Do you ever get frustrated with yourself at your inability to meet your goals? Do you ever feel like you can progress only just so far along a path of change in your life, but then you get distracted, get discouraged, abandon the path, and go back to your old patterns?
If so, you’re not alone. Chances are you’re suffering from an internal issue we all deal with at one time or another. We call them “limiting beliefs.”
We all have limiting beliefs that try to hold us back from reaching our full potential. Limiting beliefs are assumptions or perceptions about ourselves and the world around us that constrain us in some way. We’re all susceptible to them, whether it’s thinking we’re not smart enough, not experienced enough, or simply not good enough to achieve our goals. These ingrained beliefs get reinforced with every perceived failure, keep us stuck in negative cycles and prevent us from achieving our dreams. Many of us aren’t aware of these invisible fences–but there they are, keeping us confined in a “comfort zone” that’s actually more miserable than comfortable.
To illustrate, let’s look at a common practice in training an elephant with a rope. When an elephant in captivity is very young, its trainer constrains it with a rope tied to one of its legs so it can’t get away. The young elephant quickly learns that the rope keeps them from straying too far–and because “an elephant never forgets,” that elephant will soon stop trying to pull away. By the time the elephant is grown, it has the strength to break free of the rope anytime it chooses. But it won’t. It has a memory that the rope keeps them constrained, and it won’t challenge it.
This is a perfect example of a limiting belief. It’s not a real constraint; it’s quite literally “all in our head.” We can break free anytime we want. We just don’t, because we’ve become conditioned to believe we can’t.
The news here is not all bad: like I said, a limiting belief is not an actual limit. Once you identify a limiting belief, you can “reprogram” your brain to bypass it. In other words, limiting beliefs can, in fact, be broken. As we embark on the New Year, it’s a perfect time to reflect on what limiting beliefs may be stopping you from achieving your goals–both in your career and in your life in general–and taking action to counter them. Let’s talk more about how these beliefs work and what we can do about them.
Limiting Beliefs and Your Job Search
Limiting beliefs can stop us from moving forward in any area in which we want to grow, but in the realm of job-seeking, they can be particularly damaging. They can cause us to sabotage ourselves in job interviews, stay stuck in jobs we dislike, or simply transition into other roles that are just as unsatisfactory.
For instance, if you believe you’re not qualified for a certain job, you might not apply for it, even if you have the skills and experience needed. If you believe you’re not good at interviews, you might get nervous and perform poorly, regardless of how well you could do the job. Or, if you believe there’s no better job out there, you might stay stuck in a role you dislike, missing out on opportunities for growth and fulfillment.
How Limiting Beliefs Work
The challenge with limiting beliefs is that they can be difficult to detect. The reason is that when we form these beliefs (often in our early years, and even in infancy), they go into our subconscious and run in the background. That’s actually how the brain works; it’s designed to identify patterns and predict results based on past experience. Once we’ve identified a pattern, our response goes on “autopilot” in our subconscious routines so we don’t have to think about it anymore, and we can focus our conscious mind on other things. It’s actually an efficient and intelligent system when you think about it.
The problem, though, is that sometimes we form wrong conclusions based on insufficient data, and those wrong conclusions seep into the subconscious and start running on autopilot with the rest. That’s the essence of a limiting belief.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Once that limiting belief gets into our subconscious, it actually starts working against us anytime our conscious mind starts thinking about change or growth. You begin to desire new things–a new job, a better career, more money, better health, or just a lifestyle change. You start dreaming of what could be, and maybe you even start making plans and taking steps. But while your conscious mind is trying to help you grow and evolve, the job of your subconscious mind is survival–to keep you alive. The subconscious views change as a threat because it is uncomfortable and unknown–so to keep you “safe,” it starts throwing up resistance to keep you from changing your pattern. Discouragement. Procrastination. Even self-sabotage. Your limiting beliefs scream from your subconscious, Don’t pull against that rope. You know what will happen if you do. If you don’t recognize what’s happening and make a conscious choice to press forward, the resistance will eventually corral you back into the “safe” zone.
How to Identify and Overcome Limiting Beliefs
Limiting beliefs don’t form overnight, and getting rid of them won’t happen overnight. It’s a process that requires self-awareness, introspection, and action. But I’m saying this again to reinforce it for you: limiting beliefs aren’t real constraints. Once you recognize one, you can take actionable steps to counter it and eventually neutralize it.
Here’s a process that can help:
- Identify Your Limiting Beliefs: Start by paying attention to your thoughts and language. Do you often tell yourself you can’t do something or you’re not good enough? Do you say self-deprecating things without thinking? Do you have an inner voice that accuses you and makes you feel “less than?” These are all possible signs of limiting beliefs.
- Question Your Beliefs: Once you’ve identified a limiting belief, challenge it. Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” More often than not, you’ll find these beliefs are based on past experiences or fear, not reality. You may even find evidence in your life that you’ve forgotten where your experience actually proved that belief wrong.
- Reframe Your Thoughts by Replacing Them with Affirming Ones: Replace each limiting belief with a positive, empowering one. For this step, it’s actually helpful to write it all down. Start by writing down the limiting belief, then write down an affirmation statement to counter it. For example, if your limiting belief is, “I’m terrible at interviews,” try writing, “I can improve my interview skills with practice.” It’s like changing the lens through which you see the world. Then erase/delete the negative thoughts, keeping only the affirming statements.
- Speak the Affirming Statements. (Out Loud. Every Day.) I mean it. Stand in front of the mirror and speak the new affirming statements to yourself. “I am beautiful (handsome). I am a brilliant _____ (fill in the blank). I can meet any challenge.” Whatever those statements are for you. It may feel silly at first, but hearing yourself say it reinforces and solidifies the new belief in your subconscious. You may not believe it at first, but science says you will eventually.
- Visualize Success: Picture yourself succeeding in the area where your limiting belief has held you back. If you’re afraid of job interviews, visualize yourself confidently answering questions and leaving a positive impression. It’s like rehearsing for a play before the actual performance.
- Take Action: Start taking small steps towards your goals, despite your limiting beliefs. Each step forward is a victory over these beliefs, like a journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step.
- Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to mentors, coaches, or trusted friends for advice and encouragement. Sometimes, we need others to help us see our worth and potential, just like a mirror reflecting our image.
Remember, overcoming limiting beliefs is not an overnight process. It’s a journey that requires patience and perseverance. But with every step you take, you’re getting closer to breaking free from the invisible strings that hold you back and soaring high toward your career goals.
You can defeat limiting beliefs on your own, but obviously the task becomes much easier with a good support system in place to back you up. If limiting beliefs are hindering your job search, that’s why I’m here. Let’s have a conversation about breaking through those beliefs together and helping you land the job you really want. To schedule a free initial consultation, just click here to access my calendar.