Explore what life could be like once you let go of the protection of limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs serve the purpose of protecting us. We tell ourselves that we cannot do this and become that. Once we’ve shut the doors to these possibilities, we feel more comfortable. In fact we FEEL SAFE. When we indulge in limiting beliefs we’re proving to ourselves that we’re still operating in survival mode. If we suddenly opened the doors to POSSIBILITY, not feeling the need to define ourselves by what we think we cannot do or be, then life suddenly becomes very unpredictable. It becomes dangerous because we risk getting hurt.
That’s why many of us prefer not to open these doors, to get rid of the lables that have been defining us: it’s simply too frightening. And as I said, it’s a sign that we’re still coming from a space where survival is key. When we as human beings were still running around in the jungle or living in caves, limiting beliefs were what kept us safe. We developed these beliefs so that we wouldn’t come to PHYSICAL harm by believing that we could fight and kill that sabre-toothed tiger on our own. Today, there’s no longer question of killing wild animals, but some of us still carry around with us these once useful beliefs. But as in Western societies we’ve become PHYSICALLY safe, we’ve transposed this to to the domain of our feelings, our psyche, where of course it’s got no place.
Because in life, there’s no way of protecting yourself from hurt. If you live, you will get hurt. Hopefully not all the time, but some of the time. So some of us choose not to live so that we won’t get hurt, and we do this in more subtle ways than by committing suicide. Let me just talk of 3 ways in which most of us attempt to protect ourselves. The reason I find it so important to stop protecting yourself is that these coping mechanisms prevent you from being who you are. Think of it; if you’re in protection mode then you’re not in living fully mode, are you? You are fearful instead of being joyful. If you’re still not convinced, think of a little child. Think of a frightened little child. Is this child up and running? Is it playing? Is it engaging with life? Not likely. It’s making itself small, it’s being passive, it’s sitting in a corner, trying not to get noticed. When you think of a joyful child, can you imagine what it’s doing? It’s very likely playing, laughing, interacting with its environment and so it should be. So it should be for you. What about you? Which of these children are you?
Most likely, you’re somewhere in between, neither totally frightened nor ecstactically joyful. But let me convince you that the more you move towards ecstatically joyful, the more you’ll be showing up in life, showing up as the wonderful person that you are. Now, please don’t be frightened. Getting rid of your coping mechanisms doesn’t mean that you have to do and be everything that’s possible. It just means that YOU GET TO CHOOSE. Remember, you’ve opened the door to possibility; it doesn’t mean that you have to go through it. But at least you’ll have the possibility.
I mentioned 3 coping mechanisms. Let me explain the first one here. It’s perhaps the least obvious, but I think it’s so pervasive in our society. It’s protecting yourself from disappointment. Nobody likes being disappointed but it’s inevitable. You can’t go through life without EVER feeling a tinge of disappointment, can you? I could say a lot about how some parents bring up their children so that they won’t ever get disappointed, but let me not go there. Suffice it to say that instead of wishing never to be disappointed, it would be so much more useful to learn how to bounce back from disappointment. When you know that you can deal with it, well then there’s no reason to fear it, is there? When you’re protecting yourself from disappointment it might mean that you don’t go for that job interview, you don’t ask for that promotion, because where’s the point? You might not get it and then where would you be? You can still hear your parents upbraiding you for being lazy, so this promotion probably means that you’ll have to work harder than you know how to, so better just give up before getting you into deep waters. You might be fantasizing about your dream home but what good could come of asking your bank for a mortgage? They might refuse you and you might not be able to pay it off and… and… then what? As well as bringing up the control freak in you, it’s preventing you from enjoying the benefits of a job and home you enjoy. It’s keeping you sitting in a corner saying something along the lines of: “Well, I’m safe in my corner and it’s really not that bad. At least I’m not being hurt.”
Maybe you don’t think that a dream home or job are enough to get you out of your corner but this also happens with your feelings: you don’t dare to ask somebody out because they might say no and then you’d be… disappointed. You might not dare loving wholeheartedly because this person might not love you back! In fact, they might first love you a little, the way you love them, and then leave you, because this is what happnes, isn’t it, when we don’t love fully. People fall out of love with us because we’re not fully there. Even when we love fully, there’s no guarantee that we’ll be loved back. There’s no guarantee that this person will go on loving us and there’s no guaratee that they won’t die tomorrow! There’s just no controlling other people nor destiny. So much for not wanting to be disappointed. You’d have to be able to control the entire universe never to be disappointed!
When you stop protecting yourself from disappointment, you can allow yourself to get excited about something. You can get excited about starting your own business, moving, making new friends, taking up a new hobby or… falling in love. All this opens you up to feelings of joy and happiness, feelings that you cannot experience from the corner of the room where you’re protecting yourself. Telling yourself that you’ll never meet your ideal partner because this only happens to other people, telling yourself that only other people get fantastic promotions are both limiting beliefs and they serve the purpose of keeping you in a role where you’re not showing up as yourself.
