The devastating power of limiting beliefs!

Limiting beliefs

Beliefs ARE important – in fact they are vital for the survival of the human race, without them we’d seriously struggle to function. We wouldn’t know what was safe, what’s dangerous, who to trust and who to run away from. In fact, like a child, we’d have to judge each new experience on its own merits. To function effectively we form beliefs about the world around us from a very early age.

How they are formed

They are learnt at an early age from modelling those around us (mainly from non-verbal communication) when the conscious questioning mind is not fully developed. It operates like a firewall – before it matures we have little choice what to believe and so are open to a range of ‘viruses’ (how limiting beliefs may be viewed). Believing in Father Christmas and the tooth fairy are just two examples of how ‘open’ we are at an early age.

These viruses run in the background our whole lives and have the propensity to put a firm ceiling on what we can achieve. For the most part they are like an invisible elastic band – holding us back and providing resistance to our attempts to break free. We are only ever aware of them when we think and act in ways that challenge and oppose them.

You may already be noticing similarities to The Matrix – most of us are not as free to act as we’d like to think. Left unchecked, limiting beliefs are the graveyard of our dreams and desires.

How to check if you’re under the influence of a limiting belief

  • You could click your fingers and change any of the following: your job, how you spend your spare time, the car you drive, the house you live in, the people you associate with.
  • You occasionally make progress but old habits quickly return.
  • You read an inspiring book/watch an inspiring film/attend a great course and yet fail to act on it.
  • You know what you should (or want to) do, but you do something different.
  • Saying to yourself “Other people are lucky, they don’t deserve their money” feels comfortable.
  • Saying “I deserve to be happy, rich and successful” doesn’t!

If any of the above applies to you, you’re certainly not alone – the overwhelming majority of the world’s population is under the spell of at least one limiting belief.

Don’t let them become ‘facts’!

Beliefs are incredibly clever at masquerading themselves as fact. They are like a skilled courtroom lawyer – they act to filter out all experiences that don’t support their argument. For example, if you are heading out to a party with the belief that no one will find you interesting or talk to you then this will be how you experience the evening. It’s as strong as a genie saying ‘your wish is my command’.

A common example

A girl grows up with the belief that ‘all men are bastards’. Like all beliefs, this would have been instilled very early on, most likely from observing interactions between her parents. As she gets older and starts dating, her unconscious programming works its socks off to find evidence to confirm this. She’s not even aware of this limiting belief – she just seems to meet all the wrong guys and considers herself unlucky. Does this sound familiar?

How they work

We are like passengers on a ship – we are constantly being taken in the direction that our beliefs think we deserve, which can be wildly different from what we want if we had the choice. If I asked you to choose wealth or poverty, self-doubt or confidence what would you go for? Any time that what you’re experiencing is different from what you’d consciously choose is evidence that something else (the limiting beliefs in our subconscious programming) is making the choice for us.

The sole function of our beliefs is to keep us safe (rather than happy, or successful), they keep us in our comfort zones and search out ‘evidence’ to support themselves and stay alive.

Life should not be difficult – many people at some point in their lives make some effort to alter their destination. Sadly the elastic band wins most of the time and they end up back in their old ways. Not only that but they end up feeling incredibly frustrated with themselves and they consequently become less confident trying to break free in the future – they become prisoners to their own beliefs.

Would you ever take financial advice from a 5 year old child?

The idea itself is ridiculous and yet that’s exactly what most of us do – misconceptions we have about money (such as it’s the root of all evil, those that have it are either greedy or lucky or you have to work hard for it) are the commonest form of limiting belief.

Would you believe me if I told you that the moon is made of cheese?

Of course not, but a 5 year old (the age by which most off our beliefs are formed) is much more easily convinced.

“But I really am not very good at public speaking – that’s not just a belief, it’s a fact” (I hear you cry!)


Well, that may be your experience but it’s more of a ‘frame’ than a fact (and in NLP we say that frames trump facts) – what may have started out of a single uncomfortable childhood event (such as having to stand up in front of the classroom) has grown into something bigger and more devastating to adult success and happiness.

Here’s a true fact, however: the human brain is fantastic at modifying our perception of the world so that it fits beautifully with our belief system. If everything we experienced was at odds with our beliefs we wouldn’t be able to cope and we’d go insane!

So, the belief of not being good at public speaking has the effect of filtering out ALL EVIDENCE (past, present and future) to the contrary – we are constantly projecting our beliefs into the world and so we experience it as we expect it to be! As time goes on, further ‘evidence’ is allowed to accumulate which then ‘hard-wires’ the limiting belief into our subconscious programming. Hence “you can’t teach a dog new tricks” – absolute rubbish but, as Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right”.

Limiting beliefs are a self-fulfilling prophecy, as adults they determine our experience of the world (rather than the other way round)!

What you can do about it:

  • Awareness– this halves their power instantly. Even if you don’t remember where they originated from you’ll be able to question them with your conscious mind for the very first time.
  • Affirmations (but need to be worded in the positive and be congruent, otherwise they will be rejected “you’re not fooling me”)
  • Consult a life coach or NLP practitioner, these guys really are the experts in the identification and removal of limiting beliefs – they are closely tied in with an individual’s identity and so need an ecology check (we want to make sure you won’t lose anything from removing them). For the process to be effective and permanent professional external help is strongly recommended.
  • Take action – actions break habits/limiting belief by opening them up to challenge through new experiences
  • Get outside your comfort zone, especially the things that conjure up the most internal resistance. If you have a fear of public speaking how about doing stand up comedy (sometimes, however, it’s best if you take smaller steps)?

Happiness is all about having more empowering beliefs than limiting ones – the wider the gap the greater your chance of success.

Some wonderful news to finish with

  • The more extensive and powerful your current limiting beliefs, the more you have to gain by overcoming them! You may already be doing ok in life (or simply ‘surviving’) – imagine how much brighter your life could become if your limiting beliefs were banished forever and your natural talents allowed to shine!
  • Most people take their limiting beliefs with them to the grave – they spend their whole life thinking that success and happiness are things that happen to other people. The fact that you’re reading this shows you have the single most important resource to accessing your inner potential – curiosity. Curiosity is great but you need to act on it, and act on it today – one definition of insanity is always doing the same old thing and expecting different results.
  • And finally – beliefs can be just for Christmas, they don’t have to be for life – how many adults in the UK once believed in Santa Claus!!!!!
NLP Life Coaching LondonAbout The Author

Paul Brown is a life coach and NLP practitioner who specialises in assisting clients of all ages and backgrounds explore what they really want (which may differ from what they think is currently possible) and then helping them access their inner resources to achieve their potential.

For more information (and for testimonials) please visit Paul’s website or his GoToSee profile page here

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