I had lunch with a very dear friend yesterday and she lovingly told me she thinks I might be a bit stuck, and it’s time to move on with my life. Only someone who cares for you a lot would bring this up, and it certainly has made me stop and think. I’m not sure she is entirely correct but I can identify a couple of beliefs that likely don’t serve me well yet I still hold on to them. Why is this the case? Do you have something that you carry around with you? It might be a grudge against someone; negative self-talk; an inability to lose weight or exercise more even though you think you want to; fear of going somewhere new or trying new things; guilt about being too busy, too stressed, too pre-occupied….and the list goes on!
What enables some people to let go of limiting beliefs and make changes while others continue to carry the ol’ “I can’t; I should; I wish” mantras with them every day? I know that a couple of my beliefs (largely around feelings of guilt and shame)have left me feeling a bit stuck in the mud.
1. There’s some sort of payoff for holding on to the limiting belief.
I wish in all psychology courses they connected learned behavious with limiting beliefs. It makes perfect sense. If there is a behaviour in myself that I don’t particularly like, but those around me respond in a way I am comfortable with when I am actiing out then I’ll find it tough to give it up and risk an unknown response from those around me. As a teenager I would see this often. The girlfriends who were attracted to “bad boys” (sorry for the label guys) would be miserable in their relationship, finally break it off – only to move on to the next relationship with another “bad boy”! This is likely because they knew who they were and knew how to act around men who treated them poorly. If they ever dated a “nice boy” they just didn’t know what to do. Some would even complain that he was too nice for them.
For me, I think the payoff in my limiting beliefs is that it they have helped to define my own sense of self. If I label myself as incompetent, lazy, unreliable (for example) then who will I be if I remove those labels? What happens if I fall back into old habits? Yes, I would no doubt replace them with more positive traits but to make that change puts me in a scary place initially. Am I really brave enough to redefine my sense of self? Remember, as we grow older we get used to carrying around our negative self! Removing my limiting beliefs takes effort. I can’t just declare that I am now competent; active and reliable (for example) I have to actually step into those behaviours and wear them like a coat for all to see. Just like going to the gym for the first time, it’s going to feel uncomfortable and a bit sore at first. So, if change isn’t happenning there’s just no escaping that I have a certain degree of comfort with my old tired thinking. I just have to be bold enough to admit that.
2. I just don’t believe I am worthy of change.
This is the biggie, and most likely the the basis for lots of decisions, or lack of them. If I don’t love myself enough to fight for my ability to be resilient, competent, active (for example) then change will either be fleeting or non-existent. It’s like the person who starts a diet on Monday, eats cake on Tuesday and tells themself “oh well, I’m hopeless with diets anyway.” On the surface I might think I want it, but if deep down I don’t truly believe I deserve it then long term nothing will change. I have to believe I’m worthy of change and love myself enough to make it happen. Importantly, I have to believe that I’m worthy of the fight to change. After all, doing something different after years of habitual thinking requires constant conscious effort. Just try stepping out of the shower tomorrow and starting at the opposite end of your body than you usually do when drying yourself. It’s bound to feel weird!
If you have a limiting belief (and if you’re human you most likely do!) can you identify why you have it? By the way, it’s okay to hold on to it and trust you’re keeping it for a reason for now. If you’re sick of it though, have you recognised which of the above is holding you back? Awareness is always the first step, and fortunately we see lots of examples of people who change their beliefs…so there’s hope for me yet!