The second coping mechanism I want to talk about is perfectionism. Now some people find it difficult to let go of perfectionism because it’s defined them all their lives; they live by it, it’s how they see their world: things are either perfect or total rubbish. It’s a black or white worldview. Sounds familiar? Especially when it comes to yourself, what you are and what you do. Again, perfectionism is protecting you from being hurt! Don’t be hard on yourself; you’re only trying to protect yourself. But again I have to say that this is utopian. Perfection is not of this world: if you think you achieve it one day, you’re sure to lose it the next With perfectionism, you’re protecting yourself from criticism, from judgement, from blame and shame. If you’re doing everything perfectly then nobody can criticise it, can they? If you’re looking perfect, being perfect, then who can judge you? If you never do anything wrong because you’re perfect, then nobody can blame and shame you. The only snag here is that perfection is an impossible standard to live up to, so you’re setting yourself up for failure.
The limiting belief here is that you cannot do something unless you do it perfectly. You cannot be imperfect, because that is just unacceptable. To you. But not to us. Not to the people who care about you. They care about the imperfect you, the you they’d like to see more of. The you who feels free to do things imperfectly, but to do them wholeheartedly, without any protection. The you who dares risking failure, criticism and judgement, because things didn’t turn out the way you planned. It’s tough, but if you open up to doing things imperfectly, then you’re likely to achieve so much more. No perfectionist ever published a book, started a business, lived wholeheartedly, because it would be too risky: it might not be perfect (or it most likely wouldn’t)! And if ever they pushed themselves to engage in life in one of these ways, the might be disappointed, because it might not be perfect! Back to square one!!!
Last but not least, the third coping mechanism that most of us engage in is some sort ofaddictive behaviour. We all do it at times, but what would be helpful is to recognise it for what it is: addiction. When you watch television for 4 hours in the evening instead of talking to your family, then that is avoidance. If you’re on social media and annoyed that you have to get off it because your husband is home, then that’s addiction. When you prefer to spend all your weekends working instead of playing and exploring then that’s problematic for your mental and probably physical health. But then why do we all do it? We’re protecting ourselves! We somehow believe that we NEED to watch television to relax, we NEED to find out what so and so says on Twitter to keep up, we NEED to get that report done before Monday otherwise you’ll get fired! You might, but then this can’t be true for every weekend, can it? So it’s a question of degree, the degree to which we indulge in our addiction
When you eat one piece of chocolate, then that’s pleasure, it’s comfort, but when you feel the need to shove a whole chocolate bar into your mouth, then you can no longer call it pleasure. If you like watching an hour of your favourite television series then that’s still pleasure: you come out of the experience feeling good. When you binge watch your Sunday away, then you come out of it feeling bad. So some good questions to ask yourself would be: “Why am I doing this? What am I avoiding? What am I protecting myself from? What is this preventing me from doing?”
Chances are that an addictive behaviour is preventing you from, guess what….. engaging in a more meaningful activity! Because that meaningful activity frightens you, or just the idea of having to create something scares you. You feel safer on your sofa watching television than putting yourself out there, than risking getting hurt from showing up in life. So you limit yourself to the small world of your sofa, feeling that at least there you are safe, there you are in control.
But as I said in the beginning, you can’t avoid getting hurt in life, it’s part and parcel of the human experience. I’m not suggestion that you should stop watching television, that you should stop eating chocolate or that you should stop work! It’s just a question of why you’re doing it. And of what you could be doing instead. I hope that I’ve convinced you that it serves no purpose to protect yourself from being hurt, criticised or judged, so if you’re with me on that, let’s have a look at what would happen if you allowed yourself to get hurt in order to reap all the benefits of showing up in your life as the person that you are.
Imagine yourself and your life with nothing holding you back. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Wouldn’t you just love it? Or would you? The truth is that we sometimes let ourselves be limited by what we think we deserve. Once you allow yourself to imagine what your best life would look like, once you open the door to possibility, become aware of it, cultivate it, there’s no controlling it. Because only the sky is the limit. The limit is no longer your beliefs. Some prefer to sit and meditate on that and as much as I like meditating, it’s not enough. You need to take action. It’s when you align your feelings, thoughts and your action that powerful things can happen. But they can’t happen if you’re sitting on your sofa.
It’s like being in a car. I don’t know if you’re a driver, but if you get in a car and just sit there, nothing much is going to happen unless that is if somebody runs into you! Which is what will happen if you sit there long enough and the car is stopped on a busy street. If you want to take your car somewhere, you’d have to get it into gear and to drive off. You could call for a lift truck to get you out of there, but it really works out better if you just turn on the engine, put the car in gear and drive off. Chances are that somebody will bump into you, make a dent in your car. This is unavoidable if you drive long enough, but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop driving. Hang in there and start to think about where it is you want to be going. When you find out, head in that direction. You have to take the bumps in the road, they won’t go away just because it’s you driving, but your car is equipped to deal with the bumps, it can take it and so can you.
Try it out. Show up fully in your life. Engage with it. Let go of your limiting beliefs little by little. Let go of control even. It’s so much more fun. What you thought of as protection earlier, isn’t really any. What use is chocolate when your husband has left you? How can work be a substitute for human connection? If you want to experience the joyful feelings in life, you have to be prepared to also feel some of the less desirable feelings. They might hurt for a while, but you’ll survive. So get out of survival mode and switch to living life to the full mode. I highly recommend it.