If you’re feeling stuck starting, building, growing your business, your playlist of self-limiting beliefs is holding you back. All of us play recordings in our heads. The good news is that we can reprogram ourselves to unblock our self-limiting beliefs.
Here are the top 10 self-limiting beliefs, how to recognize them, and specific tactics with concrete examples on how you can overcome each one. You can also view this video I created that goes into these examples in a visual way:
Table of Contents
Top 10 Self-Limiting Beliefs
1. I’m not good enough
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Feeling inadequate or comparing yourself to others can lead to a lack of confidence and self-doubt.
- Recognize and challenge negative self-talk: Identify the moments when you doubt yourself and replace self-critical thoughts with positive affirmations. Example: Whenever you catch yourself thinking, “I’ll never succeed at this,” replace it with, “I am capable and have the skills to tackle this challenge.”
- Focus on strengths and achievements: Make a list of your accomplishments and capabilities to boost your self-confidence. Example: Take some time to write down your recent achievements, big or small, such as completing a project, receiving positive feedback, or overcoming a personal obstacle.
- Embrace growth mindset: Understand that skills and abilities can be developed through effort and learning, and view challenges as opportunities for growth. Example: Instead of avoiding challenging tasks, embrace them as chances to learn and improve. For instance, if public speaking scares you, take a public speaking course or join a speaking club like Toastmasters to enhance your skills.
You might have heard of the phrase “fake it till you make it.” I don’t subscribe to this belief at all. In my experience, your better bet is to practice till you make it.
Practice instills confidence.
Faking instills imposter syndrome.
2. I’m afraid of failure
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Fear of failure can prevent you from taking risks and pursuing you goals. If there’s one belief that stops people before they start, it’s this one. You might say in your head “I don’t want to fail, or risk others watching me fail publicly,” so you don’t try. Let’s work right now to get over this.
- Reframe failure as learning: See failure as an opportunity to grow and learn valuable lessons, rather than a permanent setback. Example: If a business venture doesn’t go as planned, analyze what went wrong and the lessons you’ve learned. Use these insights to refine your strategies and move forward with more knowledge and experience.
- Set realistic goals: Break down larger goals into manageable steps, making it easier to overcome fear and take action (see how to set goals and crush them). Example: If your goal is to write a book as a way to market your business, break it down into smaller tasks like outlining chapters or writing a certain number of words each day. When I wrote my first book, I recorded what I wanted to say in each chapter. This made it easier for me to write the final drafts. Focusing on smaller milestones can make the process less intimidating.
- Celebrate progress: Recognize and celebrate each step forward, fostering a positive attitude towards the process, not just the outcome. Example: Acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Treat yourself to a small reward or take a moment to appreciate the effort you’ve put in.
3. I don’t deserve success
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Believing that success or happiness is reserved for others and not for yourself. It sounds counterintuitive to have this belief, especially if you’re starting your own business, but it’s very common.
If you catch yourself thinking “a million dollars, yeah that’s for those other well-known people out there, not me,” that’s a signal you have this limiting belief.
- Challenge the origin of the belief: Examine the reasons behind this belief and question its validity, replacing it with self-compassion and self-worth. Example: If you grew up hearing “money doesn’t grow on trees” from your parents, remind yourself that this was their belief. It does not have to be your belief. If you feel that you don’t deserve success due to past failures, remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and those experiences lead to growth.
- Visualize success: Imagine achieving your goals and remind yourself that you deserve happiness and success as much as anyone else. Example: Close your eyes and picture yourself achieving your dream, whether it’s running a successful business, earning a promotion, or having a fulfilling relationship. Embrace the feeling of accomplishment.
- Surround yourself with positive influences: Seek support from friends, family, or a life coach who can reinforce your sense of deservingness. Example: Share your aspirations with supportive individuals who encourage and uplift you. Engage with a mentor or coach who can help you navigate self-doubt and reinforce your self-worth.
4. It’s not perfect yet
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Perfection is the enemy of getting things done. That’s a modern take on Voltaire’s quote, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Striving for perfection will paralyze you. It fills you with self-criticism and a fear of making mistakes.
Instead of beating yourself up about getting something just perfect, say “let’s move forward with what we’ve got and then use feedback to learn and grow.”
- Focus on progress, not perfection: Measure success by the effort you put in, not on a flawless outcome. Example: If you are learning a new skill like SEO (search engine optimization) to find new clients, celebrate the progress you make along the way, such as identifying your ideal keywords or writing a new educational article for content SEO. You can always update that article later – and by the way, updating it is actually an SEO best practice.
5. I don’t have enough resources
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Believing that you don’t have enough time, money, connections, or opportunities to succeed. I’ll be honest. This one is usually an excuse for not getting what you want. Let’s fix this.
- Create a resource plan: Identify what you need and make a plan to get it. Example: If you’re starting a business, write down exactly what you need such as funding, skills or training, and tools to run your business. If you don’t have the money to get everything you need right now, prioritize what you need to get to the next step. And as you chart out the steps to get a paying customer, you can use the money you get from your invoices to fund getting to the next step.
- Be scrappy and find alternatives: Tap into your creativity to find alternative solutions and make the most of the available resources. Example: Suppose you lack the funds for a expensive paid marketing campaign. Get creative and explore cost-effective alternatives like social media marketing, content creation, or collaborations with people or companies who are not competitors but sell to the same prospects.
