We can’t change our experiences, but we can choose how they shape us. Here’s how I learned to identify and overcome my limiting beliefs.
If I listened to what my life experiences have taught me, then I’d be led to believe I’m unlovable, unwanted, and unsafe in relationships – a lesson I learned from a very young age. You see, my dad worked hard from 4 am straight through the dangerous heat of an Arizona afternoon, when temperatures would rise to 118 degrees or more. At the same time, he was also caring for his sick wife as my mother fought for her life. Insurance didn’t cover her life- saving treatments, which had to be paid in cash.
My dad was putting everything he had into providing for us, so he could keep his wife healthy and make sure we had a roof over our heads. While I can now recognize that he was exhausted from the incredible pressures and demands of a difficult life, as a child all I knew was that my dad didn’t want to be around me – a belief that was profoundly heartbreaking and confusing for a young girl. Every day, I asked for a hug when he came home from that long, hot, physically demanding job, but every day, I didn’t get that hug.
In fact, I can still hear the echoes of his reproach in my mind: “Goddamnit! Get off me!” Since I was too young to understand the context of my dad’s emotions, his lack of affection left me feeling like I wasn’t really wanted. Then, in middle school, I went to class one day and found out that my friends didn’t want to be around me either. I had started the year with a group of friends, but seemingly overnight, they all stopped talking to me. It was that classic scene where you walk up to your normal lunch table, and there’s no longer any room for you.
I remember feeling exceptionally hurt, embarrassed, and ridiculed. From that point on, I never really trusted my friendships. I could never tell who my
true friends were, so I learned to keep everyone at a distance. At home, I was emotionally neglected and deeply hurt. At school, I was bullied and alone. By the time I was a teenager, I didn’t feel wanted or safe anywhere in my life. That’s how I started to form the Core Limiting Untrue Belief that I was unwanted, unlovable and unsafe in relationships.
Beliefs Gone Bad
As I grew up, I had countless more experiences that taught me I was disliked by those I cared for most, and over the years, these devastating rejections began to shape who I was in my adult relationships.
By the time I started my own family, I’d become a world-class people-pleaser. I went above and beyond to become so agreeable, so accommodating, that no one could dislike me. I volunteered for everything I could because I wanted the other moms to like me. I hosted all the playdates at my house. I gave up my babysitters to other moms and then found myself scrambling at the last minute to find my own child care. I said yes to every commitment, event, and task people put on my plate. I was the go-to girl to get things done, yet I couldn’t make a decision about my own life without asking the opinion of at least 15 friends first. I constantly heard myself saying: “Well, what do you think?” I did it all – until the point where I became so depleted and so angry because no one was doing the same thing for me. I had lived my entire life for the validation and approval of others, yet I was still getting hurt by everyone I loved.
Eventually, I became so afraid of getting hurt that I developed social anxiety and avoided being around other people at all. Finally I had what I
feared most: I felt completely unloved and alone. That devastating Core Limiting Untrue Belief had followed me every step of the way – from the first rejected hug to the last event I attended with people I thought were my friends – and through it all, what I’d truly become was miserable. Had I let it all continue, that single belief would have eaten up the very last of me that was still inside, waiting to be loved.
The Moment of Questioning
After years of believing the story other people had written for me, I’d become so hurt by my relationships that I found myself at a crossroads. I could either keep putting everyone before myself without ever receiving the love I craved – or I could be the one to finally show myself that love.
Through all the pain, trauma, heartbreak, and abuse, I’d accessed the one thing I needed most: awareness. Finally, I realized I had the power to choose what I believed about my own story, and this time, I was going to choose differently. That’s when the real work began, and at first, it came in the form of questions. I started asking myself the things I’d been running from all these years. Who could I become if I stopped worrying about the opinion of every person in the room?
Could I give myself the kind of love I’ve been looking for from others? What would be possible if I did? What would I try? If all my self- doubt was erased … then what? But simply asking these questions wasn’t enough. If I was going to choose a new belief system and truly trust it, I needed to do it with dedicated, intentional practice.
