How Do Limiting Beliefs Harm Us? Here Are 5 Ways

Detour signs representing limiting beliefs

What harmful limiting beliefs are you holding onto?

Have you ever had any of these thoughts cross your mind?

I will always live paycheck to paycheck.
I don’t deserve success.
I’m not qualified to start a business.
I’m just going to fail if I try.
I’m just a boring person.
I’ll never have a lot of friends.
I don’t have time to go to the gym.
I can’t afford to buy healthier food.
I don’t have any unique ideas.
I’ll never be good with money.
It’s too late for me.

If you are like most people, your answer would be yes – because almost everyone struggles with limiting beliefs.

But, is this so terrible? How do limiting beliefs harm us, anyway?

A belief is, by definition, the acceptance that something is true. And, therefore, it is rarely challenged.

Trouble is, many of your beliefs were developed out of circumstances that are no longer relevant.  And, that means they may no longer be grounded in truth, or still benefiting you.

*Especially* if your belief is trying to protect you from unfounded fear.

This is why it’s important to foster the self-awareness that can identify those thoughts that support a limiting belief, and give you an understanding of how they negatively impact your life.

In this post, I’m going to tell you the negative effects of limiting beliefs, how they can harm us, and how to free your mind of limiting beliefs to reach your greatest potential.

Need some support creating real change in your life? Download this FREE 6-page Change Your Life workbook for some practical action!

What are limiting beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are thoughts that limit your belief in what is possible, and prevent you from reaching your greatest potential.  These thoughts are often deeply rooted in your subconscious, so they become a filter of false beliefs through which you interpret your experiences and determine your capabilities.

Everyone has beliefs.  We form them from childhood, as we take in experiences connected to our parents, family, friends, media, faith and countless other influences.

They begin as facts – just neutral circumstances in our lives.  These circumstances shape our experiences, from which our brains develop ideas and seek meaning – which we then use to interpret life events based on our emotions.  It’s these interpretations that ultimately shape our beliefs into the truths we accept as facts – even when they’re not.

And, as we get older, these beliefs grow deeper and stronger until they influence every thought we have. These thoughts lead to feelings, which determine our actions.

Unfortunately, many times these beliefs are false and only serve to sabotage our efforts to have a fulfilling life.  Our resulting behaviors are like self-fulfilling roadblocks that hold us back from the achievements we most desire.

Needless to say, limiting beliefs can have some very serious consequences.

A list of common limiting beliefs

Limiting beliefs are rooted in fear, which can present itself in a variety of ways.

Sometimes fear can be revealed through anxiety, stress, or a feeling of overwhelm or being out of control.

But, other times fear can be disguised as anger, apathy, procrastination, and even perfectionism.

Here are 7 examples of the most common core limiting beliefs that many people struggle with:

  • Fear of failure: I’ll never succeed, so why try
  • Fear of success: If I succeed, I won’t meet others’ expectations
  • Fear of rejection: I never fit in
  • Fear of not being good enough: I can’t start my own business
  • Fear of not being smart enough: My opinion isn’t important
  • Fear of being unloveable: I need to change myself to find my soul mate
  • Fear of being undeserving: I’m not worthy of a promotion

Each of these core limiting beliefs will shape the interpretation of any circumstance that is connected to any of these fears.

So, for example, let’s say you struggle with a limiting belief based on the fear of rejection.  You may avoid social situations because you believe they’ll only result in you being rejected and left out of conversations (“as usual”).  You picture yourself alone, in a corner of the room, while everyone around you is laughing and enjoying themselves.  So, because you believe this is true (and thus, inevitable), you protect your emotions by staying home and watching Netflix.  Alone again, because everyone rejects you.

Your interpretation of how you fit into social situations (the limiting belief) results in actions that only validate the limiting belief.

It’s this negative loop that keeps you stuck in a job you hate, a dysfunctional relationship, or a paycheck to paycheck cycle.

Limiting beliefs have the power to rob you of a successful and fulfilling life, without you even realizing it.

But, it doesn’t have to be like this.  You don’t need to be a slave to limiting beliefs.

