You are here

How to Identify and Transform Limiting Beliefs

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.

 
 

Join more than 80,000 readers worldwide who receive Dr. Ben Kim's free newsletter

Receive simple suggestions to measurably improve your health and mobility, plus alerts on specials and giveaways at our catalogue

Please Rate This

Your rating: None Average: 4.1 (234 votes)
 
 
 

Comments

http://www.josephprince.org/index.asp
I am sendng you this website. Now this is a pastor that teaches us how loved we are by God and He is not out to punish me ever!!! His teachings have so blessed my life and encuraged me to a really good relationship with my heavenly Father. I grew up the same way you did and was very afraid of God. Thankfully that is changing
Hope this blesses you!!!

Debbie

I know this web site (below) will be of interest and blessing to all who enjoy checking it out:

http://www.whataboutjesus.com/

God Bless!

I checked it out. Will definitely be going back for more. Thank you and God bless you for sharing.

Debra

I also have grown into this belief. Thank you so much for all you do for each of us even though we are thousands of miles away. You make a difference in my life on a daily basis.

I also have grown into this belief that God keeps reading my mind and count on good and bad thoughts . I got some relief by ignoring this belief . Now i need to add new belief "God has designed life so that there are perfect consequences for all of our actions" . I will try to follow this. Thanks.

In my teens I had a weird disconnect between an abusive parent who claimed Christianity and my deep religious feelings which were present since I was a tiny girl. My mother used to say that if she took me to a church, even as a toddler, I would be silent and mesmerized. Anyway I'm deeply religious and deeply offended by people who pretend to religion like my stepfather who abused and conned everyone who came near him, then demanded the respect of a parent because he was... in name and position. It was my first serious religious challenge.

I resolved it only after first abandoning religion for a year or so. Then I thought, hey wait, I abandoned a religion of mercy and idealism because of a jerk? God didn't make him be like that. God gave us free will. So it's like this: Whenever you turn away from God, you take your chances. Remain in His light and you're on the right path. God isn't out to "get" you if you stumble, that's what the Footsteps poem is all about. God is always there for you, He symbolises the highest ideals and hopes of people everywhere. Faith and hope are important and if you turn away from them, random things happen. Or if you pervert them into something like my stepfather, very bad things happen.

That's why priests say, you should not create religion. You should respect the religion as it is. God created you, not the other way around. When you create what you want out of God, you're acting as if it is safe to do that. What if you create something racist without intending it? Or something mostly money-seeking? Then the highest ideals will be lost, and it will be perverted. Stay in the sunshine of the Lord and fill your life with real Christian charity, faith and hope.

I also like your resolution very much and will add it to my own meditations on right living and healthy way of life. I am so glad to have found your website. Thank you.

Dr. Kim - as seems inevitable with this kind of subject matter, and speaking to Christians of every ilk (as demonstrated by the diversity of comments you elicited)... I would like to say, first of all, that I had very much the same experience, and created a real awakening for myself while in college, which parallels yours,as described. My background is that of a Roman Catholic, with literally a 1,000-year tradition going back to Spain, and I have not bothered to trace my lineage beyond that, but most probably even older. The point being: the religion I was raised in has quite a substantial personal tradition in my family, not just the teachings and indoctrinations in this lifetime that come with schooling (12 years of private Catholic, for me, prior to University)that all the other commentators can likewise claim. I know that who we all "know" as Jesus would be very chagrined to see the damaging transformation his original teachings have suffered, versus his intended gift to humanity.

Your stated experience, which you so kindly shared with us all under your intent to assist personal growth and human experience, is exceedingly well-balanced and enlightened, and in and of itself, without need to quote any biblical or other text. God created us, from pure Love, to be co-creators with him/her. (For those of you who have taken the time to do some real research, the original spiritual human traditions were based on the Goddess, so please don't bother to knee-jerk react to that unless you have done your own research). The bottom line is this: Every thought is a prayer, and every thought creates. That is our God-given power. Look at your responses (and in some cases knee-jerk reactions) and ask yourself: who am I really praying to, with these thoughts, and what am I therefore creating? Amen.

Thank you, Dr. Kim, for your usual generous and kind contributions.

Bless you Dr. Kim

May I suggest that further to your article, please read the book, and/or listen to the DVD on Pastor Joseph Prince's
presentation on "Right Believing Will Produce Right Living". It will take you beyond the issue of "religion" and further into a "relationship" with God through his son, Jesus Christ

Blessings to you and your family
D.N. Lahue

We are made of stars. Rejoice. Thank you for the health and healing you offer us all.

