And what you can do about it! Don’t trap yourself in a box. Don’t settle for suffering. Learn what you can do to break out of these common limiting beliefs and connect with your inner joy.
What is a Limiting Belief?
This image makes me feel awful. Icky. Looking at a girl trapped in a cardboard box gives me feelings of claustrophobia, anxiety, and shared sadness. It strikes me for the power of the emotion conveyed, but also because it is a CARDBOARD BOX. It is flimsy. Poorly constructed. Not firm or stable. She could easily stand up or punch or kick her way out of it (get out of there girl!). But she doesn’t. She seems to have accepted her fate, and is resigned to feeling awful inside of it.
And that is exactly what a limiting belief does. A limiting belief is a poorly constructed thought or belief that holds us back from other possibilities that could fit us better and connect us with our joy. The most important things to know about them are 1) that we take them for fact when they are at their best an opinion and 2) we often do not know that we are operating under them even though we all have them. It takes a conscious effort to identify them in our lives and to change our thinking.
They are the rules and lessons that we have learned consciously and unconsciously that frame our thoughts, actions, and beliefs of what is and is not possible and of what is and is not okay.
An example is when our parents told us we “had to finish our plates”. If we didn’t finish all the food on our plates we were punished (spankings anyone?), guilted for being ungrateful (do you know how hard I had to work to put food on the table), or made to sit for hours in boredom until it was gone (this was me by the way). The unconscious lesson: people that don’t eat everything on their plates are bad or will be punished. The result: a compulsive desire to eat everything on the plate even when we are full. When other people leave a bite or two on their plates it drives me crazy! I almost want to eat it for them. This seemingly innocent childhood rule has affected my adult eating habits and my relationship with food.
In some ways these lessons are unavoidable. The important thing is that I eventually recognized that I was doing it, which opened the door to challenge the belief and then to replace it with something more constructive that fits me better. In this way I can tap into my truth and my joy instead of being trapped in someone else’s belief.
Challenge those Joy Blocking Beliefs!
There are so many limiting beliefs floating around out there that I could go on for hours. Pretty much any sentence that starts with “I can’t”, “I’m not”, “it’s not okay/possible for me to”, or “I’ll never” are limiting beliefs. It’s hard to even know where to start! But I have narrowed this conversation down to 4 common limiting beliefs that are standing in the way of your happiness and the joy opening beliefs that you can replace them with, because hey, we all need to start somewhere.
Limiting Belief 1: It’s not okay to be happy with your life.
When I was 25 years old I met Christine. To me Christine was both an inspiration and an enigma. She absolutely loved her her job, her husband, her dog, her house, her family, and all of her friends. I would think “How is her life so great? I mean the things she has aren’t bad, but they aren’t amazing either. How can she be so happy?” I had never come across someone who was genuinely happy with their life and open about sharing it. It was eye-opening. Interacting with her made me realize that it was possible to love your life the way it is without needing perfection, or amazingness, or a rock-hard six pack. That it wasn’t bragging or being delusional (should I notify the authorities?…). Just because I had never seen someone with this attitude before my limiting belief was that all people suffer, and are unhappy with or want to change their lives. And I was wrong.
Joy Opening Belief 1: It’s okay to love or enjoy your life. It is good and helpful to share that enjoyment with others.
Because Christine was open about her enjoyment of life it showed me another way to live my life. Now I am able to embrace this idea both because it connects me to my joy, and also because I want to show others that it is possible – just like she did to me.
Limiting Belief 2: It’s not okay to talk about success.
Some people think that the best way to relate to others is to share your troubles or complaints. It makes you seem more human and relatable. That and talking about what you have that you like or is good is considered bragging, rude, thoughtless, or lacking in modesty. In short: talking about problems is okay, but talking about good things is not okay.
There was a point in my life where all I talked about were the problems. This is bad, that is worse, I can’t do this, I’m embarrassed about that, and can you believe the awful thing this person did? I was wallowing in negativity. It became my focus and it started to become who I was as a person. And there is not a quicker way to move away from your happiness than to move towards and focus on the negatives.
