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Self Limiting Beliefs, Why Do We Have Them?

Self-limiting beliefs or barriers to success as they are also referred too, are created through fear and result is the creation of beliefs about ourselves that aren’t true. An example of a self-limiting belief is an ‘I can’t do ....’, statement. In this blog I’ll explain how we create these, why and how to smash them out of your way to achieve your goals.


A self-limiting belief starts as an anxiety about failing to achieve a goal and the more we worry about failing, the stronger the self-limiting belief becomes until it reaches a point where we truly believe we can’t achieve our goal and start to look away from it.


The Influence of an 'I can't do' statement can become overtime like the picture below, so overshadowing us, we can't even face the goal, which means we often avoiding talking about it.

How do we create a self-limiting belief?

We create self-limiting beliefs using our inner voice (also known as self-talk). We use our inner voice to;


1) Enable us to follow an instruction, for example turning the oven to the right temperature as instructed on the packaging of what we are cooking.

2) To enable us to design on what we think or feel about something someone is saying.

3) To tell yourself, what you think about yourself, for example telling yourself you can’t do something. It’s this third role of the inner voice that creates our self-limiting beliefs.


How to spot a self-limiting belief you are carrying around;

Think of something you want to achieve that you are feeling uncertain about achieving and write down what you are telling yourself. You’ll see the ‘I can’t’ statements you are holding as evidence you ‘can’t do’ whatever it is you wish to achieve.


How do you smash down a self-limiting belief?

The way to remove a self-limiting belief is to review the evidence you have that it is true. Start smashing it down rather than focusing on the fear of failure and strengthening its hold over you. Look at your ‘I can’t do’ statements that you have about achieving your goal and list the evidence you have that these ‘I can’t do’ statements are true. What you’ll notice is when you start looking for evidence that these statements are true, you’ll struggle. You may perhaps find one or maybe two points of evidence, after that it will become harder to find evidence your ‘I can’t do’ statement is true.


This is how to smash down a self-limiting belief, approach it from an evidence, analytical viewpoint rather than an emotional one where you focus on the feeling of fear of failure.

I’ve worked with many clients to smash down their self-limiting beliefs using the evidence testing model and coaching them to keep focusing upon the evidence and revisiting this if the fear of failure takes over again.


My client John came to me looking for a new role post redundancy and had self-limiting beliefs that were attacking his confidence in seeking his next role, which we worked through.


“Cathy enabled me to resolve any self-limiting beliefs – surprising when you understand them ! - and alleviate any self-doubt or misconception regarding opportunities. I was then able to secure the role that was the right fit for me, in an organisation that suited how I work and I haven’t looked back since. Remarkably I won the organisations Talent Programme individual prize in 2017, a non-trivial achievement in one of Europe’s’ biggest IT companies. I can also report that I was recently positioned as Deputy Chief Architect for a major client. I’ve no doubt that using the techniques, approaches and coaching Cathy supplied were significant contributing factors to this success”

John W Whiteway BSc (Hons; 1st class), Deputy Chief Architect for Customer Services, Atos., NS&I Account.


A self-limiting belief is something that can have a firm hold upon you and can be something you carry around for years. In understanding why you create them and taking an evidence based viewpoint to reviewing them, you can smash them out of your way and put your energy into achieving your goal and enjoying the success of doing so.

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