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Handling Limiting Beliefs

By Jessica J Lockhart

Limiting beliefs start very small.
At their onset, they're nothing but an interpretation of a certain reality. Something happens to us or around us. We look at the event from the point of view of our previous experiences and knowledge and tentatively interpret it to fit in what we already know. It's coherent and makes sense to us. Then something else happens. It confirms our interpretation of the first event. Slowly but surely, as our original interpretation of events is more and more often confirmed, the way we see things starts crystallizing in our mind in the shape of a new belief. The more we confirm it, the stronger it becomes.

The belief becomes subconscious.
Soon, the belief is so internal and common, that we stop being aware of it. It becomes part of our subconscious belief system.
The human brain, quite similar in its operation to a regular computer, will then begin its most common task of confirming that belief, together with all other ones in our system. Whatever it is that we believe, our brain will confirm it over and over again. Nature, being as smart as it always is, gave our brains that task to prevent feelings of insecurity and doubt in us. The more solid our beliefs, the stronger we stand in front of the world.

The brain will select ways to confirm it
Thus, the brain will subconsciously select and perceive the inputs that confirm what we already believe. All other inputs, those that may question or defy our beliefs, will be disregarded or obviated.
All our beliefs fuse together to create the lenses through which we see and interpret the world around us. Thus, no two people will share exactly the same lenses.

Beliefs limit us
Time goes by and the beliefs crystallized some time ago are still in us. We've been living according to them. Some of them were established in childhood and still remain in us, even if we're not children anymore. Others were acquired later. Some will then logically slow us down or reduce our capacity to perceive new things. Just because of that, some of our beliefs will limit us. Others will limit us by preventing our seeing new avenues or solutions. And still some others will stop us from moving, even if the road is clear.

What to do
In order to handle limiting beliefs, four steps have to be taken. Please, let me share them with you but bear in mind that only ONE belief should be changed at a time. If you try and change several, you run the risk of entering a crisis. Change one belief and, once you succeed, change another one.
  1. Identify your beliefs. How can you change what you don't even know you have? Ask yourself what beliefs you keep. In order to do that, observe your thoughts and listen to your words. Anything that begins by: 'I think... ' 'I believe... ' 'I am... ' 'I can't... ' 'I should... ' and their opposites will reflect beliefs. Pick one of them

  2. Question the belief. Ask yourself whether that belief in particular empowers or limits you. If you decide that it's a negative one, ask yourself whether you want to change it or keep it. If the answer is 'change it,' move on to the third step.

  3. Find a replacement. This is a tricky step. Once you identify a limiting belief and decide it's not something you want to keep anymore, you need to find a replacement. Belief replacements are called declarations and are positive, present-tense statements about ourselves that we have the power to implement. They have to be different enough to change the original belief, but similar enough that we can accept them and pursue them. Let me offer you an example: let's imagine that the belief we want to change is: 'I am unlucky.' Telling yourself the opposite, 'I am lucky' will not work because you will not believe it. That's an affirmation, not a declaration. It's not in your power to change it because your previous belief directly cancels it. You need something you can really believe and apply. You only need to change a little part of the statement to have a completely new one. 'I create my own luck.' could work because it gives you the power to decide. Another possibility could be something like: 'I am lucky when... ' and define one instance in which you believe you are. By changing the original declaration to one of these, you stop limiting yourself. But wait, the old belief is still in you. This new declaration is still just that, a declaration. Take step 4 now.

Confirm and reinforce the new belief. The new belief needs to slowly replace the old one. As we saw before, beliefs are constantly confirmed by our brains. We therefore need to stop confirming old beliefs and start confirming new ones. To do so we're going to implement the new one in two stages:
  1. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repeat the new declaration a million times... in your head, singing, on paper, aloud... write it big and post it where you spend most time, as a constant reminder. Let your brain be exposed to the new declaration until it becomes second nature. And when the old declaration comes to mind, just acknowledge it and tell yourself: "yes, but... " and repeat the new declaration.
  2. Celebrate. Any time your new declaration feels real, celebrate it. Celebrate the feeling, celebrate the certainty, celebrate thinking it. Even if you only felt it or thought about it for one second. Celebrate it. The emotion you feel when celebrating it will strengthen it in your brain.

Start living your new belief
That's it. The old belief will slowly fade away and the new one will take root. Some of the most entrenched beliefs will take longer but if you persevere and use the four steps as described, things will start changing in your life. Give yourself the chance to live a new life and change your limiting beliefs, one by one.
Enjoy life, ALL of it,
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Hi! I research topics such as self-development achievement and mental health. I have a passion to use my life experiences and research to help others reach their full potential.