Limiting beliefs: How to understand and rewrite them

I used to be resistant to changing the critical patterns of thinking I knew I had about myself. I read the books, bought the courses and listened to all the advice but I’d stop short of actually doing the work to understand and rewrite my limiting beliefs.

The following questions are what I used once I finally committed to making a change. I found them to be the most effective method for me to identify, understand and overcome what was holding me back.

Making any change is a process and it’s rarely a quick one. We need to be ready for it and willing to let go of the old habits that are keeping us ‘safe’ but also stuck. Our limiting beliefs often become engrained in our subconscious mind without us realising and we unknowingly adopt them as a tool of defence and self-preservation. However, they often no longer serve us and we need to let them go in order to move forward.

Understand your limiting beliefs – where did they come from?

Before we can rewrite our limiting beliefs, we need to know what they are and where they came from. Set aside time to work through these questions, it will take time and conscious effort to identify them.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I believe to be true about myself? Why do I think these things?

Think about how you describe yourself to others or to yourself. Do you believe you’re not good at maths, are always late, or don’t know how to strike up conversation with a stranger? There will likely be a mix of empowering and disempowering beliefs in this list. For this exercise, only note down the disempowering thoughts.

  • What thoughts do I think repeatedly each day?

It might take a few days to get a comprehensive list together. So many of our beliefs are subconscious that it will take some real focus and attention to become aware. Set reminders each day to reflect on recent thoughts and how you’ve reacted to situations you’ve encountered.

  • What stories do I tell myself repeatedly?

Another subconscious habit we all have is creating stories around the situations we experience to feel more in control. When we lack the information to make truly informed decisions, we feel uncomfortable and are more inclined to make up stories to explain the behaviour of others. Maybe a friend is taking time to reply and your brain defaults to thinking, “They don’t like me” or “I’ve done something to annoy them”.

  • What do I hear from the outside world about my goals?

Whether we realise, even if we’re not paying full attention, our brain is constantly alert and taking in our surroundings. This information is a significant factor that influences our beliefs and, as a result, how we make decisions. What do you believe as a result of what you hear or what society tells us we should expect from ourselves or our lives?

  • When I envision myself in 5 years, what do I see?

You might have two different responses to this question. One part of you might have grand ambitions that you’d love to achieve, but aren’t convinced is possible. Another part of you might be more ‘realistic’ and doesn’t see your life much different from how it is now. There’s no wrong answer here, write down what you feel is true for you.

Now you’ve identified these beliefs, it’s time to analyse where they came from. Does it still serve you to believe them?

Answering the following questions is a good place to start. These are likely ideas you’ve held about yourself for most, if not all, of your living memory. It will take time to consciously unlearn them and unlearn the habit of repeating these stories to yourself.

Rewrite your limiting beliefs

Start by naming the first belief. Then answer:

  • Does this belief serve me?
  • How has this belief negatively affected me?
  • Where did this belief come from?
  • What’s the earliest time in my life I remember holding this belief?
  • Why am I continuing to hold this belief?
  • How would I feel if I let it go?
  • How would I feel and what would I do if I believed the opposite was true instead?

It will be an ongoing process to understand and rewrite your limiting beliefs so repeat this process at your own pace. Once you’re aware of them, remain alert when you begin to repeat old stories or slip into negative patterns of thinking. You can also keep working through additional subconscious beliefs as you become aware of them.

One Comment

  • Johnnie Faz

    You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read through something like that before. So great to discover someone with unique thoughts on this subject. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with some originality!