Summary: When negative self-talk starts to get in the way of progress towards your goals, it’s time to take a step back and reshift your perspective.
Self-Limiting Mindsets and Your Perspective
“I can’t do that.” “This is too hard.” “I’ll never get ahead.” “I don’t have the skills I need.” Beliefs like these keep your mindset fixed and prevent you from becoming the person you want to become—creating a self-limiting mindset. Limiting or negative self-talk is, in essence, the story we tell about ourselves, and it can be harder to recognize in yourself than in others.
Recognizing Self-Limiting Beliefs
Self-limiting beliefs usually stem from your fears or assumptions with little basis in reality. These beliefs often take the form of excuses and negativity like “I’m not,” “I can’t,” “I don’t,” or “I can never,” to name a few. This self-limiting talk may have come from childhood or a previously perceived negative experience. However, it’s essential to approach each experience with a sense of discovery and as an opportunity to learn something new.
How do self-limiting beliefs affect us?
Your beliefs start from a young age and help shape your life and choices, and with time and experiences, more beliefs and ideas accumulate. Some of these beliefs are helpful, but some can. Redirecting self-limiting beliefs is essential for your health, self-image, and success. Self-limiting beliefs can also affect your day-to-day actions since beliefs often guide your behavior. Developing self-awareness of the messages you may be telling yourself and how these messages may be directing or limiting your actions will help identify and change self-limiting beliefs.
Practice Reflecting on Your Beliefs
There are many ways to identify limiting beliefs and reframe them to help you move forward. Take a few minutes daily to reflect on your attitude toward a certain task, project, event, circumstance, or goal. Identify the self-limiting talk or negativity and reframe those statements into a more positive message. For example, if your inner voice says, “I can’t do this,” try reframing the message to “I can do this by ______.” To fill in the blank in this reframed statement, consider the tools or personal resources you already have that may help you move forward. An example of a reframed statement might be, “I can do this by completing a small task each day.”
Taking time to reflect on your inner voice takes practice. When you begin to feel stressed, discouraged, angry, or sad, give yourself a moment to reflect on the message you may be telling your inner self about the situation. Here are more examples of how self-limiting messages can be reframed to move you forward:
- “I’m not very creative. I’m not very good at art.” – Creativity is more than art. What can you do well? It’s also OK not to be good at something and enjoy it anyway.
- “I am talented, so I don’t really need to continually practice my craft.” – Everyone needs practice. What you need to practice will change as you practice your craft, but you should always take time to review the basics to keep them sharp.
- “I don’t think I could do that; I am pretty average.” – Try it anyway. You will either grow from your failures or surprise yourself.
- “I don’t have the skills I need.” – You can always learn new skills. If you really want to do something, make a plan to get the skills and experience you need to do it.
Move Forward by Changing the Narrative
All life experiences are about learning and growing. If you approach each situation with a growth mindset, moving forward with any challenge or difficulty is easier. Having an attitude of discovery can lead you to new opportunities on the horizon, new people to meet, new skills to learn, and a more positive outlook on life. It takes time, patience, and courage to reverse limiting self-talk. Set aside time to reflect on any goals, challenges, or disappointments experienced each day, and think about how you could improve or change the narrative by reframing messages to more actionable ones.
If you still feel stuck and cannot see a way forward, consider talking with a trusted adult or professional. Often a trusted adult or professional can offer a new point of view. Whatever you do, whether to talk out the problem or reframe the negative self-talk, find a way to move forward to the life you want!