What are Limiting Beliefs (and How to Overcome Them)

By Shelsey Jarvis

How many times have you seen motivational quotes floating around that said some variation of “Get out of your own way”, “Make it a priority”, “No excuses!”, or “Just do it” (okay I might have borrowed that last one from a certain sporting goods company)?

What are Limiting Beliefs (and how to overcome them)?  |  Left-Brained Hippie

For some people, those quotes get them totally fired up and inspire them to take action on what they want.

But if you’re one of the many who sees these types of quotes on the daily but they do little to motivate you, keep reading.

It’s not “your fault”, exactly. As you’ll see in this post, you do have control over it, but you might not have realized that. But you will now, so get ready to have some serious AHA moments.

What is a limiting belief?

Limiting beliefs are also commonly referred to as "blocks", because they block you from something you want (for example, "money blocks" block you from the financial ease and abundance you're looking for).

In a nutshell, it’s basically any thought that tells you it’s not safe, possible, or desirable to be, do or have anything you want.

You might be thinking, “well surely some things aren’t possible for me. There’s no way I could be literally anything I want”. STOP! That’s your limiting beliefs talking.

“But Shelsey, I’m 5’1. Obviously I couldn’t be in the WNBA”. Do you even want to be? Chances are, that’s not your dream. But if deep down, that’s truly what you wanted in your life (not just a “that would be kinda cool” type of dream), then yes I totally believe you could.

Look, crazy shit happens all the time, and it’s because people got over their limiting beliefs and just went for it balls out. In my book, the only thing that’s off-limits is deciding to transform into a panda bear for the day (although who knows--maybe that’s MY limiting beliefs talking, heehee :D)

The universe (or God, or whoever you relate to as your higher power) wouldn’t give you the desire without also giving you the resources to achieve it. The problem is, our limiting beliefs kick in, and we either never pursue it, or else we try, and sabotage the hell out of ourselves along the way.

How to recognize these sneaky beliefs

The most telltale sign that you have limiting beliefs holding you back is that you’re not truly happy. Even if you feel like you’re “mostly” happy, but there are still parts of your life that feel stuck in low gear, those are your blocks.

I’ve even had clients who were extremely successful by most people’s standards, but had yet to really “feel” that level of success. Again, blocks.

And they can show up in ways that seem perfectly logical. They make it really easy to make excuses (which is why so many people do).

There’s a famous quote, “I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish”. Because the fish is IN it. They have no outside perspective. The water is all they know. Just like it took us humans FOREVER to figure out that air isn’t just “nothingness”, it’s actually chock full of stuff we need to survive. But we didn’t know there was something there, because we live in it.

So don’t beat yourself up if you discover you’ve been holding yourself back--you just didn’t know.

How Limiting Beliefs Show Up in Real Life

Here are some examples of what limiting beliefs look like in real life:

  • perfectionism

  • Procrastination

  • overwhelm

  • feeling stuck

  • criticizing others

  • working long hours every day

  • being afraid to spend your money

  • Overspending

  • “the timing’s just not right”

  • taking it to heart when others criticize you

  • feeling broke all the time

  • saying “I can’t afford that”

  • staying busy but not getting anywhere

  • getting frustrated at your lack of progress

  • constantly feeling distracted

  • getting sick right before you’re supposed to do something important

  • feeling jealous of others’ successes

  • resenting “the 1%”

  • judging rich people for how they spend their money

  • judging rich people for how they treat others

  • “I don’t have time”

This is definitely not a comprehensive list, but it’s just to show you that a lot of the actions, behaviours and thoughts that we take for granted as normal, are actually indications of self-sabotage.

What Lies Beneath

So now that you’ve probably identified some behaviours or thoughts that you’re already practicing, let’s talk about what beliefs are lying beneath the surface, causing the self-sabotaging behaviours.

Most of the limiting beliefs you’re holding will likely fall under one of the following 4 categories:

  • I’m not good enough

  • I’m afraid to fail

  • I’m afraid to succeed

  • Money is a limited resource

Just from seeing that list, you might already have bells ringing, indicating where some of your stronger beliefs are. But if you look at that list and you’re thinking that you don’t believe any of them, don’t stop reading just yet. Just because you don’t believe these things on a conscious level, doesn’t mean that you don’t believe them subconsciously.

Our subconscious mind is responsible for about 90-98% of our thoughts. So picture this: you’re riding on an elephant. You, on top of the elephant, are your conscious mind. And the elephant is your subconscious.

Can you guess who’s ultimately going to determine where you go?

