Famous author, coach, and motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said: “The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.”
As Tony suggested, we tell ourselves stories every day to help rationalize our decisions. Those stories shape our thoughts and behaviors, which in turn make up our identity, or who we are as a person.
The problem is that sometimes the stories we tell ourselves aren’t true. These false stories can turn into limiting beliefs which hold us back from achieving our full potential.
Do you feel like something is holding you back from achieving your dreams and goals? If so, you could have some of these limiting beliefs.
In this post I will first go over what a limiting belief is and then discuss where they come from. Finally, I’ll share a list of 22 common limiting beliefs that may be holding you back from the happy and healthy life that you desire.
Table of Contents
What Are Limiting Beliefs?
Limiting beliefs, (sometimes called self-limiting beliefs) are false or irrational thoughts that prevent us from pursuing or achieving our goals and dreams.
Where Do Limiting Beliefs Come From?
Limiting beliefs are not something we are born with, but are instead something we learn as we go through life. These self-limiting beliefs can form in a number of ways.
Often, they are formed from experiences that we’ve had in our lives, either as a child or an adult. Negative or traumatic experiences are much more likely to cause the formation of limiting beliefs than positive or happy experiences.
It is also very common to learn limiting beliefs by the expectations placed on you by your family, culture, or religion.
How Limiting Beliefs Can Hold You Back In Life
Limiting beliefs skew your perception of reality. They cause you to believe something that is not true.
“Our life is full of mountains we believe to be forbidden or that we feel incapable of climbing, but the fog that prevents us from seeing the path ahead is usually on the lens through which we are viewing it.”-Hector Garcia
Limiting beliefs tend to form a repeating cycle where negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which in turn lead to negative actions which reinforce the original negative thought.
For example, a negative thought that you are stupid would likely lead to negative feelings about your self-worth and confidence. These negative feelings would then influence your behavior by causing you to avoid challenging situations that might make you feel stupid.
By avoiding challenging situations, you would deprive yourself of the opportunity to learn, which would reinforce the original negative thought that you were stupid. The cycle would then continue, causing more negative feelings and behaviors in the future.
Examples Of Limiting Beliefs
For example, if your parents divorced when you were a child, you may not believe in love. Because of this belief, you’d likely push others away and not allow anyone to get close to you, which would reinforce your belief that love didn’t exist.
Or let’s say you got bad grades in school as a kid because the material was so easy that you were bored. So instead of applying yourself, you goofed off in class.
In a situation like this teachers might say that you were stupid or lazy and that you’d never amount to anything.
This sort of experience could easily produce the limiting belief that you weren’t smart and couldn’t follow through on anything.
If you adopted that limiting belief, it might affect you later in life – for example maybe you would choose to skip college and opt for a job that didn’t require much in the way of brains, and maybe you would pass up on applying for better jobs because you believed you weren’t smart enough to get them.
22 Common Limiting Beliefs To Ditch For A Better 2021
Now that you understand how limiting beliefs hold you back, I would like to give you some examples of limiting beliefs that are common when it comes to achieving your goals in the areas of health and happiness.
I have separated these limiting beliefs into two major categories – limiting beliefs about health and happiness, and limiting beliefs about yourself.
List Of Common Limiting Beliefs About Health & Happiness
These are mostly beliefs about how the world (in this case specifically how health and happiness) works.
1 – Prioritizing Health And Happiness Is Selfish
This is a belief that usually comes from culture, family, or religious teachings. Many people have been told that they need to put everyone else’s needs before their own.
I find that this self-limiting belief is especially common among people that are caretakers, meaning that they have others who depend on them such as children or elderly parents.
My favorite analogy for this is the talk that the stewardesses give on the airplane about putting on your oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. You are no good to anyone else if you are passed out from lack of oxygen.
The same is true of health and happiness. If you are unhealthy and unhappy, those who depend on you will suffer. However, if you are happy and healthy, those who depend on you will see the benefits. Your capacity to help others is limited if you do not care for yourself.
2 – If It’s Healthy It Cannot Be Enjoyable
There is a very common limiting belief that if we enjoy something that it can’t be good for us, and if it’s good for us, then we can’t enjoy it.
But health and happiness don’t need to be opposites!
3 – There Is Only One Way To Achieve A Goal
People often get stuck believing that there is only one best way to achieve a goal. Because of this, they often choose methods to meet their goals that are not well suited to them.
