By: Hira Ali
Do you remember a time when you wanted to pursue a goal but didn’t because you failed to perform it well the first time? Or a time when you didn’t voice your opinion in a meeting for fear of being rejected or judged? Well, that was a limiting belief holding you back. A limiting belief is a false belief that a person holds true based on incorrect or incomplete conclusions about certain things in life.
All human beings have a tendency to be negative, some being more prone to it than others. However, when these beliefs turn into toxic thought traps that sabotage your progress, they need to be addressed promptly. The good news is that with a little practice and discipline, you can avoid succumbing to these mind-chattering gremlins and stop them right in their tracks.
An effective way to do this is through self-questioning. Self-questioning involves reviewing or scrutinizing your beliefs and examining the actions you take as a result of them. But before you can start questioning yourself, you need to first recognize what you are experiencing and pay close attention to your internal dialogue. The moment you become more aware of and begin to label your thoughts and feelings, you are opening yourself to various possibilities of addressing them.
There are many different types of limiting beliefs such as generalizations, mental filters, emotional reasoning, distortions, magnifications, labeling, etc. You can subvert each one by testing its validity through a belief-audit that can enable you to identify holes in your thinking. The moment you find yourself encountering a limiting belief, you can question it using four different techniques listed below.
1. Question its Generality
Find out if the belief is based on any general/one-size fits all type conclusions. Ask yourself if the belief always holds true or is this first time/one-off instance, and what were the circumstances when it wasn’t. This will help you differentiate situations where the belief did not hold true from the times when it did, thereby making you realize that the situation is not always as black or white as you think, subsequently restoring feelings of hope and trust to re-build your confidence.
2. Question its Authenticity
Evaluate the validity of the belief by ascertaining if it’s based on limited or incomplete knowledge and/or opinions versus facts. If it based on opinions, evaluate if the source of opinion can be trusted. Substantiate the belief with evidence that can support or negate it, and take into consideration all factors surrounding the belief (including any influences that may have been previously ignored). Sometimes most of our suppositions are only partially true and lack factual evidence. Once you learn to identify unverified beliefs, you will become open to more enabling points of view which could be equally true. That the earth was rectangular was a popular notion until proved otherwise.
If the belief leads you to a decision, then assess if it’s leading you to accept responsibility whether or not this was in your control. Alternatively, take into account instances where you fail to own up to your mistake. And finally, think about what someone you trust would say about your conclusion.
3. Question its context
Some beliefs emerge as a result of various factors and influences -- the absence or presence of which can lead to a change in that belief. Ask yourself if a lack of communication is responsible for your speculation or is it owed to the context of the situation.
That specific phase could include triggers such as a crucial period at work, a new job, a new responsibility or role, a transition period, a relocation etc. This will allow you to see your belief in relation to various factors impacting it and thus give it a wider perspective as opposed to viewing it in isolation.
If the belief involves people, examine scenarios that could be involved in affecting thoughts and actions. (For example, Loneliness, depression, boredom, old age, insecurity, fears of losing or missing out, health issues?) Also, do not disregard timing to be a factor responsible for shaping your belief in a certain way. Ask yourself will this belief be different, a few weeks from now when the timing is more favorable?
It becomes easier to understand why we may have negative surmises regarding situations or people when we begin to identify and connect with the context. Try replacing the negative opinions with more enabling beliefs by reframing them in a positive light.
4. Question its impact
Evaluate the impact of what could go wrong by asking yourself what will be the worst consequence of holding this belief and how will it affect you. This will help mitigate the fear. They say anything that doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. In most cases, what you anticipate to be the worst outcome will not be as frightening as you thought it would be. When you realize this, you will feel more prepared to face whatever consequences arise from it.
The above questioning tactics can distance you from debilitating thoughts and allow you to view situations more objectively. For self-questioning to work more effectively, however, you need something else too -- to stop believing in the myth that someone else will come to your rescue. Trust yourself to be your own best rescuer, simply, because who else could be a better expert in your life than you yourself? Ultimately, you own and control the most powerful weapon that can help you to get out of your own way: your brain. Do not underestimate its power - it will play a pivotal role in making any of your efforts successful. By repeatedly telling your brain that it can achieve something, you can train it to think affirmatively, so make sure you feed it with positive and ‘can do’ thoughts only. After all as Henry Ford, aptly put it; ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.’
[Related: How to Snap Out of It When You're in a Funk]
Hira Ali is the C.E.O of ed Management Consulting as well as Founder of Advancing Your Potential & Revitalize and Rise. She is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Professional Coach & NLP Practitioner. She tweets @advancingyou and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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