Here’s How To Tell If You're The One Holding Yourself Back (& What To Do About It)

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How To Love Yourself & Build Self Esteem By Questioning Your Limiting Beliefs & Having Self Acceptance

Learning how to love yourself and raise your self esteem is difficult — and something that many people struggle with thanks to limiting beliefs that they give into all day long.

Self love — truly learning to authentically love yourself — is hard when you don't know how to fight against the low self esteem that seems to constantly ride your happiness. And those limiting beliefs can be really hard because they can cunningly sneak up without you even noticing how they're affecting your self acceptance.

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Limiting beliefs are thoughts that often start with "I can’t" statements. They stop you from doing things you otherwise might do, including learning self-love and authentic happiness.

From a young age, you're taught by parents, teachers, and other adults to believe certain things. You'll carry these beliefs into adulthood if left unchallenged. However, these beliefs may or may not be true today.

As you mature, these beliefs that once protected you can get in your way of getting what you want.

You have beliefs around every area of your life, including your sense of self, money, relationships, food, health, spirituality, and leisure activities.

The thoughts inevitably pop up when you are thinking about trying something you’ve not done before and they might sound something like this: I shouldn’t do that; I might get hurt. Nothing I do comes out right, so why should I try. I’m not good at math, so I can’t apply for a job that requires me to work with numbers. I’m just a secretary; I don’t add any real value to my department, so I can’t look for a better job.

Some common limiting beliefs that are negatively affecting your self-esteem are:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I have to please people for them to love me.
  • I’m not worthy.
  • If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.
  • I’ll never have money because I didn’t grow up with money; it takes money to make money.
  • If I open myself up to love, I’ll get hurt.
  • I need to eat all the food on my plate because there are starving children in the world.
  • I went off my diet, so it’s not worth trying again.
  • I’m not smart enough to do that.
  • Life is hard.
  • My sibling died young so I’ll die young, too.
  • I hate to workout, so there's no sense in trying.
  • Bad things happen to good people.
  • I’ve never been athletic; I can’t do that.

This list could go on, and I’m sure you could add your own. When you live with beliefs like these, they'll hold you back from being your best self.

Challenging each belief as it comes up can open the doors of possibility. Stretching beyond your limiting beliefs allows you to try something new that may surprise and delight you and positively impact your self esteem.

Unconsciously living by beliefs that limit your everyday activities is a sure sign you’re being held back by them.

Here are some common signs you're being negatively impacted by your limiting beliefs:

  • Approaching something new with the belief that you won’t be good at it or that it's likely to end in failure.
  • Believing you're unlucky in love because you only attract the abusers will continue to attract people who will take advantage of you.
  • If you believe you need someone else to make you happy, you won’t be able to find happiness when you’re alone.
  • Your sense of self-worth is colored by what other people have said to you in the past and you carry those words with you to this day.
  • You consistently think you don’t have enough money and can’t afford the things you need and want. This overarching feeling of lack will continue to breed lack, rather than abundance.
  • You believe you must struggle in life to make anything of yourself; perpetuating the struggle.
  • Believing that life-changes are scary and are best ignored will lead you to resist change at every turn, when change is the only constant in life.

The good news is, you can do something to change your beliefs right now if you choose to reframe the belief into something more positive that will support you moving forward.

First, as with anything you want to change within yourself, you must become aware that it exists. Identifying each limiting belief as it comes up, recognizing that it's something you’ve long held to be true, and challenging that truth, are the steps you can take.

So when you start to examine your limiting beliefs, make a list of them on a pad of paper or in your journal. Continue to add to the list each time another one pops up for you.

Once you have a list that feels somewhat complete, decide which of these limiting beliefs are the biggest culprits holding you back from doing what you want to do.

Create your "top ten" list. Then, begin by examining the number one belief — the one that's got you in its grasp and won’t let go no matter what.

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Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is this belief always true or only sometimes true? Is it your assumption?

For example, using the belief “I’m not good enough.”: is it always true that you’re not good enough, or only sometimes true? Is it your assumption that you’re not good enough because of something that happened in your past and you carry that feeling of not being good enough into all areas of your life?

Consider that this belief may not be true at all, or is no longer true. It may be indelibly imprinted in your brain because it has been there for so long. If it isn’t true anymore, then this belief no longer serves you in your life today.

Now you have a choice. You can change the belief to something else that supports your path forward. Instead of repeating the limiting belief, you can reframe it so it encourages you and lets you lean into it until you trust that it is true for you.

2. Is there a time in your past when this belief was not true?

Here’s a real-life example: There was a time in my life when I felt not good enough to do anything because, when I was in middle school gym class, the girls had to play field hockey and I was not good at it.

Every time teams were organized, I was the last to be picked because I wasn't good enough to play. That experience stayed with me for many years into high school and beyond.

I believed I wasn't good enough in music, art, and writing. Even though I was smart and quite talented in the creative areas, I didn’t believe it.

That limiting belief held me back from realizing my full creative potential for years. It wasn’t until I challenged the belief and allowed my creativity to bloom that I mustered up the courage to sing in public, sell my calligraphy, and share my writing.

What life experience created some of your limiting beliefs?

3. How could you rewrite the limiting belief so it can empower you instead?

Going back to my experience, it was helpful to rewrite the "I’m not good enough" belief this way: “Even though you’re not very good in the sports department, that’s OK because you have a beautiful voice and a very creative eye. Focus on what you are good at and don’t worry about the rest. Not everyone is good at everything. You have your own talents and gifts. Share those freely and leave the sports stuff to the natural athletes.”

This allowed me to laugh at how bad I was at sports instead of judging myself as bad at everything. Rather than beat yourself up, lift yourself up!

Using this 3-question technique, you can go through the biggest limiting beliefs on your list — or any of them for that matter — and one-by-one find new ways to empower yourself to move past the old belief into a new way of thinking and feeling about yourself, your capabilities, and your actions.

Your thoughts become things. Start thinking about limitless beliefs instead.

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María Tomás-Keegan is a certified career and life coach for women, and the founder of Transition & Thrive with María. If you’re ready to explore how change can impact you and how to move through it with more dignity and grace, get her free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition now.