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How to Identify and Transform Limiting Beliefs
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Feb 01, 2014
As a follow up to my post on the power of our beliefs, I'd like to share an experience that I had with identifying and transforming a belief that caused chronic anxiety in my earlier years.
When my sisters and I were growing up, my parents were usually too busy making a living to spend much time us, but they made sure that we went to church every Sunday and were well aware of Christian values. My mom likes to tell me that she took me to church from the first week I was born.
The one major belief that going to church planted deep in my belly was this:
If I misbehave, God will punish me, and if live properly, God will bless me.
Though I'm sure that this belief helped me stay out of serious trouble when I was younger, it caused me to live with fear and guilt. I was usually afraid that God would hurt me in some way for my most recent transgression, and I often felt guilty because I believed that God could read my mind, and that He disapproved of some of the things I did when I was on my own.
Believe it or not, I lived with this mindset until I was in my early 20's. If you weren't raised in an ultra conservative Christian family, you might not be able to imagine the magnitude of the fear and guilt that I felt, but I can accurately say that my belief in God's intent to punish or reward in real time was a dark cloud that loomed over me every day.
I don't quite remember exactly when I identified and transformed this limiting belief. But I do remember the huge sense of relief that filled my spirit once I really connected with an alternative belief about my relationship with God. My new belief was in perfect alignment with everything about Christianity and life that made sense to me, and went something like this:
God has designed life so that there are perfect consequences for all of our actions.
Here are some examples of what this belief dictates:
If I try in earnest to have compassion for others, and do my best to understand others when they share their feelings with me, people around me will feel cared about, and they will likely care about me in return.
If I work diligently and try to improve the quality of other people's lives, I'll feel emotionally fulfilled as I strive to make a living to provide for my family.
If I read books and follow other media that enforce positive values like being thoughtful, generous, diligent, responsible, and honest, I should become better at displaying these characteristics with each passing year.
If I consistently talk poorly of others behind their backs, I'll become known as a gossip monger and will not earn the trust and respect of those around me.
If I put making money ahead of striving to create real value for the people I serve, I won't experience the feelings associated with making a positive difference in other people's lives, which, according to another one of my beliefs, translates to an empty, lonely existence.
If I don't actively seek to be the type of person I'd like to see my children marry one day, I'm more likely to allow difficult circumstances to cause me to behave poorly.
Perfect consequences for all of our actions - near as I can tell, this belief applies to every aspect of life, including health. If I regularly eat fresh plant foods, get enough physical rest, work on having healthy relationships, stay physically active, and minimize my exposure to toxins, I can expect to enjoy my best health. If I don't do one or more of the above, I can expect to be one or more notches removed from my best health.
The bottom line for me is this: my belief in there being perfect consequences for all of our actions, coupled with our gifts of free will and conscience serve to make my image of God a loving, omniscient, and truly omnipotent force. I no longer believe that God is counting the hairs on my head, waiting to strike down and cause me to sprain my ankle if I swear on the tennis court. If I'm miserable on the tennis court, God's perfect consequence for my choice to be miserable is poor emotional health and an inability to have fun with something that should be all about promoting good health and having fun. (For the record, I don't swear on the tennis court. :))
Also for the record, if you're most comfortable considering yourself an agnostic or atheist, I hope that you're connecting with the main idea here: that a personal belief that I adopted when I was younger wasn't helping me feel healthy and well balanced, and over time, I was able to replace this belief with one that I connected with on all levels, and that promotes peace of mind that comes from knowing that I'm making the most of my time and abilities.
And the last official note for the record since I know some Christians reading this post are wondering, I do consider myself to be a Christian, but as I think everyone knows, there are all sorts of Christians. I'm a Matthew-chapter-five-through-seven kinda Christian. And throw some James in there, too. That's the book of Matthew, chapters five, six, and seven, which represent Jesus's sermon on the mount, plus the message of "faith without good deeds is dead" from the book of James.
So getting back to the purpose of this post, how can you go about identifying and transforming any limiting beliefs that may be hurting your health and overall quality of life? This may not be easy to do because most limiting beliefs are subconsciously at work, and were likely acquired when we were growing up. But there are a few key steps that you can go through to shed clarity on any limiting beliefs that you may be holding on to.
First, identify an area of your life that you don't feel good about.
Second, ask yourself: Why can't I overcome this challenge? The answer that pops into your head is likely a limiting belief.
Third, think about your limiting belief and ask yourself if you really believe it - are you absolutely sure that it's true?
If you aren't absolutely sure that your limiting belief is objective and true, then try to come up with an alternative belief that fits with everything you know and have experienced, and that makes you feel hopeful about overcoming the challenge in mind.
Once you have identified an empowering belief, stitch it into your life. Beliefs are like muscles in that they become stronger with regular exercise, and in the case of your beliefs, you exercise them by thinking, writing, and even talking about them.
If you have any questions or comments on this post, please consider leaving them in the comments section below. Thank you.
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