How to Identify Your Limiting Beliefs

Identify & Decode Your Limiting Beliefs

Your limiting beliefs are those subconscious core beliefs that are holding you back in life and limiting the success or progress you may desire to attain in specific areas of your life. By identifying the beliefs behind your current circumstances, you can find the limiting beliefs that need changing and any positive beliefs that can support you in that direction. Let us now embark on an exploration of the subconscious mind.

The Core Beliefs Series of Articles

This article is the third in a four-part series on core beliefs. The first article focuses on understanding core beliefs and the second lists the most common beliefs in each area of life. This, the third article, is on identifying your limiting beliefs, and the fourth and final article is on reprogramming your subconscious mind to change them. I suggest you read all four articles in order.

6 Steps for Decoding Your Beliefs

What follows is a step-by-step guide for identifying your core beliefs with the focus being on limiting beliefs since they are the ones you want to change and reprogram in time. It takes time, effort and a healthy dose of introspection and courage to decode your personal belief system to identify its components in each area of your life. Approach each of the 6 steps that follow like a child searching for hidden treasures, making it more enjoyable for yourself and easier for your mind to accept change.

STEP #1: Keep a Journal

I highly recommend that you keep a journal. It is very helpful to use a hand-written journal or create a document or an excel spreadsheet on your computer rather than just thinking about your beliefs. This will also help you to review your progress in the future after reprogramming your mind to see how far you have come in changing your limiting beliefs and adopting new positive ones. I recommend reading all 6 steps in this article before starting your journal.

STEP #2: Categorize Your Beliefs

The second step in identifying your limiting beliefs is to categorize your life into different areas. In this way, you can be more specific about your beliefs as they pertain to each area. The scale of positive-to-negative may tip in favour of the positive in some areas of your life, and in favour of the negative in others. The most important area to focus on is your self-concept, which are those beliefs about yourself because they have the most significant impact on your life across the board. The other categories I suggest are health, relationships, other people, money and life in general. Feel free to add your own. I suggest you read the second article in this four part series and study the lists of common beliefs in each of these areas. This will help you identify your beliefs, which is the next step.

STEP #3: Ask Yourself 'What Do I Believe?'

The third step is to now identify your own core beliefs, and most importantly your limiting beliefs. I suggest writing all your beliefs down, both the positive and the negative, in each of the above areas as they come to you without over-thinking the process. To do so, ask yourself what you believe about each area of your life. Start with what you believe about yourself. In this instance, ask yourself, "What do I believe about myself?" Your answers will be along the lines of "I am this..." or "I am that..." although not exclusively so. You can then ask about each specific area of your life and find your respective beliefs in those. You may find that your beliefs about yourself overlap with those in other areas and that's to be expected because all your beliefs make up your self-concept, more so when you approach this exercise from the understanding that your circumstances are a projection of your consciousness. It is nevertheless helpful to target and categorize your beliefs.

Perhaps the most powerful way to determine your true beliefs is to gauge how you feel about the questions and the answers. You can also ask "How do I feel about myself?" Feeling is the secret behind your circumstances. Your beliefs make you feel a certain way, and those feelings determine your mental frequency and hence what you create in your own reality.

STEP #4: Rate Your Conviction in Your Beliefs

Once you are done with writing all your beliefs down in STEP #3, you want to highlight your major beliefs in each area. To determine your major beliefs you can rate each one. Simply ask yourself how much conviction do I have in this belief on a scale of 1 to 10 and write the number next to it.

STEP #5: Identify Your Top Beliefs

Having done this, you can now choose those limiting beliefs that you want to focus on changing. In your journal, make a list of your Top 10 Beliefs (10 positive and 10 limiting beliefs) about yourself (your self-concept) and the Top 5 (5 positive and 5 limiting beliefs) in each area that you want to focus on. You can of course add to your list later or make it longer or shorter from the start. If you don't have any positive beliefs to list in a certain area, that's okay, and rest assured that you soon will have as you learn to reprogram the subconscious mind and change your limiting beliefs.

STEP #6: Decode Your Beliefs with 6 Questions

Now that you have identified your top beliefs on both sides of the spectrum you want to understand them with your rational mind to allow you to challenge the limiting beliefs and bolster the positive. To do so you can look behind the scenes by asking yourself the following six questions about each of your major beliefs. This is arguably one of the most important exercises you can do in changing your life for the better and I recommend that you do so with all your focus. Keep an open mind, do not over-analyze or think too much about your answers and enjoy the process.

