Limiting Beliefs: Recognise The Main 3 And Overcome Them For Good

limiting beliefs you deservebetter

What we believe about ourselves and the world around us shapes who we are, and how we experience life.

So, to live a great life, all we have to do is crush our Limiting Beliefs right?

Well, if only it were that easy!

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Beliefs are expectations of self, others and the world – and they are personal to each and every one of us, because they are not facts, but just our interpretation of what’s around us.

We all have beliefs, and they impact every single aspect of our lives, from our ability to do well in school, to finding a good partner, getting a promotion, winning a race or starting a business. All good things that happen in our lives happen because we believed them possible, even the seemingly random ones. If you’ve just won a million pounds on a lottery ticket, at some point in your day today you must have believed that you could win, otherwise you never would have bought the ticket in the first place.

Having positive beliefs is really a three piece puzzle:

  1. You must believe it possible
  2. You must believe that you are able to do it
  3. Lastly, you must believe that you deserve to achieve it.

If any of these three pieces is missing, that’s when we get into Limiting Beliefs territory. And here’s how we learn to recognise our Limiting Beliefs, and overcome them for good.

coaching sessions Talk With Fos recognising limiting beliefs

What are Limiting Beliefs? 

A Limiting Belief is a belief that YOU CANNOT be/do/achieve what you’d like.

I, for one, have had many a limiting belief in my time – some that I still grapple with when I can’t sleep, at three am, and my brain has nothing better to do than to remind me that I really should have written this article in less time, if only I were better. 

The common denominator of all Limiting Beliefs is that they hinder our progress. They are also usually rooted in our past experiences or understanding of the world – NOT IN FACTS. Read that again. For instance, whether you choose to believe that the sun rises because the earth spins has no impact on the sun actually rising. However, you may believe that a superior power is responsible for its appearance at 6 am, and that’s your belief.

Types of Limiting Beliefs 

Were you hoping for one-size-fits-all Limiting Belief? HA! The reasons for our Limiting Beliefs are many and varied, and I will start with what I have found is the simplest to tackle, ending in the hardest.

Limiting Belief n.1 – You don’t believe it’s possible

Sometimes I like to imagine Steve Jobs on a bad self-esteem day going ‘pah, a phone with no buttons, that works with apps and has music in it too? No way!’ and it makes me smile cause I’m sure he, too, must have had days when he didn’t believe. But then, on most other days, he did. He believed his ideas possible. I’m also willing to bet he was faced with quite a bit of negative feedback and skepticism, but evidently… he didn’t care.

You don’t believe it’s possible because someone else has already done it.

I will challenge you with a thought here: unless you’re about to revolutionise the world with the new Apple or Tesla, chances are that is has been done before. Someone has already accomplished a version of your dream. Someone has already reached a milestone you want to reach. And that doesn’t have to be bad news! The world is also full of people who did it better, like for example Ben Francis with gym wear, or how Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng with online learning. 

And by the same token, just because something has been done before, does not mean you have to do it again better. If what you are aiming to achieve is to get in shape, move to a sunny country or work for yourself – there is no improvement needed there. Just the belief that it can be done.

➡️ Challenge your Limiting Belief by asking:

How was it done before? Who did it? What can I learn from them? What would I need to replicate it and make it my own? How can I improve on it? What do I appreciate of their success, that I also want for myself?

limiting beliefs

You don’t believe it’s possible because it’s never been done before.

If you’ve landed on an idea or task that has never been done before, lucky you! The world would be very different if we didn’t have other unheard of ideas like Facebook, Uber, or my beloved Spanx (thank you, Sarah Blakely!) or if Malala, MLK or Greta Thunberg hadn’t taken a stand. If Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps hadn’t gone just a little faster. If no one had ever walked on the moon, or if Alexander Fleming had never discovered Penicilin.

➡️ Challenge your Limiting Belief by asking:

What did other visionaries do in the past? Where did they stumble? What would the world look like without their contribution? What will it feel like when I accomplish my vision?

You don’t believe it’s possible because of society

Some Limiting Beliefs have less to do with just you, and more with the world around you. For instance, you might believe yourself ugly because of the beauty standards perpetuated by society. You might believe you’ll never be respected or safe because of your skin colour. You might feel you don’t deserve love because of your disability.

These are hard beliefs to shake off, and there is lots to be said about how the world imposes its beliefs on us. However, remember that these are beliefs – not facts. 

