Limiting Beliefs and the Influences of Culture: Part I

So, what are limiting beliefs?

Limiting beliefs influence how you make decisions, interpret situations, and how you interact in life.

These beliefs have been accumulated throughout our life from a variety of places. Have you ever noticed that you always seem to get the same results no matter what you do?  It’s very possible that you have a belief that is sabotaging your actions.

These beliefs and what you might call foundations in which you interact with your world. For example, when you are in a new environment, you rely on the information that you have accumulated whether it is true or not. Let’s say you are invited to a social event where there will be drinking. Based on what you have been taught, you may be leery about going because alcohol will be served there, or you may be excited because it might indicate to you that you will have fun. Either reaction is based on beliefs which limit how you will interpret and perceive the event.

How you interpret your situations, make decisions, and react to different circumstances is influenced by your thoughts and ideas, that have primarily been accumulated through life’s experiences, education, and culture.   These beliefs can confine and limit your understanding of your situation and are often called limiting beliefs because they:

      • Limit your actions,
      • Limit how you see the world and
      • Limit your potential for happiness.

To help understand how a limiting belief influences you and comes about, think about a dog that is “crate trained” to sleep in the crate.  This method can create a sense of security for the dog. The dog may go there when feeling anxious or when it wants to sleep. After some time, the dog will not need to be told to go into the crate. The dog will automatically go in there, even though the dog is safe sleeping elsewhere. Unless shown otherwise, the dog feels most secure sleeping in a crate. A limiting belief was formed for the dog “that it is safest to sleep in a crate.”

Training is just one of the ways we can acquire limiting beliefs. Other ways we develop these limiting beliefs come from people, education, and the cultures you are raised in.

Are you aware that the beliefs you acquire from different cultures can wreak havoc in your life? They can distort your perception of the world and influence how you interpret messages that you receive from the universe.  Sometimes opportunities are lost because of these beliefs.

Cultures impact us in the following ways.  It is not all-inclusive but where many limiting beliefs come from:

      1. by creating feelings of being less than, when you feel different or disagree with the culture
      2. by placing an emphasis on following strict values, which can limit your thoughts and actions in critical situations.

Cultural beliefs and values are interesting as they primarily come from the people you identify with.  For example, there was the “hippie” generation which focused primarily on love and peace. Today the ‘millennials” are confident and achievement-oriented. Each of these generations may influence the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs you might have. What beliefs do you have from your generation?

Another culture, which you may not consider is living in rural communities vs. city dwellers. If you are from a rural area, you may have obtained some beliefs about living in the city, and city dwellers may have beliefs about living in the country. Where were you raised? What influences or beliefs did you acquire?

I would like to share my beliefs about rural communities before I moved to one recently.  In the past, I would not have even considered the move. I had beliefs that it would have limited opportunities in my career and also felt that it would have limited my life. I’m sure this came from always living in a city.  With the current move, I have discovered quite the opposite to be true. My life has been enriched by the friendliness of a small community, the wildlife and the many adventures we have taken. I now see that there were many opportunities I may have missed by not living in a rural area! What about you? What beliefs do you have?

Another example of cultural influence is when we look at families. One culture may place a great emphasis on family, especially the elders, while another culture may value the young and place more importance on the individual. Neither is right or wrong, but they both influence how you think the world should operate. What is the American influence on? Individuals? Families? Group? What did your family focus on?

The above are just a few of the cultural influences that shape our beliefs and our lives.

The problem that occurs in cultures is when you feel different from the group.  This can make you feel “less than” others or feel that you don’t fit in.  This is where limiting beliefs can originate.  For example, beliefs such as “I’m different, therefore something must be wrong”, “I’m not good enough” (otherwise I would be like the others).  Cultures can also instill fear when your ideas are different from theirs. Ideas that differ must be “bad,” “wrong” or “evil.”  This too can create a limiting belief.

When living within a culture, you might fit part of it, but other parts may not resonate with you.  It’s these elements, that can make you feel inferior, or left out. This in turn can create some of your limiting beliefs, and adversely affect your ideas about who you are. Take a look at any of your feelings of inadequacy, and see whether those feelings are true. I’ll bet when it is looked at objectively, you’ll find that they are not true.

Some of the feelings of being different may create beliefs such as “I am flawed in some way,” “others can do it better than me” or “something is wrong with me” to name a few when our feelings of being “different” set in.

Values such as loyalty, honesty, and responsibility can become limiting beliefs when they are strictly adhered to. These may seem like very good traits to have and they are, but they can also impact you negatively.

Take, for example, loyalty. It is defined as giving firm and consistent support to someone or something.  Generally speaking, loyalty is good for many reasons, but when strictly followed it can limit your actions and your thoughts.

For example, I am very loyal to people and companies. When I was employed, I had a boss who I was very supportive of and respected. My boss had asked me to support the dismissal of an employee. It did not make sense to me, yet because of my loyalty to him, I seriously considered the dismissal. I was not in favor of it, but because I trusted him more than I did myself, I agreed with it. Fortunately, the decision was postponed and we soon came to realize that it would not have been wise. This employee turned out to be one of our best employees.

To discover whether a long-term loyalty or other value, is appropriate for a situation, look to your feelings, trust yourself, and find the courage to take appropriate action.

What can you do when you discover a limiting belief?  Here are a few things that can help you when you discover a limiting belief.

      1. Listen to your thoughts and recognize when you are devaluing yourself.
      2. Decide that you are worthwhile, discover what makes you unique and accept who you are.
      3. Deprogram the belief. Identify where it came from and what the belief is.  In a short meditation:
        • Say “No” to where it came from.
        • Say “No” to the limiting belief
        • Ask that it be transformed into harmony.
      4. Embrace your uniqueness—your talents, your gifts, your nature!

Featured image picture by Carlos DeToro from

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