Luckily, you can retrain the elephant--er, your brain. We’ll get to that soon.

How do these beliefs start?

Most of our beliefs have been ingrained in us from a young age. Our brain absorbs a lot more when we’re so young (kids are such sponges!), and we created these stories as a way to make sense of the world around us, and basically, make it out of childhood in one piece.

Much of what you learned at that age would have come from your parents, but also, any other authority figures who you spent a lot of time with. If you’re a kid, and an adult who you trust tells you things like, “we can’t afford nice things”, or “rich people hog all the wealth”, you’re going to believe them.

The Confirmation Bias

Everything in our current reality started as a thought. When you practice a thought enough, it becomes a belief. When you believe something enough, it becomes truth. And that truth becomes your reality.

What are Limiting Beliefs (and how to overcome them)?  |  Left-Brained Hippie

​When it becomes the reality around us, that acts as more proof that our beliefs are correct. We’ll continually seek proof to support our beliefs. Because your subconscious mind HATES to be wrong.

Your brain is biased to confirm anything that fits your beliefs, and it will discard anything that doesn’t as “irrelevant”.

Think of the time you put yourself out there and got TONS of great comments and encouragement, but the one person who wasn’t supportive is the one you couldn’t stop thinking about. You’re biased to focus on that one negative nancy if you have a subconscious belief that they’ve just confirmed.

Your brain is biased to look for things that fit your beliefs. If your beliefs stink, so will your reality: http://bit.ly/2lBCfOK

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The Belief Snowball

Let’s say for example, when you were a kid, you always got hand-me-down clothes, and you were never given brand-new clothes. You might have had thoughts like, “that’s not fair, why does my older sister always get the new clothes and I get sloppy seconds?” And then maybe months later you ask your parents to buy you a coat you really love, but they say “No, we can’t afford it”. That second incident is now serving as “proof” that your original story of “life’s not fair”, and “I’m not worthy of new clothes” is true.  

Even if that's not at all what your parents intended.​

And over the years, you continue to look at everything you experience through the lens of that belief, collecting more and more supporting evidence, and discarding anything that doesn’t fit the belief.

Since most of us silly humans tend to think as a reaction to the world around us, rather than proactively choose our thoughts, we end up creating the same reality over and over again, instead of creating a new (more amazing) reality.

Why do I keep holding onto these beliefs, if they’re such a thorn in my side?

It’s simple--it’s “the devil you know”. The fear of the unfamiliar.

On a surface level, it sounds ridiculous to hold yourself back from being rich because strangers might resent you, but that’s actually a thing.

Deep down, we all just want to be loved and accepted. Back in our caveman days, our life depended on not getting our ass kicked out of the tribe. In the modern world, it’s much safer than it used to be to step out of the box, but our brains haven’t gotten the memo.

Below is Mazlow's hierarchy of needs.  It shows our priorities in life. Clearly, your physiological needs (like food and shelter) will come first before things like yoga retreats and nice handbags.

When we were cavemen, our FOOD, SHELTER, and SAFETY was dependant on being accepted as part of the tribe.  Having a different life philosophy or pissing people off was not an option, unless you were willing to risk your food, shelter, and safety.

Our subconscious mind deemed it "unsafe".

So, we have conditioned ourselves to stifle our need for self-actualization (which is just a fancy way of saying "the need to reach our highest potential") because we're afraid it will be a threat to our food and shelter.

Except...whooops! In the modern world, it's actually NOT a threat to our food, shelter, or safety.  But our caveman brains haven't caught up yet, which is why we still function this way.

Your fears were (unknowingly) instilled in you from sources you trusted, like your parents. You’ve been living with them for years, you know how to deal with the problems you’ve been dealing with. You’ve developed a pattern around it.

And it’s bat-shit scary to pull a 180 and start rewiring your brain. So yes, you will absolutely feel resistance every time you try to make changes in your life if you’re living with beliefs that don’t align with those changes.

The Worst Helicopter Parent EVER

I like to compare your limiting beliefs to a helicopter parent. Really well-intentioned, but overprotective, overbearing, and totally misguided. Your helicopter parent doesn’t want to see you fail, lose friends, lose respect, be called names, go broke, or feel guilt. So it will go out of its way to sabotage every move you make to step outside that comfort zone.

And what does that do for us? It keeps us from stepping into the life we really want. It keeps us from even thinking about what we want (most people have never even dared to dream about what a perfect life would look like). After all, if you never dream, you can’t be disappointed, right?

It keeps us running on the hamster wheel, in survival mode, and it hinders us from finding and sharing our gifts with the rest of the world. That’s the stuff that death-bed regrets are made of.

