"Peel back the layers of self-protective, limiting beliefs that keep you small.” Vironika Tugaleva
As illustrated in Blog 1 limiting beliefs often begin when you are a child and grow and evolve reshaping you throughout your life. They are shaped by the experiences you have and the people you encounter. Sometimes they are born from a traumatic experience, other times they come from a deeply rooted fear of the unknown or failure. No matter where they came from, these limiting beliefs hold you back and hinder the acceptance of new positive beliefs in yourself. Now that we know what limiting beliefs are, let’s dig into some common sources of limiting beliefs. I am a firm believer that knowing and understanding where a thought or belief comes from is critical to having the ability to analyze and address them both positive and negative. I also find that understanding the where and why enables us to have grace with ourselves and allow us the space to truly deal with the issue.
Below are a few of the big contributors to ones beliefs…positive and limiting:
Human nature: Humans inherently resist changes. Our brains are wired to conserve energy and protect us from future pain. We thrive on routines, stability, and relationships. Most people are averse to risks and prefer to remain in their comfort zones. It is human nature to avoid pain, discomfort, and failure, so we often only take chances on things we are confident we can get the results we want to from them. This is especially true with females in the workplace. There have been many studies that cite that women only apply for jobs where they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men tend to apply if they meet 60% of the qualifications. When we are not secure in ourselves, when we allow limiting beliefs to guide our choices, we sabotage our own success.
Family: Your family teaches you how to live, interact with others, and where you belong in the world. They are your first social circle and have a huge impact on your development. Your family of origin is the family unit that you were raised in (not necessarily your biological family). Your family of origin might be parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and more. Your family of origin shapes your world views.
If your family of origin was not a healthy one you may have distorted beliefs in yourself and your world and have many negative limiting beliefs due to the trauma experienced. On the flip side, you may have had a loving and supportive family of origin, but due to your parent’s desire to protect you from any pain, you may have developed limiting beliefs that you cannot do anything by yourself and that you are not good enough or strong enough to handle a situation. Or maybe yours fell somewhere in the middle. In college, I wanted to become a nurse or a social worker. I had someone from my family of origin repeatedly tell me that there was no way I could handle a job like that. That I wasn’t strong enough for those careers, so I ended up switching out of both of those majors. On a side note, I changed my major 5 times, and after graduating I changed paths and went back to school 10 years later for a totally different degree once I was free from that environment! Childhood trauma and abuse are often carried into adulthood and give rise to limiting and sabotaging beliefs. Whether born from trauma, or well-meaning people in our family, limiting beliefs shaped by our family of origin tend to be very strong and run deep because they often were our first sources of knowledge, security, trauma, love and what we built our sense of self upon.
Education – teachers, parents and friends all play a part in the truths we adopt. As authority figures that share ideas, beliefs, and knowledge we often put a lot of stock in those that educate us. They are usually older, more educated, and people we look up to and respect thus giving them a lot of power in our lives. We often adopt their beliefs and opinions as our own. How many inspirational stories have we all read about someone living in a horrible situation that attributes their success in escaping their past to that one teacher that took the time to be there with them? Or the leaders of a company that look back on that one educator that spurred their interest in a topic setting them on a course of success and passion? Educators (in whatever capacity) are respected in many cultures and therefore hold a lot of sway in developing minds and hearts.
Family Beliefs and Culture: We already discussed how our specific family of origin can shape us, but our family’s culture and belief system play a vital role too. What those around you think and believe will impact the development of your own thoughts and beliefs. Religion or spiritual beliefs, along with your culture play a huge role in your sense of self and the world around you. If you are raised in a culture or religious sect where women are expected to stay at home and take care of the house and kids (nothing wrong with that) then you are more likely to grow up and question whether you should have a career outside of the home, conversely, if you grew up in a home where you mom worked full time and valued her career you are more likely as a female to see yourself in a career. My husband studied Chinese and earned an associated in Chinese studies. He regularly shared cultural differences he was learning. I remember him discussing how in China being a teacher was a revered position (now before anyone gets their pitchforks out, I truly respect all educators and believe it is a job that deserves more respect than is often given in the U.S.). But in China being an educator elevates you to a different level. His teachers discussed how in China a teacher was considered at a different level in society, and that they would never associate with students outside of school because they are in a higher class of society in that culture. This belief could create limiting beliefs in those who do not excel in academics and won’t be an educator. This emphasis on a class system can foster limiting beliefs in anyone that does not meet that cultural standard. They also still held men to a higher position than women in their culture. Obviously, that alone can create limiting beliefs in females that they are not as capable or important as their male counterparts.
One thing that is interesting about cultural and religious influences is that these two areas of your life typically come from groups you identify with. With that you want to continue to fit in and be a part of that group, so you tend to adapt your actions to stay in line with your group so that you fit and are not looked at as different. Another cultural aspect may come from the area you live, and how you value different members of your community. There isn’t time to go through all the ways that your culture and beliefs shape your sense of self and can create limiting beliefs, so I encourage each of you to take some time to research this topic and do some introspective thinking about your culture and beliefs and how they impact you and what beliefs they have instilled in your sense of self.
Experiences: As we experience life, we naturally draw conclusions afterwards. These memories and the beliefs that stem from the experiences shape your outlook on yourself, your community, and the world. For human’s negative experiences tend to have the strongest impact on us and shape our limiting beliefs. For example, if you try out for a team and get cut, you develop the belief that you are not good enough and often walk away from that activity. Or when you fall in love and get your heart broken you develop the belief that love equals pain and avoid serious attachments. The list goes on and on, and we draw on experiences from our early childhood and continue drawing on each experience that we have throughout our life. These experiences slowly shape our sense of self and either foster positive or limiting beliefs.
Society: I remember reading a book by either Jen Hatmaker or Rachel Hollis (totally brain farting on which) where they discussed overcoming their limiting beliefs of women in powerful careers or leadership positions and being successful because they were raised that good girls don’t do that. That good girls didn’t draw attention or seek out the spotlight. Good girls supported others (specifically men) in their endeavors and never sought attention or recognition.
On the flip side how many men have been looked down on for pursuing a career that is more commonly thought of as a “female occupation”? I remember hearing people applaud female friends for becoming nurses but laughing when a male voiced the desire to be a nurse. These gender constraints that society perpetrates cause many limiting beliefs in us. What we see on t.v. or read in the news and on social media creates new lenses that we view ourselves from. I think that the age of social media has given society a stronger role in the formation of our beliefs and views of ourselves (hello Pinterest fails lol). Society and culture I feel are very similar in their ability to create limiting beliefs, but I see culture as a small group which you identify as part of, where society I see as a more macro environment that you live around or within but aren’t necessarily your identity. Or in plainer speech, society is the people, culture is the fabric that is woven together to make the person.
I know this was a longer blog, but I just felt it was such an importnat step in the process of addressing limiting beliefs! You need to know and understand your enemy to develop a robust action plan.