Let me give a personal example before we continue.
I tend to believe that that I am alone in this world (which is indeed one of my limiting beliefs), I will not reach out and try to solve my own problems. As a result my surroundings don’t know if I need help or not and will leave me alone. As nobody involves themselves in my life, I think nobody cares, and I have found proof for my mind that I am on my own.
Interested to dissect this theory?
Over the last few years I have noticed an almost 100% success rate for limiting beliefs creating their own reality. 100% self-perpetuating bullshit!
In general, this self-fulfilling prophecy can be broken down into the following elements: 1) a (childhood) experience has imprinted a belief in my subconscious. 2) I subliminally behave a certain way to protect my feelings. 3) my environment responds to my behaviour. 4) My subconscious belief is confirmed and the cycle continues.
As you can imagine this can create a downward spiral that can lead to very destructive behaviour. I could become disillusioned in the good nature of people, push them away and end up as a hermit, locked up in my own self-built prison.
Alternatively I could stay open to alternative truths, find out that reality is not fixed or predetermined and experience the freedom of letting go of my limiting beliefs! In my case share what’s going on, be vulnerable and ask whenever I need help, experience that people like to support me and become an appreciating and appreciated part of a community.
The biggest challenge to turn around a limiting belief is twofold, first of all the belief usually started in early childhood and almost always on a non-verbal, implicit and non-cognitive level. So we have a blind spot. And secondly, we are familiar with the way we protect our feelings, and choosing otherwise takes a leap of faith and a period in which we will feel uncomfortable and afraid.
Let’s take my example. I don’t trust that people are there to support me, and I have done things by myself. That way I know what to expect and what the outcome is. I will solve the problem my way, in my time and on my terms. Imagine that I ask for help, and people will offer help, but slightly different than how I would have done it. Perhaps because they know better, perhaps not.
Now I will have to trust that the outcome will be satisfactory, despite having the problem handled differently. Or in the same situation, I can ask for help, not knowing if people will reject me or not. That creates an insecurity I didn’t have when I knew people didn’t help me.
So how to move on? Well first of all, I will have to uncover any blind spots, then dig to the root of the problem (the limiting belief) and then investigate if that limiting belief holds true. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has developed many tools for this, and I will scratch the surface here, as my goal is to tickle your brain and not become all therapeutic.
So, how can we uncover blind spots? Here we have the MOAM for. The Mother Of All Mirrors. It’s 360 degrees and everywhere you look. You guessed it, it’s your environment. Your environment usually reflects your situation. What are the patterns that keep recurring? It does help to ask your environment to spell it out for you. They see is better and sharper than you, trust me! In our men’s group we have written out these recurring patterns for each member and we hand out awards when a brother steps back into hamster wheel.
Another hint is, how do you see people? Do you have a general qualification for people. They are stupid, they are egoistic, they are easily manipulated etc. Your judgment tells you a lot about YOU! Here you can ask people how they see you. Chances are that you are judging other people for a part of you that you are in denial of. I don’t ask for help, because I think people are selfish, guess what I denied about myself?!
Once you have established your limiting belief, there is no need to find out why you have this belief. Perhaps your parents were overgrown children and couldn’t meet your needs, perhaps your teacher ridiculed you and injected you with toxic shame. I frankly don’t care (selfish). But I also see many people show a sigh of relief after they understand what happened only to refrain from changing their behaviour. And analysis is theory, behaviour is where the rubber hits the road.
It’s much more important to start challenging that belief, by simply doing the opposite. In my case I would start asking people for help, show appreciation for their response (no matter it’s a yes or no, sincere or not), and offer people help and honour their response. Second step would be to take note of the subsequent events and if they correspond with my pattern and my convictions.
You will find out that life is much more fluid and random and much less about you. Your behaviour will create an effect, you as an identity is completely uninteresting for others. Once you start to feel less confined by your self-imposed identity you can start to play with your behaviour and experiment. It’s fun, liberating and constructive towards your goals, whatever they are.
If the above still sounds a little too conceptual, I will provide some examples below, and you might recognize people you know in them.
People will leave me -> I start clinging / I act distant -> People get fed up with me -> People will leave me.
I don’t trust people -> I keep information to myself -> People find me aloof and untrustworthy -> people will give up on you -> I don't trust people.
Lack of self-worth
I am not good enough -> I will try to fit in -> I will act inauthentic -> people respond with disrespect -> I am not good enough.
Lack of confidence
I will fail -> I get stressed before every challenge -> My mind blocks completely/I get stressed -> I cannot perform -> I will fail.
Lack of acceptance
I need x to be happy -> I am unhappy -> I get x -> I am still unhappy -> I need y to be happy
And if you know some more patterns, please share!