It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that limiting beliefs are, well… limiting. Duh, right?
Well, they’re not just limiting. They ruin lives. They keep us from being authentic and living the way we really want to live.
There are many times where I’ve wanted to say something, tell someone how I really feel. But I hold back. Why? Because I’m afraid of how they’ll respond. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m weird. What’s worse, is they might have similar beliefs. That could make things even more uncomfortable. So I keep my mouth shut. I stay quiet and try to forget about whatever it was that I really wanted to say. Or I just say something expected, something safe. And I feel like a little bit of my soul is repressed.
A more specific example is with my music. I play drums, djembe to be specific. I’ve always wanted to be a musician, and I’ve always liked rhythm. (Just ask my wife how much I tap on things.) For the longest time, I thought I didn’t have any rhythm. I thought because I was a white boy, it would be really hard for me to play the drums (white boys supposedly can’t dance, so why should they have any rhythm?). Anyway, I had all these limiting beliefs about what it was I could and couldn’t do and it held me back. I would practice and practice but I would still fumble and be off-beat. It wasn’t until I let go of my limiting beliefs about whether or not I had rhythm, that I started to really improve my playing.
Am I the only one that thinks that’s crazy?
There was nothing physically holding me back from being a good drummer. I practiced all the time (if you have two hands and knees to tap them on, you can practice drumming anywhere). I honed my skills. But I still wasn’t playing as well as I could until I started believing that I could be good.
The takeaway is this:
The majority of the time there is no physical limitation to your success. There is only mental limitation.
That mental limitation is not anything based on reality. You can choose to accept it, or leave it at anytime you wish.
If we’re going to beat the plague of limiting beliefs, we need some tools help us. Here are a few things that have helped me overcome these restrictive vampires:
1. Most limits are imaginary. Most limitations we have with ourselves aren’t real, they are simply imagined. If you realize this, it’s a lot easier to drop these beliefs. It’s hard to stick with something that you know is only an illusion.
2. Question authority. We have an unnatural habit of thinking that the norm is some unbreakable standard that we should never question. If you want to break out of the pattern of limiting beliefs, you have to question the authority that they came from. Who said you couldn’t do what you want to do? Why are you giving them the right to dictate your life?
3. Listen to your heart. The practical mind will usually weigh the likelihood of an occurrence based on the past. Forget what you’ve done in the past, listen to your heart. Learn to see with your heart, as well as your mind.
4. Temporary drop unwanted beliefs. You don’t have to do it permanently. I know giving up these beliefs can be scary at first, because we identify with them. We think if we lose this belief, a part of us too is lost. Well, I’ve got some news for you. You are not your beliefs. You are much more than that. And so what if you contradict yourself? In the words of Walt Whitman “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Drop your limiting beliefs for a while about what you think you are capable of. Drop limiting beliefs about what you think is even possible. You can always go back if you don’t like it. But have the courage to see for yourself. If you like what you find, maybe you’ll find it makes more sense to have liberating beliefs. Ones that lift you up and give you wings. Not ones that keep you tethered to the ground.
Jonathan is the author of Illuminated Mind. His articles include Living Freestyle; Life Without a Template and Liberate Your Life: Put Yourself on Auto-Response. You can subscribe to his here, or get more from him on twitter.