hear, and feel the emotions of that moment. Make it as real as possible.

 

4. Find the Source

Dig deep into memories from your past – childhood, teenage years, early twenties or even last year – what instance or instances brought you to this conclusion? Be specific and write them down using as many words as needed to describe them.

Tip: it helps to close your eyes, and repeat the belief statement out loud. This triggers emotions that will assist in locating the events that contributed to its formation.

For example,

  • For the belief, I am a bad writer, I recalled an instance when a high school English teacher told me that my paper was poorly done.
  • For the belief, Good looking men are unfaithful or unkind, I realized that several ex boyfriends who were either unfaithful or unreliable or unkind were good looking men.
  • For the belief I am not good enough, I realized that I had formed this belief during my childhood years, when my mother would seem frustrated with me when I didn’t do certain things exactly the way she expected.

Close your eyes and visualize this scene. Re-live the scene and remember how it made you feel.

 

5. Alternative Meaning

The external event you identified in step 4 wasn’t necessarily responsible, on it’s own, for the formation of your belief statement. For example, just because my high school English teacher expressed dissatisfaction with one paper from a class 15 years ago, didn’t mean that I had to invent the belief that, “I am a bad writer”.

I believed this, because that was how I had interpreted the situation. I attached that meaning to the scenario. I had chosen that perspective out of the many possible perspectives that could have explained the situation. But at the time, I chose one, and attached myself to it.

Nothing has any meaning, unless we give it a meaning. The only power we can give to any external event or scenario, is the power we allow it to have on us.

Now, brainstorm for other perspectives that could also explain the external event you identified. It may be helpful to pretend you are other people, viewing the situation from multiple angles. In my example above, where I had concluded that, “I am a bad writer”, here are some alternative perspectives that may equally explain the situation:

  • The teacher was having a bad day.
  • The teacher had a different writing style than me.
  • I was really nervous while writing the exam, contributing to the poor performance.
  • Maybe it wasn’t my best performance, but it was an isolated occurrence.

Close your eyes and visualize the scene from step 4, except, view it from these new alternative perspectives. See that you are free to choose the meaning you give to the external event.

Now repeat your original belief statement verbally and examine how you feel. Do you now feel that your emotional reaction to the statement is reduced or non-existent?

6. Eliminate Beliefs

belief3.jpg
Photo: Kevin Russ

Step A:

(Guide Visualization: listen above or download mp3 file)

Close your eyes and once again visualize the scene you found in step 4 (a situation that contributed towards you forming this belief). Now imagine that this image in your mind has gone dim, as if someone turned off a light or two in the scene. Now visualize that the image is moving away from you, as if contained in a box that is being pulled away from you.

As the image moves away, see that it also becomes blurry. Continue to imagine the image shrinking until it disappears and all you are left with is darkness. Now, take a nice deep and long inhale, causing an audible exhale, making an – ahhhhhhh sound.

Step B:

Open your eyes. Now write down a statement that has the opposite meaning from your belief statement. For example, I am a great writer, I am deserving of good things, there are many good-looking men who are faithful and kind, I am a good person, etc.

Step C:

(Guided Visualization: listen above or download mp3 file)

Close your eyes, and see yourself living with this statement you just constructed. Imagine yourself as a great writer, typing away at your desk. See yourself walking around on a beautiful day knowing that you are a good and deserving person.

Look around at the details of this scene. What do you see around you? What do you hear? Touch something in your environment. How do you feel? Feel the emotions of that moment. Feel the joy bursting from your being. You are smiling. Now make this image slightly brighter, as if someone had shined extra light onto the scene. Continue to imagine this scene until you are satisfied.

How do you feel now? Try repeating your original statement. Does it still bother you in the same way? Repeat the process if you still feel an emotional reaction towards it.

 

Parting Words

One of the most profound things I’ve heard recently is from Morty Lefkoe, in his interactive (and free) video program on getting rid of I’m not good enough. In it, he uses a beautiful analogy; for every experience that we go through that results in a belief, we are adding new clay or defining details to make a clay person, and then we attach ourselves to this clay person, assuming that it is us. We forget that we were the hands that created the clay person.

Indeed, we are not our beliefs. We are not the clay person we have created. Remember that behind every belief, there was a source that did the interpreting, created the meanings and attached those meanings to the external event. This source is part of us – it is our consciousness. When our conscious experience is mixed with our ego, we get confused and start attaching ourselves to these otherwise meaningless events.

Remember, if we can create the clay person, then we have the power and capability to modify it. If we want to, we can change our beliefs and thoughts and actions and therefore, change the results. Thus, in a way, we are in control of our destiny.

