Limiting Beliefs: Why What We Believe Can Hurt Us

Limiting beliefs are those beliefs that limit what we can accomplish. We may not understand the impact of our beliefs—many of us never consider that our lives are guided not only by our education and abilities but by our innermost beliefs. Yet as I look back on my accomplishments, I can see how the decisions I made have been colored by my beliefs.

I waited until January 2009 to start my own business. Until then, I worked as an engineer for several large companies, then retired, went back to school, and became a financial planner. I worked for several firms as an employee until the summer of 2008, when I left a company that I felt was not right for me. I started my business six months later, which has led me to where I am today, a co-owner and CEO of a larger financial planning firm. I say this not to enlighten anyone about my accomplishments but to illustrate my limiting belief that establishing a business was riskier than working for one. I love what I do and the people I get to work with and support as clients. I can’t imagine doing anything else and wish I had done it sooner and not later, but believing that starting a business would be too risky prevented me from taking action.

We all have limiting beliefs. Often, we don’t think about them and don’t realize they may be preventing us from moving ahead with opportunities that could change our lives. Consider retirement: Do you believe that retirement is a time for having fun and not necessarily working? I did, which led me to think of retirement as something that happens to people in their 60s, 70s, or later. I did not entertain the notion that anyone, much less myself, could actually retire at an earlier age, still work, and have fun. It took a lot of thought, research, and reflection to change my belief in the definition of retirement. Now I think of it as not a phase or period of life but as a state of mind. Retirement is being able to do what you want, where you want, as much as you want, and for as long as you want.

Here are seven limiting beliefs from Celestine Chua, who has a podcast called Personal Excellence:

  1. I can’t be my real self or I’ll be judged.
  2. I can’t fall in love or I’ll get my heart broken.
  3. I can’t ask for what I want because I may get rejected.
  4. I can’t trust people lest they betray my trust.
  5. I can’t pursue my dreams because I may fail.
  6. I don’t need to be successful, so I’m not going to strive for success.
  7.  It’s too late to pursue my dreams.

I’m pretty sure that all of us can relate to at least one of those beliefs—and others that are not on the list. 

Don’t let your limiting beliefs hamstring you. Take the time to think about them and ask yourself if they are stopping you from creating a life of infinite joy and satisfaction. Is it really true that you can’t do A because B is true? Sometimes we need external help and support to be successful, but perhaps what we really need is to identify our beliefs that are blocking us from achieving our goals and aspirations and to overcome them.