what often stops you is just...you
This new project is never going to work, I don’t have enough skills, experience, connections, money or time.
How many times, have you heard this from …. well, your inner voice!
Limiting beliefs are always there in our heads, telling us what we can do and we cannot. We seem to have a very strong mental construct about where our abilities can take us and we assess future outcomes based on this construct.
Often is this constructs that dictates what path we choose and what we ‘cannot’ even try. Especially when we are scared, the ‘cannot’ area is wide. That dream life that you have is just so distant and you delay the moment you are going to do exactly what you want to a better time when you have more experience, more connections, more time, fewer worries, etcetera.
The result is that you postpone what really matters to you to a day in the future that never comes. You don’t even give it a shot, as you are convinced it won’t work. Or perhaps you try just a little bit, see that it does not take off any time soon and this immediately confirms your limiting belief.
The issue is that: limiting beliefs are not rational tools that help you improve, and rather it’s a mechanism that only serves to avoid you will feel pain. Is there a chance this won’t work? Better not try it at all, so we don’t suffer if it indeed does not work. Then the mind rationalizes a series of reasons why it makes complete sense this is not going to work. You create an entire narrative that keeps you safe. Of course no attempts, no failures!
But no success also.
Limiting beliefs are an upper limit and mental conditioning we kept building up over the years, most of them probably rooting back to your childhood. For instance, your sense of confidence seems to be shaped predominantly in the first 7 years of life, where you script the way you perceive your self worth and capacity compared to the rest of the world.
Most likely you spent these years with your family or carers. Most likely these people were armed by the best intentions (to keep you the safest possible) and very seldom, were prepared to give you the tools to be confident in yourself and create constructive beliefs about what’s possible. Most likely they had many strong limiting beliefs too.
One of my limiting beliefs was (and in part still is) money. I had always been quite scared secretly by money. Something funny was happening, I would have no problem spending money to buy a present for a friend, but I would feel bad as shit in spending money for myself.
I would be scared of asking money back from a friend, or charge someone for a service I gave, forget about negotiating a higher price! I would count money in my wallet and savings over and over, trying to make sure I always had enough, I always had backups for the rainy days. Money was a terribly scarce resource in my belief system.
It took me probably 25 years of life to figure this out, to understand the likely reasons and now is taking me more years to rescript this belief in a way that helps me.
I root this back to the way my parents manage money. They are both professionals, coming from a middle-class family of hard workers. They broke their asses studying and later working, to move from a smaller city in the south of Italy to Rome.
They are very careful to never take risks, and never tried to create something like a business or an artistic career. Not that this is bad at all, but the result is that they handle money, thinking about it as something incredibly hard to make that can be achieved only after a lot of hours working for someone else.
They split when I was 6, and for most of my teenagers years, I would get slightly less than 20 euros per week from them combined for my weekly expenses. When I used to see my father for lunch almost every Saturday I had to force myself to ask him the 10 euros (not even enough to get inside the afternoon club a few hours later, which pushed me to be a PR, but that’s another story :) ). The times we did not meet, I would not get the 10 euros. I would not ask and I would not receive. The times we had an argument, the first reaction my father had was to cut the money. I somehow connected receiving money from people as a very emotionally heavy thing for which I had to first give something.
Nobody’s fault, but this thing scripted the way I used to see money. Very hard for me to ask for money, very hard for me to think about money as something you can make in abundance.
Same goes for creating something that does not exist yet. Most of my family never thought about this as an option. ‘You have a business idea? Most businesses fail, don’t you see what’s happening all around us? Don’t even try’. ‘You got a creative idea with a friend, you want to dance, make movies, be a music producer in your life? Very few people ever make it, and those who do are only the ones who are born with a talent or lucky. Don’t even try or you will end up without a roof above your head’.
Funny enough my grandfather from my father’s side, was an entrepreneur. At some point in his life, he got kidnapped for a ransom and also got most of his hard earner lands ‘borrowed for the long term’ by the local mafia. It does not take much to think how much pain entrepreneurship brought to the family. Creating any shit is either impossible or brings problems, that was my mantra.