For example, people often think they HAVE to run if they want to lose weight, even though they really hate running. What they fail to acknowledge is that there are many other options to reach this same goal that might work better for them.
Everyone is different and what works for some, may not well work for you. Consider all your options. As the old saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat, and the same is true for achieving goals.
4 – The Plan Should Never Be Changed
This limiting belief is born out of stubbornness, and the thought that we should never give up on a plan. But if the plan isn’t working… why should we force ourselves to stick to it?
It’s better to change a plan than to give up on a goal. Adapting a plan is not admitting defeat, in fact, it’s more likely to lead to success.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
5 – Genes Dictate Health And Happiness And That’s All There Is To It
This is an extremely common limiting belief in people who have family histories of mental or physical diseases with a known genetic component, such as depression, heart disease, diabetes and others.
While it is true that we can’t control the genes that we inherit, it has been proven many times that many of these diseases can be managed, improved, or even prevented with good lifestyle choices.
We can’t control the hand we’re dealt, but we can decide whether we’ll play that hand to the best of our ability, or if we’ll fold.
6 – If It Can’t Be Done Perfectly, Then Why Bother?
This limiting belief is also sometimes known as the all-or-none mindset. It is extremely common in perfectionists.
I often see this happen when someone sets a goal and then makes a small slip-up.
If this person had the all-or-none mindset, they’d likely quit on their goal altogether saying they’d blown it and might as well give up, rather than trying to stick with it and do the best they can going forward.
To them it’s better to quit than to have done anything less than perfect.
7 – Making A Change Should Be Easy
When struggling, people often tell themselves that the new habit they are trying to adopt should be easy. This is often followed by beating themselves up in their thoughts.
For example, “This should be easy! Why am I struggling so much? I’m such a loser…”
8 – Progress Requires Perfection
Another common limiting belief is that you have to be perfect to see any progress at all.
People with this limiting belief often avoid starting something if they don’t think that they can do it 100% of the time.They focus much more on perfection than they do progress.
For example, say they were eating healthy only 25% of the time to start with, but knew they couldn’t eat healthy 100% of the time, so never even tried to improve their eating habits.
This is a flawed way of thinking. Even eating healthy 50-60% of the time would be a big improvement from the 25% where they started.
9 – More Suffering Means More Success
Have you ever heard (or maybe even said yourself) either of the following phrases?
- “No pain, no gain.”
- “No time for sleep.” or,
- “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
These statements are a prime example of “hustle culture” which pushes the belief that whoever suffers the most will be the most successful.
These sort of hustle culture thoughts pop up in two main areas of life: health & work.
We’ve been lead to believe that in order to lose weight, or improve fitness or health, we should feel physical pain. We should starve ourselves, we should exercise until we puke and make ourselves so sore we can’t walk the next day.
Because if we don’t… then we don’t “want it bad enough”.
But research has shown time and again, that these extreme measures are extremely hard to stick to.
Same thing with work. We are told we need to work until our eyeballs bleed in order to get ahead, but inevitably that just leads to lowered productivity and eventual burnout.
The truth is suffering does NOT guarantee success.
How many people do you know that ate 1200 calories for weeks or months only to fall off the wagon and gain all the weight back? How many people do you know that worked 60-70 hours a week for their whole life without much to show for it?
At least a few I would guess.
So when you’re setting your goals and resolutions, remember, the goal is not suffering. People can only suffer for so long.
The goal should actually be LESS suffering so that you can consistently stick to your plan and achieve your goal – for good!
10 – Happiness Comes From The Outside
Some people believe that certain things need to happen to them in order for them to be happy. These people believe that happiness comes from external factors like being rich, or popular etc. rather than internal factors like being grateful for what you have, making time to spend with loved ones and doing things that you are passionate about.
But as the sign on the drive through window of my local bank reminds me every payday, “Happiness is always an inside job.”
List Of Common Limiting Beliefs About Yourself
Limiting Beliefs come in several forms. Many of these are beliefs that you have some sort of short shortcoming in personality, skill, or identity that makes it impossible to achieve your goal.
You might notice that limiting beliefs about yourself often come in the form or name calling or labeling.
11 – I’m Not _______ Enough
This self-limiting belief has to do with personal traits or characteristics. We often convince ourselves that we are lacking some trait or personal characteristic that we need to achieve a goal.
If you have this limiting belief, you may catch yourself saying things like:
- “I’m not smart enough.”
- “I’m not athletic enough.”