I can sure identify with the main focus of the above article as I too reeled for years in unbalanced and faulty teaching. One day an insight landed on me, I was in reality judging the Lord of the Bible and His teaching by the words and deeds of faulted mankind. The faultiness of man is no secret in the Bible! I was also jolted by the realization by forming and/or passing on ideas based on my perception of reality that I in essence would be perpetuating my own history. This equals the blind leading the blind, Luke 6:39. (How could I be any more right albeit different than what I was taught? No man is greater than another, Romans 12:16) The Bible instructs to compare what one learns to the Bible itself with the Holy Spirit's help in discernment - 2 Tim. 3:16 and Acts 17:11. Yes, this does equate to taking a position of humbleness as the Bible continually teaches as in Job 4:17 and James 4:10. Teachers are especially held accountable as in James 3:1. Claiming I have the 'answers' based on my own limited personal knowledge would be equivocally placing myself in God's position! (There are multiple warnings in the Bible about this, as in Proverbs 11:7. The fact is, we are a speck on this earth in comparison to the entire vast universe of which we will never know but a fraction about. Job 37:14.)
It IS a truth that Life can be seen in hindsight and not in foresight. Proverbs 19:21. This truth is a solid basis from which to seek all evidences that construct every cause to believe one’s faith will be that anchor that holds when the unseen presents its reality.
Religion is man's idea. Man did not put himself here. Man's claimed wisdom is limited and finite. Man truly can only speculate. The meaning of God is essentially a ‘Supreme Being’. Since intent is prior to content, has one taken care to seek evidence for the Bible? There are many that doubt the Bible in a myriad of ways, however there IS much evidence for its validity from a myriad of directions. The Biblical Christ teaches about the inside of man along with the only way to his Salvation – John 14:6. Does truth matter? One can believe ice on a given lake will support their weight but if their sincere belief does not align with the actual facts there will be consequences. Many truths are unseen though they still deliver exacting consequences. As heavy as regret can be in this known life, it would surely be light compared to the weight of regretting for eternity.
Truth by its very nature excludes. Extracting palatable Biblical text from its whole is part truth not whole truth. (2 Tim. 4:3) A part foundation is a faulty foundation. Care to seek the truth is eternally vital. 1 John 5:12
Paul in Phillipians 3 defines a Christian as those who: 1) Worship in the Spirit of God, 2) Glory in Christ, 3) And put no confidence in the flesh.
Suggestions: ”Cold Case Christianity” by J Warner Wallace/“Has Christianity Failed You?” by Ravi Zacharias/“Case For Faith” by Lee Strobel

Dr.Kim, I was so moved by your message. I believe that so many of us are raised believing that they have to work at salvation and that leads us in a constant state of doing. I was raised Catholic, and you could never do enough. It was constant. It was on our own merit that we would be in good standing with God. Therefore guilt took over. Not to mention, they discouraged reading the Bible. That's the priests job.
The Lord has opened my eyes to the truth about eternal salvation. The scriptures say, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!"John 8:32
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, it is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast."Eph 2:8-9
"Because Jesus Christ did what God wanted Him to do, we are all purified from sin by the offering that He made of His own body once and for all" Heb.10:10
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."John 3:16

With that being said, there is a website STARTINGPOINT.COM. Click on Series. There are 8 series to listen to. It is Charles Stanley's son Andy Stanley speaking. It is about starting over with your faith..Everyone should listen to it..Everyone!!!!
It is fantastic!! I urge all to listen! Put your headphones on and listen to it as you go about your business or watch it...You will not regret it.
Its given me such insight and understanding.. I hope you'll give it a go!
Thank you for sharing your story and for your website. I'm such a fan! I just love it! Thanks!!!
Blessings to you and your family!!
Warmest reguards,
~Jessica :)

Good article Dr. Kim, but you've dropped a little in my estimation by admitting you're still a Christian - can't help but think you're still afraid of what your god might do to you if you abandon him.

I agree, I am so glad that I never accepted any indoctrination

He's obviously not fearful but has found the freedom in Christ that was and always is available to believers. He has much wisdom to never abandon the One who is our creator and savior. My hope for you is that one day soon you will get to know Him too:)

Dr. Kim--I was just commenting with my friend the other day that you don't seem like someone who is all in it for the money; that your concern for others seems to be your overriding goal. And you stated that this is exactly what helps you keep things in perspective and find success. Another reader commented that you don't see people in America standing in front of crowds and showing they have morals and ethics, like Jesus did. But there are people doing just this; and teaching others that by both our 1)fruits and 2) the grace of the Lord, they can find eternal happiness. My son will soon be one of this growing army of God that helps others draw closer to Him, and love their neighbor as they love themself. Consider reading this fabulous book "The Book of Mormon," another testament of Jesus Christ, which can be obtained for free at http://mormon.org/. ~Shirella

Truly a well rounded, carefully thought out piece. I especially appreciate one of your last lines. "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." I will be pondering your words for quite awhile.

