“I feel fat.”
“I need to be a size 8.”
“I’m a failure as a girlfriend/daughter/niece/worker/student.”
“I just suck.”
Have you ever said anything like that to yourself? I know I have, and it reached its peak in 2011. I thought I was a failure as a friend, a teacher, and as a human being in general. I was surrounded by limiting beliefs, and they haunted every conversation I had with myself.
What are limiting beliefs? They are statements that corner us and prevent us from flourishing. They are statements that you heard so often growing up, that eventually you start to believe them. Statements like:
“I can’t look good at a size 20.”
“I will never find the man of my dreams.”
“It’s easier to be seen than be heard.”
“This job pays the bills. Even if I don’t love it, it’s security.”
But believe it or not, you don’t have to let limiting beliefs ruin your life like they did mine. In fact, you can actually reverse your limiting beliefs and use your inner dialogue as a source of strength and courage.
A couple weeks ago, I finished reading the excellent book Finding Your Voice: Sort Through the Clutter and Discover Clarity, Confidence, and Direction by longtime life coach Joel Boggess. I’ve known Joel for a few years and even though this book was written in 2013, I’ve only gotten around to purchasing and working through it just now.
The book brings up a lot of great points on how to tap into your passions and find how to make it work for you, but my favorite chapter was how to work through your limiting beliefs. Boggess does a fantastic job in the book of identifying, analyzing, and breaking yourself free of limiting beliefs.
Step One: Identify your beliefs. The first thing you have to do is realize your limiting beliefs pop up in the first place. This is kinda hard, but once I realized I was doing it, I was shocked how often I was saying them.
“I look bad as a size 20/22. I have never been this heavy in my life before. I just look gross.” That is one I have been struggling with lately.
Step Two: Challenge your beliefs. Play devil’s advocate. Where is that belief coming from? In my case, it is the echo of my high school bully and the constant media messages we are bombarded with daily to be prettier, thinner, sexier, and just all-round better. Do I really feel gross every day? Is it 100% true I would be happier if I was better perfect? Hell to the N-O, for both questions.
Step Three: Find the antidote. I know my antidote is in my closet. I may be the biggest size I have ever been, but I have assembled a beautiful wardrobe of clothes I know I look good in and am very proud to wear. Also, I know my body still allows me to walk and do yoga, even if running isn’t in the cards right now. It’s up to you to dig deep and find the antidote to your own limiting beliefs.
Step Four: What antidote will you choose to believe in? This is where you begin to plug in more useful, uplifting messages instead of all the negativity.
Ex-belief: “I feel fat and gross at this size 20/22.”
New belief: “I choose now to believe that no matter what my size, I know how to dress in a way that celebrates my body and makes me feel damn good.”
Step Five: Speak the truth. This is probably the hardest part. But you say things over and over to yourself so that the new belief takes root and banishes the old belief. I say it when I look in the mirror, rifle through my closet, and after I exercise. The repetition takes a time and practice, but your brain will get the message.
Let me say that again: Your brain will get the message.
Even though this book didn’t exist when I was at my ultra-low point in 2011, I started learning when I was smack-talking myself. I started cramming my head so full of positive podcasts that in less than a year, I had automatic answers to every single limiting belief that popped into my head. I was my own antidote.
I gained enough strength to rewrite my inner monologue and that is when I was able to blossom. I found a new job, moved, and meaningfully reconnect with my friends and family.
You don’t have to live with your limiting beliefs. Take this five-step formula and try it for one of your most persistent negative beliefs today. It takes training, but the results can only set you up for success!
What are limiting beliefs you’ve run into in the course of your life? Comment below!