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The Anatomy of Limiting Beliefs

limiting beliefs

One of the main reasons people stay stuck in situations they KNOW need to change is an underlying belief they can’t do it. There is usually a story about why changing isn’t possible even if it’s absolutely necessary.

Today, I want to talk about beliefs specifically limiting beliefs and the ways they work to keep you from moving forward. 

A simplified biology lesson

The beliefs we have about ourselves, good or bad, get laid down in our brains by the time we are between the ages of 7-9 years, and to a lesser degree between 10 and 14 years old.

These beliefs are formed in the oldest part of our brain, which one scientist calls our reptilian brain. This part of the brain controls heart rate, respiration, and basically all the functions required to keep us alive. It is also where the subconscious lives.

Our young brains basically have two functions: keep us alive and figure out the world around us (this is the reason children ask “WHY” about EVERYTHING!).

The other thing to keep in mind about how beliefs are formed is that we also have an inherent need to be right. We feel more in control when we are right and generally do everything we can to ensure that we are not wrong.

When we have a negative or painful experience as a child, our young reptilian brain quickly goes into action to (a) give it meaning to explain why it happened and, (b) figure out how to make sure it never happens again.  

Avoiding fear

There are three core fears that most people have (in my opinion): the fear of not being loved, the fear of not belonging and the fear of being unsafe.

The brain does not like loose ends. If something happens that triggers these fears, to your brain, it feels like your life is in danger. Your brain NEEDS to fix this because its primary function is to keep you alive.

If a source of the fear is not readily available, your brain will create a story to tie up that loose end.

Typically the story is a limiting belief that is created with the intent of helping you avoid the painful situation. The limiting belief is the brain’s way of trying to explain WHY this negative thing happened.

Then, because of our inherent need to be right, the brain starts looking for evidence to support this belief. And it always finds it, even if it has to manufacture that evidence.

The kicker is all of this is happening in your subconscious. You are not readily aware of what is unfolding. This is because most of the time these beliefs are taking shape while your young brain is still developing.

A recovering perfectionist

I’ll share an example from my own life to demonstrate what this looks like. As a child, I quickly learned that doing well and following the rules got me praise and accolades. But not following them resulted in me being punished. This happened both at home and at school. A’s were celebrated, B’s brought with them questions of why they weren’t A’s and anything less wasn’t even an option.

Being “punished”, even if the punishment was simply a teacher or parent’s disappointment, felt a lot like love was being taken from me. This triggered my fear of not being loved.

As result, I picked up the belief that I could never do anything wrong. I HAD to be perfect because perfection was the only way I could guarantee that I would always be loved. This was a dangerous belief that I carried with me into adulthood.

My need to be perfect kept me from taking risks because I could not ensure I wouldn’t mess up. I had to stay in places that were familiar because it felt safer. I was more in control in those spaces.

This is how limiting beliefs work to keep you stuck. It feels safer to stay inside your comfort zone where you can predict exactly what is going to happen. After all, the pain we know is sometimes better than the joy we don’t know.

An Invitation

My invitation to you today is to get curious about how your beliefs may be contributing to your stuckness.

What stories are you telling yourself that may not actually be true? What thoughts are you struggling to let go of?

It’s likely these are long-held beliefs that need challenging and changing. And it is possible to change them. It takes time and persistently monitoring your thoughts to choose a new belief but it is possible.

From my heart to yours,

 

 

P.S: If your stories have been holding you back and you’re ready to experience freedom from those limiting beliefs let’s talk. Schedule a complimentary Courage Igniter call with me. On this call, we will look at what it is you really want for yourself, what has been standing in your way and why NOW is the time for you to access your courage. Click here to schedule your call.

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