A Process for Healing
That’s when I decided to get to the bottom of my beliefs the best way I knew how: journaling.
For each belief I wanted to examine, I journaled my answers to this set of questions:
1. Is this belief true? Can you provide evidence?
2. How do you react when you think of this belief? Where does that reaction come from?
3. How do you treat yourself and others because you believe this is true?
4. If you could live the rest of your life without this belief, who would you be?
Through this process of journaling and reflective inquiry, I started questioning my entire belief system, and I quickly realized it was time to make some changes. So I brought in another tool that always helped me create positive change when I needed it most: affirmations. For example, if I wanted to change the belief that I am unlovable, I would simply state the opposite:
I am lovable.
From there, I would continue to expand on and fine-tune my affirmations until I found something that really resonated with me: I choose to no longer punish myself for the love you didn’t give me; I love myself unconditionally and wholeheartedly, always. I have always been worthy of love, and I know that today.
To change what I believed about my friendships, I took my worst experiences and reversed them: I’m not for everyone, and everyone isn’t for me – and that’s ok. It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t like me because I like me. I will attract the right people to form meaningful and loving friendships – because I am worthy of friends, and I am safe in my relationships.
Eventually, these positive affirmations began to evolve into even more empowering beliefs: My value and worthiness are not on the table – they are nonnegotiable. I don’t need the validation of others to feel good about myself. Once I discovered the affirmation I needed to take one more step toward healing, I would repeat it over and over again. Every time that Core Limiting Untrue Belief started to creep into my mind and heart, I would turn to my positive affirmation. And if I wasn’t ready to believe that just yet, I would create a future-based statement: From today forward, I release the negative untrue belief
that I’m unlovable, and I adopt the new belief that I am capable of forming lasting, loving relationships.
The most incredible part was that my behaviors changed as my beliefs did. The people I spent time with changed. The commitments I chose and didn’t choose changed. The words I spoke to myself changed. With each step, I got more and more clear on the kind of relationships I wanted, and it even clarified some unhealthy dynamics in my family. I was actively and intentionally changing my belief system after years of being conditioned to think otherwise. While the steps seemed simple, staying dedicated to the practice – and trusting the results – was a daily effort. I couldn’t just sit down with myself one time and journal it all away in an hour.
I had to get to the very bottom of my deepest and most damaging beliefs, and then I had to intentionally and consciously choose to believe otherwise every time that old Core Limiting Untrue Belief was triggered. But it was worth it – because it worked.
A Better Future
Today I can confidently say that I don’t need the validation of others to feel whole and loved myself. Not only do I know that I’m immensely deserving of love, but I seek and create it every single day. My friendships are rich and meaningful. They allow me to honor my own needs and boundaries just as I honor theirs. I know the people in my life are there because they wholeheartedly love and care about me – just as I love and care about them.
While my dad is still unwilling to have certain conversations with me, I am able to process my feelings about our relationship anyway. I don’t need him to validate my experiences in order to know how they affected me, as well as how I can move past those emotions and choose to embrace something more fulfilling – like forgiveness. This process has allowed the hurt to dissipate, so I can meet my father where he’s at today, instead of holding decades of hurt
Most importantly, I love myself so unconditionally that I’ve filled the empty spaces others have left in my heart with a love that’s even stronger. In fact, showing myself the love I never received from others has been one of the kindest things I’ve ever done for myself. It’s a loving act to let go of the want for someone else’s love, and today I know I am worthy of it.
Believing in More
Our beliefs are at the core of every thought we have, every emotion we trigger, and every decision we make. They make up the very fabric of our decision-making matrix from the day we’re born up until this current moment. And they either open us up to the possibilities in life, or they keep us stuck in the patterns that sabotage our deepest desires and wildest dreams.
That’s why I encourage you to go back and look at your Core Limiting Untrue Beliefs and question them through a lens of kindness, compassion, and self-love. While we don’t choose the experiences and circumstances life hands us, we can choose to rewrite the untrue and damaging narratives they’ve made us believe. After all, what are you risking besides a better ending to our own story?
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