You have control over what you think and believe. Once you discover how harmful limiting beliefs have been in your own life, you can be intentional about replacing them with empowering ones.

How do limiting beliefs harm us?

Limiting beliefs are like mental barriers that inhibit us from achieving our goals and creating the reality we desire.  These harmful beliefs can affect all areas of life, such as:

  • career / success
  • marriage / relationships
  • money / finances
  • parenting
  • spirituality
  • mental / physical health

When we limit ourselves in each of these areas, we never fully reach our full potential in each one.

Here are 5 ways limiting beliefs can hold you back from the life you want.

#1 Limiting beliefs prevent you from creating & achieving big goals

I used to think I never reached most of my big goals because I was just lazy.  Didn’t have time.  It was too hard.

List of goals

But, actually, all of these excuses are just a cover up for a limiting belief that tells me I’m not worthy of achieving big goals.

Where did that come from?  Probably something crazy like not getting a lead part in The Sound of Music when I was in the 7th grade.  And then not making the pom squad in high school.  And then getting rejected by the one college I applied to.

None of these experiences were traumatic or devastating.  But, with each one, the interpretation that I wasn’t good enough dug deeper into my subconscious.

And, now, my subconscious mind runs the show.

The funny thing is, my conscious mind loves to create big goals and fully believe that I’m capable of reaching them.

But that deep-seated limiting belief that I’ll never reach any of them is like a roadblock with a big sign that says “No Thru Road, Make a U-Turn Here!”

Inevitably, I convince myself that the goal isn’t really that important, or it’s not so terrible if I never reach it.

Do you avoid making big goals because you think it’s pointless?  Or do you create a list of goals at the beginning of every year, but never get them off the ground?

If so, ask yourself what you’re afraid of.  What fear is preventing you from moving forward?

And, why do you think you’re not worthy of achieving them?

It’s likely you have a limiting belief holding you back. Spend some time trying to identify what it is, so you can start setting your goals from a place of truth and hope instead.

#2 Limiting beliefs discourage you from seeing & creating opportunities

If you don’t believe you’re good enough to get a promotion, you’ll overlook the opportunities that arise.

Woman sitting alone

Likewise, you won’t consider initiating a meeting with your boss to create your own opportunity to get promoted.

You may even have co-workers that encourage you to apply for a better position because of the potential they see in you.  But, unless you see it and believe it for yourself, you won’t take these suggestions seriously.

Limiting beliefs will keep you stuck where you’re at because you’re convinced you don’t deserve something better. 

I used to have a gift basket business.  I loved making them, but I just couldn’t get over the impostor syndrome that hung over me like a dark cloud.  I was always in fear of someone finding out I wasn’t a “real” gift basket creator – whatever that means.

Nobody ever told me I wasn’t a professional.  In fact, most people told me they loved my gift basket creations.  The only thing holding me back was what I believed about myself, and that was a lie.  When my daughter was born, that was my “excuse” to close up shop.

Usually, success is not a result of luck or genetics or mojo.  Success is a result of being prepared when the right opportunity presents itself and then going for it!

Are you motivated by all of the opportunities you see around you?

Or do you ignore them because you believe they’re not meant for you?

Being held hostage by a limiting belief that says you’ll never be successful will keep you blinded to these opportunities. Then, when your co-worker gets promoted, you just feel validated in that belief.

The empowering belief that you are capable and worthy of success must come first.  Once you’ve got that down, your eyes are open to all of the opportunities that are surrounding you.

#3 Limiting beliefs cause you to miss out on fulfilling relationships

Woman alone

I went to 6 different schools by the time I reached the 8th grade, and I had a hard time making and keeping friends.  By my senior year, I was ready to get out of my small home town and start over in the big city of Los Angeles.

What I didn’t realize was that my heart and mind had changed shape in those formative years, and I hadn’t fully recovered from feeling like I didn’t belong.  The belief that I couldn’t make friends was deep.

What I know now is that this limiting belief has caused me to miss out on some great friendships through the years. I couldn’t get past the mindset that I was bad at making friends, so my actions only validated that thinking.

