Limiting Beliefs

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7a NKJV

Have you ever caught yourself thinking or saying:

I can’t do that.

– or –

That will never happen.

I wish I could say I never think or say these things, but the truth is – I do.  More often than I would like to admit.  Without even realizing it.

These phrases or similar phrases are known as limiting beliefs.  Limiting beliefs hold us back.  They prevent us from moving forward personally and/or professionally.  

I was recently introduced to this term through a podcast and like so many things, once we are made aware of a behavior or unhealthy thinking pattern,  we catch ourselves doing it.  What’s worse is that looking back over my lifetime I can see a pattern of limiting beliefs.  I just wasn’t always aware of them.

It is easy to tell others:

  • You can do anything!
  • Go for it!
  • Don’t let setbacks hold you back.
  • Don’t be discouraged.

It is much harder to say:

  • I can do anything.
  • I am going for my dreams.
  • I am going to press on despite setbacks, disappointments, or discouragement.

I recently heard Max Lucado say:

“Don’t measure the height of the mountain; ponder the power of the one who made it.  Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is.  Your problem isn’t that your problem is so big, but that your view of God us too small.” 

Therein lies a nugget of gold – oftentimes our limiting beliefs are an indicator of our lack of faith.  We lose sight of the fact the God of the impossible, improbable, and downright miraculous is on our side.  Instead,  we see every mountain, storm, or problem as impossible, improbable, and insurmountable.  

Our limiting beliefs are not just a reflection of our lack of faith in God, but also our faith in ourselves and our abilities.  Proverbs 23:7a tells us:

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.


Literally, this means our thought translate into our reality.  So, if we believe a lie, we become that lie and make it our truth.

What lies are we believing?  What lies have we allowed to become our truth?  Have we allowed ourselves to be bound by lies, limitations, roles, and labels we have placed upon ourselves or allowed others to place upon us? 

Limiting beliefs can also stem from fear.  Fear of the outcome.  Fear of failure.  Fear of embarrassment.  We don’t even try because we are paralyzed by our fears.

A lighthearted example of a limiting belief in my life rooted in fear and lies is that I am not a good dancer.  I have always felt awkward and out of place on the dance floor.  I have shied away from the dance floor unless I have a partner.  Dancing in a crowd doesn’t feel like something that comes naturally to me.  

But guess what?  For Mother’s Day one year my children filled out an “All About Mom” form.  Under “My mom is really good at:” two of my children wrote “dancing.”  It made me laugh out loud. 

But the truth is, I have always danced with reckless abandon with my kids.  I don’t feel awkward or self-conscious around them.  I don’t feel like they are judging my dancing skills.    I just dance with them.  

My children’s vote of confidence in my dancing skills made me realize, I have been placing the limiting belief upon myself that I can’t dancer.  I have been shying away from dancing because I felt awkward.  I have been assuming others are judging me when I dance.  But at the end of the day, when I just let all those limiting beliefs go and dance, I can.  And more importantly I enjoy it. 

We are all guilty of limiting beliefs in some manner.  However, limiting beliefs are simply a state of mind. An unhealthy thought pattern.  Like any state of mind or unhealthy thought pattern, we have the power to change it. The first step to stopping an unhealthy pattern is to recognize it.  After we recognize a limiting belief, we can evaluate it and move beyond it in a healthy manner.  

So today, let’s take an inventory of our thoughts and beliefs.  When we catch ourselves in a limiting belief we need to ask where did this belief originate?  Is it based upon facts and truth or misunderstandings and falsehood?  As we do this, we will free ourselves from the constraints of limiting beliefs. Lets go forth in the freedom and confidence that we can stop limiting beliefs.