- “I’m not confident enough.”
These sorts of beliefs become even more problematic when we believe that these qualities can not be developed with effort which is often referred to as a “fixed mindset”.
12 – I Lack The Willpower & Motivation To Achieve My Goals
This is an extremely common limiting belief that I see holding people back all the time.
It mostly stems from an unrealistic expectation that motivation and willpower should be high at all times, but this is just not realistic.
- Willpower: All You Need To Achieve Your Goals? Or Overrated?
- 6 Simple Self Motivation Methods To Start New Healthy Habits
13 – I Don’t Have The Time
There are two common variations of this limiting belief. They are that you either don’t have the time, or that now is not the “right time” to start something new.
Both of these beliefs come down to priorities, and can prevent you from taking the actions that would allow you to achieve your goals.
14 – I’m Too Old
This is an extremely common limiting belief with older adults, or even sometimes middle-aged people.
They come to believe that what is happening to them is the natural process of aging and that nothing can be done about it.
This can prevent them from taking steps to help slow down age-related losses in things like bone and muscle mass.
15 – I Don’t Deserve It
Believing that you don’t deserve to be happy or healthy will prevent you from putting any effort into improving your quality of life.
Everyone deserves to be happy and healthy. You too!
16 – I Don’t Know How
People often think that not knowing something is an insurmountable obstacle. Maybe it’s because they don’t believe in their ability to learn new things, or maybe it stems from a fear of looking silly, as many beginners might.
But it’s never too late to learn something new! And remember, one of the best ways to learn is to learn by doing.
17 – People Will Judge Me
No one likes to be judged, and this is a common worry for most people.
In my own personal experience, I have often found that I worried about what others would think for nothing. Often they were so caught up in their own lives and thoughts that they didn’t even notice what I was doing.
But sometimes they will judge. The question is, will you let it hold you back from doing what is important to you? Is what they think worth sacrificing your goals and dreams for?
18 – I’ll Never Be As Good As So-And-So
This is an extremely common limiting belief in the age of social media. People often compare themselves to others. From this comparison, the conclusion is almost always that there is someone out there that’s better than you, so why should you even try?
It is probably true that there is someone else out there that is better than you. With over 7.5 billion people on earth, the odds of that are pretty good… but why does it matter? You don’t need to be better than 7.5+ billion people to be happier or healthier. You just need to be better than you used to be.
19 – I Failed Before And I’ll Fail Again
When people fail at something that is important to them, it’s natural to take it hard. But sometimes people take this to the extreme by internalizing the failure and making it a permanent part of their identity.
But failing once doesn’t make you a failure forever. If you tell yourself you are a failure, why would you put effort towards anything in life?
20 – I Am A Quitter
This limiting belief is related to the one above and having had failures in the past. You may tell yourself that you never finish anything you start, or that you’re lazy or whatever else.
But believing these things about yourself will only prevent you from working towards your goals and maintaining the status quo.
Just because you quit in the past doesn’t mean you have to this time.
21 – I’m Broken
One limiting belief that I really struggled with in the past was feeling that there was something wrong with me, that I was broken or somehow damaged goods.
This held me back from pursuing happiness for a long time, because I didn’t believe that happiness was even possible for me.
If you’d like to learn how I overcame this limiting belief, check out the following post: My Epiphany: How I Completely Changed My View Of Happiness.
22 – I Don’t Have The Support
This was another big one for me 6-7 years ago. When living in Arizona I was incredibly unhappy and often very lonely.
I knew that hiking and spending time in nature made me happy and helped reduce my stress, but I didn’t have any friends at the time that would go on a hike with me. So I sat home depressed and feeling bad for myself.
Until one day, all of the sudden, I decided things had to change and that I shouldn’t let not having anyone to hike with keep me from being happy.
So I went out hiking on my own. Not everyone liked this, saying they worried about my safety. But I did it anyway and the effect that it had on my overall happiness and mindset was huge.
Don’t get me wrong, it can definitely be easier to achieve something with the help of others, but if you can’t find someone, don’t let it hold you back.
Limiting beliefs are very dangerous because they can prevent you from pursuing the happy and healthy life that you long for.
If you’re interested in learning a powerful 5-step method to overcome your limiting beliefs, check out the sequel to this post!
While reading this post, did you recognize any of these limiting beliefs in yourself or others that you know?
Are there any limiting beliefs that you would like to leave behind in order to have a happier and healthier year in 2021?
Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!