Instead of believing “I’m terrible at making friends”, I should have told myself “I am a great friend, and there are people out there that need my friendship.”  In fact, when I refuse to reach out, I’m depriving others of the blessing of my friendship.

Limiting beliefs tend to cause us to focus on our imperfect selves and our own shortcomings.  No wonder they keep us from living our best life!  Instead, we need to focus on others.

When you turn your eyes to the people around you and understand that everyone has their own struggles, connection and relationship become an extension of compassion and giving.

You’re no longer afraid of being rejected; instead, your concern is for letting others know your friendship is available to them – to bless, to comfort, and to do life together.

If you struggle with the belief that you don’t fit in, I encourage you to focus on what you can do to reach out to the person next to you.  Chances are, they probably think they don’t fit in either.

#4 Limiting beliefs entrap you in a scarcity mindset

I’ve written about the pitfalls of a scarcity mindset before.

Woman with scarcity mindset

A scarcity mindset is a pattern of thinking rooted in the fear that there will never be enough.  It also perpetuates the belief of never being enough.

This fear will lead you to make poor choices, which result in unfavorable outcomes, which completes the loop of negative thinking and keeps you stuck in a repeating pattern of bad decisions.

Some symptoms of a scarcity mindset include hoarding, complaining, black and white thinking, lack of generosity, being envious of others, and ironically, overindulging.

It’s actually harmful limiting beliefs that cause people to become enslaved to this mentality.

When your decisions are based on limiting beliefs such as “I’ll never afford the lifestyle I want” or “I don’t have the skills to make more money,” the outcomes you experience will only support these beliefs.

The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundant mindset, which is established in empowering beliefs that support a positive and confident outlook on life.

Opening up your heart and mind to the realization that opportunity, success, fulfillment, and prosperity are available to you is the beginning of breaking free from the scarcity mindset.

#5 Limiting beliefs keep you from living your best life

Woman staring out window

As the culmination of all of the consequences that limiting beliefs can cause, not living your best, most authentic and most fulfilling life is probably the highest cost of them all.

Limiting beliefs don’t limit themselves to one category of your life.  Rather, they spread their long, spindly fingers wide enough to encompass a multitude of areas, leaving you at the mercy of their repercussions.

As you allow your goals to become merely wishful thinking, and you choose to remain in a job you’re dissatisfied in because you don’t see the opportunities to get out, your limiting beliefs continue to steal the amazing life you are totally capable of living.

You’re missing out on your best life because of thoughts that are tricksy and false!

Thankfully, as human beings, we have the ability to change our thinking, our beliefs, our feelings, and our perspectives.

You’ll need to be committed to rewiring your thought patterns, and it will take some time – but replacing your limiting beliefs with empowering ones will change your life for the better.

Actually, the best!

How to change your limiting beliefs

Although our belief systems can be deeply ingrained into our subconscious, we still have the power to replace them with beliefs that serve us better.

The good news is, it’s actually pretty *simple* to change your limiting beliefs. 

After all, they’re just thoughts and nobody else has control over your brain.

Thoughts are not facts, so you just have to replace a limiting belief with an *empowering* belief.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it’s not so easy to do this.  This is due to “belief perseverance“.

Belief perseverance means that once you develop a core belief, you’ll only give credit to experiences that reinforce that belief.

For example, if ten people tell you that you are a very talented artist, but a couple of people only say “you’re pretty good”, you focus on the two.  It was still a compliment, but your limiting belief turns it into “you’re not that great”.  This just strengthens your limiting belief, even though more people said you are very talented.  Crazy, right?

It takes time, intention, and consistency to swap out limiting beliefs for empowering ones.  You’re essentially rewiring your brain, and you need to create new neural pathways that detour the old thinking patterns.

However, if you create experiences that weaken your limiting beliefs, you will eventually begin to operate from a more productive and positive mindset.

5 steps to replace limiting beliefs with empowering ones

Step 1: Think about what you’re thinking about
Begin to observe your thoughts as an objective outsider. Notice your thought patterns when you feel resistance towards a challenging decision that would benefit you. Start to build self-awareness around those limiting beliefs that hold you back with fear.

