4 Types of Limiting Beliefs that Cripple Your Growth

When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Roland, grabbed me by the arm and said, “Come with me.”

4 types of limiting beliefs

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We marched to the principal’s office. The one minute it took to get there seemed like an hour. The whole time I just knew that I was in trouble. After all, I’d spent much of my youth either in detention or being punished in some way for something I’d done in school.

As we walked into the principal’s office, something remarkable happened…

Instead of what I expected, Mrs. Roland asked the principal for permission to put me into Honors English.

The principal agreed and I began a new chapter in my life. Literally, everything changed that day.

I began to take school seriously. I began to study more. I began to respect my teachers. I began to believe in myself, my teachers, and believe that the world wasn’t as against me as I once thought.

I stopped spending time in detention. The next year, I went to a magnet school. In high school, I took every Honors or Advanced Placement class that there was. I began to think that I was actually smart.

Limiting Beliefs

As I thought back on that day in my life, I realized that prior to that one event, my limiting beliefs were crippling my growth.

I saw myself in a limiting way. I saw others (particularly teachers) in a limiting way. I saw the world in a limiting way.

These thoughts then occurred to me:

How am I still holding on to limiting beliefs today?

How many others are struggling with these beliefs?

These beliefs that held me back all those years only existed in my mind. Mrs. Roland didn’t believe what I believed about myself. And yet, I acted as if the beliefs were completely true.

The same is true for you. The limiting beliefs you have only exist in your mind. They aren’t true. That’s why I want to share with you the four types of limiting beliefs that held me back and might be holding you back too.

Bonus Content: Overcoming limiting beliefs is easy when you know how. That’s why I created a FREE step-by-step guide to show you how to destroy your limiting beliefs. Look for this free worksheet at the end of this post or Click Here to Get it Now!

4 Types of Limiting Beliefs

1. Beliefs about yourself.

I moved 13 times in 14 years. I grew up in a trailer park. My dad left us when I was two. All of these things meant I wasn’t wanted. I wasn’t stable. I wasn’t good enough.

Later in life, these same thoughts were worded differently but meant the same thing. I don’t have the right contacts. I don’t have enough money to start something. I can’t settle down.

None of those are true. They don’t define me or dictate what level of success I can have. But that is the story I told myself, over and over again.

Your limiting beliefs about yourself might sound like this:

  • “I’ve always been overweight. It’s just who I am.”
  • “I can’t control it. It runs in my family.”
  • “I’m Irish. What can I do? We have bad tempers.”
  • “My whole family is poor. At least I’m better off than the rest of them.”
  • “I was never good at art or music. I’m just not a creative person.”

2. Beliefs about other people.

Years ago, a guy worked for me that I thought was lazy. He didn’t get excited as I did about important projects and he didn’t react the same way I did during an emergency (namely, he didn’t go crazy). He was calm, cool, and collected. And it made him appear lazy (to me).

The reality is that he was actually very passionate about his work. He was just calmer and more apt to think through things. He wasn’t comfortable expressing emotion in a work setting.

After a few months of getting to know him, I actually grew to like him very much. We became good friends and he became a trusted leader in our company.

If not for overcoming that limiting belief about him, I would not have found that we had so much in common. I would have one less friend today. My limiting belief literally almost cost my a friendship.

Your limiting beliefs about other people might sound like this:

  • “My boss never listens. There’s no use sharing my idea with him.”
  • “She’d never go out with me. She is too attractive.”
  • “Dad is too emotionally detached. There’s no use trying to share my feelings.”
  • “He’s just an artist. What would he know about business?”
  • “She has four kids. She could never lead the company.”

3. Beliefs about groups.

Quite frankly, I’m ashamed of what I am about to share with you, but I believe that it illustrates how beliefs about groups can be dangerous.

Years ago, I hired a female salesperson. She turned out to be the single worst employee I’ve ever hired. She was unfocused, unorganized, and unable to close the deal. Time after time, deals fell through and it was costing me money.

Here’s the lie I told myself as a result: Women don’t belong in sales.

For the next four years, I continued to believe that lie. I refused to hire female salespeople.

Only when I stopped playing a direct role in hiring salespeople did my company hire a woman. She turned out to be one of our best salespeople. My belief was busted.

As I wrote above, I’m not proud that I once felt that way. The lesson I learned is that anytime we apply a false belief about a group of people to an individual, we risk missing out on something great. I’m convinced that I missed out on many great saleswomen during those lost years.

Your limiting beliefs about groups might sound like this:

  • “Men are always impatient.”
  • “Wealthy children are always lazy.”
  • “Women are too emotional to be leaders in this industry.”
  • “Corporate CEOs are always greedy.”
  • “He’s from the south. He must love sweet tea.” (Sorry, I just had to debunk that one…I don’t like syrup on pancakes let alone in a cup)

4. Beliefs about the world at large.

I made the mistake of listening to the news recently (I rarely do) and heard a twenty-something say this:

“With unemployment so high, it’s just hard for me to find a job. I graduated just as the recession started.”