Thank you for reading. I hope you can apply this in your life, and see positive results. Do come back and share your experiences with us.

* What are some limiting beliefs that you’ve held? Share your thoughts and stories in the comment section. See you there!

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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103 thoughts on 6 Steps to Eliminate Limiting Beliefs

  1. I really like the way you break this down into incremental steps. It can be so hard to start this process but by having that game plan, it makes this seemingly HUGE task, seem so much more achievable.

    Thankyou

  2. Hi Tina,

    This article is amazing, i could totally relate and you’ve inspired me so much, so thanks. Your voice is so calming, you should definitley do some more audio!

    Rebecca x

  3. Mrigendra

    Dear Tina:
    I am a man of forty years with three children and very loving and beautiful wife. I am also a graduate from a top college in Massachussettes. I find myself quite intelligent relative to most around and I am given complement in that matter by most of the people. I am committed, honest, believe in ethical values and a good guy.
    I started a business about 6 years ago, which I believe I would be doing at the highest, but it reached to a certain point and is not going forwards as it is supposed to be. I believe fully in my abilities, I am quite confident person, my self-esteem is high as well and my self-image is also fine. I do not know what limiting beliefs are holding me back. I’d appreciate to hear from you. I will reach you back at your email and follow your instructions. What do I need to do to shatter world with my work – there is where I am looking – I mean it.
    Your website and info is so good to impress me already.
    Thank you Tina
    Mrigendra

  4. Tina,

    Wow! Amazing post.

    Your story is surely helping tons of people and it is inspiring. Thanks for putting it up.

    Here are a couple recommendations for overcoming wrong beliefs as well:

    1) Once you are conscious of a controlling belief, QUESTION IT RATIONALLY. Use questions like, “Do I know for certain? Am I 100% this is true? Is there another explanation? What evidence do I have?

    2) Once you question your belief, speak out loud the new belief with emotion.

    3) Whenever the belief pops back into your head, question is over and over until you overcome it.

    Old beliefs have been there for a long time (like you said) from childhood experiences etc. It takes a little time and effort but these beliefs can be overcome through using your techniques and maybe adding in a couple of these.

    Again, wonderful post. Take care.

  5. Christopher

    Greetings dear Tina Su,

    First of all, allow me to congratulate you on your “right on the point” article. I know that the ideas expressed are not new and have been discussed. From what I see, the whole “Law of Attraction” team, Eckhart Tole, etc., are on the same track. Many before them like Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie have already been there. However, the people who have actually succeeded doing what you’re describing are few. Recently, I’ve also become interested due to a growing need to change. I KNOW and can identify MANY negative non – realistic believes about myself that are destroying my future. Question: What happens when we cannot track back the very first (or perhaps those after as well, d!?) reason for creating a negative belief, because it was traumatic enough for us to burry it deep down, to suppress it? Do we really need to go back to identify that specific moment or is it unneccessary? What are the techniques for doing that, if it is? Also, can you reccomend a program or book that is SPECIFICALLY about ELIMINATING OLD, HARMFUL BELIEVES AND SUBSTITUTING THEM FOR BENEFICIAL ONES, WHILE LIMITING OR ELIMINATING FURTHER CREATION OF NEGATIVE IDEAS ABOUT OURSELVES? I think that there is nothing more for me to ask from life at this stage. I’d like to thank you in advance, wishing you a successful journey through like, whereever it may take you.

  6. Christopher

    Greetings again Dear Su,

    I apologize for writing to you again. I just thought that I should be more specific myself, by telling you a little bit about my background. I am 21 years old, at a good college in my country. Problems are that although a passionate learner when at high school, I seem to have lost my passion for learning and have failed courses, retaken ones even. I do not have a girlfriend and have barely made any attempts. It’s a quite common story for nowadays, I’m afraid. I do not think there is something wrong on me on a physical or other level. I do think however, that being a “nerd” in high school( and before that) and depriving myself from active socializing, has resulted in my nowadays situation. Family has “contributed” for this too, I guess. Observe the vicious cycle: a nerd, realized a change is needed, but finding it too hard as I’ve led a ‘nerdish” life for quite a while, I can’t go back to my “study mode” (maybe because I know I’ve dedicated a lot to it in the past and want to compensate) and I can’t become a “party” person as well. I’m feeling like I’m stuck in the middle of going nowhere. Negative ideas formed in my past have sometimes led me think that it would be better for me to die or struggle severly, only to make up for all the things I’ve missed on. No other way is an option. Struggling… I already am… with all that’s in my head and is working against me. They are quite universal, such as(see here everybody, I’m sure you’ll identify some things for yourself too):

    !) I am limiting myself from doing things, because due to a period of being stuck (call it apathy, depression, etc.), I am no longer on the same level of ability as others. I will only make a fool of myself and walk away ashamed of a performance that a much younger person could haver easily outdone, or at least handled things in a better way. This applies to almost ALL types of social interactions. This is what is preventing me from going to parties (i feel uncomfortable, subjects are brought that i know nothing about), having a girlfriend(even if we do get close, she’ll see that there is something wrong with me (classes failed, no girls before her, low self – esteem, fails in this and that) and leave me;Illogical, but it is what it is)., doing sports, hanging out with friends.

