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Unlearning the Learned: Breaking Down Limiting Beliefs

Photo: Gemma Evans

Throughout our lives, we've picked up on what others are saying around us or directly to us, which has caused all kinds of limiting beliefs to form in our minds.

What are limiting beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are things you believe to be true that limit you or hold you back in some kind of way.

These beliefs may:

  • hamper your ability to see your own gifts

  • prevent you from making changes in your life

  • keep you from seeing all the opportunities presented to you every day

  • make you stay stuck in a negative headspace, where you see the negatives in situations more so than the positives

In a nutshell, they hold you back from your dreams. They limit you from becoming the highest version of yourself.

Limiting beliefs mostly begin to form at a young age. When we are children, our brains are like sponges. We soak up all the interactions around us – what our parents, other family members, teachers, the media, and our society have told us and each other.

When our brains are still developing as children, we take in limiting beliefs from our immediate environment and we are unable to differentiate between what is true and what is not.

Here's a breakdown...

A situation occurs in childhood, interpretation about the situation is made based on the opinion of what others say around us, which then leads to us forming a meaning of it in our minds, which then leads to a thought. This perception sticks with us whether it's true or not, and when similar situations keep occurring throughout our lives, it forms a solid belief. We then repeatedly tell ourselves the same story (experience the same perception and have the same thoughts) when in future situations.

Examples of limiting beliefs

Limiting beliefs include but are not limited to:

  • "I am not ______ enough" (i.e. skilled, smart, rich, healthy, good looking, etc.)

  • "I will never have enough ______" (i.e. money, experience, time, etc.)

  • "There are too many people already doing that already, I won't make a difference."

  • "What are the chances I'll get lucky enough to attain that? Why bother trying?"

  • "It must be nice for them to have a lot of money. I'll never experience that."

  • "It's greedy to want more money."

  • "People think I am ______. Maybe they're right." (inexperienced, too old to start, etc.)

  • "I don't want people to think I am ______." (crazy, stupid, weird, unrealistic)

  • "I can't handle this."

  • "I'm not healthy enough. I'll never get better."

We all have limiting beliefs, no matter what they may be. You may even feel like you experience more negative thoughts and beliefs than positive ones, and that the negative ones have more impact on you and your life.

But why are we so hardwired for negativity?

Well, research shows that we have a negativity bias. We pay more attention to negative events and thoughts more so than positive ones. We even tend to make decisions based on negative information more than positive information. It's the “bad things” that grab our attention, stick to our memories, and influence the decisions we make.

According to psychology teacher and author, Kendra Cherry from, our tendency to pay more attention to bad things and overlook good things is likely a result of evolution. Earlier in human history, paying attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world was literally a matter of life and death. "Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive."

But that makes sense when we're fending for safety, shelter, food, and the things we need to survive if we were to be living out in the wild. But unfortunately, our brain stores all of our worrying experiences, limiting beliefs, and negative thoughts in the same category. It's hard for our brains to differentiate between all of this information. A perfect example is the fight or flight response. Our brain turns that on when we are being chased by a bear, but it also turns it on when we have anxiety or experience stress from work, relationships, etc.

So, it's literally easier for our brains to believe our limiting beliefs and give them more weight.

How can we transform our limiting beliefs?

It first begins with awareness. Acknowledge them for what they are and understand that your beliefs are not facts. It helps to practice mindfulness and being present, so that you can see your current experience and respective thoughts for what they are.

Following this, you need to practice untangling these beliefs and unlearning & replacing the ones that are holding you back. Work on replacing your negative thought patterns and limiting beliefs with positive ones. Thoughts quickly pop into your mind, but if you're present, you can catch them and tell yourself a new story.

Two other ways to rewrite your story are by:

  1. practicing gratitude every day

  2. practicing affirmations every day

I tell my clients to keep a journal and upon waking, write down 3 things you're grateful for and 3 affirmations for that day. This helps re-wire your brain to see the good in your life and allows you to operate in a more positive, abundance-oriented headspace. It also helps you be more resilient to negative thoughts and limiting beliefs.

Here are some examples:


"Today I am grateful for..."

  • quiet mornings sitting on the porch with a book

  • my body's ability to heal

  • the opportunity to live in a place where I can connect with nature


"I am..."

  • able to attract financial abundance into my life

  • able to release judgments from other people

  • confident and comfortable in my own skin

It takes about 21 days for your body to begin dissolving a habit. Start by trying these exercises for a month and see how much of an incredible impact it has on your mindset!

Love and light,



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