We all see ourselves through a unique and often biased filter. This is especially true when it comes to the things that we believe we can and cannot do. Our filter, most often than not, reflects an image of ourselves that is worse than the reality. This is because our filter is made up of ''self-limiting beliefs''. We call them ''limiting'' because they prevent us from realising our potential and taking the place that we deserve in the world.
Some common examples of self-limiting beliefs that I hear from my clients are:
''I don't have what it takes to be an entrepreneur''
''I won't be able to find a job at that level in another company''
''My chances of getting hired for this role are really low so I won't bother applying''
''I am not very good at public speaking''
''I won't be able to find clients''
''I can't make a living from my passion''
To identify self-limiting beliefs you may have, you can ask yourself the following question: ''What statements do I make about myself, and believe to be true, when in reality I could choose to challenge them?''. These statements can be about your personality, your ability to do something (now or in the future), your performance, what others believe about yourself, etc.
Every limiting belief carries an opportunity to unlock the believer's potential and increase performance. To do so, the trick is to recognise that what we believe about ourselves isn't always true, especially when it's a negative statement. Once we have raised our awareness about these limiting beliefs, we can begin taking steps to reprogram them into positive ones.
I will use a personal example to illustrate how to overcome our self-limiting beliefs.
I always thought I was really bad at drawing...
I had received some sarcastic comments from a few friends about how bad my drawing skills were a few years ago and since then I had accepted myself as someone who couldn't draw. It didn't particularly bother me to be honest as I don't need to draw on a daily basis but I always thought it would be a useful skill to have when I have kids... BINGO! A few weeks after my little one arrived, I wanted her to have black and white cards to look at so she could be visually stimulated.
To do that, I would have first to get over my limiting belief about drawing. How I did I do it and why did it work? Let me share with you the exact process I followed.
1/ Pick an action that you would naturally be motivated to complete
Making something with my own two hands for my daughter to play with was going to make me feel proud and capable so my motivation to do it was naturally high.
2/ Choose a safe environment to take your first step
Nobody would have to see my drawings if they were bad...well, except my 2-month old baby at the time but I didn't think that she would be a hard audience to please (I realised afterwards that despite her age, she clearly has some strong preferences and opinions about my drawings).
3/ Keep the first step moderately challenging
My first black and white ''drawing'' was just a checkers pattern, the second was a star, then I moved on to drawing animals (surely animals would keep my baby entertained, right?). It is important to make that first step easy for ourselves so there are no or very little fear involved in taking it. At the beginning, it is better to stay in our comfort zone or deep a toe into our stretch zone but the idea is certainly not to throw ourselves in the panic zone. Keeping the first step easily achievable will mean that we are more likely to make it happen, it limits the risks of procrastination.
4/ Build up the level of complexity progressively
When I started drawing animals, my process always started by finding easy reference pictures of the animal I was trying to draw. Initially, I focused on drawing the faces only and the ones with simple shapes (cat, rabbit, etc.). Once I became confident with those I moved on to drawing more complex ones (butterfly, elephant, monkey and finally the giraffe below).
5/ Use humour to ''throw flowers to yourself''
Since my husband seemed surprised that I could ''draw so well'' (his words), I decided to gather my newly gained confidence to put my drawing skills to the test. I sent a photo of my giraffe to a couple of close friends who had been asking how I kept myself occupied during lockdown. I sent the drawing with a self-derision style of message but it was a healthy type of self-derision as it came from a place of confidence on the inside. I expected my friends' answers to (kindly and lovingly) build up on my self-derision tone but to my surprise, I didn't get any sarcastic comments back. In fact, it was the opposite, they seemed genuinely impressed with my drawing. Who would have thought??
I am not telling you this to ''throw flowers to myself'' (that's the French way of saying ''brag'' by the way) but rather because this made me realise that the process I followed to create my Giraffe masterpiece was the key to overcome other self-limiting beliefs. After all, if I could get compliments on my drawings...what else could I do? This Giraffe masterpiece opened a whole new world of possibilities for me (not in the art industry though, ha!). Oh and in case you're wondering: yes, I'm calling it a Giraffe masterpiece now, just to anchor the message that ''I am a good drawer'' deep inside my mind!
The moral of this story is that, if you have identified a self-limiting belief, give the steps above a go to get over it, find ways to make it fun for you to take those steps and go easy on yourself. Self compassion is key.
I was bad at drawing and today I have published a blog article with one of my drawings as a featured post image (I still can't quite believe it if I'm honest!). If I did it, it means that there are ways for you to unlock some hidden potential that sits within you too. Find a safe environment to try new ways to challenge your limiting beliefs. Put them to the test, see what happens, have a laugh if it doesn't work the way you expected.
May my drawing story be a reminder that, just like me, you are resourceful and more capable than you think. If only you dared giving it a go...