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Where Do Your Limiting Beliefs Come From?

Updated: Apr 4

In my previous article, we learned what a belief is. We touched on the four main kinds of beliefs that we live with as humans: 1. Empowering 2. Disempowering 3. Global 4. If-then

Where do limiting beliefs come from

In this article, we’ll dig more into the topic and see where the tons of beliefs surfing in our heads come from. There are four sources of exogenous beliefs that condition us when interacting with our world and one endogenous source. We create them.

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” – The Buddha

1. The Environment

Let’s get started with our environment. We are all agents living and interacting in our environment; what we do impacts that environment. It can be a house, a schoolroom, or an office space.

If, for instance, somebody comes into the office yelling because they got a ticket on the highway, they’ll disturb many of the people whose voice reaches. They acted in their agency in that environment, and everybody else was affected. If other people follow the same example, the chances are that you will do the same sooner or later too. You will react in that way because your brain associates the painful event of getting a ticket with the response of publicly showing your anger. You have modeled your behavior against that of your colleagues. The more prominent and respectful the people performing the behavior, the quicker the transfer.

So, the number one source of limiting or supporting beliefs is the environment you live in or have lived in. If you learned that a neighborhood was dangerous in your childhood, regardless of how many years have passed since that moment, you might still avoid it. As we know, beliefs are assumptions that we think are true, regardless of the absence of evidence supporting them.

2. Events

Events happen. They are things that occur in your life that you have attached a strong emotion to. They are not necessarily good or bad, though. The feeling you had when you lived that event had a deep positive or negative charge and whatever charge lies in between.

For instance, you are at a party and introduce yourself to a girl who you find interesting, but when asked to get a drink, you, unfortunately, pour it on her shirt. This could be embarrassing or laughable, or even shameful. If the other person reacts aggressively, you’ll likely be three times more careful in the same situation, or you’ll try to avoid it in the first place.

Some events can change the belief system of entire nations, continents, and even the whole globe. Think for a moment about the tragic event of 9/11. I remember well where I was that day and what I was doing, as I’m sure many do. That event shook the conscience of those in the US and the whole globe. Events like that may condition the way we live as they supplant our older beliefs and build new ones in an instant.

3. Knowledge

You read you learn, you apply, and you repeat. Why? Because you believe it’s the right thing to do when facing a particular situation. But what if the knowledge you are basing your actions on is no longer actual? What if new theories have superseded the theories you learned years ago? Human nature would resist changes and innovation. People tend to argue about new theories’ inapplicability until they become mainstream and everybody else adapts to still be relevant.

In today’s age, changes are so swift that we are more prone to learn theories and apply them to stay relevant. If you are a media marketer, you know how often social media algorithms change, so you must keep yourself updated. Our ancestors didn’t have the same luxuries we can enjoy today. Knowledge was transferred via books. There were no computers and no Internet. Therefore, the wrong belief based on an erroneous theory could have influenced us over centuries. How? Let’s jump to the past.

We are now in the late 16th century, and people around us say that the Earth doesn’t move. It is the Universe that revolves around the Earth. You know better than them, and you try to convey your idea, based on your knowledge, but you find yourself in jail only to be released if you recant. You may decide to retract and get back to the modern age as soon as possible, but Galileo didn’t have that same luxury. He was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” and forced to recant. Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest. What happened? Galileo was a man of science. He was fluent in physics, mathematics, and astronomy. His observations of the sky led him to state that the sun was at the center of the universe while the Earth and the other planets revolved around it. This is so-called Heliocentrism, a theory that Copernicus and Kepler supported as well.

Unfortunately for Galileo, the Holy Scripture and mainstream knowledge were based on the opposite theory: Geocentrism or the Ptolemaic System, a system used for at least 1,500 years. It stated that the Earth was at the center of the universe and the planets revolved around it. The Roman Inquisition in 1615 concluded that Heliocentrism was foolish, absurd, and heretical since it contradicted Holy Scripture. Galileo was sentenced to house arrest because a Court, the Roman Inquisition, based its verdict on erroneous and outdated beliefs.

When you encounter beliefs you have based on topics learned many years ago, get curious and dig into them to see whether they are still relevant today.

4. Experience

Everything we do creates an experience. The charge we give to this experience determines whether it will turn into a negative or a positive belief about our ability to perform the task that provoked that experience. Once we stack several events with the same charge, we are ready to have a brand new belief working in our system.

The issue with experiences is that they are a consequence of our actions. We, humans, have a built-in learning process that is made by trial and error. It is the way we, as a species, have reached the modern age. The problem is that our school system forgets about this, instilling, since our childhood, anxiety toward our performance. “What is your grade in math? The new teacher asked.” As such, we tend to avoid failure because we have learned the feeling of discomfort in being exposed to people’s judgment when we fail.

Think for a moment about Thomas Edison. If he had decided to quit after his 9,999th experiment, we would probably have had to wait longer to get the lightbulb. He persisted, and his 10,000th tentative attempt was finally successful. Legend has it that when interviewed about his 9,999 experiments, he said he didn’t see them as failures but as 9,999 ways not to invent a functioning lightbulb. Thomas Edison attached a positive feeling to building the lightbulb. He never mixed up failure in an experiment with confidence in himself.

The critical concept in experiences is that regardless of the charge, positive or negative, they are steps that help you improve in what you’re doing. Experiences are neutral; they might be more or less discomforting, but yet they pass. You are free to experiment more, learn more, and achieve more if you don’t become a victim of the results of those experiences.

We’re done with the exogenous sources of our beliefs now, but there is also an endogenous way to create beliefs that can condition our lives: visualization.

5. Visualization

Humans have the power to imagine things even when they don’t exist. It’s part of our nature. We constantly self-talk about imaginary scenarios. Often, our imagination makes us live through adverse events. We create tragedies in our heads that we sometimes believe are real. Our subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between fantasy and reality. It feels emotions. And when you associate your thoughts with strong feelings, and you persist with the same thinking over and over, you will unquestionably believe it as real — and in the end, you will experience it in the real world.

“With enough emotional intensity and repetition, our nervous system experiences something as real, even if it has not occurred yet.” – Neville Goddard”

The power of creating our world depends on us. Next time you think you can’t do something, like get a promotion, scan your thoughts and see whether the belief is grounded in your imagination.

I remember when I wanted to learn how to speed-drive my motorbike. I started a course on the speed track. My time per lap was capped. I thought my motorbike wasn’t fast enough. I thought it was heavy and not performing sufficiently. It was not too late in the day that I realized all my beliefs were based on assumptions created out of fantasy.

After listening to my whining about my motorbike, the instructor asked me to use it for a couple of laps. Well, what he did, the time he marked for a single lap was so much faster than mine that he made me forget all my conjectures in the blink of an eye. My motorbike was ok. I was the one who had to believe it and focus on my abilities to extract the best out of it.

By practicing regularly, I developed enough confidence to break all of my limiting beliefs. From that moment on, I felt more confident to push the motorbike to the limit I believed doable, and I drove with much more care and control during trips on the road.

With your imagination, you can create heaven or hell. So don’t let your imagination build barriers, and don’t make a belief out of these barriers. On the contrary, build empowering thoughts that can support you in your reach for betterness.


In the next article, you will see how to overcome limiting, disempowering beliefs and develop more positive beliefs to sustain your daily effort toward success. For now, it’s essential to note that your imagination has the power to create your beliefs. You choose the polarity of them. Choose the best. If you missed the previous article, you could find it here.


P.S. If you liked this article, share it with those who you think will benefit from it.

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