6 Powerful Ways to Stop Holding Yourself Back
I have a magic question.
When I ask this question, it opens up a portal into your true desires.
Here it is.
If you could do anything, and you would be guaranteed success, financial freedom, and total support from your community, what would you do?
When asked this, people will often pause with slight discomfort, start smiling quietly, and then beam as they confess a deep-rooted desire for their life.
The confession of desire is beautiful to witness.
And then, often without even taking a breath, they dive into their "buts."
“I would be an artist and own a gallery!
BUT I never received formal training.
BUT it’s too late for me now.
BUT I have no idea how to start a business.
BUT I can’t earn real money from that.
BUT I don’t even know where I would begin.
BUT my family doesn’t think art is a real career path.
BUT people would judge me.”
And on and on and on it goes.
These “buts” are the self-limiting beliefs holding us back from creating the life we truly want for ourselves.
Occasionally there are buts outside of our control that can’t be navigated as well as others.
However, more often than not, we can overcome them and unblock the path towards our dreams.
The source of self-limiting beliefs
First things first, I ask you to get on board with something that may feel uncomfortable.
At least for the time you spend reading this article, I ask that you release the belief that all of your thoughts are true.
We are a very mind-centric world. We tend to treat the mind as if it is the only compass in life while ignoring the other parts of ourselves that have just as much to say, like our bodies, hearts, and intuition.
But here’s the thing. Our mind compasses were largely built by other people.
Think of your brain as hardware. This hardware processes the software that is your thoughts.
When you are born, you come with some software pre-installed. Then, throughout your life, the rest is developed and uploaded by your experiences. Much of your subconscious programming developed in the formative years of your childhood.
This means that many of your subconscious thoughts, beliefs, patterns, triggers, and patterns were imprinted on you by your parents, childhood friends, culture, community, and experiences.
So, if your parents struggled to get by no matter how hard they worked, you may have developed a belief that money is scarce and hard to come by no matter what you do.
If you were bullied as a child, you may believe that vulnerability and being yourself leads to harsh social consequences.
If you witnessed your uncle fall into despair after a failed business, you may believe that staying employed is the only way to protect yourself.
These are our self-limiting beliefs, and when left to their own devices, they end up defining our future.
Keep in mind that this subconscious programming goes the positive route, too.
If you witness your parents have a beautiful and loving relationship, you may believe that you can have that, too.
If you’re told over and over again how smart you are, you probably grow up to have a strong sense of intellectual self.
So, what do we do about the beliefs we developed that aren’t serving us?
Identifying self-limiting beliefs
Imagine you just put on your comfiest pajamas and settled into bed for a long night of sleep when you hear a sound.
It’s a rumbling noise coming from the closet, and it’s getting louder and louder.
Let’s say that instead of getting up and seeing what’s going on, you pull the covers up over your head, hide from the noise, and try to sleep.
But sleep doesn’t come. Because even though you’re trying your best to avoid it, the noise is still there. You feel scared and anxious because you have no idea what it is, and your mind is filling the void with all kinds of stories of ghosts, robbers, and gremlins.
You don’t sleep a wink, and by the time morning comes, you’ve worked yourself up into a truly awful state, certain that what’s rumbling in your closet is the worst of the worst.
Let’s say you take a different route. Upon hearing the rumbling, you immediately get up, walk across the room and pull back the closet door.
And there, on your closet floor, is your dog in a game of tug-of-war with a sweater.
When we face things head-on and identify them, we give ourselves the power of understanding. We can then move forward with less worry.
Avoidance is a more difficult path than facing your fears and discomfort. It takes more energy to pull up the covers and fret for an entire sleepless night than it does to get up and open the closet door.
Here are six powerful steps we can take in facing and navigating our fears and self-limiting beliefs.
1) Name Them
This is getting out of bed and pulling back the closet door.
When our thoughts are left to their own devices, they can bounce around in our minds like tennis balls, creating a sensation of discomfort, fear, overwhelm, or anxiety.
Naming them is grabbing the tennis ball, observing it, and identifying what's causing the associated sensation.
For example, “I’m nervous about this public talk because I don’t think I’m confident enough to deliver it.”
Now we get as specific as we can on defining what we’ve named.
Double-clicking is like hovering over a word and drilling down deeper to identify what it truly means.
For example, what does it mean to not be “confident enough” to deliver the talk?