It is most important to complete this exercise for your limiting beliefs because they are the ones that you are going to challenge and change. It is also very helpful, however, to ask the questions below about your positive beliefs as well because your answers are likely to bring to mind positive memories. If you do not have an answer for each question for some of your beliefs, that's okay. Again write your answers in a journal or use your computer to keep all your work in one place.

5 Ws and a How—The 6 Questions

1. WHY? Why do I believe this?
2. WHEN? When did I start believing it?
3. WHERE? Where did I get this belief from? Myself or someone else?
4. WHO? Who else, if anyone, in my life holds the same belief?
5. WHAT? What specifically happened to make me believe this? And what could or is likely to happen in the future if I change this belief?
6. HOW? How does having this belief make me feel and how does it impact my life and expectations?

The Associated Threat of Changing Beliefs

The answer to question 5 above, ‘what could or is likely to happen in the future if you change the belief?’, is aimed at identifying any threats you perceive with changing a belief. In other words, what do you fear may happen (if anything) if you no longer hold onto a limiting belief? The answer is important because one of the reasons for adopting some of your limiting beliefs was to protect yourself from a bad experience happening again in the future or at least to prepare you for the worst.

Introspection, Effort and Courage

Having identified your top beliefs and answered these 6 questions about them, you can now take the next step which is to challenge your negative or limiting beliefs. Once again, this most certainly requires a healthy dose of introspection, effort and courage. Effort because you have to challenge what you have subconsciously believed for most of your life and courage because you are about to change much of what you have been using to date to navigate your life. You may also find that you have used many of your negative or limiting beliefs as excuses in the past for not doing the things that you always wanted to do, so no longer having your excuses to fall back on also takes courage.

STEP #6: Directly Challenge and Disprove Beliefs

The first step in challenging your limiting beliefs is to realise you weren't born with them. You adopted them but you could have adopted different ones, better or worse. And since you adopted most of them as a child without the capacity to judge their validity, your beliefs are just you living your life with the mental capacity of a child even though you now can distinguish between what serves you and what doesn't. You can now decide to choose what serves you because why wouldn't you? Indeed, to decide to change your limiting beliefs is one of the most beneficial and selfless decisions you can ever make for yourself.

You Can Wipe the Slate Clean

You were born with a clean belief slate and you can mentally decide right now to wipe the slate clean not because your limiting beliefs no longer exist but because you know you can change them. And since you can change them it means they are not objective facts. That the sun will rise in the morning is an objective fact, that you're unlovable is not. The latter is just an assumption—a limiting belief that you adopted somewhere along the line.

Disproving Your Limiting Beliefs

By looking at the answers you have written down for each belief you can challenge your limiting beliefs by disproving them. Just because something 'bad' happened once doesn't mean it must always happen that way. Just because someone said something nasty to you as a child doesn't mean that it is true about you. Just because one person betrayed you doesn't mean that no one can be trusted. The only reason a belief holds true for you is that you have declared it to be true. You may argue that you have all the evidence in the world to validate your belief, but you have the evidence because of the belief, not the other way around.

For instance, if your first relationship ended in heartache because your partner was unfaithful to you, does not mean all your relationships will have the same fate or that all men/women are unfaithful. Even if every single one of your relationships ended in the same way since then, the only reason they did is that you adopted the limiting belief. You may even find you think and act in unhealthy ways in your relationships to fulfill that belief. Many people go on to have loving relationships even after a bad one, and if it holds true for them, it can also hold true for you. You just need to change the belief.

What about the First Negative Experience?

You may ask why the first ‘bad event’ happened without underlying limiting beliefs. And the answer is usually because your personal belief system has been influenced by so many sources that you are not even aware of the limiting beliefs you may have held before. For instance, in keeping with the above example of your first heartbreak—you may have listened to music about heartbreak over and over again while growing up or watched movies or read books along those lines. Or a friend may have had a bad break-up and by sharing in their pain you too adopted a belief that had nothing to do with your experience. Or else you overheard adults speaking negatively about relationships as a young child. Whatever the case, somewhere along the line you adopted the limiting beliefs.

