Bill Abbate

Want to know how you can build a more powerful life? Get to know yourself better!

But I already know myself, you say? Of course, you do, but how well?

We are complex creatures living in a complex world. While we may think we are intimately acquainted with ourselves and who we are, there is always more to learn. Beyond learning more about ourselves, there is also more to understand about life, more wisdom and knowledge to gain, more skills to build, and far more to know about who we are, who we are becoming, and the life we are creating.

Read on to learn more about the most interesting person in the world — you!

Getting to know yourself better

Let’s discuss something life-changing for most people — what you believe about yourself. How well do you understand your self-created, self-limiting, and self-empowering beliefs? In them lies the key to creating a better, more powerful life.

The idea of self-limiting and self-empowering beliefs is easy to understand, but their effect can be challenging to see. Each type of belief begins in our minds based on many factors. They come from your life, who influenced you, how others have conditioned you, your culture, and your natural disposition, to name a few contributors.

Let’s look at a quick description of each type of belief.

  • Self-limiting beliefs are those things you believe about yourself that keep you from moving ahead. They contain doubts, fears, excuses, and other negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They hold you back and come from a fixed mindset.
  • Self-empowering beliefs are the things you believe you can do and are capable of doing. They help you face setbacks and create positive thoughts in your mind. They move you forward and come from a growth mindset.

Note: To learn more about mindsets, check out this short article — Change Your View of the World.

As you develop a greater understanding of these two beliefs, you will begin to know yourself better and uncover tremendous opportunities to improve your life.

Let’s look a little deeper at each type of belief.

Self-limiting beliefs

As with all beliefs, self-limiting beliefs come from your mind, a part of you that creates doubt and can be negative, fearful, and overprotective. Everyone has these unhelpful beliefs, although few give them much thought. Most people live with their negative effects throughout their lives. Sad, because once you uncover such beliefs, you can work on them and change them.

Let’s look at two examples from my life to help you further understand self-limiting beliefs and how to overcome them.

Example 1

A significant self-limiting belief I had to overcome was the belief that I could not speak in front of a group. The thought of speaking in public was terrifying! Uncovering that it originated from an incident in my childhood, I set about to overcome it.

I remember tripping onstage during a school play in the second grade. I was already nervous about being in front of so many people, but the sheer embarrassment of tripping was horrendous. For an already shy 7-year-old, it was a terrible experience. From that day forward, I did everything possible to stay out of the limelight.

Could something that happened to me as a 7-year-old create a self-limiting belief that could have sabotaged my career in my twenties? Absolutely!

As common as the fear of public speaking is, I often wonder if other people have had such experiences. One thing for sure they have in common is a belief that they cannot speak in public.

As I advanced in my career, it became a must to speak to groups. Otherwise, my career would stall and perhaps end. This motivation created a sense of urgency in me to overcome the belief that I could not speak in front of a group.

I enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course on public speaking and started to read more about the subject to help me overcome my fear. After some time, I turned this self-limiting belief into a strength that served me well.

Example 2

Another self-limiting belief affected my life at about 30. I doubted myself and my abilities so much I was unable to make a difficult decision about my job at the time.

I had taken a job that ended up conflicting with several of my values and beliefs. The job paid well, but the stress I was under felt unbearable. My self-limiting belief was that I would be unable to find another job, and bad consequences would result. After all, I was a responsible person and the sole provider for my wife and daughter.

This was only the second real job I had ever had outside of the military, and the fear was real. Yet after a year and a half, I resigned out of desperation. There I was with my small family, jobless, a thousand miles from my home state, with no prospects in sight. I was relieved by leaving the job, yet full of fear I would be unable to provide for my family. What a predicament!

Fear is a harsh taskmaster.

I may have kept a few more hairs in my head had I recognized the self-limiting belief that created this lack of confidence. Within a few days, I realized I had risen through the ranks because others believed I had strong skills and capabilities. I had already proven myself. This led to my determination to find another job and a good-paying one to boot!

I had been under so much pressure I had missed that my wife was entirely in favor of me quitting. She had great confidence in me and that we would be okay.

