Recognizing Self Limiting Beliefs

I can be impatient when I drive. Its not something I like to admit but there it is. I’m often thinking or saying “get out of my way”! But if I’ve only learned one thing in the last decade of becoming and being a counsellor it’s that I’m the one in my way. If I want to be happy this is what I recognize in each moment.

That brings me to Self Limiting Beliefs, also known as, “Non-Supportive Stories” or as I learned them, “Suspicions of Self”.

Recognizing your own limiting beliefs takes awareness, paying attention to your thoughts. That doesn’t mean you need to meditate, it just means you notice what you’re thinking.

Your thoughts are the creators of your behaviour. So if there’s an area of your life that you’re not happy with, the chances are, you’ve got some thoughts that are creating your behaviour, which is adding to your experience. Underneath those thoughts will be a lurking Self Limiting Belief (SLB).

Life would be easy if…..

Here’s an example. I was driving down the road one day and I saw a woman who was slim and beautiful. And a thought went through my mind so fast that I almost missed it. But I stopped and backed up (my thoughts) to repeat it. “life would be easy if I was skinny” What? Is that what I’m believing? Now considering I’d always had an issue with my weight and discomfort being in my own body it wasn’t a huge surprise, but I’d never consciously thought or said that statement.

I’d done a couple years of my counsellor training by then, so I knew that thought was connected to a deeper belief that was really running the show. There was a Suspicion of Self (SOS) or SLB that was creating the unhappy body (state of mind) I seemed to always be in.

This is where the name for my business The Spaces Between had it’s first toehold. I thought, these are the beliefs that pop up in the spaces between the stories of our conscious mind on a daily basis. But only if we’re paying attention.

What are the areas of your life that you feel stuck in or have a repeating pattern? How do you explain the issue?

Here are some of the more common non-supportive stories.

  • If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees
  • If I don’t look good, no one will be attracted to me
  • Dreaming is a waste of time
  • All men are…. Or All women are….
  • Life is … (too short, difficult, all work and no play)
  • I can’t … (sing, give a speech, run a business, etc)
  • I’m too ….(fat, loud, shy, etc)
  • I’m not ……(skinny, smart, funny etc) enough

Do you recognize any of these as familiar or similar to things you say?

Pick one area of your life that you’re not satisfied with and write down all your beliefs or things you say about it. Then start to notice each time you say a non-supportive statement about something you wish you were better at, was different or is lacking in your life and add it to your list.

I know it may be tempting to start changing your words to sound more positive but that isn’t the way to heal an SLB or SOS. It’s only a Band-Aid. So for now recognize you’re not your thoughts and pay attention what you’re saying.


Not Happy? Not Unhappy? .. You’re in the Comfort Zone

Liz Coleman, RTC, is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor based in Surrey, BC. She specializes in anxiety, anger, insecurity, and relationship problems. If you have any questions about this article or would like to schedule an appointment, please call Ms. Coleman at (604) 809-8947 or use the convenient form on her Contact page.