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Do Limiting Beliefs Exist? Kind of—and Here’s Why I Think That

Core beliefs are never really “limiting.” They’re just protective in some ways and restrictive in others. This new model of examining internal beliefs takes the stigma and shame away from the term “limiting belief.”

Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with the wording, this phrase can be used to shame us for having those beliefs…and that’s really counterproductive to healing from abuse. Thinking about these as “limiting beliefs” may add pressure to get rid of them as fast as possible, rather than examining how core beliefs may have been essential for our survival (and may still be). 

So, I’m offering this new framework I came up a couple months ago (during a nap, of all things)! It’s radically changed how I view my mind, especially when shaming thoughts come up. I’d love to know if this resonates with you too. 

Video transcript (slightly edited for clarity)

Hello! My name is Calion and I’m going to be talking about this new way to look at core beliefs today. So, raise your hand if you’ve heard the term ‘limiting belief.’ I definitely have! I work in peer support, mental health, and self-help work…so limiting belief is probably one of the biggest terms that I see around. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. So I do want to clarify that. But at the same time the term ‘limiting belief’ can also be a little limiting.

Basically it kind of pushes us to throw beliefs into one of two categories, which can be really problematic for those of us who are survivors of abuse. Because beliefs have such important and nuanced roles in our lives. And I mean they do for everyone! But that’s even more pronounced when we’ve survived abuse.

“The term limiting belief kind of implies that we should just throw the belief out.”

And that may not be what we actually want to do, because that might not be what’s best for us in that moment.

So one of the things that I was thinking about a couple months ago was this idea that beliefs do two things. They both protect us and they restrict us. And I believe that pretty much every belief does both of these to a certain extent.

“Here’s an example for the belief, ‘Everyone is going to hurt me.'”

First of all, it tries to protect us from being hurt again, right? So it cautions us away from the things that have hurt us in the past. In this case, people, right? If you’re a survivor of abuse, people have hurt you. So maybe that belief formed to protect you from being hurt by other people. 

It makes sense.

Of course, it also restricts us by limiting the connections that we can make, reducing trust that we have and people that we should feel a sense of trust towards, and creating a sense of chronic anxiety. Or difficulty going outside or interacting with people or things like that. So it protects us by helping us avoid harm and it restricts us by limiting the opportunities that we have to make connections.

“Here’s another example: ‘I am worthy of love.'”

It has a great sense of protection, which is protecting your heart and your well-being, helping you feel like you’re worthy of things and really being a great emotional protector, right? It gives all those good feelings.

But restriction could come up in something like confusion after a breakup. If the belief “I am worthy of love” comes up then, then you might be in this state of, “Well then why did they break up with me? I thought that I was worthy of love.” And that can create a little bit of cognitive dissonance within you, as well.

So basically it adds a little bit of restriction in terms of how you might respond to certain situations rather than being able to see them in this sort of objective way of, “Well maybe you just weren’t compatible anymore. Or maybe they decided to walk away for this reason or that reason.” Or things like that that aren’t connected to that belief. So even this objectively very good belief might have some ways that it restricts you.

“Restriction is not always a bad thing!”

And that’s my issue with the term ‘limiting belief’ is that it’s saying, “Oh this limits you, so it has to go. It has to be gone, we have to get rid of it. And I don’t think that that’s true. I think every single belief, or at least everyone that I’ve explored, there may be some exceptions. Every single belief basically has some elements of limit and restriction to it. 

And that’s not a bad thing! That’s just how our beliefs go. Basically beliefs are guidelines. They’re ways that we see this world, right? So of course, just like any rule or guideline, they have limits inherently associated to them.

When it comes to the protective side of beliefs, this is basically acknowledging that all of our beliefs form for a reason. They might not always be the most objectively logical reason, but basically they were something that we needed to adopt, something that we needed to cling on to, in order to survive our reality. That could have been our very young childhood reality of making sense of the world when things were really confusing. Maybe people were hurting us or we were bullied or things like that. Or there were oppressive factors. The beliefs that we form about ourselves as we create our identities and all of these sort of things.

“Basically pretty much every belief comes from some sort of reason.”

It basically tries to make sense of the world that we live in or protect us from harm in that world. 

So I want to challenge you to try looking at your beliefs beyond the lens of, “This one’s helpful and this one’s limiting.” I want you to ask yourself, “In what ways is this belief protective and in what ways is this belief restrictive?” And do a really honest examination of that.

Basically you can think of it kind of like this sliding scale, right? So this belief might be a lot more protective and a little bit restrictive, and this one might be very restrictive and not very protective. When you’re looking at beliefs like that, it makes it a lot easier to see, “Okay this belief I want to change, because it’s more restrictive and it’s not really helping me that much.”

So basically you’re no longer judging yourself for the beliefs and you’re no longer saying, “Oh this one’s limiting, it should be gone. I shouldn’t have that.” And you’re just saying, “Oh, this one’s more restricting and it’s trying to protect me in this way, but the way that it’s doing that is not really serving me.” 

“Also that gives you a great key piece of information on how to form a new belief around that.”

You already know how it’s trying to protect you, so now you just need a belief that replaces that old one that’s more restricting. This belief does the same or a similar sort of protection and it doesn’t have as many of those restrictions. This is also great because it allows you to not necessarily have to push all the way towards a super positive-sounding belief.

Rather, you can just sort of slowly work on dropping those restrictions and increasing those protections. And if you look at your beliefs like that, it makes the whole journey a lot less focused on pressure and the need to sort of just jump into, “Okay now I don’t have any limiting beliefs.” 

Because that’s not rational. Instead we can just think about, “How can I reduce the limits that the beliefs have on my life? How can I reduce the restrictions that those beliefs have?” And doesn’t that feel a lot more refreshing? Doesn’t that feel a lot more freeing and a lot more doable, especially as a survivor of abuse?

“Well I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on it!”

Do you think that this new model this new exploration around beliefs is a lot more helpful or do you think that it’s something that doesn’t really vibe with you? Honestly I’m open to all and every opinion on this and I would love to have this form a discussion. Because obviously sometimes this is going to resonate with some people, sometimes it’s not for others. If you like the idea of limiting beliefs and that sort of clear cut, “This one’s good, this one’s bad,” then go for that if that’s what serves you! 

Lastly, if you like this video please give it a like and subscribe to my channel. I talk a lot about abuse recovery and mental health, but in a way that kind of steps outside of the norm. I’m not just talking about symptom recovery techniques and things like that.

Although, I do have some videos on that sort of subject, but really I’m focusing on that deep dive, on that exploration into the idea of, well, what is trauma recovery really like from someone who’s been in the thick of it, who’s faced a lot of that pain and who still carries that pain from day to day. Also I have a bunch of resources right in the description below, so go ahead and check those out! I have everything from eCourses, to other blogs, to a facebook community, and a lot of other social media platforms where I talk more in depth about a lot of this stuff. So go ahead and leave your thoughts! Give this a like and subscribe to my channel.

And I hope that you have an absolutely wonderful day!

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