Bill Abbate

What would life be without freedom? It is difficult to imagine not being free for those living in “free world” countries such as the USA. Or is it?

But what does it mean to be free? Free from what? Free from whom? Free to do what?

How about freedom of the self? Freedom to live without fears, doubts, and the limitations we place on ourselves.

Yes, real freedom lies beyond countries, governments, and people. True freedom comes from within.

Let’s look at what you can do to create more freedom in yourself and your life!

Where do you start?

We will start by looking at the freedom stolen from us, not by others. Not by things. By ourselves.

Is it possible to steal from ourselves? Of course!

We allow our thoughts to enslave us far too often. Our thoughts produce fears, doubts, beliefs, everything bad and good. Our thoughts produce our very lives. This has been known for thousands of years!

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD)

How can we stop this theft of our freedom? By knowledge and self-awareness? What about taking action?

The more you understand what makes you do what you do and accept what you accept, the more freedom you can gain.

One of the main culprits that rob or steal your freedom is certain beliefs you own that own you. These beliefs are called self-limiting beliefs. They are also known as self-defeating beliefs or self-imposed limitations.

“All too often we’re filled with negative and limiting beliefs. We’re filled with doubt. We’re filled with guilt or with a sense of unworthiness. We have a lot of assumptions about the way the world is that are actually wrong.” Jack Canfield (1944-present)

Examining beliefs

What exactly is a self-limiting belief? For our purposes, it is an assumption, a doubt, or a perception that keeps you bound, preventing you from achieving something you are capable of doing. In other words, it is a limit you place on yourself, which you can conquer if you want. This is where knowledge and self-awareness are essential.

Everyone has more than one self-limiting belief in their life.

If you believe you have no such beliefs, you must be perfect. At least in your mind, you are! For these extremely rare, perfect human beings, you may as well stop reading. This article is for those of us who live in the land of reality!

To work on one of your self-limiting beliefs, take the following steps.

  • Uncover the belief so you can see it.
  • Give it thought to understand it by examining as many perspectives as possible.
  • Find someone you trust to work on it with you.
  • When satisfied with your understanding, make a choice.
  • Your choice will lead to action to free yourself from the bonds of the belief. Or it will lead you to inaction, which will keep you bound.

Repeat this process for as many areas in which you are bound, and you will change your future and can put your life on an entirely new trajectory!

Remember, self-limiting beliefs come from your mind. They steal your ability to achieve, creating a mental prison from which you must escape. They can be a part of you that is fearful and trying to protect you somehow.

“You can’t escape from a prison until you recognize you are in one. People who have chosen to live within the limits of their old beliefs continue to have the same experiences. It takes effort and commitment to break old patterns.” Bob Proctor (1934–2022)

Example — part 1

Something that held me captive for some time was my belief I couldn’t speak in public. Yes, that old dreaded fear of public speaking that so many fear more than death itself.

When I examined the root of this belief, I found it came from my childhood. I tripped and fell onstage during a school play in the second grade. It was bad enough that I was already uncomfortable being in front of so many people.

As I recall the incident, I remember how embarrassed I was. I still experienced the feeling of all those in the audience, including my family, thinking I was a clumsy loser.

Could a belief from when I was seven still influence me into my twenties like that? You bet. Yet I later found this belief was only trying to keep me from further embarrassment. It used fear to protect me from ever feeling like a klutz again.

“If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.” Louise Hay (1926–2017)

Example — part 2

As I advanced in my career, I was put on the spot to speak more often. Fortunately, I attended a Dale Carnegie course on public speaking and started to read more about the subject to overcome this false belief of looking like a klutz, which caused me to fear.

Soon enough, I was able to overcome this belief and break its chains of bondage in my life. I began speaking in front of more and larger groups with authority, gaining tremendous freedom that helped me make great strides in my career.

Did I entirely eradicate this self-limiting belief? Nope. There is still a tiny remnant that will pop up at times. Yet I see it differently now. When I get a little nervous as I prepare to speak to an audience, that seven-year-old part still wants to protect me from looking like a fool, from failing. But I now know myself well enough that I am sure I can do it. I have done it and have been successful at it many times.

These more mature thoughts tell me I will do a great job. I believe it, and it happens. It is so freeing to have a better grasp of reality. Even if I make a mistake, I know others want me to succeed and not fail. I’m encouraged no matter what happens, and can even laugh at myself.

Example — part 3

Another incident happened when I was around thirty years old and had taken a job that conflicted with several of my personal values and beliefs. The job paid well, but the stress I was under became unbearable. I stayed far too long because of doubts about myself and my abilities. The internal conflict was just too great. After a year and a half, out of desperation, I resigned.

There I was with my small family, jobless, a thousand miles from my home state. I started looking for a job, and for a week, nothing appeared.

The self-imposed limitation or belief that kept me on that job for far too long was my fear of not finding another job, with an underlying fear of being unable to take care of my family. I was a responsible person, after all.

During this time, I overlooked the pressures on my relationship with my wife. I completely missed that she fully favored me leaving the position. She had more faith than I did that we would be okay.

Fear is a harsh taskmaster!

I failed to realize I did a great job for the company and was very capable. I didn’t know there were plenty of other opportunities out there. Fear and concern paralyzed me so badly that I could not clearly see myself or my situation.

After that first week of unemployment, a different part of me woke up. I realized I had risen through the ranks because others believed I had strong skills and capabilities. I shifted my thinking to believe I could do what I set my mind to do. I had already proven that in my life.

Within the following week, I had a job that paid better and presented me with greater growth opportunities! What freedom I gained by overcoming this self-limiting belief that made me fear not finding gainful employment! I finally had the confidence I needed and received huge dividends during my career, never worrying about changing jobs again!

Finding Freedom

“Freedom cannot be bestowed — it must be achieved.” Elbert Hubbard (1856–1915)

Think about a possible self-limiting belief that has held you captive, stealing your freedom. Explore it with your spouse or someone close to you. The self-limiting belief can be anything that keeps you from something you want. Use the process above, and you will experience wonderful freedom from being bound when you overcome it.

“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 Hay (1926–2017)

To get you started, here are a few areas to explore. Ask yourself, “What self-limiting belief do I have about my:

  • job/career
  • education/school
  • writing
  • ability to speak in public
  • marriage
  • children
  • family
  • friends
  • relationship with ________
  • finances
  • savings
  • health
  • eating habits
  • weight
  • workout habits

I’m sure you can think of a few other areas to examine.

Go to work to uncover the origin of the self-limiting belief. You can ask yourself questions such as:

  • When and where did this belief originate?
  • What (or who) in my past created this belief?
  • Why do I hold on to this belief?

If none of these help you unearth the root of the belief, keep seeking an answer by coming up with your own questions. And don’t forget, the effectiveness of such an exercise is always much greater if you can do it with someone you trust.

Final thoughts

If you really want as much freedom as possible, it is worth searching for and revealing what lies beneath your self-limiting beliefs. You will find more freedom and accomplish more in life once you expose, understand, and take action on them. In addition, you will become more self-aware, which is always a good thing!

Why not give it a try? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Imagine the freedom you can obtain by eliminating even one self-limiting belief. Your life will become more enjoyable, and you will enjoy greater success!

“There is one grand lie — that we are limited. The only limits we have are the limits we believe.” Wayne Dyer (1940–2015)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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