In this stress management tip, we consider overcoming limiting beliefs - we start by looking at what they are and move on to how to spot them, challenge them and reframe them.
We are all human and we all have limiting beliefs. Learning to spot them, challenge them and reframe them can be used to great effect individually, as well as by managers and leaders to create a more harmonious and healthy workplace culture with benefits for performance.
What is a limiting belief
A limiting belief is a thought, opinion or conviction we hold about our abilities or actions which restrict or confine us. They can affect us personally by holding us back from fulfilling our hopes and dreams. They can be responsible for conflict in our relationships when we think our belief should be adopted and hold true for everyone. And they can also have an effect in the workplace by restricting our performance and development. If unchallenged they can become the norm and a workplace culture can develop which has the ability to paralyse creativity and morale with various knock-on impacts.
Spotting examples of limiting beliefs
Starting to listen to our own thoughts, as well as comments made by others, can help us become aware of when and how often limiting beliefs are voiced. Listening can help us differentiate these thoughts and opinions from a realistic assessment of what we can and can’t do based on fact and evidence.
Common examples, such as the following, are ones we may have come across -
“This is the way it’s always been done.”
“I’d enjoy that job but I’m too young/old/inexperienced to even think about applying.”
“I’m not even going to try as failure’s not an option.”
“It may be that I have a better solution but I’m no good at public speaking so won’t get involved.”
Challenging our limiting beliefs
When written down, we can see that not only are the above examples restricting but also how they might stem from, and lead to, negative attitudes. They often come from a fixed mindset. One where failure is considered a negative, it being safer to stick with what you’ve always done, and a fear of and resistance to change.
Once we’re attuned to hearing them, either as our own or from others, we are in a position to proactively challenge them. Not challenging these beliefs can cause stress. However, like any change to our mindsets, adjustment won’t happen overnight and will take time and practice.
Tips for overcoming limiting beliefs
- Acknowledge them as preferences - admit they are simply an opinion which can be changed. It’s good to be challenged, and reminded that others’ beliefs on the matter can be just as valid as your own.
- Write them down - when you either think or hear a belief expressed, write it down and assess whether it is limiting the utterer or is based on fact and proof.
- Ask a friend - if you’re unsure that the limiting belief is true, and feel comfortable sharing, ask a friend or colleague for their opinion.
- Reframe positively - if you assess the belief is limiting, try reframing it positively and repeat it out loud. For example, the final example above could be reframed as, “I might not enjoy speaking in front of a group but I know so much about this project. Others might value my knowledge and thoughts and it could lead to a better solution all round.”
- Persevere – it takes time and support to change our outlook. Remember that everyone experiences limiting beliefs. Even the most confident or senior person will have them, they may just not air them within earshot.
- Develop growth mindset thinking – this can help us to be more comfortable with uncertainty, be more honest with feelings of vulnerability, and not feel scared at the prospect of reaching out for help and support.
Many other mental health, resilience and wellbeing tips are available on our website – please have a browse to find some that work for you.
This tip appeared in our Spring 2023 newsletter. If you would like future editions of our quarterly workplace wellbeing newsletter sent directly to your inbox, please sign up here.
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