Mary Feie

What matters is what is True, God's Word is TRUTH.

And in it we find that we don't need to live with guilt when we truly know Christ.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

When you confess to GOD and put your trust in CHRIST for salvation, there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Dr. Kim,
Thank you for sharing and giving me this moment to investigate my last year and a half of soul-searching. (sorry it's a bit long winded, I feel blessed to be able to write it).
It took me until age 47 to get it, good job for figuring it out sooner. My problem turned into health ailments and health anxiety. My body truly manifested my anxiety, guilt and fear. I was raised a Catholic and thought I was born from sin, a sinner. Adding much to my anxiety, my parents were emotionally unavailable. All those years I felt I was not good enough for God or anyone. I actually pictured him heating up the fire, ready to throw me in.
I still consider myself a Christian and have learned that faulty translation and past governments have edited the Bible so much that the message became "Fear of God". It's such a shame.People gave God an ego. I definitely was helped by A Course in Miracles, skeptical at first, it made so much sense, I felt Jesus's Love and had wept several times in Joy. God is Love, we are made from this Love. I was able to detach from my ego, making the darkness go away and there is only Love left. In regards to service, when I saw the Truth of God's Love, I suddenly wanted to serve for the right reasons, just as I would rather my children did nice things for me out of love instead of the fear that I would be angry at them if they didn't. I don't have to be or do anything for God to love me. Of course when you know of this love you can't wait to be of service. It helped me to know that I am supposed to be happy, sadness wasn't a ticket into Heaven, and in my new Joy I am hoping to radiate God's Love. I used to think if I didn't feel guilty I wasn't showing concern for others, I was always in such deficit, I could never be enough. Since I've allowed this Joy into my life I have never loved everybody more with true forgiveness and gratitude...even myself. I actually think Hell is nothing but what we put ourselves through when we experience a separation from God's love, and from loving eachother, but everyone will find their way. Now I can finally truly serve Him by making all decisions out of love, not fear.
We never heal alone.(a Course in Miracles) Others have been with you, because you have healed. I hope to follow that path, it's a daily journey, habits and patterns are hard to change. Thank you. God Bless You. Wishing you much continued love, peace and joy.
Elizabeth

I can so relate. I grew up being taught God was sitting in Heaven waiting for me to mess up and send some dread thing on me as punishment. BUT NOW I know better. I have learned that The Law (Ten commandments) were given to show us we in ourselves cannot ever be well behaved enough to measure up. The Law was given to show us our imperfection but God sent Jesus to suffer IN OUR PLACE for our sins...past ones...present ones...and future ones! John 1:16 says we now have GRACE (unmerited FAVOR without accusation, condemnation or judgment). God knew we could never measure up so he sent Jesus to take our place of punishment. AND Hebrews 8:12 is so great ...it says He will not only FORGIVE all our sins but will NOT REMEMBER them Any more. Wow! what great news!! He tell us to ENTER HIS REST. You cannot REST if in condemnation over mistakes. Romans 8:1 says (to we who believe in Him) that there is therefore NOW NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. HE became our substitute and when we focus on HIS sacrifice FOR US...then we can realize how blessed to not have to live as I did as a child in constant fear of not measuring up and thus possibly getting some dread thing come on me. May I recommend a fabulous book I just read that will help so much THE POWER OF RIGHT BELIEVING by Joseph Prince. He is from Singapore and has a wonderful ministry program on The Word Network each day. The GREATEST Book to me is His word!!! The BIBLE. But Joseph's book explains it so we can all understand. I pray for you all to get A revelation of God's wonderful GRACE and be blessed to enjoy every day.

I like all of your articles, but this particular one really captured my attention. I was brought up as a Christian as well, and sometimes I still struggle with things as being a Christian, I hope, I just get better at identifying and being able to transforming into the person that I'm suppose to be, as you did. Thanks!

Thank you, Dr. Kim, for speaking so freely about your religious upbringing. I, too, was raised in a very strict Christian household. I am thankful for my faith, but it took many, many years to learn that God loves me regardless. I was raised in an environment of "don't do this, or you must do that." If we messed up, then we thought that God was mad at us, would punish us or no longer love us. That couldn't be further from the truth! Yes, the Bible gives us rules to live by, for our own well-being. But too often we forget about God's love and His desire to guide us.
If I can recommend a good book for people like you and me: Embracing Grace (Settling the Guilt that Unsettles You), by Daniel A. Brown. It's about law vs. grace, the trap of legalism and the road map to freedom and grace.
Thank you, Dr. Kim, for your sensitivity, loving and caring Christ-like attitude and actions towards your fellow humans!
Karen Altman

This says it in a nutshell and offers a format to begin, to practice a new direction. Thank you and I will implememt it right now,

Pages