- Get an accountability buddy: This tactic will help you overcome this limiting belief within 30 days. Setting up regular meetings with a trusted partner can keep you on task. Example: Call someone you know who isn’t a competitor, but whose personality gels with yours. Avoid picking a close friend who you socialize with because what you want here is a professional relationship for accountability – and that’s hard to do with social friends. Call or email them and ask if they’d be interested in an accountability buddy system where each of you tells the other what you plan to accomplish in the next 30 days. Book a time on your calendars and then spend 30 minutes giving each other a debriefing and ask for advice.
This technique plays a psychological trick on yourself. When you have to tell someone your progress by a fixed date, you get it done because you’ll feel ashamed to give them excuses. You’d be surprised how this simple technique can double, triple, even quadruple your productivity. I’ve personalized used this method for many years and it helps me get a lot more done.
6. I’m too old/young
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Age-related beliefs that suggest certain opportunities are no longer available or not suitable. I’ll start by saying Col. Sanders didn’t start Kentucky Fried Chicken till he was in his 60s. By the way, if you looked at his failures up till that point, the list was long. But he started anyway. Age does not matter.
- Focus on advantages: Emphasize the unique strengths that come with your age, whether it’s experience or a fresh perspective. Example: If you’re younger, see your age as an advantage in adapting to new technologies or trends. If you’re older, leverage your experience and wisdom to approach challenges with a seasoned perspective.
- Seek inspiration from others: Find examples of individuals who have achieved success at a similar age, proving age is not a barrier to success. Example: Look for stories of people who achieved remarkable things at your age or even later. Reading about others’ success can inspire and motivate you.
- Set age-neutral goals: Focus on specific objectives and skills you want to develop, rather than measuring success based on age-related benchmarks. Example: Instead of comparing your achievements to others your age, set goals based on your personal aspirations and passions. Focus on what you want to achieve, regardless of age.
7. I’m afraid of what others think
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Worrying about other people’s opinions can prevent you from being authentic and self-expressive.
- Focus on self-validation: Build self-confidence by evaluating your self-worth internally rather than seeking constant external approval. Example: If you receive criticism or judgment, reflect on your actions based on your own values and principles. Trust your own judgment and decisions.
- Challenge assumptions: Consider the likelihood of negative judgments and recognize that most people are focused on their own lives. Example: Remind yourself that everyone has their concerns and worries. People’s thoughts about you are often fleeting and have little impact on your life.
- Surround yourself with supportive people: Cultivate relationships with individuals who encourage and support your endeavors. Example: Seek out friendships with people who uplift and believe in you. Engage in groups or communities where mutual support and encouragement are prevalent.
8. I always struggle, nothing comes easy
Self-Limiting Beliefs: A fatalistic outlook that assumes life will always be challenging and success is unattainable.
- Challenge limiting beliefs: Question the evidence supporting this belief and seek counterexamples of people who have overcome similar challenges. Example: Research success stories of individuals who faced significant obstacles but persevered to achieve their goals. Recognize that your circumstances do not dictate your future.
- Set achievable goals: Break down larger challenges into smaller, manageable tasks to build momentum and a sense of accomplishment. Example: If you aim to improve your physical fitness, start with a manageable exercise routine and gradually increase the intensity. Each small achievement will motivate you to continue.
- Seek guidance and support: Consult with a mentor, coach, or support group to gain perspective and encouragement. Example: Reach out to a mentor who has experience navigating difficult situations or join a support group where you can share experiences and receive encouragement.
9. I’m not smart/talented enough
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Underestimating one’s abilities and thinking they lack the necessary skills or intelligence.
- Acknowledge past accomplishments: Recall instances where you demonstrated intelligence and talent, reinforcing your capabilities. Example: Think back to a situation where you faced a challenge and succeeded through intelligence, creativity, or perseverance. Use that memory to remind yourself of your capabilities.
- Commit to continuous learning: Engage in learning opportunities to improve skills and knowledge, boosting your confidence. Example: Enroll in an online course, attend workshops, or read books in areas you wish to improve. Each step you take in learning will strengthen your skills and belief in yourself.
- Accept imperfections: Embrace the idea that nobody is perfect, and competency can be developed over time. Example: Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growing. When you encounter setbacks, see them as opportunities to improve and move forward.
10. I can’t change
Self-Limiting Beliefs: Feeling stuck in one’s circumstances and believing that personal growth is impossible.
- Challenge fixed mindset: Embrace the belief that personal growth and change are possible with effort and determination. Example: Replace thoughts like, “I am who I am, and nothing will change,” with, “I have the power to grow and evolve through intentional effort and learning.”
- Start with small steps: Begin with achievable changes to build confidence in your ability to transform. Example: If you want to adopt healthier eating habits, start by incorporating one nutritious meal into your daily routine. As you build consistency, you can gradually make more significant changes.
- Seek support: Engage with a coach or therapist who can help you navigate the process of change and provide guidance. Example: Work with a life coach or therapist to identify areas of personal development and create a plan for achieving positive change in your life.
Practice Overcoming Your Limiting Beliefs
Overcoming limiting beliefs takes time, discipline and process. It’s not something that happens overnight. Changing your mindset, which then changes your behavior, works best when you start to recognize self-talk. Being part of a coaching group or having a steady accountability buddy can go a long way in helping you spot patterns that you’re repeating – the ones that are holding you back from progress.
Unblocking yourself from self-limiting beliefs is an achievable goal. Every small step that you take toward overcoming these beliefs leads to big transformations and a more fulfilling life.