Remember, the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what it has imagined and what it has experienced. It accepts as truth whatever it is persistently impressed with, no matter the source. Nevertheless, while it is helpful to identify the first experience that gave rise to your limiting beliefs, your aim is to change the beliefs because you can.

This marks the end of the 6 steps in identifying your core beliefs, both your positive and limiting beliefs, with the focus on challenging and changing the latter. What follows are a few more thoughts about limiting beliefs and what to expect ahead of taking the last step which is to reprogram your subconscious mind to change your limiting beliefs.

The Curious Case of Contradictory Beliefs

Let's now take a quick look at contradictory beliefs and how one may 'disengage' the other. Let's take for instance a limiting belief that so many people seem to subconsciously adhere to—that 'money is the root of all evil'. You may hold this belief but also believe that money is the route to happiness. How then can you ever allow yourself to make money for the sheer enjoyment of it when you also believe it is evil? Another example is if you believe you are a good person but also that bad things always happen to good people. How then can you expect good things to happen to you?

You may find a number of these contradictory beliefs popping up in your belief lists. It's always interesting to notice them and very powerful to change the limiting beliefs that contradict the positive. For instance, you can adopt a belief that money is an amazing resource for doing good (rather than being evil) and that good things always happen to good people and you (rather than bad).

In Search of Evidence: Confirmation Bias

You may say that while you have physical evidence for your existing negative beliefs, you have limited if any evidence for their opposite positive equivalents, so how then can you just believe the positive? Again the answer lies in how the subconscious mind works and how your experience of reality is created as a result of your subconscious beliefs. In other words, the evidence you have for your limiting beliefs is because you have those beliefs to begin with, not the other way around. Your circumstances are the effect, not the cause—the belief is the cause.

Identification is Half the Job Already Done

While ideally, you want to change your limiting beliefs and reprogram your mind for positivity, I have some excellent news for you. The exercise of just identifying your limiting beliefs alone, significantly diminishes their power over your mind and the life you wish to create. This is because you have made the subconscious conscious, thereby empowering you to immediately identify them as and when they rear themselves be it in your mind or circumstance. In that moment, instead of falling 'victim' to the limiting belief, you can just remind yourself that it is not an objective fact, that you don't need to believe it, and that the unwanted circumstances are just a shadow of your mind. I can earnestly say from experience that this halves the effect of the negative belief compared to automatically believing it without any conscious participation on your part.

Your Limiting Beliefs will Become a Memory

As you commit to changing your limiting beliefs and adopting their opposite equivalent positive beliefs, then your reality will start to reflect that change. And as your experiences become more and more positive in line with the new positive beliefs, so the old limiting beliefs will lose their power for lack of evidence. And the time will come when you are surrounded with evidence for the positive beliefs and the limiting ones will feel like a distant memory that has nothing to do with your experience. What matters is what you believe!

Reprogramming Your Subconscious Mind

Having completed the 6 steps in this article to identify your core beliefs, you can now begin your journey to change the limiting beliefs by actively reprogramming your mind using the powerful techniques detailed in the last article in this four-part series. Remember to keep it light. Have fun and enjoy the process. Don't over-think, don't over-analyze. In the humorous words of Oscar Wilde, "Life is much too important to be taken seriously." By refusing to take your limiting beliefs too seriously, you make them less serious. It's far easier to change what you approach light-heartedly than something you believe is heavy and serious. Your belief in its seriousness alone is enough to weigh it down, sometimes making it seem impossible to move. So keep it light and have fun!


In a nutshell, identifying your core beliefs—both the positive and the negative—is one of the most eye-opening and revealing steps you can take on your journey of self-improvement. By knowing your beliefs, and most importantly your limiting beliefs, you get to discover the individual causes behind your circumstances. Your core beliefs are not objective facts. But even so, they are what determine what you perceive to be the facts of your circumstances. But they too are not objective facts because circumstances change when you change your beliefs. More specifically, your limiting beliefs are the stories you have been telling yourself from a very young age and that you have believed to be true. And since you are the story writer of your life, you can change the story by changing your limiting beliefs and adopting the positive ones that you know will make your story a most rewarding and joyful one to experience.

Written by Tania Kotsos
Date Published: 11 March 2011
Last Updated: 15 October 2023


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