I’ve been at this personal growth game for nearly three decades, and yet, here I am, on a grey morning in February, thinking (believing, rather) I can’t have what I want.
I can’t have the man I want. The relationship I want. Body I want. Business I want. The house I want. Hell, I can’t even have the good habits I want.
Still. STILL! Shit.
Haven’t I worked this out by now? Hasn’t my Navy Seal team of therapists, coaches, healers, trainers, holistic MDs, bodyworkers, and hairstylists (not kidding) cracked my self-worth code by now? After all this time, money, figurative blood and literal sweat and tears, why am I still questioning my value? Damn personal growthers. Sham artists.
That said, my therapist just yesterday told me lovingly and as a matter-of-fact “of course you can. You can have whatever you want.”
“You can have whatever you want.” Huh?
Hearing that while lying there on his couch (yes, I’m at that point in my therapy life), gazing at the ceiling, I noticed but held back a split-second, knee jerk reaction of an internal eyeroll, a dismissing “yeah, yeah whatever” or “easy for you to say.” Maybe you can, but I can’t.
Instead, I let his words – “of course you can. You can have whatever you want” – hang out a little. “Hmm,” I wondered. “Huh,” I felt in my heart. “Oh,” I sensed in my body. “I see.”
Can I have whatever I want? What if I could have what I want? And who says I can’t have what I want?
As I asked, the layers peeled away. And then I got it. This is just a belief. A story. I’m assuming something to be true when it may not be and doesn’t need to be.
That was step one. Step two was trickier. As I thought more about this story - I can’t have what I want - the feels hit. I felt sad, a little mad, afraid, and you guessed it, shame.
I felt unworthy, undesirable, unable, unstable, undeserving, and unqualified. Ouch.
And step three? Blocks. The story along with the sadness, fear and shame and my reactions to it all were blocking me. Have been blocking me. Are blocking me from having more of what I want and for sure from wanting more of what I have.
Let’s pause for a moment…
How’s this landing with you? Can you relate at all? How might you be blocking yourself from what you’re wanting through your own beliefs, assumptions and stories about it?
What’s up with limiting beliefs anyway?
The Readers Digest version is this - limiting beliefs form when we’re young through what we observe, learn and are taught from our primary caregivers and cultures. We learn them through experience, and they become are “programming” to maintain a sense of security as little people in a big, uncertain world. They’re how we ensure we get our needs met.
Over time, they become imprinted within us on a deep, subconscious level and become a part of our identity – how we see ourselves. That’s when they feel true. Fixed. The way it is.
“So, too, we succumb to the belief that the way we have grown to see the world is the only way to see it, the right way to see it, and we seldom suspect the conditioned nature of our perception.” – James Hollis, PhD
This is all great if what we believe helps us grow and evolve, but if they become rigid strategies to avoid vulnerability, getting hurt or living in our full greatness, they limit us. We stall out, stay stuck, and loop on self-defeating patterns, in unhealthy relationships and low self-worth.
I see it every day with clients. I see it in the woman who won’t leave the corporate job she hates because she believes taking a professional risk will leave her a penniless failure. Growing up, she watched her father repeatedly start risky businesses that failed, leaving her family on the financial fringe and chronically stressed.
Her core limiting belief: “If I go out on my own and pursue my dream, my life and my family will fall apart. It’ll be just like it was growing up.”
And I see it in my client who chooses distant boyfriends and partners where he does the emotional heavy-lifting only to end up feeling burned out, depressed and unloved. He was the oldest of 3 with an alcoholic mom and a dad who worked around the clock so he was the primary caretaker in his family by the age of 7.
His core limiting belief: “No man will ever be interested in my emotional needs or be able to take care of himself, let alone our relationship. I’ll always have to do all the work.”
Not all beliefs stem from childhood, but the most hard-wired and influential ones do. Their strength over us comes from being reinforced over as many years as we’ve been alive. No wonder my clients feel so strongly about what they believe is their fate.
The good news is these beliefs are not fate. Not for my clients, you or me. They’re anything but.
That’s what’s up. Now it’s time to get down to work.
As with all personal growth, awareness is the critical first step. But the learning and growth that follows will come more from taking action than insight. But what action?
Writing, that’s what. I know, I know, you might be groaning and eye-rolling right now (you can be honest with me!), but the reality is that writing is one of the most powerful tools for self-reflection and clarity so grab your pen and paper.
Here are the writing prompts to re-frame your limiting beliefs…
1. Name it as a belief. Something you’re assuming. What are you assuming to be true?
2. What evidence do you have for this to be true currently?
3. By holding onto this belief, what or who do you nothave to let go of?
This is where the connection to your past usually shows up and where things can get real. Give yourself lots of time and space with this one.
4. What do you feel when you speak this belief aloud? Sad, mad, afraid, ashamed, or happy?
This may sound strange but try saying this to yourself as you’re looking in a mirror. There’s power in looking into our own eyes. Also, if you find it hard identifying your emotions, you’re not alone. Start by slowing down, taking a few centering breaths and notice what’s happening in your body. Our feelings are experienced – literally, felt – in our bodies. Thinking and talking about feelings is not nearly as helpful as feeling them.
5. How is this limiting belief blocking you? What would/could you be doing if this belief wasn’t in the way?
6. If you didn’t believe this to be true, what would you believe instead? This is important. You’re not going to believe it yet, but it’s important to identify what’s possible & write it down.
7. Related to #6, what’s one action you could take to support what could be the new belief?
There’s more to it than this, but you’re likely itching to stop reading this post so I’ll save that for next time. If that’s not soon enough, let’s talk. Re-writing limiting beliefs and living into new ones is what coaching with me is all about.
A note on self-compassion, lightness and humor.
As with all personal growth work, changing our beliefs takes time, consistent practice and courage to feel shit we’ve been keeping at bay for years.
Be kind to yourself with this stuff. Have some compassion and take on these beliefs with a light heart and a sense of humor. Limiting beliefs are generally humorless, heavy and anything but self-compassionate so just by approaching this work with more heart and loving awareness, you’re showing yourself you aren’t what you’ve been believing.
And as for me and my a-ha moment in therapy? While it stung to learn I still have work to do and that I can still hold onto limiting beliefs that hold me back, knowing this was an opening for me. A code-cracking moment that now fuels my calling bullshit on “I can’t have what I want.”
I can have whatever I want.
Maybe these shrinks and coaches are onto something.
Re-framing right there with you,