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The One Thing That Holds Us Back

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The one thing that holds us back | How to reach our full potential | How to overcome limiting beliefs


Some time ago I was chatting with my friend Kyle about writing. He told me, “I’d really like to grow my business and focus on my blog, but I’ve got some major childhood insecurities when it comes to writing…I think that is what has always held me back.”

Right away, I spotted it. Do you see it too?

It was a limiting belief.

So what IS a limiting belief? Well, in a nutshell, it is a thought or belief we have about ourselves that holds us back from achieving our full potential.

These limiting beliefs can come in all shapes and sizes, and appear in all different areas of our lives. They are also shape shifters—re-emerging in a new way each time we think we’ve overcome one. Most of us have many limiting beliefs, but I believe that all of us have at least a few.

'What IS a limiting belief? Well, in a nutshell, it is a thought or belief we have about ourselves that holds us back from achieving our full potential.'Click to Tweet

Overcoming limiting beliefs begins with believing in yourself.

And so I did what hopefully any true friend would do–I called him on it. I said, “Kyle, I’ve read your stuff and it is good, but the best way to become a better writer is to write….so WRITE. Tomorrow is the first day of April, so why not challenge yourself for 30 days to write every day. Don’t edit, don’t judge, just spend the first hour of the day writing, and don’t stop until you have at least 500 words.”

And you know what? He did it! Midway through the month, he emailed me to let me know that he had been writing every day. In fact, he said, “Thank you for the writing encouragement & challenge. It’s literally been paradigm shifting for me. Every day, I’m less afraid of it.” He even wrote this post to talk about it. And it’s really good.

But the reality is that I didn’t actually do anything.

All I did was help him identify that limiting belief. He’s the one doing all the work. But once he saw that limiting belief for what it was—just a false thought that was holding him back–it stopped having so much power over him.

Of course my friend Kyle is not the only one with limiting beliefs about what he is capable of. We all have them!

'While we can’t always stop those limiting beliefs from popping up, we CAN refuse to listen to them.'Click to Tweet

It might be that we don’t believe we deserve to ask for that raise, or that we aren’t as talented or witty or well-spoken as a co-worker. It might be that we’re not a good mom or a good housekeeper, or that we’re not organized or not good at math. It might be that we don’t believe we can actually become debt-free, or that we’re not smart enough to be successful. It might be that we don’t try new things or take a risk because we might fail. It might be that we don’t want to reach out and ask for help because we might get rejected. It might be that we don’t want to put 100 percent of our energy and efforts into pursuing our dreams because we’re not sure what the people around us will say. What if they don’t understand? What if they make fun of us?

Whatever your limiting beliefs may be, I guarantee they are there. And while we can’t always stop those limiting beliefs from popping up, we CAN refuse to listen to them. Because once we’ve recognized a limiting belief for what it is—just a thought that is holding us back—we can take away the power it has over us and move past it, just like my friend Kyle.

One of my very favorite quotes, and the advice I shared with Kyle, is an ancient Chinese proverb. It says, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.”Click to Tweet

In other words? You can’t go back and change what’s already happened, but you do have the power to change what happens from this moment on.

The one thing that holds us back is almost always ourselves, and the deep-seated beliefs we hold about what we are capable of. Change your thoughts, reset the tape that you’ve been playing, and you might just find you do things you never thought possible.

My challenge for you is to spend some time thinking about your own limiting beliefs, both in your personal life and at work. What have you been afraid to try because of what you believe about yourself? And how can you push yourself past it to achieve your full potential?

And, if you haven’t already, be sure to take some time to listen to Episode 3, “How to Stop Listening to the Voice in Your Head That Says You Can’t” on the Do It Scared podcast. In it, I share three super practical things that you can start doing right now to turn OFF that voice that is telling you that you’re not worthy or capable, and instead start doing those things you really want to do. It’s a good one–in fact–it has been a listener favorite so far!

You can listen on iTunes HERE or on Google Play HERE, and you can get the show notes HERE.

How to overcome your limiting beliefs.


  1. May 24 at 12:17PM

    This is such an incredible article and one that really hits home for me. I have exactly the same problem; limiting beliefs. I find myself not believing in myself, I find that I’m so self-conscious about what I do or how far I can go without criticism. I grew up in a very narcissistic setting, and it’s done a number on the way I think about myself.

    But even so, I’m still trying to push forward. I’m currently working on my own blog called Cradle Cents, and I’ve had a lot of fears related to what people might think about it and about me. Even so…I still push forward. Articles like this really do a ton to help encourage me to keep going. 🙂

    Thank you so much for writing this!

  2. May 25 at 11:05PM

    Love, love, love this post!! Sometimes it’s hard to see the bars of our own cages. I’ve also been through this in terms of deciding if I should take the leap and move abroad to Guatemala… Which I did, and now I blog about it ( Sometimes we need to just go for it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is so true. And sometimes if our limiting beliefs are reiterated by one or two other people, THEN we’re sure this really is our dead end. All this while, we keep ignoring the vast majority of approvals that life and our loved ones DO keep giving us in so many spoken and unspoken ways. Thank you for your advice. Trying to be more intentional about identifying (and shush-ing!) the limiting beliefs about my writing too, which I had paused after only one unpleasant incident.
    Starting to write again from today!

  4. July 3 at 03:19AM

    This is such an important message for me and my husband right now. Starting our own blog is super scary but we’re doin it! See what I did there? So many times through the last few months those limiting beliefs seem to be like a nagging voice in the back of my head. “What if everyone’s right and you won’t succeed”? “You’ve tried so many things before”. “What if no one cares about your message”. Some days are harder than others to quite those voices. Listening to your podcasts have really helped me keep going. Just when I think I’m not good enough I listen to a “Do it scared” podcast and it inspires me to keep going. Thank you so much Ruth, for all you do!

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    July 25 at 09:54PM

    I have sent my address several times and it says the link for the free workbook was sent, but I never receive it.

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