Perhaps it’s, “I’m afraid I might mess up.”
Now, let’s double click on “Mess up.” What does that mean?
Accidentally skipping a point in your talk? Stumbling on your words?
3) Go down the rabbit hole
Now we take the clarity you’ve gathered from naming and double-clicking, and we take it down the rabbit hole.
This means we take that fear or belief to the worst thing that could pan out if it came true.
So what if you did miss a point in your talk? The worst-case scenario could be that people notice you messed up and judge you for not being perfect. Or perhaps the point you missed could be really important and so the rest of the talk doesn’t make sense to them.
What if you stumbled on your words? The worst-case scenario is that people might notice and might criticize you or think poorly of you for it. It’s also possible you would get embarrassed and turn bright red.
4) Balance fear with fact
In this step, you introduce your power. Your power to prevent, plan for, mitigate, navigate and move on from the worst-case scenarios outlined above.
So, let’s go with the rabbit hole of stumbling on your words. Let’s say that people notice you stumbling on your words and judge you for it.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. How can I prevent this outcome? 2. What would I do to mitigate this if it did happen? 3. How would this realistically impact me? 4. What can I influence?
The answers to these questions help you realize that, while it might be uncomfortable to believe people in the audience are judging you, nothing of substance would result.
Balancing your fear with fact disarms a portion of your self-limiting belief. Some people might judge you, and then there are no further consequences. It doesn’t matter to you outside of a brief and manageable wave of discomfort.
And what if you forget an important point in your talk? By answering the questions above you might realize you can completely forget this by carrying note cards or having bullet points on the stage prompters. So, even if you do temporarily forget, all you have to do is look down to find your place and avoid the worst-case scenario outcome.
Many of the outcomes of our fears and limiting beliefs are preventable, manageable, or do not impact us as much as we think they do.
We typically view the world through the lens of our beliefs and subconscious programming.
When we reframe a situation, it’s like we’re taking off our usual lens glasses and trying on a new pair, seeing the same scenario differently.
Reframes most often come from books, friends, loved ones, therapists, coaches, mentors, and others who share new lenses with you.
Let’s say you come to me with the belief that you're not confident enough and that you will mess up your talk, stumble on your words, and be judged by the audience as a failure.
I now offer this reframe: what if the audience wants you to succeed no matter what?
Audiences hate to be uncomfortable, and they’re made to feel uncomfortable when the person on stage isn’t doing well. So they’re naturally inclined to want you to do well, to be forgiving and generous with their assessment of your talk, even if you stumble.
And suddenly, you realize the odds of being judged suddenly feel a lot less overwhelming. The audience is on your side!
Whether a reframe is “true” or not is up to each individual to decide. But allow me to offer that a reframed lens is often no more or less true than the lens you’re carrying with you that’s making you fearful.
6. Find Expanders
For some situations, you may want to take things a bit further with expanders.
Expanders are people who have achieved what you want to achieve, done what you want to do, have what you want, or who show up in the world in a way that you would like to.
They help you see that your dreams are achievable because they have achieved them already. And they may have even had some of the same self-limiting beliefs and fears that you have along the way.
In this public speaking scenario, I would offer this expander to the person afraid of messing up.
There is a motivational speaker who came to talk at an event I was coordinating several years ago.
He got on the stage and started his talk with confidence and conviction.
Five minutes in, he stopped. He stumbled on his words. He started crying on the stage.
And then he walked off.
No one knew what to do.
A half an hour later, he came back onto the stage as if nothing had happened, delivered his talk with compelling force, and bowed off the stage with roaring applause.
This person speaks with confidence, has speaking fears, and experienced a worst-case scenario of getting on stage, but then came out on the other side a success.
It is possible.
Our self-limiting beliefs and fears block us from pursuing the life we want. These “buts” of ours keep us from giving ourselves a chance.
The steps above help you take your power back over these subconscious thoughts, bringing you into your conscious and more rational mind.
By practicing them, you can unblock yourself, step by step, and clear the path forward.
You may successfully neutralize some of these fears and beliefs, taking away all of their power.
And for those that you do not, I offer this:
Do it scared.
Your future self will thank you.
Geri Paige Butner is a business firestarter, coach and speaker. Current and aspiring business owners start and grow their businesses with The Business Firestarter framework, offered as a self-guided online course or a 12-week group coaching program. Gain access to valuable firestarters for business and life by joining our email list.