4 Steps to Release “Limiting Beliefs” Learned From Childhood

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“We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience.” -Louise L. Hay

Start unearthing your own limiting decisions by asking yourself a few questions:

  • What are the results you’ve produced in the various areas of your life?
  • Where are your results not in alignment with what you really want to be, do or have?
  • What area of your life have you really tried to improve but, no matter what, things just didn’t get better?

Your limiting decisions are hiding out in the areas where you’re producing results that you don’t want.

Your limiting decisions have shaped everything you do. They have prevented you from seeing opportunities and maybe even discouraged you from trying at all. Time to bring them out of hiding! Once you do that, you have choice.

So how to identify those pesky devils? First, what do you say to yourself about that area? For example, if you’re having trouble finding a relationship, maybe you explain it with something like, “Women only want men who have a lot of money” or “Guys are only interested in younger women.” Anything you say to yourself to justify why it isn’t working out for you is a limiting belief.

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Will that belief sound true to you? Of course! It will sound perfectly reasonable and valid and you probably can come up with lots of evidence supporting it! But it’s still a belief that is getting in the way of what you want. So unless you’re willing to totally give up on your goals and desires, it’s a limiting decision that you don’t want to keep around.

Sometimes limiting decisions are not that conscious. Maybe you’ve learned to squelch your negative thoughts before they get revv’d up, and you’ve have gotten good at positive self-talk. So you don’t hear any limiting beliefs in your head. But you’ll know you’ve still got a limiting decision lurking if your emotions are negative about that area.

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For example, if you’re bogged down with financial pressures, how do you feel about it? Anxious? Angry? Hopeless? If you stay with that emotion and acknowledge it for a moment, you’ll find the limiting belief right beneath it. For example, anxiety might be saying, “What will people think of me?” Anger might reflect “Life isn’t fair to people like me.” Underneath hopelessness might be, “I’m just not strong enough or smart enough to figure this out.”

Now that you’ve dragged some of those limiting beliefs out of the closet, what do you do with them?

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Step 1: Write the limiting belief down. Play detective and follow your thoughts and emotions to discover the limiting beliefs that hold you back. Put them on paper and stare them in the face! You might note how strong each belief is and what emotions they elicit in you.

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Step 2: Acknowledge that these are beliefs, not truths! This is often the hardest step. “But, but, my limitations are real!” Here’s the place where choice comes in. Which are you more interested in: defending your limitations to the death or achieving your goals and desires? As author Evelyn Waugh wrote, “When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them.” You choose.

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Step 3: Try on a different belief. Use your imagination and try on a belief that is aligned with what you want. It might be something like, “My financial difficulties in the past have taught me so much that I’m fully prepared to handle them now!” Or, “Now that I’ve been in an unhealthy relationship I’ve learned what to look for in a happy, loving partner!”

The trick is to go beyond just saying it. You want to really step into this new belief and feel how it feels. Done thoroughly, Steps 2 and 3 will go a long way to dismantling your old limiting decision.

Step 4: Take different action. This might feel scary, but act as if your new belief is true. In other words, if you really are the kind of man women adore, how would you act at parties? Who might you ask out? If you really are capable and have learned a tremendous amount from past financial difficulties, what steps would you take?  If you really are the kind of person who eats healthy food, what will you put in your grocery cart?

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If you avoid taking any steps based on your new belief, you will just feed your old limiting belief. Taking action, even the smallest step, will help solidify your new un-limiting decision. Your first steps don’t have to be perfect, just headed in the right direction. And be sure to acknowledge yourself when you’ve taken that step.

Limiting Beliefs – A List of Choices

Children should be seen and not heard
Better safe than sorry
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Don’t be a baby
Respect your elders
To each his own
Give them an inch and they will take a mile
Listen to me. Listen to your elders
Share your things. Share what you have
You can’t have your cake and eat it too
You are just like your (brother, mother, etc)
What goes around comes around
We’ve always done it that way
Always share. A considerate person shares

They did it to me
A dog is man’s best friend
A nice person smiles at everyone
Age before beauty
Ask me no questions & I will tell you no lies
Asking for something is selfish
Bigger is better
Do as I say, not as I do.
Do you know what I mean?
Do not question authority
Don’t fight
Don’t frown so much
Don’t talk to your sister/brother that way
Every thing happens in threes
Everybody hates me
Good children are quiet
He made me do that.
I told you so.
I have big shoulders
If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything
It’s not nice to ask questions
It’s my parent’s fault

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I’m such a klutz
Life is what you make of it
Monkey see, monkey do
Never walk under a ladder
No one appreciates me
One man’s poison is another man’s cure
Only weak people forgive
Quality before quantity
Stand straight and tall and walk lightly
The morning is the best time of the day
They are just lucky
Treat people the way you like to be treated
You loved one you’ve loved them all
You will never be good enough
You made me do that
You look so pretty when you smile
You will never amount to much
You will understand life when you get older
I can’t …, I always …, I shouldn’t ….

