What Is A Self Limiting Belief (and how do I remove them)?

Hundreds of millions of people believe with all their heart that God exists.

Some of the cleverest minds on the planet believe that, as do some more cerebrally challenged amongst us.

Hundreds of millions of people believe with all their heart that God does not exist.

Some of the cleverest minds on the planet believe that, as do some more cerebrally challenged amongst us.

Which group you fall into is largely (although not entirely) an accident of birth.

Make no mistake though, neither is right and neither is wrong. They’re merely beliefs.

There is almost zero correlation between how much you believe something and the likelihood of it being true.

If you cannot accept that then there is little point in you continuing reading this post because you need to be open-minded if you’re going to remove your self limiting beliefs.

What Is A Self Limiting Belief?

It’s important at this stage to separate a belief from a self limiting belief because, even though they obviously can be, they’re not necessarily the same thing.

Not believing in God is unlikely to hold you back in life unless you fancy a career as the next Pontiff.

But thinking you’re not smart enough to apply for a new position you would really love in the company you work for, definitely will hold you back.

Here are some more sensible examples and how we turn a self limiting belief into a fact that we can work with.

(Self Limiting) Belief

  • I’ll not find a partner who loves me
  • I’ll struggle to make a decent living as a Life Coach
  • I’ll never be a popular person
  • I’ll never be able to afford to go to school and get my Masters


  • I haven’t found a partner loves me up until now
  • Making money as a Life Coach could be tougher than I expect, maybe I should do the Coach The Life Coach Course
  • It’s probably going to take a lot of hard work to become as popular as I would like
  • At the moment I need to focus on how I can finance my schooling for the betterment of my future.

You may have noticed that all of the first group are delivered as facts when none of them actually are. They’re opinions, beliefs or assumptions.

Of course the fullness of time and hindsight may prove them to be factual if you don’t do something to change them, but that’s not the same thing.

Statements like the former are unhelpful on two different levels.

The Two Reasons Self Limiting Beliefs Hurt You

Firstly, they all contain a presupposition that nothing will change in the future.

Saying you’re not a popular person leaves no room for maneuver, it is what it is and your screwed and unpopular.

Secondly, when you say something like that to avoid creating cognitive dissonance your brain sorts for evidence to support the belief. It will nearly always remember times when you felt unpopular or disliked whilst ignoring any evidence to the contrary.

Thus you potentially create a self-fulfilling prophesy as you carry on your not so merry way ‘knowing’ you’re unpopular.

A self limiting belief will always be future paced, and by that I mean it will have some element in it that suggests things cannot and will not change.

That may be a subtle presupposition as in the examples above, or it may be something a lot more in your face such as, ‘I’ll never be any good at this’ or’ I could never learn how to do that’.

Unless it’s something you physiologically cannot and will never be able to do, then for the most part treat every belief you have (that holds you back from doing or achieving something that is important to you), as a self limiting belief.

If you take that approach you are much more flexible, much more likely to spot erroneous beliefs masquerading as facts and in a much better position to kick their ass when you spot them.

Not only do you now know the importance of beliefs, but you know that by and large they shape your success.

Just knowing that should be liberating, because if you embrace this information fully you can clearly see that you have the power to change.

So let’s get into real work by explaining the different limiting beliefs and what you can do to remove any you may have.

A ‘Lack Of Knowledge’ Self Limiting Belief

Prior to moving to the US we spent a few days here being shown around homes with a view to buy. What our Realtor failed to ask us was, ‘How much money do you have to put down?’

We were never asked that until we chose a house we liked and sat down with the Mortgage Broker.

At that point we were informed we’d need at least 25% down payment and probably closer to 30% with no US credit history.

With the market peaking and also needing two cars and a whole host of new electrical equipment we didn’t have that kind of spare cash.

So we rented for 18 months and then a further 5 years. My belief at that time was, ‘We’ll never be able to afford to buy a home living in the US’

Then in 2012 I stumbled on some information about Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans that require a much smaller deposit.

We now live in our own home and the belief that I had a has been banished for good.

You would think that this type of belief is easy to remove and in some cases, like my example, it can be.

However, we don’t know what we don’t know. If we lack information about something that we don’t even know exists we’re hardly likely to go looking for it, even if maybe we should.

Another example.

I knew somebody who many years ago was turned down to join London’s Metropolitan Police Force because he was too small.

You may think that is that, end of story, but it wasn’t.

Shortly after because of difficulty hitting their recruiting requirements the UK Police lowered their height requirement.

And voila! Just like that my friend suddenly became tall enough without having to lift a finger.

It’s easy to think we have all the information when often we don’t.

