Gina Behm, MA, LCPC
Limiting Beliefs: Why You are Stuck & How to Fix It
Hey y’all, happy Hump Day! If you haven’t seen my Instagram page this week, go check it out, because I posted a pretty sweet self-care giveaway that you are not going to want to miss out on! The theme of this giveaway was chosen by #thepeople per an Instastory poll I created a few weeks prior. The other option in the poll was a skills giveaway, and while self-care won by a landslide, I definitely did not want to leave my skills people hanging, because IMO, these people had the right idea!
Coping skills are honestly like the pot at the end of the rainbow. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a bit… maybe they are more like the MAP to get to the end of the rainbow, and the happiness and confidence and SELF LOVE are the pot o’ gold. Yes, that’s more like it. My point is, self-care is an amazing way to take a break, relax, refresh & rejuvenate… AND, it is NOT a proper way to resolve legitimate conflict or persisting stressors. Yes, self-care is great for everyday stress reduction, but I am talking continual relationship conflict, crippling anxiety, depression that interferes with daily life, etc. THIS is where your skills come in. This is when you have to put in some pretty dang difficult effort to make a positive shift in your life.
Most of my clients struggle with the same thing when it comes down to it. It’s the same thing that I struggle with too. And my husband, and my mom, and your mom, and YOU. You see, it’s our thoughts that cause the big problems. Sure, situations are triggers, but what really trips us up is our thoughts, beliefs and assumptions ABOUT these situations, and then consequently, our reactions and responses. What I often see getting people into trouble is their tendency to fall into what we call “Limiting Beliefs”. Limiting beliefs can present in a multitude of ways; black and white thinking, mind reading, future tripping, perfectionism and so much more. The common thread that all limiting beliefs have is that they… well… LIMIT your ability to find the solution to a problem. Limiting beliefs tell you there is a right way and a wrong way, that you have an impossible task at hand, that your opportunities have passed, and so forth. They trap you. They keep you stuck. They make you helpless.
I don’t know about y’all, but I HATE feeling trapped, stuck & helpless. It makes me feel small, vulnerable and scared. Welp, I’m not gonna stand for that...so what are we to do about these pesky beliefs? I'll tell you what, we introduce alternative beliefs in their place. What is an alternative belief? It is an empowering reframe of the situation and your control over it. Alternative beliefs give you back your power. And again, if you’re asking me (which I’m guessing you are if you have found your way to this blog post and are still reading), taking back my power sounds GREAT! What do you think?
Creating alternate beliefs may seem daunting at first, but lets just go ahead and break down the process together. First and foremost, you have to identify what your limiting belief is. For example:
I cannot be successful in my career when I am stuck working from home.
Why is this belief limiting you ask? Because it restricts your growth by putting a cap on your ability for success. It says: ‘as long as I have the restriction of working from home, I will NEVER be able to succeed’. It takes a scenario that is out of your control (the stay at home order), and deadlocks you into a lose-lose situation. Once you know your limiting belief, you have to start asking yourself questions: Is this thought true? What makes it true? What facts do I have? Can anything in this situation be changed? What do I have control over? What don't I have control over? Answering these questions can help to create your alternate belief.
Is this thought true? It could be...
What makes it true? I have not been as successful in these past few weeks as I have been in the past.
What facts do I have? My numbers are down and I am getting a lot of rejections from potential new clients. However, historically my numbers do tend to decrease around tax season and holidays.
Can anything in this situation be changed? Yes...
What do I and don’t I have control over? I do not have control over when clients say yes to me, but I do have control over how many clients I reach out to per day (aka my effort), and I also have control over my own thoughts and perspective of the situation.
So, now that we have established our limiting belief, the facts we have for and against this belief, and know what we do and don’t have control over, we can begin to create a helpful, corrective & effective alternate belief. For example:
It makes sense to feel stressed during this time of change. I am a strong, creative and driven individual who is capable of finding a way to make working from home successful for both me and my clients. An ebb and flow in numbers is to be expected, and is not reflective of me as a professional. I have made it through difficult times before, and I will do it again now.
What do you think of that thought, huh? Does it make you want to lay on the couch and binge watch "Love is Blind" while downing a full bottle of wine and/or an entire bag of pretzel crisps in one sitting? Does it make you feel sorry for yourself & want to burst into tears at your ever impending financial doom? OR does it make you want to take a deep breath, have a restful evening and try again tomorrow? For me it’s the latter, and I truly hope that is the case for you too.
