Run beyond the boundaries: Changing the self-limiting beliefs

Last time I suggested that you reflect on the self-limiting beliefs (SLBs) if you would like to make better use of your potential to reach your ideal-self and your dreams. If you have a list of these SLBs that have been blocking you in getting where you would like to be, here are the next steps.

Step 1: Figure out the hidden benefits of the SLBs.
Last time I mentioned that these beliefs have been there because they serve some purpose – so what are the hidden benefits they’ve been providing you with? In other words what are the advantages of holding each of the SLBs? For example, if the SLB is “I am not confident enough”, some of the hidden benefits might be, you don’t take action that might carry the risk of failure or rejection – so you don’t need to cope with failure and rejection, pretty big benefit!

Once you have the benefits listed, also make a list of the costs of holding those beliefs. This should be easier since it was probably part of discovering the SLBs themselves.

Step 2: Flip the belief and look for evidence to support the new version.
Flip it: “I am confident”; evidence: “I did present the product idea to my boss this morning”; “I did hold my ground in answering questions”; “I did take action even though I felt some anxiety” etc… This is a great way of challenging the SLBs.

Step 3: Pick one!
Ask yourself which belief you want to stick with (i.e., “I am not confident” or “I am confident”) which one do you like better, which one do you want: the SLB or the opposite?

Step 4: Use confirmation bias
Consciously set the confirmation bias (see the post on 2009-02-09) into action – be the best lawyer you could be to look for evidence in support of this belief. While at it, make sure to overlook conflicting information along the way. This might feel unnatural at first but when you think about it, it is actually something we are experts at (hint: Remember all the times you previously failed to notice how you were being confident?)! But very important point is to be consistent and intentional in doing this. Beliefs take time to change, therefore it is crucial to stick with process and keep a track of the benefits you’re getting from holding that belief (journaling might be a good idea).

Supports & tips along the way

  • One thing that would support you along the way would be using self-affirmation. Numerous studies have shown that reflecting upon positive aspects of oneself replenishes resources to exert self-control. And believe me, replacing SLBs with new beliefs requires quite a bit of self-control! Self-affirmations could be thinking or writing about your core values and things you are competent at, or they could be doing things, even small ones, in line with your values.
  • In line with the above point, because self-control is a limited resource don’t try to attempt changing too many beliefs at a time (more on this in a later post).
  • Similar to any task that requires effort, one of your best bets would be to rely on social support. Share your commitment in changing your SLBs with someone whom you know will support you. This helps in three ways. First, it means more accountability to change the beliefs; secondly, another person can help you to do your reality check by being more objective; and lastly, their positive feedback will have similar benefits as self-affirmation.

Enjoy running beyond those self-imposed boundaries and opening up more possibilities for yourself!

Schmeichel, Brandon J.; Vohs, Kathleen (2009). Self-affirmation and self-control: Affirming core values counteracts ego depletion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 96(4), 770-782.

Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 261-302). New York: Academic Press.

This entry was posted in Confirmation bias, Ideal self, self-control, Self-limiting beliefs, self-regulation, social support. Bookmark the permalink.

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