But I remember when I figured out for myself that this was just a limiting belief, and actually, we can do exactly what we want in life. I was 14 and used to go to afternoon clubs every single Saturday of my life. I loved electronic music and I loved dancing. With few mates, we used to try dance moves during the week and then dance ‘tech house’ (yes that was a thing back then in Rome’s clubs!).
One day I saw this guy who was just incredible. He was 10 steps ahead of everyone else, he had incredible style and sense of rhythm and was blending hip hop moves perfectly into house music dance. He was a pleasure to watch the guy and that thing inspired and challenged me and my mates to the next level. We tripled down on training, took Breakdance classes and practiced every time we could outside and inside clubs.
I remember speaking with my father about that guy and how inspiring he was for me. My father candidly pointed out that this guy must have been born super talented, with good body and joints perfect for dancing, and that I was better off spending time doing other things instead of trying to be a good dancer. In his mind I was clearly not a cut for dancing and was never going to be.
But, luckily the rebel I am, said ‘f**k it, I love dancing and shall continue’. Fast forward to one year later, me and my crew become among the top 10 dancers in Rome’s afternoon club scene. One day a major club runs a tournament with all the dancers challenging each other 1:1 in a make-shift stage.
People would vote for the best in each round until one dancer would be selected as first. Long story short, and to my surprise as well, I won the competition!
I was like - holy shit, can I really do what I want? Can I really put efforts in something, even when I start with being crap, and with time get better at it? Perhaps I can become good at some point, and maybe great later on? Of course, I do, even if someone else’s or my limiting beliefs say no. -
And that’s pretty much how I started seeing things in life. I believe that we can all do what we want. Yes, things are not easy, take time and require a lot of failures until they work, but that’s worth every single sweat drop and tear.
And the thing is that these limiting beliefs determine how you approach your vision of life. I have seen many and many times people having a clear dream of their ideal life and then taking actions that can’t be farther away from this very vision. It’s like taking the long panoramic route, instead of going straight for it. In most cases I’ve seen, the mental block that just sidetracks is your limiting beliefs.
I am now much more aware of my limiting beliefs and I treat them as such. I am on my path to break them one by one and fully aware this is going to take a lot of energy and time. But I know that on the other side of these limiting beliefs there is a better mental construct that serves a better version of myself and helps me bring immense value to the world.
I will share some of mine below so that you can perhaps spot similar things in your system and decide whether is worth to rescript them (and I also expose myself so I publicly commit to tackling them). And you, what limiting beliefs do you have?
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Charlie Houpert from Charisma On Command on self-sabotage and limiting beliefs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGYeyHSIbhQ (biological reasons for sabotage, and suggestions for overcoming your upper boundaries, the ‘limiting beliefs’)
"If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance." - Orville Wright (one of the two Wright brothers, the cool dudes who made the first plane fly, when almost everyone else was betting on their failure)
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”
― Henry Ford (the guy who made cars available to everyone)
Challenge: rescript your limiting beliefs
1) Write down all your limiting beliefs. Write them in a place where you can go back over time. The more concise and easy to remember the better. For example, I would write: ‘I cannot write a blog, as I don’t have skills and credentials to write’
2) Pick the top 1 to start off, then you will do the same with the others over time
3) Now write down next to it another chosen belief that serves your chosen direction. Better if you can reinforce it with an example from your experience or for someone else’s. For example I would write: ‘I can write a blog today and create skills and credentials as I keep writing it over time. In fact, I have been writing and I have already improved massively since I started’
4) Whenever you notice that your mind is taken by this limiting belief, accept it for what it is. Then remind yourself of your chosen belief and take action that reflects this, even if your inner chatterbox (or someone around you) says the opposite ;)
And things to remember…
- Things take time, especially when they are not easy and not given to us. Don’t beat yourself up and keep moving
- If you let anyone (your scripted beliefs included) tell you what you can and cannot become, you risk missing out on the life you exactly want and you are wasting your potential
- be bad until you are slightly better, until you are good and then amazing, it’s your mission to create the life you deserve
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And as promised my limiting beliefs:
1. I cannot write a blog, as I don’t have skills and credentials to write -> ‘I can write a blog today and create skills and credentials as I keep writing it over time. In fact, I have been writing and I have already improved massively since I started’
2. If I do less of my job I will make less and not enough money to survive
3. I am too young to have exactly the dream life that I want
… full live list here which I will update from time to time