Lets go ahead and review the parts of this thought that make it so helpful. First things first, you want to validate yourself for your feelings; whatever you are experiencing in this moment, it. makes. sense. Your feelings are a reflection of your reality, and it is OKAY to feel them. Second, you need to give yourself some credit!! You are a badass human being who has so many positive characteristics to utilize, so let’s figure them out! Finally, open up the possibility for other options… and yes, I’m talking about POSITIVE potential options. We all know we cannot predict the future, good OR bad… so why do we spend so much time predicting everything that could go wrong?! Don’t keep yourself trapped through that stinkin’ tunnel vision, it does you no good!
Now, just to make sure you’ve got the hang of this handy dandy thought correcting coping skill (aka reframing with affirmations), let’s do some more examples, shall we?
Limiting Belief: My trip to visit old friends had to be cancelled. Now we won’t ever be able to find the time to visit them again. It took forever to pick this date, and we even planned it five months in advance!
Alternate Belief: Having to cancel plans is disappointing and my fears are valid! Schedules are difficult to align, and I am still capable of making this trip a priority when it is safe to do so.
Limiting Belief: My boss/coworkers think less of me because I have chosen to work from home while they are all still in the office.
Alternate Belief: I am only in control of my own thoughts and opinions; assuming, ruminating and catastrophizing about the potential thoughts of others only hurts me. I am doing my own best practice, and that is enough. I am doing what is best for me, to be the best for my clients.
Limiting Belief: If I wear a mask and gloves, I am overreacting. I will just stay inside.
Alternate Belief: My worth is not dependent on the opinions of strangers. I give myself permission to keep myself safe however I see fit.
Limiting Belief: I need to know ALL the COVID-19 updates so I know the INSTANT things are safe again.
Alternate Belief: It is normal to search for information in times of uncertainty. I choose to stay informed AND limit my information intake to 1-2 times per day so I am not overwhelmed and wasting time and emotion on continual updates. Checking multiple times per day will not change the outcome. I am still a knowledgeable and worthy citizen.
So what do you think? Manageable? Yeah... it is DEFINITELY going to take some practice! Our brains have been trained for years of our lives to go straight to these limiting beliefs. My suggestion? Take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day and write one limiting belief you had that day, and formulate an alternate belief to combat it. Go ahead and make a routine of it! All you’ve got to do is remember this formula:
give credit where credit is due
open up other potential for other possibilities
If this feels like too much all at once, just start with the first part of the equation, and build up to parts two and three as you grasp the hang of the step before! I give you FULL permission to learn this skill in the best way you know how. For example,
Limiting Belief: I will never get promoted in this job.
Alternate Belief pt. 1: It makes sense that I am frustrated.
Alternate Belief pt. 2: I have spent a lot of time, money and brainpower to get where I am today, and it is disheartening to feel stuck.
Alternate Belief pt. 3: I am a capable, competent employee. If this company cannot provide options for growth, I can seek opportunities elsewhere.
One final noteworthy thing to focus on when recognizing your limiting beliefs and creating alternative ones is to look out for the absolutes. Absolutes are words like always, never, ever and so on... If you have a thought with an absolute, it is proooobably a limiting belief. Avoid these words like the plague while creating your alternative beliefs; they only set you up for failure.
All and all, what is the big picture goal here? Why am I challenging you to practice this skill? Well, the gist of it is to not let our restrictive, hurtful, paralyzing beliefs control us and the outcome of our lives. To gain more perspective on ourselves and the world around us. To provide us with options and positivity in times of doubt. To start building that drastically necessary toolbox of skills to get you through this crazy thing called life! As we draw to a conclusion here, I ask of you only one thing. If you take nothing else at all away from this post, please PLEASE remember this; self-care practices are not the answer to our pain. They only scratch the surface of making our lives better. Rather, it is our ability to be flexible in thoughts and actions that open up doors for us; it is our skills that keep us sane. I hope you find use in this skill and see the benefit of it, and if not, well, then perhaps another skill at another time. I do not spend my free time writing these posts in the hopes to one day have you sitting in my chair as a client. Rather, I believe in preventative health and accessible information for those who may not be able to afford it or find the time. I only hope that y’all consider my plea to care for your mind the way you care for your body. You deserve ALL the happiness, confidence and self love at the end of that rainbow; you just gotta work a little to get there!