Have you ever taken a moment to think about how your negative beliefs could be messing up your efforts to adopt a healthier lifestyle?
Whilst there are many things that can get in the way of our journey towards better health and fitness, one of the main things holding us back are the subconscious beliefs we hold about ourselves.
What are limiting beliefs?
To kick things off, let’s think about exactly what limiting beliefs are.
We’ll start with a few examples that might apply to different areas of your life.
- You might believe you’re not intelligent enough to take a certain course. That you’re not good enough at your job to ask for a pay rise.
- That you’re not a good enough partner to place demands on the person you love.
- That you can’t risk opening your heart to someone because you might get hurt.
Basically, you convince yourself that a particular thing is an absolute truth about you or the world, and then make other decisions based upon that belief.
You don’t put yourself out there, don’t step out of your comfort zone and don’t even try your hand at anything that falls under the umbrella of ‘things you can’t do’, because that’s not who you are.
These beliefs can seem to physically weigh you down and constrain you. They’re generalisations that you’ve created about yourself and the world, and you’re normally not consciously aware of their existence.
When it comes to health and fitness, limiting beliefs generally focus around an inability to do certain things physically. Or, you might believe that you lack the will power to stick to an exercise regime or a healthy, balanced diet.
You might believe that you can’t run, or that you can’t climb, or that you can’t dance, or that you can’t cook, or that you’re disorganised, or that you’re lazy, or that you always give up on everything…
But if you were told that the idea you can’t cook is merely a limiting belief, you probably wouldn’t agree. You’d say it was an unshakable reality, and not a belief at all.
There are an infinite amount of beliefs you might hold about yourself that are standing between you and a lifestyle that will make you feel a million times better.
Where do limiting beliefs come from?
In order to rid ourselves of limiting beliefs, it’s important to figure out where they came from in the first place. How did you ever get the idea into your head that you’re incapable of doing yoga, or are completely powerless to resist ice cream?
There are a few different ways that we can pick up these limiting beliefs during our lifetimes. Some will only stay with us temporarily, but others can affect the way we live our lives for years, or even decades.
Sometimes, we start believing certain things to be true as a result of the media that we consume, and sometimes we develop new beliefs through observing other people and seeing what hasn’t worked for them.
Sometimes, we wrongly assign negative meaning to our experiences, and decide that something that has happened proves that we’re incapable of X, or should never do Y again, because it will inevitably turn out the same way.
And, a lot of our negative beliefs stem from childhood, when we take everything we hear and see literally, and establish rules for life that seem logical, and that we think we need to follow at all times.
How to identify limiting beliefs
A good way of starting to identify your limiting beliefs is to catch yourself every time you use the words ‘always’ or ‘never’ in relation to your health and fitness journey over the next week.
If you find that you say you can never resist chocolate, or that you always give up on new exercise regimes one week into them, or that you can never keep your New Year’s resolutions, then those are all signs of limiting beliefs that you need to work through before you’ll be able to make lasting change.
Once you’ve started to realise just how many limiting beliefs affect you, you can identify more by turning to pen and paper.
- Write down a summary of how you think you’re doing with your health. Can you honestly say you’re taking good care of yourself? Do you enjoy exercise? Do the things you eat make you feel good?
- Now, brainstorm all the things that you believe to be true about yourself in relation to health and fitness. Positive and negative beliefs are both valid.
- From that list, identify the key negative beliefs that are holding you back. Carefully consider each one and think about how your behaviour would change if you suddenly woke up without that belief weighing you down. How different would your life be? Don’t just guess here, but genuinely imagine what your life would be like if you were free of each belief.
- Consider which beliefs are doing you the most damage, and therefore need to be prioritised. Write all those beliefs down in order of importance.
Overcoming your limiting beliefs
Overcoming a limiting belief might be a gradual process, but it’s more than possible. Your mind is made to be changed.
Here’s a short guide to helping you prove to yourself that the things you believe to be true have no basis in reality and are only serving to hold you back.
- Say it out loud
Firstly, read the first limiting belief on your list out loud. Ask yourself if it’s really true. How do you know? Have you had multiple experiences that have confirmed it? Can you say that it’s totally and utterly true, without any doubt in your mind?
- Identify the source
Then, think about where the belief came from. Was it something you picked up when you were a child, or is it a result of the unhealthy ideas about body image and health that we’re exposed to in the media?
Consider the source of the belief carefully. Did the person that made you feel that way really know what they were talking about? Were they an expert?
Could the people behind the belief have had some kind of ulterior motive in making you believe it? In the case of the beauty industry, they want you to believe you’re not good enough so that you keep buying their products.
The beliefs that you hold should only come from repeated personal experiences, or from health and fitness experts and professionals that don’t have an agenda to sell you something.
- Reject the belief
Then, tell yourself out loud that you no longer believe it, because it’s not true. From now on, whenever it pops into your head, remind yourself of all the reasons it’s not true.
Make sure you have plenty of solid reasons to back up the idea that it’s merely a limiting belief. If you still need more convincing, try turning to trusted sources on the internet for the information you need to prove to yourself that it’s not true.
Last but not least, don’t forget to visualise what your life would be like if you managed to say goodbye to that belief for good.
- Move forwards
Every so often, check in with yourself and see if you’re still holding onto your old belief, or if you’re starting to form new, beneficial ones to put in its place.
As you go through this process with all your health and fitness related beliefs, you’ll start seeing big changes in your life and in your body.
You’ll probably never reach a stage when you have no limiting beliefs, but as long as you’re aware of them and can identify them as they pop up, you’ll be able to weed them out and move on, continuing to improve your relationship with your body, and discover all the amazing things it’s capable of.