Your inner critic and limiting beliefs - what it is how it may affect you and your life and steps to break free and achieve what you really want
13th January 2020
Limiting beliefs, inner critic. I am talking about a topic here today which I have spent time with quite intensely and detailed over especially the last few months. I have got a strong inner critic that I named 'Hilde' (a really old German name). Just so to make it more personal and easier to bond with this inner other person of mine, telling me things and stories, convincing me over and over again that what this person/voice is saying in my head about situations, me and others are completely realistic and true. No. It is not.
It is a topic that I, personally, quite feel drawn to now, specifically because I think the more I occupy myself with it, learn about it and myself and find strategies to cope and manage it, the better I can then pass it on to my clients if they find themselves in similar situations. In saying that, we all have limiting beliefs if you believe it or not. There are times in your life where you been telling yourself you cannot do this, this is silly, you are not good enough, this is too hard, etc. We all have. It is almost like human nature. It is human nature. The brain is wired to be negative from the early ages on. Survival mode, keeping us alive, warn us of danger. This was great and very very good at these times of hunting and making a living for ourselves. But now we have changed quite a lot. For most of us anyway. We live in a modern world, drive cars, live in houses, buy all our food from markets or the supermarket, have security, money, there is no real danger anymore lurking around the next corner, like a lion wanting to kill us. But our brains are still in the same mode. The brain wants to avoid the fear, the pain, the negative by all means. So when we slip into negativity we feel bad, we don't want to feel that way. We want to feel good, happy and light. So when we get limiting beliefs that mean the brain wants to save us from doing something it thinks might give us pain, fear or anger or another negative feeling. Because let's face it, when we have our inner critic voicing up and talking to us it is mostly in those situations when we want to achieve something, stepping out of our comfort zone, trying something new etc. And all this has a danger of leaving the comfort zone of control, knowing, security and whatnot. So the brain interferes. Obviously, true to its root nature.
But what are those limiting beliefs and how do they actually get made or arise? They are beliefs that we have carried with us for most of our lives. These are beliefs that we have told ourselves over decades and years to find true. These belief systems are nothing more than psychological rules or commands to the nervous system that shapes your thoughts and filters your experience of reality. Beliefs form the foundations of your expectations. These expectations help you to better understand yourself, to better understand others, and to better understand the world around you. They help you feel more certain about your future, which makes you feel safe and secure. As such, you hold onto these beliefs irrelevant of whether or not they serve you in the present moment, which of course all comes back to the need for certainty. They were mostly created in the first 6 years of our lives by how our parents raised us, how they role-modelled for us, what they said and how they acted and re-acted and responded to various situations and events. These beliefs then became our identity. These beliefs were created out of what we saw in others: school, kindergarten, friends, family. We were conditioned in a certain way and it sticks with us. When we now come to certain situations in our lives, we sometimes feel stuck, held back, feel we cannot achieve something or be successful. We tell ourselves a story of why we cannot do something or be able to succeed. The story that we have learned and learned to see from our childhood.
My story goes that (and it took me a long time to figure it out) I am the youngest of the family, with a sister that has been thriving for perfectionism, getting her A's in school. For some reason, I've always had the feeling I have to prove myself. To my family, to my teachers, to my friends. Never to myself though. Being the youngest, I guess, that is part of the game. When I was about 3 years old I walked on the neighbour's wall, happily and freely. My grandmother wanted to take my hand to keep me safe. I brushed her hand away saying: 'I can do this on my own!' 3 years old. In school, I felt compared to my sister by my teachers (I mostly went through the same set of teachers my older sister had), we have been raised to be good, bring home good grades and succeed in whatever we doing. I decided to move to New Zealand in my early twenties against my father's will after I got stuck in NZ in my backpacker year and met a man. I refused any help (financially foremost) from my father specifically to show that “I can do this on my own” and make a living and life for myself in this new country. To prove that I can do it.
Now building up a new business, I felt I have been proofing to others (partner and also again my father and friends) that I can do this. On my own. If I fail, I will feel I disappoint others, I will feel not good enough. This also comes connected to my early childhood. I want to avoid that under all costs. But it has cost me something already: my sanity, my balance, my health. With building up the new business came the limiting beliefs. They came in big numbers but always telling me the same story. I am not good enough. Why would anyone want to be coached by me?? What am I worth to be doing this and people wanting to use my services? I am not creating enough clients to keep me afloat and get me financially independent. No one will come to my talks and wants to listen to me. I suck. That's big stuff.
