I never really liked the expression “self-limiting”, as in self-limiting beliefs, although it does comes in handy to describe how we stop ourselves – block ourselves – stand in our own way. I use the term myself for lack of something better, but in the back of my mind there is always a tugging thought – reminding me that whenever we limit ourselves in any way, we always believe it is the best thing to do at the time, given the circumstances. Regardless of what we might say to ourselves at the time, we could never do this if we didn’t think it was a good idea. And guess what? Who else could make this decision but a limitless self who is always available to decide when to stop and when to go.
The essence of unhappiness is believing that I will limit myself to my own detriment. That somehow, my untrue unhappy bad limiting self will stand in the way of my true happy good unlimiting self. So if I believe I am bad for myself, I may believe I am self-limiting or self-defeating. In other words, I am against myself. But what if there is no such thing as being against myself, because on some level, I am always the one making the decisions?
For example, if someone feels bad that they missed a work deadline, what is the feeling bad for? That is the question we ask While there may be practical consequences of missing a deadline, feeling bad is not one of them. In order to feel bad, we must believe that missing a deadline is bad for our happiness in some way. How could missing a deadline be bad for happiness? We often find the answer to that question by eventually asking, What would you be afraid would happen if you were not unhappy? The answer is usually something like, It would mean I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t do what is necessary to not have it happen again, etc. When a person is believing that they need to feel bad to take care of themselves, isn’t it in their best interests to feel bad, given that belief?
But that’s not the end of the story. Once we know this is what we are up to, we can choose a better way. Since we don’t want to feel bad, what would we like to do? That awakening brings us out of the emotional realm into the practical realm again. This time, being free of those so-called self-limiting beliefs, we are open to many more possibilities and choices. So in this scenario, we can see the self limiting belief – I have to feel bad in order to make sure I take care of myself. But we also see how the person is taking care of themselves (given that belief).
In terms of our happiness, we have a lot to gain in realizing that we limit ourselves and our happiness by what we believe. But remember, we always do what we believe is best. We have every right to limit ourselves until we find a better way.