Those of us who haven’t achieved our goals yet may be imprisoned by our beliefs about what we are deserve. Limiting beliefs are beliefs that something we desire to accomplish is impossible for some reason, therefore preventing us from taking action or responsibility towards that goal. Maybe you believe you can’t become a CEO without getting an MBA at Harvard, so you don’t even bother applying for your dream job. Maybe you believe that women are only attracted to jocks, so you don’t even say hi to the pretty girl sitting in the same room.
Most of our beliefs develop during our youth and unconsciously direct our adult behavior, but some of them develop when we are older. Particularly our beliefs about sexual relations and careers.
Meet Aiden, Mark and Tony. All work as commercial bankers at different banks; all three of them are 27 years-old, and 5 foot 6 inches tall. They are all currently single and have a passion to perform comedy. Aiden lives in New York, Mark in San Francisco and Tony in Seattle.
On Friday night each guy meets up with his friends in their respective cities. They venture to the local watering hole for some brewskies.
Later on in the night…
In San Francisco, Mark’s eyes lock for a split second with a beautiful brunette across the bar. He feels nervous and excited, but he walks over and confidently introduces himself. “Hi I’m Mark, I noticed you earlier. I had to come over and say hi.” The girl looks him up and down. The disgust grows on her face like mold on an old sandwich, and she scoffs at him. “This short loser thought he could talk to me,” she says to her girlfriend who sits next to her.
That hurt Mark at first, but a few minutes later he realized she was just a bitch and that it was a unlucky event. Nothing more. Later that night, he approached another girl and they hit it off.
In New York, Aiden catches a glimpse of a stunning redhead. He already has butterflies, but the last dating book that he read told him he had about three seconds to introduce himself. So he approaches her and awkwardly fumbles through his words. The girl instantly rejects him. “This short loser thought he could talk to me.”
He lets it get to him, and he feels like shit. He spends the rest of his night taking shots, getting belligerently drunk and telling his friends that all girls are bitches.
In Seattle, Tony notices a hot blond. He feels nervous, but he promised himself last time he felt this way, he would say something. So he heads over and uses a pick-up line he thought would work. The girl laughs loudly and mocks him. “Get lost!”
His head drops as he walks away. He goes back to his buddies and spends the rest of his night doing his best to enjoy himself while he strategizes how he is going to make himself better, so he doesn’t feel that shitty again.
In the case of Aiden and Tony, the girl’s reaction shattered their self-esteem. Instead of recognizing the situation for what it was – one bitchy girl – Aiden and Tony’s personal narrator kicks into action, trying to make sense of why she shamed him. The answer they self-create, the story in their head, is a crucial determinant of what happens next.
Tony believed the cause of his rejection to be his lack of social skills and low self-esteem, so he viewed this traumatizing moment as a wake-up call to transform his life. Meanwhile, Aiden believed he didn’t deserve a girl and interpreted the bad experience as a signal that he is not worthy – a confirmation of his worst fears.
Aidan’s rationalization of his inadequacy is used to explain the pain away and protect him. If these rationalizations of his loneliness are reinforced enough, they become permanent beliefs.
So Aiden stops going out with friends and deletes his online dating profile; after all, why kick himself in the face when he clearly doesn’t have it? This explanation is far easier than the alternative: that sometimes you meet people that are rude, and if you continue to meet people who are rude then you need to put in more effort to improve your social interactions and self-esteem.
Limiting beliefs are formed from painful experiences. It’s the minds way to adapt, and form beliefs about negative events so we can avoid those experiences in the future.
How do our minds know how to interpret something?
One way is by relying on past experience. Limiting beliefs are psychological defense mechanisms to remove the responsibility and pressure from ourselves, and to remove tension and uncertainty. An ambitious individual may believe they can never run a marathon or start a business. Why? Because “they just know.”
Limiting beliefs about dating and women interfere with getting the love you deserve.
Once a belief is accepted, our minds send it to the unconscious in order to seek ways to reinforce it. In psychology this is recognized as the confirmation bias, the bias that fortune tellers make their money on. It is a cognitive bias by which a person will perceive two unrelated events as a coincidence because their personal beliefs demand that they do.
So poorly rejected Aiden begins to perceive and seek bitchy behaviors in every girl he talks to – look at that entitled girl manipulating that innocent guy into buying her a pink panty-dropper. I know she has no plans to drop her panties for him. Oh, look at that girl standing by herself, squinting her eyes at the room. She must think she is too good for everyone else. Ugh, that other girl is just dancing with that guy for attention. She’s playing with him, and she’s not even close to touching him.
Like Aiden, your beliefs become the filter though which you see other people. Each observation that Aiden is rationalizing reinforces the original excuse – that all girls at bars are bitches, further strengthening the connection within his mind until it becomes unquestionable.
If you take a second to dig deep enough, the chances is that the biggest thing holding you back from the life you want is yourself. You and your unquestioned beliefs.
Once a limiting belief is set in our mind, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy is when our beliefs unconsciously alter ongoing perceptions to reinforce that belief. For example, early attachments with friends or family create social expectations in children and influence the child to see the present in terms of past experiences. For neglected children, their attachment history can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as they behave toward new people in their lives – peers or teachers – in ways that reproduce old, negative beliefs.
Each and every single one of us does it. We can’t help it.
Our perceptions are not the result of a physiological process by which our eyes somehow transmit an image of the world into our brains, but rather, they are the result of a psychological process that combines what our eyes see with what we already think, feel, know, want, and believe, and then uses this combination of sensory information and preexisting knowledge to construct our perception of reality. 1
Remember Aiden, our rejected loser? His new belief that every girl at a bar is a stuck-up bitch perpetuates itself.
The following weekend, he goes to a different meet market with a few friends. His friends begin talking to a group of girls. He joins, and each girl he comes in contact with he will treat as if she is a bitch. Unfortunately, his negative belief, will elicit negative response from girls – after all, when you treat a girl like a bitch, she’ll most likely act like one. This provides additional evidence to make his belief unquestionable. He is now an elephant tied to his own imaginary rope, and he doesn’t even realize it.
In truth, you are the creator of the outside world. You forge your own perception of reality to fit your own beliefs.