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Hard work pays off, is rewarding; Work hard and you deserve the best.
No pain – no gain
Work before play
A job worth doing is a job worth doing well.
Get an education, It is the most important thing
If you practice long and hard you will get better and better, get good grades
Be smart and get a job. Get an education to succeed
Women’s work is never done
Don’t be so lazy
Always do something good each day
Anything worth having is worth working for
Don’t take on more than you can handle
Early to bed, early to rise
Hard work never hurt anyone
Have to work hard for a living or to get anywhere
If you don’t work you do not eat
If you work hard you will succeed
Must suffer to get anywhere
No one owes you a living
Play is a waste of time

Quitters never win and winners never quit
Sacrifice yourself for others
When you do a job always do a little extra

Money does not grow on trees
A penny saved is a penny earned
Save money for a rainy day. Save your money.
Save more than you earn

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Everything is so expensive. That costs too much
Money is hard to come by
Rich people are never happy
Easy come, Easy go
I can’t afford it
Money is the root of all evil
Don’t ask for too much from life or you will be disappointed
Don’t waste money on silly toys
I can’t pay my bills
If you don’t pick up a penny, you aren’t worth a penny yourself
Money is scarce
Money only buys material things
Never ask for money
Pay cash
Prosperity is reserved for the rich
Rich people are lucky
Save some of everything you have earned
So and so is filthy rich
Waste not want not

You don’t get anything for nothing
You can’t have everything
Your only friend is your dollar

Fun, joy and happiness are reserved for special occasions
It is best not to show pain or discomfort
You cry baby

Gender, Sex, Family
Nice girls don’t do sex, stay out late, spit, phone boys
Girls can’t do that.. Or be that…or good girls don’t
Big boys done cry
Just wait till your dad gets home
Its a man’s world
Boys should never hurt girls
Women are terrible drivers
That is just like a women (putdown)
While the cat is away the mice will play
Take care of your sisters/brothers
Just wait till you grow up and have children of your own
Women are just second class citizens
Don’t talk back to elders
Always wear clean underwear
House keeping is women’s work
Girls will grow up, get married and have babies. And no education

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Sex is dirty. Sex is Evil
A good wife listens to her husband.
Act like a lady
Boys will be boys
Boys mow the lawn and girls do the dishes
Boys play war and drive trucks
Family is always Number 1
First born boys are important and not first born girls
Girls are just sissies
Girls, it matters not how smart you are only in how pretty you are.
Girls play with dolls
I think I will trade her in for a new model
Love never lasts
Men are strong
Men are the head of the household.
Men can’t be trusted
No sex for nice people
No sex till you get married
Red is for street walkers
Take the easy way
We have to suffer to be beautiful
Women are not to enjoy sex

Women to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen
Women lead men astray
You are going to grow up and get married
You won’t have any friends if you are different

Sit still, be quiet, don’t fool around
Don’t be so stupid.
Why can’t you be smart like …
You don’t know anything, You are a good for nothing
You dummy. You turkey, you jerk
Ask a silly question and you get a silly answer
Don’t stand out
For a smart person you have no common sense.
Get a good education

Is your teen lazy, or sleep deprived?

You are lazy
You are dumber than a tack
You know better
You live on the wrong side of town
You never finish anything
You can always do better

Don’t sit too close to The TV.
Change your underwear every day
Do what you’re told.
Do you hear me?
It’s my way or the highway.
Listen to your parents

Food and Health
Clean up your plate, other people are starving in Africa.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Don’t waste food
Life is a bitch and you die
Cigarettes stunt your growth
Coffee stunts your growth

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Don’t take more food than you can’t eat
Don’t eat sweets or you will get cavities
Don’t talk with you mouth full
Eat, you are so skinny
Eat a balanced meal
Eat what is put in front of you
Eat your .. and you’ll live to be a ripe old age
I can’t stop eating
I get three colds a year
Life is short
You are too fat. No one will marry you
You always have to eat breakfast
You are what you eat
You are only young once

Go to church every Sunday
Going to church is like earning your way to heaven

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Good people go to heaven
Bad people go to hell
God has a favourite religion
God is male
Religion is the foundation of life
The church priest is always right
We are all sinners
We have to pay for our sins
You won’t go to heaven if you ….
You must go to church and believe in God


Matt James Ph.D.

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