    I am stuck and depressed and I bet that although not intentionally, right now I might as well be speaking from behalf of 1/3 of people of my age around the world. Well, enough of me whining :), sorry if I became too emotional. I just want someone to picture things, assess my bad state of being and give me a piece of useful advice. Thanks again.

  7. Hi Christopher,

    You asked about book recommendations, at the moment, I recommend “You can heal your life” by louise hay. I link to my favorite edition of the book along the right sidebar.

  8. Ou

    I did the first 2 steps and roughly skip till the last stage. Never did visualization but make a short summary. Sort of feeling bit better with the nicer summary I made about myself. Coz the first step, I did a list that sounds like I am really putting myself down. In reality, I am really a kind, sweet and smart girl.

    Have been reading up encouragement books on Strength of Women and a book by Douglas Pagels. I am seeking you as my inspiring model in mid of my emotional crisis. Hoping I can pull through it and be a strong and happy person.

  9. We all have these limiting beliefs, and the more we change them the better our lives will be. Thanks for this!

  10. Cara

    Tina,
    Thank you so unbelievably much. I suddenly realized I have a list of limiting beliefs that I failed to acknowledge that were forming barriers around me and preventing me from connecting properly with my life and the people in it. I surpassed one of the hardest memories that I’ve had to deal with in some time, which is a feeling of being second best (gathered from watching my bestfriend/boyfriend date someone else for nigh a year while I was in love with him). It’s better now but the memories were still holding me back and making me suspicious and negative for the strangest of reasons.

    Now I’m happy to say that the memories aren’t bothering me nearly as much as they were. Thank you so much for all your help and I hope to continue along with this positive growth and learn from your experience as well.

  11. Wow. Excellent article! It’s truly liberating once we realize that we can change such core ‘laws’ which we’ve unconsciously held to for such a long time. Thanks for putting this topic to words so well and providing such a practical outline of steps to follow for success!

  12. I'd Rather Not Say

    Hi Tina,

    I know it has been a long time since you wrote this post, but I just found it today (I hope you’re still reading these comments)… I have been learning about limiting beliefs a lot lately (I came across the free videos you mentioned a few days ago) because I can’t seem to get past a certain income level (once I start doing well some “unexpected expense” comes forward and I’m back to where I started).

    I didn’t realize it before, because I had always thought of my family as well off, but I can relate to the points you made about not asking for nicer things when my siblings did (and feeling apprehensive about buying them for myself more recently). After hearing your story, it sounds like I probably need to focus on changing my beliefs about what I deserve too.

    I think the other contributing factor to my income level is that my parents hit a rough patch (medical issues, etc) and they have been having very bad financial difficulties (sometimes the “unexpected expense” I mentioned comes from wanting to help them however I can)… How would you recommend adjusting my beliefs about achieving more than my family (for me, it sounds bad to say “I am awesome and deserve to be wealthy” when I don’t really feel that my parents deserve to be having the issues they are)?

    • Hi “I’d Rather Not Say” :)

      I still read comments.

      This is one issue and topic that is close to my heart, because it is one that I actively work on and has seen dramatic results in my income level (and opportunities) as my beliefs about money shifts.

      I want to write a blog post or book about this some day, because it is so important.

      Make it your highest goal for the next year to focus on “Abundance” and learn as much as you can about the topic. I briefly talked about this in this blog post: http://thinksimplenow.com/motivation/goals/

      Change starts with awareness. By you actively seeking and is now aware of this means you are on track to extraordinary change. Trust me.

      There are some books (i’m not finding right now). But off the top of my head, I really loved this product:
      http://www.learningstrategies.com/AbundanceForLife/Home.asp
      It’s a little pricy, but I feel that it’s worth it if my life is changed as a result of it.

      Lemme know how you do. I’d love to hear more about your journey and progress. :P

      Tina

  13. Thank you Tina for an inspired and important exercise.
    What do you suggest if you can’t visualize? (Re: Step 5 and 6A)
    Peace,
    Michele

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