➡️ Challenge your Limiting Belief by asking:

Whose standard am I abiding by? How have other non-conforming people gone about this? Are there changes I can implement myself to make a difference in the world? What can I learn from trailblazers before me? What will the world look like if I don’t speak up for others like me?

Limiting Belief n.2 – You don’t believe YOU are able to do it. 

Want to rain on your own parade? Find an arbitrary measure by which you could not possibly achieve what you want because of who you are. Nothing says Limiting Belief like putting an age limit love, a gender on career advancement or an education level on your ability to make money.

Oftentimes we don’t do something because we think there is only one way to succeed.

limiting beliefs

I challenge my clients on this all the time. When they tell me that they couldn’t possibly join a running club because they are way too old and slow, I tell them yes – if they plan on beating Usain Bolt at the Olympics, they might be a tad late. For everything else, they are just in time.

The uber-inspiring Vishen Lakhiani, founder of MindValley, has often spoken about ‘Bullshit Rules’ or ‘Brules’ – rules that work for other people that we also somehow feel we need to apply to our lives. Spoiler: we do not. Just because someone did it at 20, or is a man, or is able bodied, or is tall, or is fair skinned, does not mean you can’t do it.

You don’t believe it’s possible because of your age, body or gender.

Sure, playing in the NBA is easier if you’re tall, but Muggsy Bogues, standing below me at 1,60, didn’t much care. And do you imagine Stephen Hawking not publishing books because he couldn’t type like the rest of us?

That’s to say, the mainstream could have a guideline for what is standard, but it’s not a law. It’s not a rule. You don’t have to follow it.

This also goes for finding love, or changing careers. Finding ‘the one’, for instance, is as much manifestation and self-awareness as it is luck – and there is no age limit on luck. If anything, it seems to me it would be much harder to find the one at 25, when hormones are raging and eyes are wondering, than it is at 60, when we are calmer and more in tune with who we are and what we want.

➡️ Challenge your Limiting Belief by asking:

What standard have I placed on myself? Whose rule am I following? Is there only one way to be successful at this? Is this a hard fact? Can it be done in a different way? And if I were the first, what would that feel like?

You don’t believe it’s possible because of your education level, or social status.

I’m not going to use Harvard drop-outs as the example here, because *eyeroll*.

I am, however, going to to challenge you with one of my most beloved quotes: if you judge a fish by its ability to climb trees, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.

As it turns out, there isn’t necessarily a strong correlation between college grades and career success. And if you think of the world’s self-made billionaires, not many come from money. Recognise and challenge your Limiting Belief by assessing just how little education and status have impacted other successful people.

➡️ Challenge your Limiting Belief by asking:

What is something I can better assess my skills by? What other skills I could perfect, that don’t require a college degree? Am I fearing not being accepted if I don’t speak a certain way? Am I ashamed of where I come from? Have other people with no qualification made it?

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Limiting Belief n.3 – You don’t believe you DESERVE to achieve it

Like I mentioned at the beginning, the further down we go the Limiting Belief scale, the tougher it gets to tackle our demons.

One of the Limiting Beliefs I most often come across with my clients is about not deserving better. If happiness, health or fulfillment are not basic needs but extras, what have they done to earn it? They are fat, undisciplined, a bad parent, they don’t make enough money, they are uneducated. So why should they invest in this ultimate indulgence?

Did reading that break your heart a little? It does that, when it applies to others. People don’t want unhappiness for others, but are willing to endure indescribable pain for themselves.

I delved into Self Worth and the concept of deserving in this post – but before I go on with some common Limiting Beliefs here, let me just as loudly and clearly as possible: you do not need to ‘deserve’ better. You have earned it, by sheer virtue of being alive. 

Some of the most common Limiting Beliefs I come across are:

  • You don’t think you deserve to pursue a career you love because you can’t risk starting from scratch
  • You can’t imagine leaving your bad relationship, in case others think of you as damaged goods
  • Every time you consider investing in your education, you remember you have other, more pressing needs
  • You won’t be able to get in shape because buying healthy food is expensive, and you’re a horrible cook
  • Love is for beautiful, healthy people. Nobody will want you because you’re flawed.
➡️ Challenge your Limiting Belief by asking:

If I were happier, would others benefit? What is the world missing, if I don’t do the job I was born to do? Can I take care of my children, if I don’t take care of me first? Am I able to love, even with my disability?

I’m going to leave you with a reminder here about Limiting Beliefs.

They are BELIEFS, not FACTS. Never FACTS.


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1 Comment


    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do think that you should publish more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people dont speak about such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!


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