He was basing his own ability to find a job on the national economy. Have you ever allowed the global economy to affect you like this? Or perhaps you hear about a terrible situation overseas and think, “here we go, the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” I know that I have.

The reality is, though, that the economy is great for some people. Some business have thrived in the past five years. Personally, the past three years have been the best three years of my life financially. Our beliefs about the world at large must not influence our beliefs about our abilities.

Your limiting beliefs about the world at large might sound like this:

  • “The only way to get ahead is to cheat.”
  • “It’s impossible to find good workers here.”
  • “Our government makes it impossible to succeed.”
  • “The little man never has a chance.”

Beliefs >> Lies >> Excuses

Beliefs as a rule aren’t a bad thing. In fact, even the stereotypes you think are always bad can be a good thing (Why Stereotypes Aren’t Always Bad).

Beliefs only become a problem when they become lies which become excuses. Excuses to get in trouble at school, excuses to not exercise, excuses to not hire women, excuses not to talk to your boss, excuses not to look for a job.

The good news is that you get to choose. Which beliefs are you going to keep and which ones are you going to get rid of?

What limiting belief is crippling you?

Destroy Limiting Beliefs

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  • Steve Daniel

    First of all, we’ll forgive you for not liking sweet tea (I love it as long as it’s not too sweet).
    Most of my childhood was predisposed that I would be in detention (before and after school), that I would never do my work (a belief totally shattered in 12th grade as I did a year and a half of school work and graduated by Christmas), and that as a pastors kid I was trouble. The truth was found out by about 4 teachers in my entire school life, my parents, and since I graduated, by most of my bosses.
    Once I went to work, turns out that all of those beliefs were made based on a behavior that was created simply because I was bored. The classes couldn’t keep up with me and most teachers couldn’t figure that out or at least they did nothing to rectify the situation. At 19 I went to work for my first national company and my talents and abilities exploded. I was quick to learn and eager to take on more than the rest. My manager saw something in me and started early pushing me into management. In fact the second week I was there, he called me into his office and asked me where I saw myself with the company in 5 years. I said behind your desk. He didn’t fire me surprisingly.
    If we push past what some people think (even mangers, friends, and family can have the wrong ideas about us) and get down to what we can do and are good at, we can change people’s minds and attitudes about us. It is hard sometimes, but sometimes it’s just a matter of doing it. The first thing you have to realize is that the only one that can truly hold you back, is yourself. Once you do that, then treat others the same way, they may very well surprise you and even if they don’t you should at least give them the chance.

    • Well said Steve. Love what you said here:

      “If we push past what some people think and get down to what we can do and are good at, we can change people’s minds and attitudes about us.”

      So true…if you resolve to not listen to their voices and instead SHOW them what you can do (like David in the Bible) you will change their minds…or prove them to be completely unreasonable.

  • great post Matt! Yea man your post is like a mirror into my life. Trailer park to daddy leaving at age 4 for me.

    What still limits me at times, is crap that goes on in my head about needing to prove my self to others. And as always, my bride needs to keep reminding me that I don’t need too. So I limit me self. And that is hard for a out of the box thinker to say that. -Cheers

    • You have a smart wife Steve…but you already knew that didn’t you?

  • My name isn’t Steve – is it okay if I comment today? 😎

    Random responses:
    1. Sometimes I think I must be awful at business because I am an artist. Then I remember that I am EARNING A LIVING as an artist in the 3rd least educated and 13th poorest county (out of 58) in California!
    2. Wow, you admitted that you lumped all women together?? That was brave!
    3. When I visited No. Carolina a few years ago, I tried sweet tea. Made my teeth hum!
    4. Any advice on how to discover our own limiting beliefs?

    • Hey Jana.

      On #1 – I see the positive side…no one else is trying to reach your audience there. You have a monopoly. New way to look at it.

      To answer your 4th question, grab the download. One of the ways to find these is to focus on specific failures or milestone moments. Then figure out what held you back from hitting your full potential. Those are your limiting beliefs. It will take years to find them all, maybe decades, but do it enough and you’ll find 90%+ in a few months.

  • Enjoyed this, Matt. From my experience, two great things to help smash up self-limiting beliefs are:

    1. Travel. When you travel and explore new continents and new worlds, the horizons in your mind roll back and vast new lands are opened up before your wondering eyes.
    2. “Walk a mile in their shoes.” I have at various points points in my life been a cleaner, a valeter, a delivery driver, a forktruck driver, a warehouse assistant, a retail store shelf stacker, a face-to-face salesperson, a telephone sales person, a customer service rep, a administration manager, a partner, a project manager, an event organiser, a marketing manager, and more. Like you, I have found that being forced to adapt regularly is actually a huge benefit – and it is a most humbling experience, too.

    Volunteering with a charity to do something practical [ideally, something that you’ve not done before] will grow you enormously as a person and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to get ahead in life.

    – Rick Siderfin http://www.WingsToSuccess.com

    • I love all of those Rick!

      Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is powerful. That’s how I learned sales…I had to do it and I did it…really well. I learned I was good at something I always feared.

  • I need to believe that I can become successful with my own business! I’m working on my mindset.

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