To clear them, then, your job becomes to reassure your subconscious mind that it's SAFE to shed those beliefs.​

Limiting beliefs are like, the worst helicopter parents EVER. Check out this article on limiting beliefs:  http://bit.ly/2lBCfOK

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How do I get rid of them?

The good news is, the cycle can be broken at any time by consciously choosing different thoughts.

The first thing you absolutely have to do is identify the stories you’ve been telling yourself. The excuses you’ve been making, the reasons why you’re not further along, the justifications. Hopefully a few bells went off while reading this so that you’ve got an easy place to start, but otherwise just look out for the behaviours I listed up near the top of this post. When you notice it, pretend to look it in the eye and say “I see you”. That shrivels up the power it has over you.

Once you’ve figured out at least one of your limiting beliefs, the next step is to acknowledge it. Literally say “thank you for protecting me”, or “I acknowledge you”. Because that’s all it was trying to do. Your mind isn’t “out to get you”. It’s not malicious at all. It loves you and just tries to take care of you! So appreciate the fact that it’s been looking out for you your whole life.

Now that you’ve hopefully identified and acknowledged at least one or two limiting beliefs (warning: there could be dozens, hundreds, or thousands hiding in there. Not to scare you, but to reassure you that it’s totally normal!), the next step is to release them.

You do this by literally saying, “I release you. I no longer need you.

Put it all together: “I see you, I acknowledge you, I release you”.

Or, my personal favourite, "I see you, I acknowledge you, now fuck off".

This mantra is ahMAZING for those moments when you catch yourself thinking unhelpful thoughts.

"I see you, I acknowledge you, now fuck off"--my new favourite affirmation to kick my blocks to the curb: http://bit.ly/2lBCfOK

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When You Need the Heavy Artillery

That little mantra is a powerhouse, but there will be times when you need something more powerful. Some of my favorite tools that I use all the time to release my negative beliefs so that I can stop resisting what I want, are Ho’oponopono forgiveness, EFT (emotional freedom technique), and affirmations.

Forgiveness is basically letting go of the energy around anything or anyone who contributed to one of your beliefs. You can forgive people (dead or alive, and whether you’ve met them or not), things, places, institutions, concepts...pretty much anything.

(Check out How to Deal When You Get Screwed Over for more info on forgiveness)

EFT is an easy, non-invasive technique where you tap on accupressure points to recondition the response to certain thoughts. It’s free, you can do it yourself, and it WORKS. There are lots of ways to use EFT, my favorite way is to tap on the acupressure points while venting about something I’m frustrated about.

What this does is it allows me to deal with my negative feelings, without accumulating more “proof” in my mind of the belief. If you’re a Law of Attraction enthusiast, you might be wary of spending so much time talking about the negative stuff, but rest assured--this is the safest way to deal with those emotions without attracting a mess of crap you don’t want.

(Check out the EFT for Money Blocks course here)

And lastly, a powerful way to get proactive about your thoughts is to practice affirmations. I’ll be real, I used to hate affirmations. I always felt so dumb saying these overly positive things, and it always felt so fake.

So the best way to use affirmations is to identify the belief you want to change, and state how you want to feel about it. For example, if you feel fat all the time, you can use the affirmation, “My body is amazing and I love it”.

If that feels fake to you, you can add prefixes like “I choose to believe,” or “I’m in the process of” or even “I’m manifesting”. This softens it a bit, and makes it more believable to your subconscious. Because this way, you’re not acting like you’re “already there” with the new belief, you’re just easing it in, so to speak.

Whew! That was a lot.

My hope for you is that you’ve had at least one or two “BINGO!” moments while reading this. I just gave you a LOT of information, and if it’s all new to you, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.

So if you want some help figuring out where to start in healing these beliefs, click on the big image just below to watch the free video training, "5 Money Blocks that Keep You Stuck".  I will even show you how to clear them with a bit of EFT (my favourite tool for clearing blocks) right there in the training.  See you in there!

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About the Author

Hey, I'm Shelsey, and I help female online entrepreneurs clear the mindset gremlins that are sabotaging you from the inner corners of your brain. Join me in the Left-Brained Hippies Facebook community!

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(2) comments

Really enjoyed this update, how can I make is so that I get an email sent to me every time there is a fresh article?

    Shelsey Jarvis May 5, 2019

    I don’t actually write blog posts anymore, but I have a podcast called “Money Mindset for Entrepreneurs”. You can find it on iTunes or Stitcher!

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