In the last two posts, we explored how we accidentally train ourselves to expect failure, and why trying to use “positive thinking” to overcome our fears rarely works.
Today, we’ll look at how you can dismantle those fear-based, limiting beliefs by asking yourself one simple question.
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Facing the Fear
“Positive thinking” seems like a reasonable way to overcome our fears. Unfortunately, trying to cover up limiting beliefs (“I’ll fail”) with newer, more empowering ones (“I’m unstoppable”) tends to keep us running in circles. Sweeping your fear under the rug and pretending it’s not there may make you feel a bit better in the short-term. But the moment you get triggered by failure and rejection, all that fear will just come right back up.
The alternative is to start facing your fearful thoughts head-on. To explore your limiting beliefs (and the fears they stir up), discover the source of those beliefs, and begin to unravel them at their core.
Most limiting beliefs are just unconsciously conditioned thought patterns, stories that we tell ourselves in order to make sense of life. Rejection and failure simply trigger these existing limiting beliefs. And the more personal these made up stories are, the more they create internal blockages that rob us of our creative energy and confidence.
Your personal stories (and related limiting beliefs) are about who you think you are at your core—your inherent sense of worthiness or unworthiness. When these types of “I’m destined to fail” stories get triggered by rejection, it’s easy to get caught in a wave of intense pain and hopelessness.
By breaking apart the unconscious conditioning that reinforces those limiting beliefs, there’s nothing left for rejection and failure to trigger. Hearing no from people might still be frustrating or annoying, but it will no longer be debilitating.
- You’ll be able to recognize that both success and failure are natural parts of life.
- You’ll be able to finally let go of your attachment to outcomes, because you’ll no longer be obsessing about whether success is even possible for you.
- You’ll be able to take action and immerse yourself in each moment, without the constant anxiety of thoughts like “this won’t work.”
- You’ll be able to trust your intuition, follow your inspiration, and allow your natural creativity to take over.
Where to Start
1. Tune In to Your Awareness
Before you can dismantle your conditioned limiting beliefs, you need to first be able to see them clearly and objectively. The foundational skill to gaining that kind of clarity is the ability to cultivate inner stillness.
Let’s try a little experiment: Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit, set a timer for 15 minutes, close your eyes, and simply pay attention to whatever thoughts, sounds, and physical sensations happen to arise in your awareness. Don’t exert effort or try to concentrate on any one thing in particular. Just pay attention to whatever experience you happen to be having.
The point of this experiment is not about stopping your thoughts or achieving some kind of blissful state. It’s to give you a first-hand experience of what it’s like to simply be aware that you are aware. To show you that it’s possible to get quiet inside, and be able to see your thoughts and beliefs a bit more clearly.
2. Bring Awareness to the Story
Think about a recent work-related event that triggered a deep sense of fear within you. It could be a particularly scathing rejection by a prospect, a long-term client who suddenly cancelled their contract, a low balance in your bank account, or anything else that stirs up pain.
Now go back and repeat the previous experiment. But this time, instead of just observing random thoughts or sensations, you’re going to focus your attention on that specific event, visualizing it in as much detail as possible.
- “What belief is this situation triggering?”
- “What specifically am I afraid is going to happen?”
- “What do I believe this event says about who I am, my worthiness, or what I’m capable of?”
It may take a few minutes to work through the initial discomfort. Don’t try to force an answer. Just allow yourself to experience whatever physical sensations and thoughts happen to arise in your awareness.
Bit by bit, you’ll start hearing or seeing answers to these questions. They may just be fragments at first, like an image of a bank account with a zero balance, or thoughts like “nothing I do will ever work.” Allow yourself the time to explore those fragments until you can start piecing them together into more coherent stories—the deeper limiting beliefs underneath those fragmented surface thoughts.
Here are examples of some of my own past limiting beliefs:
Event: Getting rejected on a sales call.
Limiting Belief/Story: “Nobody’s going to want to buy this. Trying is a waste of time. I might as well give up.”
Event: A long-term client discontinues their contract.
Limiting Belief/Story: “I’m not cut out to make it in this field. I’m destined to fail.”
Event: A low balance in my bank account.
Limiting Belief/Story: “I’m going to go broke and lose everything. I’ll never have enough money.”
3. See Through the Story
Once you’ve recognized your deeper fear-based belief, the next step is to see exactly where that limiting belief is coming from. You do that by asking yourself one very simple question: “Why do I believe this?”
- “Why do I believe that nobody’s going to want to buy this, that trying is a waste of time, and that I might as well give up?”
- “Why do I believe that I’m not cut out to make it in this field, and that I’m destined to fail?”
- “Why do I believe that I’m going to go broke and lose everything, and that I’ll never have enough money?”
When you take the time to look for valid, factual reasons for these kinds of catastrophic beliefs, you may discover that you can’t actually find any.
You’ll then open yourself to a life-changing realization—the only reason you believe things like “this won’t work” or “I’ll just fail” is because you’ve trained yourself to believe them. They’re nothing more than stories you’ve told yourself over and over and over again.
At many points in your life, you faced similar situations of failure and rejection, and your mind made up a story to help make sense of them. That story stuck, and over time was repeated often enough to become a core belief. An expectation for the future based on the past.
But when you actually interrupt that conditioned pattern and question why you believe your story, you start to see that it’s not based on reality. It doesn’t exist anywhere but in your head, and there’s nothing on the outside imposing failure on you.
You’re imposing it on yourself.
And once you see that what you took as “truth” is just a story, that limiting belief starts to lose its power and unravel on its own. Your mind will start to see things from a new perspective, and naturally recognize objective, fact-based reasons for why that limiting belief isn’t true.
You realize that there’s no way to know that “nobody’s going to want to buy what you’re offering.” Sure, it could turn out that your idea flops. But you can’t know that for sure, since you can’t tell the future. Same goes for beliefs like “I’m destined to fail” and “I’ll never have enough money.” They can’t be reality, because they’re based on projections of an unknown and unknowable future. It’s the stories you tell yourself that make these beliefs seem so real.
Seeing the inherent unreality of these beliefs is completely different than trying to “think positive thoughts” to change them or make them go away. You’re not trying to replace one made up story with another made up story. You’re simply recognizing that all of your beliefs—positive and negative—are just made up stories.
In the next post, we’ll explore some simple daily practices you can use to start systematically dismantling your most painful limiting beliefs.