Have you ever been told that all you need to accomplish something is to believe in yourself? Have faith in your abilities and it will all fall into place. Visualise success, think positively and you can do anything you want to do. It all sounds very nice and positive, and it's been fuelled by books like The Secret and The Power, which preach self-belief as the solution for ultimate happiness using questionable or outright disproven scientific theory. But while these books have taken things to the extreme, the basic concept is absolutely true. If you believe you can do something, you are more likely to be able to do it.
But it also works the other way around. If you don't think you can achieve something and don't believe in yourself and your abilities, then it's very likely you'll be able to do it. These are called 'self-limiting beliefs', and it's something everyone deals with at one point or another.
What are Limiting Beliefs?
Your beliefs, both positive and negative, are at the absolute core of who you are, and while humans are beings of endless potential, it's your beliefs that determine what you can achieve in life. While technically, there is no universal definition for limiting beliefs. However, in 2018 Blackman wrote:
'...assumptions or perceptions that you've got about yourself and the way the world works. These assumptions are self-limiting because in some way they're holding you back from achieving what you're capable of.'
I think this is the closest to a formal definition we can get. A belief is a feeling of certainty about something and what it means, and so a self-limiting belief is a feeling of certainty that limits your potential. Limiting beliefs are also sometimes called the 'self-fulfilling prophecy', because the more you believe they are true, the more they will happen. Generally, these are three types of limiting beliefs:
Hopelessness: Believing that it's impossible for anyone to achieve a particular thing, regardless of skill or experience.
Helplessness: Believing that achieving the thing is possible, but not for you.
Worthlessness: Believing that you aren't good enough or worthy of success.
Now, if you heard one of your close friends or families talking like this, what would your response be? Probably to tell them not to be so hard on themselves, and that you know the things they're thinking about themselves aren't true. And they probably aren't! But when it's you in that position, it's difficult to see that your beliefs aren't absolute truth. Sometimes, you need a little help with that part.
How Are Limiting Beliefs Created?
This one is a little trickier, since everyone's limiting beliefs are different. There is no 'one thing' that happens to trigger them, but there are several different things that can cause you to start developing those beliefs, which grow and fester over time. And most of these things go back to childhood. From the moment you enter the world you're subject to the thoughts, emotions and biases of others, and their treatment of you shapes how you view yourself and the world as you grow up. Some of those will be good beliefs, like the belief that your parents will always love you and always be there for you. Others might not be positive, like that a certain behaviour of yours is bad, or that you aren't good at something.
They could stem from the things people said to us while we grew up. A past client told me she was bad at maths and had struggled with more than basic addition and subtraction since she was a child. Through our work we uncovered a lot of pressure to perform from her parents and teachers, and when she didn't meet those standards she was told she just wasn't good at maths. This happened often enough that she believed it was true - even though it wasn't.
The seeds of limiting belief could also come from listening to negative people in general, watching negative TV shows, reading negative books and even listening to negative song lyrics. All of this penetrates our minds and becomes part of the way we think. Our thoughts and beliefs shape our perception of the world, and in turn they affect our behaviour. So if we think negatively, we are more likely to behave negatively, and limit our ability to affect positive change. But the more we believe in our ability to achieve, the more potential we can tap into.
Can You Change Self-Limiting Beliefs?
Yes, absolutely! Limiting beliefs may be rooted deep into your thought patterns, but that doesn't mean you're stuck with them forever. It is possible, with a fair bit of work, to change those negative beliefs about yourself and replace them with positive ones. The best way to approach this is one at a time. Identify one limiting belief you hold, and start by recognising that it's just a belief, and that doesn't mean it's the truth. Challenge that belief and gather evidence for and against it. What are the supporting facts for your belief? Nine times out of ten, there aren't any, or the ones you do come up with are so flimsy that they don't really stand up to scrutiny. Once you've reached this stage of acceptance, choose a new, positive belief that you would like to replace it with. This will take some practice, and you will need to be disciplined in putting the new belief into action at first. For example, if your limiting belief was 'I'm too old to exercise', your new belief could be 'it's never too late to start'. And by making sure you do something active every day, even if it's just going for a walk, you can start to build and reinforce the positive belief.
Does Hypnotherapy Work For Limiting Beliefs?
On top of the steps above, one of the best things you can do to help you overcome your limiting beliefs is get some support. Hypnotherapy is the perfect tool to help here, as it taps into the subconscious part of your brain to re-train and re-wire thoughts. By inducing a state of deep relaxation (or trance state), we can engage the alpha waves in your brain and help you become more open to new possibilities. In this state, we can discuss new ideas, help you identify your limiting beliefs and start to remove the blocks in your subconscious that you might not have even known were there. Hypnotherapy is useful to treat all limiting beliefs, helping you develop a better sense of self-awareness and learn to curate your responses to situations in a positive light, breaking free of your self-limiting beliefs.
In my practice, I use a technique called Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, which is a combination of talking therapy and hypnosis, to help clients make changes both consciously and subconsciously. It's based on the mixing of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), with years of research exploring its effectiveness.
I've found that the talking therapy aspect is extremely beneficial by itself, and when combined with the hypnosis I can help you draw in your own strength and resources to help you think in the future and make positive changes to your life in a relatively short space of time.
Ultimately, your beliefs are a double-edged sword. They have the ability to help you do amazing things, reach new heights and achieve all of your dreams. But they have just as much power to destroy, to hold you back and make you think you aren't worthy.
If you're finding that limiting beliefs are interfering with your life, or that you want to break free of the things holding you back, I would love to help. Just get in touch today to book your free, no-obligation initial chat with me.