Within the following week, I had a job that improved my future opportunities and paid more! That was the last time I ever worried about employment again. The experience taught me I could add value to any company I worked for, and I worked for some great companies after this event. That self-limiting belief vanished once I came to believe in myself!

Self-limiting beliefs are lies we tell ourselves.

Refuse to believe them!

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

The Process

You can see the process in these examples to eliminate a self-limiting belief and even turn it into a self-empowering one.

The process is simply:

  • Uncover the belief. It may be tied to a doubt, something you fear, something that causes anxiety, or something that is pressuring you.
  • Give it thought to understand it by examining as many perspectives as possible.
  • Find someone you trust to help you work on it if you can. Another set of eyes can help enormously.
  • When satisfied with your understanding, start working on overcoming or eliminating the belief. Get creative, and find a way!

On the last point, if your drive and determination are strong enough, little will stop you from overcoming the self-limiting belief you have identified. Do what you can to keep the sense of urgency high, and you will conquer it!

Why not take some quiet time and examine your self-limiting beliefs? A great way to do this is early in the morning or late in the evening with your journal in hand. If you are like most of us, you will come up with more than one!

Self-empowering beliefs

Let’s now look at beliefs that strengthen us. While self-limiting beliefs often come from doubt, self-empowering beliefs often come from confidence. When you lack confidence, you can feel fear. It is well-known in neuroscience fear causes the mind to narrow its focus, severely limiting your ability to reason.

Not only are we complex beings living in a complex world, but the complexity of our minds is almost beyond comprehension! We often experience thinking as an internal dialogue. Furthermore, you can think and see different perspectives without even putting the thoughts into words.

The question is, do you recognize this? Are you awake to it? Do you realize your mind has different parts that manifest themselves as internal chatter?

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you notice these internal voices and observe how they relate to what you consciously and unconsciously believe.

Self-empowering and self-limiting beliefs have multiple voices that want to be recognized and heard. When you are able to see them, you can begin to control them.

Some internal voices are easy to recognize. Think about the parts of you that speak as a spouse, parent, sibling, child, friend, and so forth. One or more of these voices will influence your thoughts and what you say or don’t say, both in your mind and verbally. Each, in part, helps define what you believe about yourself.

For example, in some business meetings, my “executive voice” may come into play, influencing my thoughts, words, and actions. At other times, negative voices vie for my attention, saying things like, “What gives you the right?” or “How in the world do you think you can do that?”

As negative voices support self-limiting beliefs, positive voices support self-empowering beliefs. By working to strengthen those that empower you, they become a larger part of who you are. For example, some self-empowering beliefs I have built in my life include:

  • When going on a run as part of my exercise routine, I believe and say, “This is good for me.” When I enter a race, I have another belief that says, “I can do this.”
  • Before speaking in front of a group, I believe and hear myself saying, “You’re going to be great.” Of course, good preparation helps, so I know my subject well. I have named this self-empowering belief “my voice of confidence.”

To further strengthen your self-empowering beliefs, try the following short exercise. Don’t rush through it. Give it some careful thought. To add even greater value to it, ask someone to help or do the exercise with you.

I guarantee you will love the result!

With your journal in hand, write down as many positive things each of the following has said about you.

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Fellow Students
  • Coworkers
  • Bosses
  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Family
  • Other individuals (acquaintances, teachers, coaches, mentors, etc.)

Once you have built your list, review it regularly and use it to strengthen your self-empowering beliefs. When you work on building the right self-empowering beliefs, your self-limiting beliefs will slowly dissolve in the background. Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I have a feeling you will be pleasantly surprised.

Final thoughts

What you feed grows, and that includes your mind!

Feed your mind with negativity, and you can bet your self-limiting beliefs will grow. Why not starve them by only feeding your mind with the positive to build and strengthen your self-empowering beliefs? Imagine what their growth will do for your life!

It is up to you to choose your path forward in life. You can take the path that places limits on what you believe about yourself. Or you can take the path that empowers what you believe about yourself. Which will you choose?

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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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