Before I parallel park, an ugly green gremlin that kind of looks like my driving teacher from years ago makes an appearance in my passenger seat. The jerk doesn’t even buckle up; he just sits there and openly mocks me.
So you’re trying to park huh? *snicker* Oh this is going to be gooood! Let’s see how long it takes before you give up.
I try to ignore him, but I can feel myself tensing up. I think back to parking tips my friend offered me (she is by far the best parallel parker I’ve ever seen…and drives a huge Jeep). (“Ok…it’s my side mirror that has to align with the front car’s door handle…right?”)
*laughing* Of course that’s how it’s done. Or is it? You don’t remember, do you?
I align my side mirror with the side door handle of the car I want to park behind. I turn the wheel all the way to the right, and start backing up.
Careful! You’ll hit the car! Now the sidewalk! You’re turning too wide, too fast, too stupidly.
I rarely get it on the first try.
Or second, or third, or fourth, or…
1. Let’s try this again.
Is that another car pulling up behind you? Uh oh! *laughs hysterically, hairy belly shaking with glee* We have an audience! This guy is going to start honking at you. Hurry up!
I can feel the sweat starting and my deodorant kick in. After the third try, I give up, and try to find an easier parking spot, even if I have to walk a couple of blocks. The gremlin points his finger at me, laughs, and disappears.
Have a nice walk!
I can’t park.
I can’t park.
I can’t park.
I say it to myself every time I’m looking for a spot. I say it apologetically to my friends. And I’ve said “I can’t” to myself so many times that it’s become my belief. In fact, all of the statements I’ve said about myself that have started with “I can’t” have become my beliefs. My self-limiting beliefs.
A self-limiting belief is that voice in your head that convinces you that you can’t do something. It usually develops with time and experience – the voice gets louder and louder every time you allow yourself to listen to it and refuse to take action as a result of it.
Self-limiting beliefs are common for people who have low self-esteem. Here are some of them:
- I am not worthy of other people’s love and respect. (So when something good happens to them, they’re either terrified that things will somehow go wrong, or will overcompensate by doing too much.).
- I will never be as skilled or as smart as I should be.
- People will only respect me if I’m good-looking and/or successful.
- If I don’t do as well as others, it means that I am an inferior person.
- If I can’t do something perfectly, then there’s no point in doing it at all.
Self-limiting beliefs of people with an external locus of control (or the belief that they have no control over their life):
- Heredity determines my health or personality.
- You cannot change your destiny
- A person cannot rise above his/her background.
- Being at the right place at the right time is essential for getting what you want in life.
- Many people lead miserable lives because of their parents.
Other self-limiting beliefs you may have told yourself:
- I’m not good enough/smart enough/attractive enough/rich enough/thin enough.
- If I do what makes me happy, people will think that I am selfish.
- I’ll fail/mess up for sure.
- I have to be something I’m not in order for others to like me.
- I can’t change.
The problem with self-limiting beliefs is that they can become deeply ingrained, to the point where your “beliefs” about yourself become “truths” about yourself. You can, however, break free from their hold on you. Here are some tips that have worked for me:
- Challenge their validity. Whenever a limiting belief pops into my head, I make it a point to challenge it. Go ahead – argue with yourself. Ask yourself questions like:
- Is this really my belief, or society’s, my culture’s, my parent’s , etc.?
- Do I have any proof that this belief about me or my life is true?
- Do I have any proof that this belief about me or my life may NOT be true?
- Practice EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Even if you’re a bit skeptical about “alternative” healing methods, there is really nothing to lose by trying EFT. The premise of EFT is that we hold blockages in our energy system, which can lead to self-limiting beliefs and unhealthy behaviors.
EFT involves tapping, with your fingertips, specific energy points on your body (sort of like acupuncture). Some practioners recommend staying focused on the limiting belief while you do the tapping (so that you can work through the negative feelings until they’re gone). Others suggest replacing the limiting belief with something positive. Do a little research on EFT and go with what works best for you.
- Don’t generalize. Just because you messed up in a certain area of your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re always doomed to be a failure in this area. If you’ve over-cooked or burned your dinner, that doesn’t make you a horrible cook. If you failed your math test, it doesn’t mean that you lack intelligence. Essentially, don’t generalize or over-exaggerate your failures, especially if you can learn from the mistakes you made and become a better person. Whenever you notice yourself generalizing or over-dramatizing, use the following sentence to remind yourself that your mistake does not make you a total and complete failure: “Just because I ________, that doesn’t mean _________.
- Take actions that go against your belief. As with most self-limiting beliefs, whatever we believe of ourselves (“I am not good at socializing with people.”), will often hold us back from taking action (“I’m going to turn down that party invitation. I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”) Sometimes, you have to push yourself to do the very thing that scares you, or that you think you can’t do. Even if you do mess up, take every mistake you make as a chance to learn. By not taking action, you trap yourself in your limiting belief system, and its hold on you continues to become stronger.
- Don’t let the gremlin win. We each have a hypothetical, ugly little gremlin inside of us who undermines our efforts. Yours may be telling you that you’ll never be a success because you’re not smart enough. Or that the reason for your divorce is entirely your fault, because you’re a selfish and horrible person. Whatever the case I highly recommend Rick Carson’s book Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way. The book will help you identify your own inner gremlin, and offers tips on how to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that your gremlin has made you believe.