You may know the analogy; when it comes to uncovering our limiting beliefs, we are like onions, and as we work through to get to what’s holding us back, layers peel away until we get to the heart. I kind of like the analogy because when we peel away all the layers and barriers, we discover there’s nothing really there, just a belief that some one told us or we took in somehow, but it’s not reality nor is it true, most of the time.
Every so often, I dive into the world of self improvement and read a book or two, and this week’s books have been about creating our own version of success and making it happen. I like diving in and the exercises. In this case, it was about really taking a look at what my ideal life would be and then charting a course toward my ideal.
Getting a place where I can really make success happen for myself means taking a look at long held beliefs. Realizing a belief we have is holding us back from our own good is tricky business; limiting beliefs usually show up in the form of self imposed barriers, self sabotage or procrastination. For example, I have a friend who never asked for a promotion at work because she wanted to be recognized for her hard work rather than bringing attention to her accomplishments and worthiness herself. Years went by, and she sat in the same office in the same desk while the rest of her peers pursued better and better jobs, while she stayed put, and became more bitter, resentful and angry.
We talked about her beliefs, which she still holds tightly; we talked about all the stories she’d developed to protect her beliefs, and the fact that it wasn’t working for her. The last time I saw her, she had been moved to a back office filled with piles of paper work, while the rest of our old crew had moved on, myself included.
We all have beliefs that hold us back in some area of our lives—usually an area we most want to change. There we sit, spinning our wheels wondering why we aren’t making any headway, getting more and more frustrated, perhaps feeling as though we’ve hit rock bottom, or are pressed up against a wall, knowing we’re missing something somewhere, or perhaps we find ourselves at the same crossroads again and again—you know, doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result?
After establishing the biggest, juiciest life I could imagine, I began noticing where I felt a sense of resistance, that nagging voice that says “you cant do that…” Note what your mind says when you dream a big dream for yourself. Feel your gut too. Where are your points of resistance?
As you take your resistance down, layer by layer (here’s that onion analogy) gently working with friendly curiosity toward the “why” at the center, your answers will go from very general, like “because…” which is not an answer…to “that’s just not how it’s done…” until you get right to the heart of things, your core limiting belief, for example, “I’m not worthy.” Which, if we dive deeper, we will find originated somewhere around first grade or so.
From that early moment, where the seed was planted, we may notice how everything shifted. Soon, we heard that message everywhere. We remember our friends being mean on the play ground, our gym teacher, ridiculing us, that nasty boss…all of whom reinforced that ugly belief we’d adopted about ourselves.
But most interestingly, if we pay attention, we will begin to see how we developed patterns of our own to make our belief more true, like the boyfriend we were inexplicably drawn to even though we knew right from the beginning he was bad news, or the series of jobs we took even though we knew they didn’t fit our capabilities, or how we let things lapse in a way we couldn’t sustain ourselves, we begin see we made those choices. At least that’s what happened to me when I did the exercises.
Here’s the cool part, overcoming stale beliefs is a “one by one” kind of deal and it has to do with forgiveness. Going along the chain of people who I thought contributed to my limiting beliefs, I discovered that, while some people were just mean; in most cases, it was down to my interpretation, not necessarily the truth. I found myself peeling away at my onion, forgiving each person along the way, I discovered the person I needed to forgive most was myself, that little girl who believed what she’d been told. When I realized a sensitive, impressionable little girl was at the heart, it easy to forgive my little self, she couldn’t possibly have known better. Once that was done, the whole structure came crashing down and the belief was gone.
Have you tried this technique? What has worked for you?