“Limiting beliefs” is a bit of a buzz-phrase these days. But what exactly are they, how did we get them, and, more importantly, how do we get rid of ’em?
As a coach, I use a variety of tools to support my clients in transcending their limiting beliefs. In this blog, I’m sharing my go-to method, one of the most effective tools I use with my coaching clients – inner-child work!
Where Do Those Pesky Limiting Beliefs Come From?
We create our initial belief system in childhood when we are super impressionable and unable to fully access our prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for higher level thinking, including the ability to take other people’s perspectives. This stage of development is sometimes referred to as egocentrism, meaning we think that everything happens because of us.
For example, let’s look at another being that is unable to take on another’s perspective: my dog (no prefrontal cortex to be had.)
Imagine that I come home all frustrated and pissed off. I push open the door and am greeted by my happy, wiggley, lil pup. I proceed to push him out of the way, yelling at him to Leave Me Alone!
Unfortunately, my dog does not think, “Oh geez, she must have had a bad day. I’m gonna make her a cocktail and draw her a bath.”
No, my dog thinks, “Oh man, I did something wrong. She hates me. I’m a terrible dog. Oh no, now I’m peeing about it. Now she really hates me. I suck. I better go be quiet and cower in the corner.”
This scenario is more or less the same thing that goes on when we are kids.
When mom, dad, teachers, friends, etc., have something going on in their world that causes them to lash out, instead of thinking, “Sheesh, project much, mom!?” we internalize the projected pain and make it our own. Then we reason that there must be something wrong with us and our behavior, and that’s why this person is so upset.
From the moment we are born we are completely dependent on others for our survival.
As such, we must keep ourselves in their good graces. When we perceive that we’ve upset our life-line (a.k.a. our caregiver) we will modify our behavior in any way we deem necessary to maintain our survival.
Here’s what often happens next: we begin to believe we need to be small, quiet, perfect, helpful, loud, an overachiever, pleasing, aggressive, meek, etc., in order to be worthy of love and belonging. Regardless of whether the perceived necessary behavior is in alignment with our authentic self or not, we will perform our little hearts out in order to receive the attention, affection, and recognition we desire.
These fear-based beliefs and behaviors are always accompanied by a second, rationalizing belief such as, “Clearly my true, authentic self isn’t good enough, worthy enough, or important enough to get my needs met. I’m obviously a piece of shit and I’m terrified that people will discover this shameful truth about me.”
Voila, a limiting belief is born!
These false and limiting beliefs get stored in our subconscious mind as truth. We slowly lose conscious awareness of them over the years and go about trying to be exactly what we think everyone else wants us to be, thus, betraying our authentic self over and over again. The result? Breaking trust within our most important relationship – the relationship we have with ourselves.
No relationship can work if there isn’t trust.
So now we’re in a highly dysfunctional relationship with ourselves, and this can manifest as depression, anxiety, insecurities, narcissism, and more.
No matter how hard we consciously try to create positivity and abundance in our lives, if our subconscious beliefs aren’t in alignment with our conscious desires, we will rarely be able to move ourselves forward towards our goals and dreams. This can be wicked frustrating and cause us to feel defeated, which only serves to reinforce our limiting beliefs.
How Can We Get Rid of Our Limiting Beliefs?
This can be a tricky endeavor since the subconscious mind is difficult to access. First things first, we need to uncover our limiting beliefs as we are often completely unaware they even exist. There are three ways in which I’ve found to do this:
Our judgments of others (a.k.a. unacknowledged insecurities)
For our purposes here today, I’m going to use emotional overreactions as a jumping off point.
When you are emotionally charged or triggered by a present day event and have a bit of an emotional overreaction, this is a sign that there is an old emotional wound involved. The reason for the overreaction is because the current day event bumped up against an old wound and so you are reacting to the pain of the old wound and not just the pain of the current day event.
When this happens, it is a gift!
This gift allows you the opportunity to heal the old emotional wound and release its accompanying limiting beliefs. The method I use to heal and release is often referred to as inner-child work. And, it goes a little something like this…
How To Do Inner Child Work
When you are having an emotional overreaction, sit in the feeling of the emotion. Be present with the physical sensations of the emotion. You can even do this after the fact, if you can’t do it in the moment. If it’s after the fact, then just close your eyes, recall the incident that led to the overreaction, and pull up the emotions.
Once you are sitting in the emotion and fully feeling it, ask yourself, “How old do I feel right now?”
There is no right or wrong answer, just go with the first thing that comes to mind. Once you have an age in mind, ask yourself, “What was going on at that age that is reminiscent of this emotional feeling, and what was the story or meaning I gave this event? What did I think this event meant about me?”
You may or may not be able to find the “originating event,” either way it’s fine.
Next, ask yourself, “What did my younger self need to hear at that time? What does my younger self need to hear now in order to change the narrative?”
Most likely it’s along the lines of:
It’s not your fault.
You are loved.
You are worthy.
You are perfect as you are.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.
You are lovable.
You are important.
Your needs and desires are important.
Your care-giver did the best they could with the level of awareness and knowledge they had at the time.
Remember, nothing in your childhood was your fault nor your responsibility… AND now that you are an adult, it is your responsibility to actively participate in your own healing.
We are no longer back in the hurtful time; we are here now. Now is the time to process the emotions, change the narrative to something empowering and true, and move forward with more freedom to choose aligned responses and behaviors.
Close your eyes and bring up an image of yourself at the age you’re currently working with. Imagine your sweet, innocent, curious, loving, joyful, creative, adorable, younger self sitting next to you.
Open your heart space and cover your younger self with all the love you can. Begin to tell your younger self all the things they needed to hear at that time, tell them the truth. Oftentimes, our younger self really responds to being held and rocked while telling them all they need to hear.
When you are done speaking lovingly with your younger self, invite them to come home with you. When you were younger and created the limiting belief, you were most likely ashamed of yourself and your perceived transgression. When we feel ashamed of ourselves, we often banish or exile that part of ourselves. This is why it is so important to bring this part of yourself back home to yourself.
You can say things like:
You are safe with me.
I love you.
I will never leave you.
Please forgive me for abandoning you.
I will always and forever have your back.
You do not need to worry anymore.
You are taken care of, safe and secure with me.
Then integrate the energetic body of your younger self into your current energetic body by hugging your younger self into your current self. Take a deep breath and open your eyes. You did it!
Need help accessing your inner-child? Let’s connect with a FREE 90—minute Jump Start Coaching Session.