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As children, we go from knowing ourselves as a field of infinite possibilities to a more limited identity. This limited, or conditioned, identity comes from outside of us. Instead of knowing ourselves from the inside, we begin to internalize our outer experiences and create a limited identity. We create stories about ourselves around these limitations and take them to be true. We shift from thinking “anything is possible” and “I can do anything” to “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good enough.” These beliefs can then limit our potential in life.
So why do we have limiting beliefs? Well, believe it or not, they usually come from a need for emotional safety, to receive affection and be accepted in our relationships. From the moment we’re born, our ego mind is taking in our experiences and evaluating whether they’re considered ‘safe’ or ‘threatening.’ That’s the job of the ego, to keep us safe. And just like the body has mechanisms for survival to keep us safe from physical harm, so too does the ego mind have mechanisms to keep us safe from potential emotional harm.
When there is an experience that can potentially hinder us from receiving our basic emotional needs - attention, affection, appreciation and acceptance - the ego will always trigger a warning that we may not be safe. But if we can reflect upon the warning and question it, we don’t have to take it to be the ultimate truth.
Let’s look at an example: When we’re young and we try something new, like singing out loud, we can have varying responses from others, sometimes we hear “you’re singing off tune” or “you’re not a good singer.” As a child, it’s easy for the ego mind to interpret that to mean “I don’t accept you,” or “I don’t love you.” As children, we can’t analyze and reflect, we just feel unaccepted so we stop singing or we believe we can’t sing, and we take that to be the truth.
As we become adults, this can become a limiting belief that can expand into ‘I’m not good enough to do this’ or ‘I shouldn’t try things unless I can do them perfectly.’ You can see how this begins to limit your potential in life.
Harnessing Your Potential
As adults, part of our emotional and spiritual evolution is to reconnect to the potential that exists within us. When we cultivate self-awareness, and connect to our true nature of infinite potential, we can let go of our limiting beliefs so they don’t hold us back. We love and accept ourselves as we are, and have a curiosity and zest for experiencing life, on our own terms, and with self-compassion, as we navigate through all of our life experiences. We can return to the understanding that we are perfect as we are, not because of the things we do, or what others think of us, but because we are inherently perfect beings.
One of the ways we cultivate self-awareness is through contemplation. We can pause, observe our thoughts, question them, and then come away with a different perspective or belief. We cultivate the ability to separate ourselves from our thoughts, and observe them, through practices like meditation.
When we realize we are not our thoughts, that we are the observer of the thoughts, we can examine them and ask questions, like:
- What is my limiting belief?
- What do I take to be true about myself that’s limiting me?
- Where did this limiting belief come from?
- Did it come from outside of me? As a child, did I internalize an experience based on the behavior of others?
- Is this belief a fact?
- Is this 100% true, at all times?
- Is this belief about myself holding me back?
- How would I feel if I didn’t attach to the belief?
Once we have identified our limiting beliefs, we can move forward and release them. We start by noticing when the belief arises and setting an intention to release it. When we notice a limiting belief, we can take a breath and silently say “I release this limiting belief.” Over time, our attention begins to move farther away from these beliefs into new, self-affirming beliefs.
Understanding the Doshas
Part of our journey of knowing who we are is understanding our natural strengths and talents, and utilizing them in a way that serves ourselves and the world. We all have a unique purpose to share. And within us, we have all the abilities we need to serve our purpose in the world. And when we don’t embrace and honor our nature, we limit our potential.
Sometimes along our journeys we lose the connection to our natural talents, our innate abilities.…we forget along the way. We try to be someone other than who we are, usually to please other people in our lives.
When it comes to limiting beliefs, they can vary according to each individual’s personality type, or dosha. We all have tendencies in our thinking and internalize our external experiences in different ways.
- As people pleasers, it is common for Vatas to think “I’m not good enough” when anyone around them is unhappy.
- For Pittas, who tend to be perfectionists, they may think “I’m a failure because this isn’t perfect.”
- And Kaphas who are naturally more laid back may think “I’m not worthy unless I do more.”
There are many beliefs we may have about ourselves that limit us, but once we identify them, we can release and actually transform them into something that allows us to live up to our potential.
In addition to intentions of letting go of limiting beliefs, we can replace them with beliefs about ourselves that remind us of our talents, abilities, and limitless nature:
- What is my special gift, talent or ability?
- What comes easily and naturally to me without effort?
- Is the basis of my limiting belief actually one of my gifts?
Finding Acceptance and Connection with Affirmation
When we fully appreciate our natural gifts and talents and accept and honor ourselves as we are, we step into the field of all possibilities. When we align with our natural talents, we are supported by the Universe in accomplishing what we set out to do.
Our limiting beliefs can create destructive self-talk and interfere with our ability to realize our potential, so focusing more attention on our gifts will enliven them in our lives. We replace self-destructive stories with a more self-affirming narrative, one that serves us even when things don’t always seem to go our way.
Once we have released limiting beliefs, and connected to our natural gifts, we can ultimately tap into our potential by repeating self-affirmations:
I love myself exactly as I am.
I am enough exactly as I am.
Moving forward, try to witness any limiting beliefs that arise throughout your days. Have the intention to let them go and begin to connect internally to your limitless self. Bring attention to your natural gifts and talents and use affirmations daily. Above all, bring in compassion for yourself as you begin the process of releasing these limiting beliefs and reconnecting to your true nature of infinite potential.