- Abbasali Saiyed
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
“See this guy here staring back at you? That’s the toughest opponent you’re ever going to have to face.”
- Rocky Balboa, Creed (2015)
Beliefs play an important role in shaping your thoughts, actions, and behaviors. There will be times when you can complete any task, no matter how difficult it may seem, by sheer willpower alone. Other times the lack of self-belief can prevent you from completing even the most straightforward tasks. Your beliefs, whether empowering or limiting, will ultimately determine your success in life. This is particularly true in critical moments such as your time in college. Learning to identify and overcome limiting beliefs will help you lead a more positive and fulfilling life.
Identifying Limiting Beliefs
The first step in overcoming limiting beliefs is to identify them. Some common examples of limiting beliefs that we often tell ourselves include:
I’m not good enough.
I’m not strong enough.
I don’t deserve to be happy.
I’m too young/old to pursue my dreams.
I’m not worthy of the praise I get.
I don’t deserve to have what I want.
I'm not smart enough to succeed.
I shouldn’t be here, I can’t compare to my peers.
I don't have the talent to pursue my passion.
I'm not worthy of love and respect.
These negative thoughts can get out of hand if left unchecked, leaving you feeling like you’re stuck listening to a personalized playlist of self-depreciation on repeat. Should you find yourself in this position, click the pause button, identify the negative thoughts swirling around in your mind, and ask yourself: Are these beliefs truly valid statements, or do I simply perceive them to be true?
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
Once you identify your limiting beliefs, the next step is to work to overcome them. Here are strategies you can use to overcome them and get closer to reaching your full potential:
Challenge your beliefs. As previously mentioned, ask yourself if your negative beliefs can be proven true or if they are baseless efforts to put yourself down.
Reframe your beliefs. The next step is to try approaching your limiting beliefs from a different perspective. Instead of finding reasons why your limiting beliefs are true, find reasons why they are not true. For example, instead of thinking that you lack skills for a specific career, think about the skills you do have that can be used toward that career.
Replace your limiting beliefs with empowering ones. Once you have a different perspective on your limiting beliefs you will be able to turn them around into empowering beliefs. Replace your daily put-down sessions with mantras of positive affirmations. Repeat these empowering beliefs to yourself any time you start doubting yourself.
Practice self-compassion. Take a break from being your biggest critic and learn to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that failure is an acceptable and natural part of life, as long as you use it as a learning opportunity. As Rocky Balboa so eloquently puts it, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Surround yourself with positivity. Move on from those in your life that put you down, and surround yourself with those that lift you up. Seek out positive role models who have gone through what you’re experiencing and exemplify the kind of person you want to be. These role models can be found in media and literature – from Peter Parker juggling two lives and trying to do better in Spider-Man 2, to Santiago leaving his life as a shepherd behind to pursue his Personal Legend in The Alchemist. These role models can also be found in your personal life, your community, or historical figures.
The Bottom Line
Limiting beliefs are oftentimes the only thing holding you back from achieving your full potential and leading a fulfilling life. Fortunately, it is possible to overcome them. Whether you’re a college student with the weight of the world on your shoulders, someone who thinks that time has passed them by, or simply someone looking to improve your life, I hope that the strategies listed above will help you in your difficult yet worthwhile journey towards maximizing your potential and ultimately living a meaningful and successful life.
Believe and achieve!