You are your only limit… How we keep limiting ourselves (and tips to stop doing it)

I absolutely love this quote! In a previous article about “changing our mindset”, I briefly talked about the subject, and I wanted to come back onto it, because it was a real breakthrough in my life.

It struck me, that we limit ourselves nearly on the daily. Just the other day, one of my neighbours -a soon to retire nurse- was complaining about her struggle to pay her rent. To give some context; she has been renting her apartment from the same woman for the past 25 years, and her landlady owns 20 other apartments in the area. So, I asked her why she did not ask her landlady to lower her rent, and * she said was that her landlady would never agree. I then asked her what the risk of asking was and what she had to lose by asking.

This kind of behaviour happens every single day and to everyone- yes everyone.

Thousands of ideas pop into our heads daily, but what do we do with them? Yeah, nothing…we just find excuses to ignore them!

The main reason we do this. FEAR

Let us be honest here, we ignore loads of our ideas, because we are terrified of failing. Science tells us that our brains make decisions based on what it already knows and what we have experienced. Therefore, it will naturally hold us back from trying new things and stepping out of our comfort zones.

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition for “comfort zone” is “a situation where one feels at ease or safe”. It is basically just a situation or zone with absolutely no risks. Humans being creatures of habit, we enjoy feeling limited stress and not taking risks. We enjoy being in situations in which we know exactly what is to come and we can therefore plan accordingly.

Hence, if you fail at a specific task, or do badly at something, your mind automatically registers the task as a “no-go” zone for the future. For example, if your first public-talk was an absolute disaster, and that it makes you uncomfortable to think about to this day (true story on my part), it is most likely that you will want to avoid public speaking for the rest of your life, because your brain will attempt to protect you from failure. However, it is important to remember that it is not because you failed once that you will always fail (another true story)

When we were children, we were natural risk-takers, but as we age, we learn about failure, and it starts to hold us back from attempting and achieving new things.  

Although there’s nothing wrong with staying in our comfort zone, originally our brains attempt to protect us, however, to grow we must push ourselves  Although we do need to learn from our past and grow from our mistakes, we can’t let our past negative experiences define us, and limit us in our growth. We must take control of our thoughts in order to transform them into actions.

Self-limiting beliefs are not the truth

Sometime those limiting thoughts can really hold us back. Those limiting thoughts are the small voice in the back of your head, that keep telling us we are not capable of certain things. They are sub-conscious thoughts telling you something that ultimately is not true.

The small voice says thing like:

  • I am not good enough
  • It will never work
  • I am not smart enough
  • I am not good at public-speaking
  • I will never make a good leader
  • I am too old/ young to do this

We all have self-limiting beliefs- that is just the way it is. But whatever you are telling yourself (and I know we can be creative in that area) it is definitely not the truth.

Rewire your brain

How can we stop being overruled by limiting thoughts?

– A great first step is being conscious of them.

When you catch yourself listening to those negative thoughts, try to understand where they are coming from.

If for example you catch yourself thinking that you are not smart enough, well then you should wonder why you are thinking that? Try to pinpoint the event that created that specific belief? You were not born believing that you were not smart, it was an idea that was planted into your brain after a specific event. Was it when you were 10 at school and a kid told you were not smart enough? You must remember that it is just a belief and not a truth set in stone. Try to change your perspective on the specific event, do you really want to shape your life’s actions based on what someone said to you 30 years ago in a playground? Most times you will not even remember where this thought came from, so why should you give it so much importance?

-Secondly replace this belief with a more positive one by saying the opposite statement to your otherwise negative thought. Positive affirmations are so underrated in today’s world; while they are free and do not take much time and can take you quite a long way. Taking the previous example (thinking you are not smart), when you think about it there actually many things you are smart about. You must remind yourself daily about everything that you have accomplished so far as to change that belief and think in a new way. Science has shown that if you express positive affirmations about yourself daily, your brain builds new connections and pathways that reinforce positive thinking.

-Look for evidence! Is what you are thinking true? Let’s say that for example, you are thinking that you are too old to change your career. Look out!  Either you personally know someone who has courageously changed career paths, or if not, just look it up online, as there are plenty of stories about people who have changed career paths. My friend @Karine Kong for example reinvented herself as a photographer after 40 (and she learned to surf!).  The point here is to make you realize that whatever you are thinking (in that example I am too old to do X, Y or Z) is not the truth, but the little voice inside your head that is limiting you.

Whatever the little voice inside your head says, you should just force yourself to go through with the idea and force yourself to do it anyways, because it can only help you learn more and grow.

Every little risk is a step forward

Remember not to trust that little voice when it is telling you that it is not going to work out or that you should not do it. One thing you can try, is to step out of your comfort zone a little bit every day, by for example giving yourself a risk you must achieve every day; Experiment with it, see it working and I can guarantee your world will expand.

Not every little risk will pay off, but every action will teach you something, whether it be towards yet another path or a step in the right direction, a risk can only make you stronger.  The journey is as important as the destination and will often validate whether or not you are going in the right direction. For  example,  my friend @Virginie Audusseau, a long time yoga fan, who had taken the decision to take part in a yoga teaching course, which was cancelled due to COVID-19                volunteered, and gave a group of friends daily yoga lesson sessions. This daily teaching helped her understand that teaching yoga is something that she really enjoys.

In the workplace, leaders, mentors or coaches can also help you unlock some of those limiting thoughts. Do not also hesitate to open up to your friends and to your network, as they will have a different vision of what you are capable of that isn’t clouded by limiting thoughts! On that note, a personal thank you to @Isabelle Planque who has been pushing me to publish this article and has helped me fight my little voice in the back of my head.

Last but not least, one of the important things that can be taken away from pushing yourself, is that it will not only be good for “present” you, but will also be good for “future” you; because, as we grow older, our comfort zones shrink, but by pushing ourselves, our comfort zones expand and this helps with confidence and fear.

So, go on!  Your thoughts create your reality. Next time you hear this negative inner voice, think about re-programming your thoughts. What do you have to lose?

PS: oh, and my neighbour did ask her landlady for a decrease in rent- and it was accepted. So, this just shows that what you thought was impossible is in fact very mush possible, as Audrey Hepburn once said; “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible”.

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