Do you tend to put yourself down by minimizing your abilities and accomplishments? Are you one of those people who realize only a small percentage of your true potential? Do you often tell yourself you could never achieve or accomplish what your friends do; that you’re not smart enough, don’t have the energy, initiative or creativity? Are you held back by a false belief that you can’t possibly achieve what you desire?
If so, you are limiting yourself by “blocking beliefs” or thoughts about yourself that are erroneous. If given free rein, blocking beliefs can be very powerful. Recognition of these beliefs can set us free to accomplish almost anything we wish.
What are the beliefs that limit us, where do they come from, and how can we recognize them? The minds and hearts of children are like sponges; they absorb from parents’ words, actions, and attitudes ideas that eventually become their own. These ideas, positive and negative, are integrated into the personality as one’s own beliefs about who they are and could become. They uniquely mesh with each individual in the development of various personality styles.
One personality type will interpret the parental legacies differently from another. One person whose parents were negative may develop a defeatist outlook, while another might be determined to succeed at any price, no matter how great the obstacles.
Although we may not be conscious of them, we can identify blocking beliefs by observing our behaviors. What we do is a manifestation of what we believe about ourselves. When we clearly see and accept our assets, positive accomplishments follow.
Following are some examples of blocking beliefs with their accompanying behaviors and possible positive options. “I am not as competent as everyone else. Because of that, I either don’t apply myself consistently, or I give up when confronted with the least difficulty. I often feel discouraged, frustrated and can’t understand why things never work out for me.”
Seeing yourself as less than competent is a recipe for failure. Why not test that assumption? Challenge yourself to attempt something you really want; believe with determination that you can do it. When doubt arises, counter it with an affirmation, such as “I can do it.” Don’t give up. You will attain a new, rewarding sense of satisfaction that will spur you on to continue the new behavior, a success in itself.
“People don’t like me. Therefore, I have no friends, so stay I at home alone most of the time, except when I must go to work. I’ll be alone my whole life.” You must question your assumption that no one likes you by honestly assessing your relationships. If you have none other than at work, think of the conversations and interactions you have in your job. How do people react to you? Are they nasty, do they shun you? Or, are they friendly? Often, we don’t stop and analyze reality.
If people at work treat you well, you must then question your assumptions. Most likely, you get along well and are liked, but feel shy in social situations. Your shyness is really the issue, but you blame others. Once you own up to being shy, instead of inadequate, you can take steps to overcome it. You might push yourself to counteract that shyness and make at least one friend in the next month. As you find new friends, you disprove your erroneous blocking belief.
“I should not have any negative feelings, such as sadness, anger, envy or anxiety. I listen to everyone’s problems but never share my real feelings, keep them bottled up, and sometimes feel I might explode.” You feel lonely and believe that no one understands you. It is difficult to say “No.” You never have enough energy, so accomplish only a small portion of what you intend, and then get angry at yourself. You believe you won’t be liked unless you meet everyone else’s needs.
It’s important to realize that all feelings, positive and negative, are normal. That includes yours! Just as you listen to others, you have a right to be heard, also. You will have to risk opening up with someone you trust. Only when we express ourselves fully do we feel whole, alive and able to put forth our best.
These are a few examples of how we limit ourselves by our thinking. Changing our thought patterns leads the way to changing behaviors that will disprove negative thinking. When we change our thoughts and behaviors, ultimately, our lives change.
Elinor Stanton is a psychiatric nurse practitioner on Marco Island, with 33 years experience as a therapist, both in private practice and with a large health maintenance organization in Boston. She graduated from Boston College and the University of Rochester, and is certified as a clinical specialist by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Stanton also is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy and trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Comments and questions may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or 394-2861.