Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will control your life and you will call it fate.
– Carl Jung
A limiting belief is a false belief that a person acquires as a result of making an incorrect conclusion about something in life. For example a person could acquire a limiting belief about his ability to succeed as soon as he fails.
The above definition conveys the meaning but not the depth of the impact limiting beliefs have on our lives. We all have limiting beliefs and we are mostly unaware of what they are. The biggest chunk of our beliefs is formed when we are little, between 0 and 4 years of age. As we grow up these beliefs dictate our reactions to certain events and as a result greatly influence our choices and behaviours. We develop patterns of thinking and sets of behaviours. We fall into these patterns again and again, and every time we do, our limiting beliefs that triggered these patterns in the first place grow stronger. And what we believe, we get!
Limiting beliefs are our repressed emotions – reactions to past experiences. Both the emotions and experiences are seen as painful and we bury them deep inside where no one can see them, including ourselves. Limiting beliefs are stored in our subconscious mind and we are often not aware that we have them – until something happens and we react based on the beliefs we hold. And even then we don’t understand that our reactions are really due to something within us, something that causes us to get angry, scared, jealous, etc. An innocent remark can sometimes provoke a blazing fire of fury!
We think that something is true when we have experiences that confirm it. In reality though, it’s another way around. Our subconscious mind already has a set of beliefs and whatever happens it interprets as a confirmation for those beliefs to be true. But because we don’t know all of this, we buy it and our limiting beliefs get stronger and we keep reacting and behaving in a certain way which can be destructive both for ourselves and those around us. We end up in a vicious circle of beliefs-reactions-behaviours-experiences-beliefs. The ‘real’ objective truth is felt in your heart, it shines within you when you hear it; it’s a deep knowing that does not trigger reactions but rather inspires you to act.
Say, your father was very busy when you were little and didn’t spend much time with you. As a child you may have taken it as if your father didn’t love you. This conclusion is unconscious and does not have any real reasons. Nevertheless, you grow up subconsciously believing that you are not loved, that you cannot be loved. You grow up not loving yourself. You start pleasing others out of your unconscious desperation to feel loved and accepted. You end up feeling depleted, unhappy, ill – as you neglect your own needs and experience a severe lack of self-love and self-care. You are not able to keep your relationships alive – simply because you tend to suffocate another person with demands for attention and care to compensate your own lack of love.
How to detect your limiting beliefs?
1. Watch your emotional reactions. One of the best ways to identify your limiting beliefs is to observe your emotional reactions towards others. It can be very difficult to detach ourselves from our reactions as and when they are triggered in order to observe them, so it might be a good idea to reflect on your interactions with others at the end of the day.
2. Do your best to understand your emotions without blaming others! Say, you feel jealous. Ask yourself: Where does this emotion come from? Do I feel that I am not good enough for my boyfriend / girlfriend? Do I generally feel that I am not good enough? Do I feel that I am not worthy of their love? Do I criticise myself all the time? It may turn out that you feel jealous simply because you generally believe that you are not good enough and not worthy of love. And remember, you get what you believe! So if you are super jealous and constantly demand your partner to prove their love, you may indeed ruin your relationship!
3. Look at your past experiences. Do your best to recall all instances when you felt the emotion in question. Start with the most recent experience and keep moving deeper into the past until you can recall a situation when you felt it for the first time. Who was involved? Where were you? What happened? Why did you feel it?
What to do next?
1. Start consciously looking for facts to strengthen the truth and your positive outlook. Say, you felt jealous and found out that you believe that you are not good enough and not worthy of love. Recall all of the instances when you were good enough – be it work, relationships, friendships, anything! It can be something as simple as ‘I baked a cake and everyone enjoyed it’. You can write a list, if it helps.
2. Stay aware throughout your day and note more instances when you feel you are good enough and add them to your list. Little by little you will override your limiting belief and replace it with the truth that you are – in this example, that you are good enough!
3. Cultivate self-love. Whatever your limiting beliefs are, cultivate self-love, it’s never too much! It can only help you overcome and release emotions and beliefs that do not serve you.
4. Use Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) aka tapping to release your emotions without falling into old patterns of thinking and behaviours. More on this here enlightenedselflove.com/2017/01/02/emotional-freedom-technique/.
Understanding and acknowledging our emotions helps us shed light on our limiting beliefs and once these beliefs are made conscious, they start loosing their power over behaviours and our lives.