Have you heard any creative influencer on social media preach the guru-type self-help that your limiting beliefs are blocking your potential? That if you just shed yourself of “but I can’t succeed at this” and “I don’t believe I can make money as an artist” thoughts that you will find success? That money will flow toward you almost magically because the universe is like “YAAAAS QUEEN! Why didn’t you believe in yourself sooner, you boss babe!” *showers you in hundos*
Did those influencers then also try to sell you a product? An ebook, a class, a course, a workshop, a lifestyle, etc.? In my last post about avoiding expensive masterclass cons, I touch on the topic of limiting beliefs briefly, but I needed to explore it further.
It isn’t that I think believing in yourself and your potential doesn’t have benefits. It’s just that I believe a really good thing for mental health has been co-opted for capitalistic purposes. High-paid coaches, MLM uplines, motivational speakers, and financially successful business owners preach that removing limiting beliefs will help you make more money and find success. Is it true? Maybe.
But this concept is bothersome for a few reasons:
- It assumes that a lack of belief is the only thing holding you back. Not lack of skill, aptitude, opportunity, or resources.
- The diagnosis of “chronic limiting beliefs” is often coupled with the prescription of “buy what I’m selling to fix it.”
- Some sources will impress upon you that if you fail, it’s because you didn’t believe hard enough, which triggers shame.
- The focus is almost always on material gain as a reason to correct your internal belief system.
- It invalidates a huge population of people who suffer from mental illnesses who struggle on a daily basis to even get out of bed let alone shed their limiting beliefs. (Me)
I fully support any advice that genuinely decreases suffering and increases happiness and fulfillment, but I don’t like when that advice does more harm than good, and when that advice comes with a hefty price tag. If you have listened to mentors giving this advice and it worked for you, that is great. But if you are more like me and have a hard time with this sort of messaging (possibly due to years of clinical depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental disorders) then this post is for you.
Time to shift the perspective.
Instead of saying “removing limiting beliefs makes life more enjoyable, helps you pursue your passions with more energy, and find meaningful fulfillment more easily,” people focus on money and success as the only rewards we should care about.
I’m here to say that believing in yourself is not the main ingredient in the recipe for success. It’s not your ticket to a 6-figure income or a means to a capitalistic end. It sure as heck wasn’t what led to the successes I’ve found in my career.
Your belief system is not the reason you’re not successful.
You don’t have to believe in yourself to succeed. You also aren’t guaranteed to succeed by believing in yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to believe in yourself. There have been times when belief carried me forward when everything I did seemed to fail.
I wrote a blog post two years ago about how belief in yourself can help you overcome failure. In that post, I described two kinds of people. One who believes in themselves and tries things and one who doesn’t believe in themselves and doesn’t try things. It was overly simplistic, and I realized now there are a few more kinds of people.
Take these 5 belief systems below:
- Person A- Believes they can do something and then tries it.
- Person B– Believes they can do something, which prevents them from trying, because why go through the effort when they already know they will succeed?
- Person C- Doesn’t believe they can do something so they don’t even try.
- Person D- Doesn’t believe they can do something, but tries it anyway because what do they have to lose?
- Person E- Has no belief system about the end result, enjoys the process, and does a bunch of stuff just for kicks.
Person A is the go-getter. The unstoppable confident entrepreneur. They accept no failures and keep moving forward. This is the person I described in that old blog post. I’ve channeled Person A in some dark times to pull me through, but that isn’t my default setting at all. It takes a lot of energy for me to be Person A.
Then you have Person B who throws a wrench in things. They believe in themselves and don’t succeed. Why? Because they didn’t take action. Their positive belief led to complacency.
Person C is the worst-case scenario. Lack of belief and lack of action. This is who those capitalistic coaches and teachers will spend the most time on as a customer. They will try to convince you that the lack of belief is the true issue when in reality the belief system is slightly irrelevant when measured up against the lack of action.
Now, Person D and Person E are my favorites. Person D doesn’t believe, but that doesn’t stop them from trying (this is often me these days). Person E, lives in the present moment, takes joy in the process, and will probably ultimately find the most success because external pressure to succeed is released thus giving them more freedom to play. I want to be Person E. They are my ideal. My hopeful Zen. Success or not they enjoy their journey.
What do you think matters more? Belief or action?
Action will always matter more than beliefs.
I like to dream big. I dream about a lot of stuff that I believe is highly improbable of ever coming to fruition. Not impossible, though. If it can happen to someone, it’s proven to be possible. But will it happen to me? Improbable.
I keep using my dreams of finding success with writing as a personal example because I’ve already proven to myself that I can sell art and pay my bills. There’s no belief needed there anymore. I just have to keep making art, but with writing, I haven’t proven anything more than my ability to write blog posts and Instagram captions.
The big dream I have is to publish a novel. I have a dream to see my fiction work on the New York Times bestsellers list. Do I believe my writing skills are good enough now? F*** no. Do I believe it’s going to happen? Nope. I didn’t even believe I could write a novel from start to finish until wrote the last line of one. Here’s the thing: I tried anyway, and I will keep working toward that dream just for kicks.
You don’t have to believe you will do it. You just have to believe it’s possible.
I don’t need to believe in the specifics of a dream to try. I don’t need to believe I will succeed to enjoy the process. Just as I didn’t need to believe in myself that I could gain followers on Instagram or sell my art. I just needed to believe it was possible so that I could try.
It’s fair to say that any specific belief is a limiting belief so I like to keep my beliefs lofty and vague.
The belief that I always encourage myself to have is the belief that things are possible, but I try to keep my intentions vague and open. I believe I can find fulfillment, I believe I can do good things, II believe I can be happy, and I believe I can find success. That gives me the energy to move forward and I can define the specifics as I go. It also keeps me open to receiving opportunities and success I didn’t plan for.
Odds are good I will never see my written work on any sort of bestsellers list. I don’t believe it’s not going to happen. That’s a limited belief, right? Am I woe is me about it? Am I stopping myself from moving forward? Nope. I’m still going to finish the final draft of my first novel and send it to literary agents. Belief or not, I will take action.
As you scroll through social media or try to find inspiration from leaders around you, be wary of anyone who tells you that beliefs alone are holding you back. Definitely be wary when they try to sell you something in the same breath.
Start with Action
Your limiting beliefs are only holding you back if they are holding you back from taking action. Believing in yourself is f***ing hard when you’ve spent years failing, struggling with mental health, being hard on yourself, not living up to external expectations, or being told you can’t do something. So start with a tangible step forward.
Be Person D. Or better yet, forget about the end result entirely and be Person E. Just do things.
Set small SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) that work toward a vague positive belief. If I want to see a novel get published, I have to start by writing the first line of the first chapter of the first draft.
Unlike what some of these self-help, manifest-your-desires gurus say, our belief system doesn’t change reality. It changes how you move through and experience the world, but everything remains the same outside of you. This is why I bristle when creative influencers claim the key to success is believing in yourself and then they coach you on how to believe.
Belief is fuel to carry you forward. Success comes from all the actions you take along the way.
You can’t predict the future. You don’t need to know and you literally can’t know the answer to “Can I do this?” until you actually try. The better question is “How can I do this?”
Take action. Enjoy the present. Enjoy the process. Do things just for fun. Oh, and to continue with my sass from my last post, don’t give money to someone to fix your limiting beliefs unless it’s a licensed therapist.
Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post.