Step 2: Acknowledge and evaluate your limiting beliefs
To change your limiting beliefs, it’s critical that you acknowledge what they are and how they affect you. When you bring your subconscious beliefs to the surface, you can analyze and respond to them consciously.

Step 3: Understand that you’re thoughts are not facts and there are no rules
When you accept that you have the power to interpret any circumstance with any belief you choose, you give yourself permission to start deconstructing harmful beliefs and replace them with empowering thoughts. There are no rules to what you must think. It’s completely up to you.

Step 4: Choose what you want to believe
It’s not enough to let go of a limiting belief.  You must replace it with a different belief – one that empowers you to take risks and trust in your ability to succeed. A good place to start is by writing down your goals. Think of what you want to achieve, and what empowering beliefs will help you get there. If an empowering belief seems beyond your capacity to fully accept (which is absolutely critical), choose one that’s more neutral and based in fact and experience. Use this less ambitious belief to “bridge” your way to the empowering one you eventually want to implement.

Step 5: Make the transition
Create opportunities to strengthen your new belief. This can be done with affirmations, visualizations, and triggers.  The key is to continue to find references that weaken your old limiting belief, and validate your new one.

Step 6: Use your empowering belief
Start putting your belief in action. Persist through the uncomfortable stage and resist the temptation to fall back into old, familiar thought patterns.  The more you operate out of the empowering belief, the more natural it will become.

Replacing limiting beliefs requires a strong willingness to change.  You can’t expect to replace these long-held embedded beliefs quickly. Make sure you are committed to the process, and be prepared for the challenge.  It’s worth it!

Limiting beliefs about money

Learning how to overcome limiting beliefs about money is critical to achieving financial freedom.

Your beliefs surrounding money will either a) empower you to create a life of wealth and prosperity, or b) enslave you to a cycle of poor financial choices and living paycheck to paycheck.

Allowing limiting beliefs to influence and guide your financial decisions can have disastrous and lifelong consequences.

But, if you can identify what your limiting beliefs are, and then be purposeful about replacing them with empowering ones, you are on your way to changing your destiny, and your legacy.

Video: Your beliefs about money are holding you back

You can start uncovering your limited beliefs about money by completing the following sentences:

  1. I can’t make more money because …
  2. I’d like to be wealthy, but …
  3. I haven’t achieved financial freedom because …
  4. I want to get out of debt, but …
  5. I’ll always live paycheck to paycheck because …

Your answers will reveal deep-seated limiting beliefs you have about money.

Maybe you believe you won’t be wealthy because you don’t have the right education.  Or, maybe you believe you’ll always live paycheck to paycheck because your financial circumstances will never change.

Here are some examples of limiting beliefs that will hold you back from financial success, and empowering beliefs to replace them with:

Limiting beliefs about money table

As you read through these two lists of opposite beliefs, take note of any that you immediately relate to.  Consider how that belief is helping or harming your efforts to achieve financial success.

I encourage you to go through the 6 steps in the previous section to help you address your limiting beliefs about money.  If you truly want to experience financial freedom, the journey begins with the right mindset.

Don’t forget to grab the FREE 6-page Change Your Life workbook to start creating the change you want!

You can overcome your limiting beliefs

The fear-based limiting beliefs that drive our thoughts and actions are powerful.  Some of these beliefs run so deep, we don’t even realize how much they influence our decisions.

But, you don’t have to be a slave to those negative thoughts any longer.  You can choose to create limitless beliefs instead, and change your future.

No matter your past or your age – it’s never too late to rewrite your script.

You can be the master of your thoughts, and break harmful beliefs that have been in your family for generations.

I’m still working on my own, and it’s not easy.  But I’m not just doing it for me.  I’m also doing it for my kids, for my grandkids, for my marriage, for my friendships, for the quality of life I have left.  And for my own happiness, because I’m tired of allowing faulty wiring keep me from reaching all the potential I’ve been so graciously given.

Stand up for your future self, and decide that you’re not going to let limiting beliefs hold you back.  Do some rewiring of your own, so you can start living the life you dare to dream of.

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How Do Limiting Beliefs Harm Us? Here Are 5 Ways

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