Limiting beliefs are strong beliefs. They are warning signs, indicators that something is not right. Indicators that something has to change, you might not be on the right path. They are thoughts, stories we have ingrained and have been believing for a long time thus it is not easy to manage or even overcome them easily. Old habits die hard. Limiting beliefs though holding us back. As it says: they limit us in moving forward, achieving our full potential, holding us back from showing what we can actually really do and how strong and confident we can be. They make us lie to ourself, hide our true nature and authenticity at times, cover up our real selves. They hold us back from creating a worthy, rich fulfilling life for ourselves. Our thoughts and beliefs are very powerful. Thoughts can tell us complete rubbish, but if we buy into them, belief them blindly and give in to them and let us carry away with them, they then turn into actions and words, they then have the power to change your life and eventually create a new reality.
So for me, I made a choice to myself. I wanted to beat those bad bastards, I wanted to make this little voice in my head shut up. Every time I had those beliefs and my inner critic went mental on me I pushed it away, I tried to avoid it, I feared the feelings and that came with all that and not wanted to have them. It feels uncomfortable. And you remember that the brain doesn't like uncomfortable painful feelings. By going against those feelings and beliefs in ways of avoiding them or pushing them away we will gain the exact opposite: they get stronger, persist longer and eventually get us and crush us.
What do we have to do then to get the better of all that? What are ways and strategies to manage or even overcome these limiting beliefs?
Ask yourself a few questions, when you have some limiting beliefs coming your way:
1. Where are you stuck? What is the situation?
2. What is the story you have been telling yourself?
Check in with yourself what actual beliefs you are having and what they telling yourself. Are you too weak, not good enough? What beliefs were created in your childhood? What was told to you, what have you seen and people lived in front of your eyes that conditioned you? Connect that to the situation you are finding yourself in currently having those limiting beliefs.
Let's give an example of myself: I have been creating a business that, I believe, serves my life purpose of helping others and being of service. I thought of a plan how I would like to run it, followed through and found myself in a situation back then where I felt stuck, riddled with limiting beliefs, thinking this is not going well, I don't like it. I refused to change my plan initially though because I told others of my vision and how I would like it and I cannot just change it, let alone thinking I don't even want to do it this way anymore. I have to prove that what I said I will do and I will succeed. I cannot disappoint others. Otherwise, I feel not good enough. So I tackle along doing what I THINK I SHOULD do but feel no real joy, feel no real thrive. But I keep going. I kept thinking to myself if someone would come along and give me the permission to stop and do just what I want I happily say yes and feel relieved. So why am I not doing it? Because my story I have been telling myself keeps me tight on doing what I had put into my head. If I would change my story than my life and mood and everything would change as well.
3. Look at the consequences that will occur if you keep holding on to those limiting beliefs.
You can ask yourself the following questions:
What will the consequences be if I’m unable to make this change and eliminate this limiting belief?
- How will not changing affect me physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Financially? In my relationships with others?
- How will not changing affect my life?
- What are the short-term consequences of not changing?
- What are the potential long-term consequences of not making this change?
- How will all this make me feel?
- Given all this, why is it important to make this change right now?
4. Change your narrative – change your story – challenge these limiting beliefs
Once you know what story you have been telling yourself, you are a step forward and can start changing this story for yourself. Put it right, get the facts and face the reality. I told myself I have to prove it to others. No. I don't have to. Not even to myself. It is my life and I can bloody well do whatever I want with it. No one will judge me. No one looks at me. I can change my mind and fail and no one will die. Specifically myself.
Create a new belief that challenges the old limiting one. Write those thoughts and beliefs down, see them on black and white get them out of your head. Then replace it with a new positive one. This all takes practice, persistent and self-discipline to do it over and over again. The brain is like a muscle, it needs constant training – regularly. To get stronger to be able to change. So keep persisting and working on it.
5. Work on your body posture.
Look yourself in the mirror in your darkest hours when you feel bad, your self-limiting beliefs riddling you and smile at yourself and dance around (as much as you can possibly do in this current negative state) Outwit your brain by your body and posture, do it regularly once again and your brain gets rewired.
6. Set positive intentions for each day.
Go into each day with a positive outlook. If you wake up and feel a headache and say: Oh this day is going to be bad, your brain looks everywhere for bad stuff to proof this day is going to be bad.