I’ve had clients who have secured scholarships that they didn’t know were available, traveled to countries they thought were closed to US citizens and secured business start up grants they never knew existed.

Think about any belief you have that is holding you back and ask yourself this question:

‘Is there any information that if it became available to me would alter my belief?’

And if the answer is yes, go looking for that information and keep yourself updated on any changes that may occur in the future.


A ‘Hand Me Down’ Self Limiting Belief

A hand me down belief is one that we most often acquire from our parents and/or from school (although in principle they can be acquired from a great many sources including the media, politicians, religious leaders etc).

It’s belief that we adopt either because:

  • It’s replicated so frequently, usually over along period of time that we just presume it’s true
  • It comes from an authority figure such as school teacher, parent, politician etc

These types of belief can often be relatively easy to remove, if the will is there to do so.

And the reason is largely because people don’t realize they have them.

When they do, they can frequently be removed by using a similar process to the lack of knowledge belief.

It’s really easy to think you think something is true simply because you have heard is over and over again.

There are currently millions of people who believe that all the media do is sit around dreaming up fake news to propagate.

And the reason they believe such a thing is because their President is Tweeting it on what seems like a daily basis.

Joseph Goebbels the head of propaganda for Hitler understood that if you deliver a message from a position of power over and over and over again, eventually people come to believe it.

As Human Beings we are awesome at convincing ourselves that the more we hear something the greater likelihood it is that it’s the truth (advertisers and marketers exploit this quirk of human behavior by battering you with messages again and again and again).

Think about all those self development myths that so many people believed (and some still to do) to be true, when in reality they are nonsense.

  • We only use 10% of our brain (nope, we use all 100%)
  • Positive thinking takes the same amount of energy as negative thinking (it depends on what your predisposition is)
  • A leopard can’t change its spots (neuroscience has proven unequivocally that people can change)
  • It takes 30-days to form a habit (nope habits usually take considerably longer than that to form)

I was once told by a school teacher when I asked for advice about going into the 6th Form (the US equivalent would be becoming a Junior as High School).

“Let’s face it Tim, you’re not very academic”

The irony is, and I swear I’m not making this up for comedic effect, I didn’t know what academic meant and had to go and look it up.

When I realized what she was saying I was crushed and decided I was leaving school for good.

I obviously wasn’t intelligent enough (even though she never said that) to go on to do my last two years and then to University.

The reality is I probably wasn’t mature enough to buckle down, but I was most definitely intelligent enough.

For some considerable time I thought I wasn’t very academic, until that is I decided to go to college at a later date and I aced it.

As if by magic, my limiting belief was gone.

Let’s take a look at a couple of other hand me down beliefs and you can see why they are easy to remove if (and it’s a big if), you spot them.

‘Rich people cannot be trusted’

I have a client at the moment who has this belief and I’m very confident I can help him eradicate it because it’s stopping him from becoming wealthy himself.

It’s very common and very wrong.

All you need to do to prove this belief is just that, a belief and not a fact, is to find a wealthy person who is trustworthy.

That’s seldom enough on its own (although it can be), so go looking for more and keep looking until you realize there are as many nice wealthy people as there are nice poor people pro rata.

‘There aren’t enough hours in the day’

I hear this one a lot and it’s total bollocks too because there are exactly the right amount of hours in the day and we all get the same.

Again look for information that contradicts and undermines this belief.

Is there anybody you know or have read about that achieved more in a day than you do?

How did they do it?

Did they have a time machine? Or did they just manage their time really well?

Maybe what you really need is to hire a productivity or time management coach? (not me by the way, I hate that kind of work).

The ‘I’m Not Good Enough’ Self Limiting Belief

This is probably the most common and at the same time, most destructive self limiting belief and probably kills more dreams than all the worlds alarm clocks combined.

It can also be the trickiest to remove because it’s almost always rooted in the deep unconscious and usually no amount of logic can persuade the person that its wrong and that they are worthy and/or good enough.

If you have one, try and build a case of overwhelming contrary evidence.

Look for any and every scrap of information that casts doubt on your belief.

There are occasions when it will be true, but question whether that truth can be challenged.

Is it possible for you to become good enough if you work hard, develop new skills and acquire more information?

Just be honest.

Me saying I’m not good enough at golf to join the PGA Tour is not really a self limiting belief because I almost never play golf and I suck at it when I do.

However, me saying I’m not good enough at public speaking to ever be able to earn 6-figure speaking engagements most definitely would be limiting belief.

Do you have any self limiting beliefs that you think maybe holding you back?

If you do and you want to share them in the comments I’ll do my best to help out.