MANILA, Philippines – The biggest thing that used to scare me was speaking my mind.
I could easily have quoted other authors, paraphrased other stories and narrated a novel-long script, as long as the words weren’t written by me.
If I needed to present my own ideas, I would get so nervous and practice them over and over again, searching for conviction on my way to the presentation.
I now realize the root of this fear was the limiting belief, “My thoughts are not smart enough.” When dug even further, it came from the statement, “I am not good enough.”
The irony was what I wanted to do most was what I feared: to write my own ideas…“one day.” There was definitely a big gap that I needed to fill, and it was a frustrating gap to bridge.
Do you ever feel like you have so much potential inside of you, but you hesitate to let it out? Have you ever come so close to the finish line only to tell yourself it’s not possible to win? How about coming up with all these ideas and dreams, only to say “Well, I can’t do it now because (insert excuse here)”?
These are all signs of our limiting beliefs holding us back.
What are limiting beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are beliefs you hold on to that prevent you from reaching your dreams. Apart from dwarfing your potential, these are beliefs that scare you into staying at your current level.
In the book “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield, there is a chapter that illustrates how people can hold themselves back through these limiting beliefs. In the book, Canfield talks about how, when an elephant is young, the trainer ties a rope around his leg and attaches it to a stake in the ground.
Because of the small size of the elephant, he cannot pull away. However, when the elephant has grown older and has the strength to pull away, he would still believe that the rope can hold him back.
This story can be applied to people. No matter how much potential one can hold inside, if you don’t believe it’s possible, it’s not. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Some limiting beliefs include:
- “I am not good enough.”
- “It’s impossible to earn more.”
- “It’s hard to lose this weight.”
- “I’m too shy.”
- “I can’t get a promotion.”
- “I can’t find work I love.”
- “I’m not smart enough.”
- “It’s so hard to find a good boyfriend/girlfriend.”
- “I don’t come from a rich background.”
- “I need their approval.”
- “I can’t do this on my own.”
The list goes on.
The voice inside your head
Sometimes, we create these limiting beliefs ourselves; other times they originate from an earlier traumatic or embarrassing situation.
Maybe you failed an art project and your teacher said, “Well, not everyone is creative, maybe you’re just not the artistic type.” Or a parent casually mentioned out of concern, “Don’t even try to be an entrepreneur, starting your own business is hard. Just work for a company.” Or a friend says, “Why do you want to move abroad? It’s so lonely over there. Just stay here where everything is already familiar.”
These statements, borne out of concern, can color your own beliefs about how far you can go.
While your art teacher just wanted to make you feel better, maybe you have a deep vision of presenting your own exhibit. Maybe even though your parents care for your security, you are inspired to start your own business and become the next Richard Branson or Steve Jobs. Or even though you want to be close to your friends and family, there’s a part of you that sees yourself working in another city and traveling.
Whether the limiting beliefs emerge from criticism or concern, other people will always have something to say. But you, on the other hand, do not need to repeat it and turn it into reality. It is up to you to become aware of this, and confront the limiting voices in your head.
When I started writing, I received a lot of reactions from other people. They judged me.
One person said, “You can only write about fashion right?” Sometimes, I would get statements like, “I bet she’ll only talk about ditzy, superficial stuff, parties and clothes.”
My all-time favorite reaction: “You’re a model and you’re a writer? How is that even possible?!”
As you can tell, I didn’t exactly feel encouraged to voice my ideas. In fact, I felt pressured to prove myself to people whom I knew didn’t even know me or care about me! (pointless)
I later realized it didn’t matter what they said. What mattered is what I believed about myself. If I felt the need to explore topics on self-development, I would listen to this inner voice, not the outside world.
The way you think
1. The first step towards overcoming these limiting beliefs is to write down your biggest dreams; beside them, write a list of limiting statements that you believe are true.
It will take some time to clean out the cobwebs of your mind. Don’t hold back about how far you can dream, and be honest about your fears regarding each one. It’s only you who will see this list after all.
2. After you’ve written these statements down, challenge these limiting statements with new, empowered statements. These new affirmations, repeated frequently, can help shift your mind to believe these new thoughts.
Here is an example:
Dream: To publish my first article on Rappler.com
Limiting belief: My writing isn’t good enough. I am not as smart as other people. I am scared that people won’t like what I have to say. What if people don’t like my work?
New affirmation: I trust my inner voice. Great mentors guide me. I can always improve my writing. I am constantly improving in my craft. I can reach this if I keep taking steps towards this goal. It is okay to feel fear, as long as I don’t let it stop me. I am always learning. If I fail, I can grow and learn from it.
3. Try this exercise every few weeks. Even though you think you have done this exercise before and “cleaned out” all your fears, you’d be surprised at how new ones pop up.
Just like a video game, there will always be a new challenge before you move on to the next level.
Know that overcoming your limiting beliefs goes hand in hand with moving outside your comfort zone.
Your limiting beliefs keep you nestled in the middle of the comfort zone; by practicing your affirmations, your mental comfort zone expands. This should allow you to easily move into action on the physical plane.
Write down a list of action steps that help you practice this new belief. Refuse to listen to the limiting voices in your head that stop you from taking action. (Do it now. If you say you’ll do this list later, you are subconsciously stopping yourself from moving in this new direction.)
Being aware of the limiting voices now helps you recognize what they are and what they are saying. Focus this week on taking baby steps to make this dream happen.
To move out of your comfort zone, you really have to JUST DO IT!
To wrap up my story about this particular fear, I decided to contact an editor and pitch my own story. That was very scary for me; luckily, it got approved.
Over time, I was able to build my writing portfolio. Confidence was built in the place of insecurity. There have been very great moments and very hard lessons along the way — all of them I appreciate fully.
The limiting beliefs still emerge, but I remember to do a mental fear-cleaning session, and then I resume on my path.
Sometimes, it just takes one simple step to bring you to a new level. This time next year, you can be closer to your dreams, or even surpass your original dreams.
First, you have to believe it’s possible. – Rappler.com
Woman sitting in bed photo from Shutterstock
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Victoria Herrera is a TV and event host, model and writer. In 2011, she released her first book, “Unscripted,” based on inspiring conversations from her previous radio show. In 2012, she hosted Runway TV Asia where she interviewed international fashion designers and celebrities. Shuttling between Manila and Singapore, she continues to explore the world of creativity, design and fashion as a contributor for several publications.