Celebrate Women’s History Month
Letting Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs
Each of us arrives in the workplace with all the learnings and cultural norms that define our life experience and make us who we are. But not everything you’ve learned to this point will serve you well in building a business or advancing in your career.
You may have internalized a belief that it’s best not to make waves, you’re too young or too old to be taken seriously, you don’t have a head for numbers, you’re not decisive, not a people person or that it’s better to excel at what you know rather than stretch for something new. How might your behaviors and choices change if you replaced limiting beliefs that are holding you back with those that energized and propelled you forward?
If I knew then . . .
Limiting beliefs can be a major stumbling block to achieving your goals because they shrink the vision we have for ourselves and the possibilities we see ahead. They can inhibit you from even trying something new if you have predetermined it is somehow not consistent with who you are. Often, limiting beliefs are based in experiences or messages we received at a very young age that we have let stick rather than questioning them and replacing them with more empowering ideas. Here are a few of the most common limiting personal beliefs that may be holding you back and ideas on how to change them.
- If I just work hard, I’ll get noticed and rewarded. High performance is critical, but it’s actually just one component of career success and often a surprisingly small part of career advancement. One way to work smarter is by raising your hand more often for projects that are highly valued by leaders, provide opportunities to engage with a broad range of people across the organization and that add value or are linked to new, high-profile initiatives. Everyone has to take their turn with nuts-and-bolts projects, but strive to invest your greatest effort in those that drive real progress and change.
- I’m too young to lead. I once read a great insight from the wildly successful motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins who, early in his career, made a conscious decision to reframe his young age as a positive. Instead of dwelling on things he had not yet experienced, he told himself that “youth is power.” He focused on the energy, excitement and enthusiasm he had for what he was doing and how he could capitalize on those traits to succeed. It’s true that early in your career you have fewer years under your belt, and you have a lot to learn. You also have a lot to contribute, such as new approaches, more current skills, high energy, and a passion to grow. The future of your organization or your business depends on you and your peers so step up rather than back.
- If I say what I want, it will be too pushy. If you see letting your supervisor or other leaders know what you want next in your career as too aggressive, you need to replace that limiting belief with the understanding that leaders don’t waste their time trying to read minds. Draw a line for them between your current skills and how you can increase your contribution to the organization and they will be far more likely to look for opportunities for you to do just that.
- Disagreeing is disrespectful. For some women, especially those whose cultures prize deference to authority, questioning your boss or publicly engaging in disagreement with others can feel threatening. You can gain practice asserting yourself through volunteering with professional associations, leading an Employee Resource Group or working with a coach to learn how to share differing opinions and your own ideas without feeling you are overstepping.
- I have to make things work where I am. Some situations just aren’t fixable. If you believe that the only way to succeed is by sheer determination and grit, you may be setting yourself up for failure. You may have a boss who is never going to champion your advancement, or you could be working in a toxic environment where women simply are not seen as equal contributors and rarely promoted. Coming to this realization has led many women to found their own businesses or move on to organizations where they are valued. When persistence becomes more like banging your head against the wall, it’s time to change your approach.
Although limiting beliefs can be difficult to let go, every time you notice these self-sabotaging thought patterns and choose more empowering ones, you will gain confidence and resilience on the path to your greatest success and personal satisfaction.