The solution was to slowly start working my way back to the world of positivity. To seek out the good in my life. To see the good in the people around me. To focus on what was going right that I could feel grateful for. Now I can have a conversation with friends or family that is pretty much all positive. Not because I am hiding the bad parts, but because I simply don’t focus on or see the problems as problems anymore.
Joy Opening Belief 2: It is okay to share your happiness and success with others, and to focus on the positive aspects of your life.
I’m not saying that you should never complain. I’m not saying that you will never have problems or issues or that you can’t share them. I am simply saying that you can choose to focus on the positive aspects of your life, and that if things are going well in your life that it is good to recognize that and to share it with others. People that care about you will want to know that you are okay and to hear what you are excited about in your life!
Limiting Belief 3: The search for perfection. Thinking that you need to meet a certain criteria in order to be or feel happy. That what you have is never enough.
This one is a joy killer. And almost everyone falls prey to it. We think that in order to have happiness we have to look a certain way, or weigh a certain amount, or dress a certain way, or have a certain level of car or house. To have the perfect partner, the perfect family, to freaking be PERFECT. I am already exhausted just thinking about it! And you will become exhausted trying to achieve this specified or unspecified level of perfection. Trust me that this way of thinking will leave you feeling unsatisfied and that you are never quite good enough or there yet because it is focused on what you lack, which will cause unhappiness.
I am not perfect, my parents weren’t perfect, my partner isn’t perfect, your partner isn’t perfect, and you are not perfect. And that is okay! Because there is no such thing as perfect. It does not exist. What can exist is liking yourself the way you are, liking your life the way it is, and accepting your own or others faults, and not letting it get in the way of your happiness.
Joy Opening Belief 3: You can love yourself the way you are. You can love your life the way it is. You don’t need to change or obtain something new in order to choose to be happy.
Okay so maybe there are some things about yourself or your life that you would like to change. I am not saying you shouldn’t work towards your goals or improving those things. In fact change and actively improving is what I am all about as a Life Coach. But you can choose to work on or work towards something at the same time that you love yourself and your life the way they are. They are not mutually exclusive. You can want things, but still enjoy what you have already. Is that a game-changer or what?
Limiting Belief 4: It’s not okay to have or feel “negative” emotions. And it’s only okay for men have ‘manly’ emotions and for women to have ‘womanly’ ones.
Emotions are part of who we are as a species. They were specifically designed to give us certain information or help us react in a certain way – kind of like our bodies guiding us by tugging on our sleeves… or sometimes shoving or shaking us! They are universal, and all of them are useful in their own way. The truth is that there are no good or bad emotions. There are some that are more useful than others. There are some that we enjoy feeling more than others. There are some feelings within us that maybe need to be better cultivated or balanced. But the feelings themselves are not bad.
Nothing will spark my anger faster than when someone dismisses or tries to talk away someone else’s emotions. Telling them that they aren’t really feeling that way, shouldn’t be feeling that way, or that it isn’t okay for them to be feeling that way. Often these dismissals are tied to gender stereotypes. Men are not ‘supposed’ to feel sad, fearful, cry or be giddy or just emotional in general. Women are not ‘supposed’ to feel angry or prideful or aggressive or competitive. GRRR! You feel how you feel, and I feel how I feel, and no one has a right to tell you how you should or should not feel.
Joy Opening Belief 4: It is healthy and good to embrace all aspects of your emotions without judgement or labeling.
Whether it is depression, sadness, grief, anger, frustration – you name it – it is okay to be feeling that way. If you are having a good day – great. If you are having a bad day – that’s okay too. No one can take or talk away how you are feeling inside. So if someone tries to do that just respond “I feel how I feel right now, and that’s okay.” When you feel bad for having an emotion you are just going to compound your suffering. You will be feeling shame or guilt on top of the other emotion that you are fighting. Feeling and processing ‘negative’ emotions is the best way to get through them and work towards the feelings that bring you joy.
A Joy Opening Profession
As a Happiness and Wellbeing Life Coach I help people feeling depressed and dissatisfied with their lives and their relationships who are struggling to make a change to find the mindset and the direction that brings them inner peace and joy.
If you want to learn more please reach out to me! You can Schedule a Free Consultation about coaching and how it can help you. I would absolutely love to talk with you.
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Happiness & Wellbeing Life Coach