In my last blog post, I talked about “the hard thing about faith.” Having faith and uncertainty is such a vulnerable, human experience. To cope with that vulnerability, we tend to give ourselves a lot of “rules” for living life. Rules that make us feel less anxious, less vulnerable, less insecure, and less uncertain…
“I can’t be productive unless I’m feeling motivated and inspired.”
“I can’t talk to people with this anxiety.”
“I can’t move on with my day unless this task is done perfectly or just right.”
“I’m not a good mom, unless I’m taking care of everyone else and putting my own needs last.”
“There is only one right way to do this.”
“I don’t deserve this.”
“I only eat [fill in the blank].”
“I either get an ‘A’ or I failed.”
“Life isn’t fair.”
“I can’t do that.”
“If I don’t run a full mile, then I might as well not run at all.”
These rules are what we call, “limiting beliefs.”
What rules or limiting beliefs do you have?…
These rules may seem small and harmless, at least in the moment. Sometimes, they can even be temporarily helpful for setting boundaries or motivating us. Sometimes, we’re not even aware of them when we have them. However, they can accumulate to become a big problem by putting significant limitations on our hopes, goals, dreams, and lives. When we use them chronically and inflexibly, they make us rigid, keep us stuck, and suck the fulfillment out of life.
So why do we have these rules- these limiting beliefs?
They give us the illusion of faith. They give us the illusion of security, control, and even courage. But that’s all they are- an illusion. They only have as much accuracy and power as we give them. Sometimes we feel more comfortable in our limitations, and we begin acting in ways that validate this illusion, which is a vicious, self-prophesizing cycle.
So how do we deal with limiting beliefs?
We challenge them. We consider other perspectives and alternatives. We find a middle ground. We expand our flexibility in thinking- A process I like to call, “Anxious Flexibility.” Anxious flexibility is challenging yourself to think differently, to suspend your limitations, and allow yourself to hope and strive for an outcome that is more in line with your goals and values. Allowing yourself to have your cake AND eat it too!
I have received a lot of push back from people when breaching this topic. It’s funny how when you try to offer greater freedom, people will still try to argue for their limitations…
Let me clarify, I’m not suggesting that you change your entire belief system or view the world with unrealistic, rose-colored glasses. I’m suggesting that you don’t pigeon hold yourself to your own rules and that you at least put more options on the table…
“You can be productive AND feel unmotivated at the same time.”
“You can feel anxious AND talk to people at the same time.”
“Your day can move on even if you didn’t get this task done just perfectly.”
“You can be a good mom and take care of your own needs (and let others take responsibility for taking care of themselves sometimes!).”
“There is more than one way to do this.”
“You are deserving of anything that fulfills you, betters you, and helps you grow.”
“You can try foods out of your comfort zone, as long as they’re not detrimental to your health.”
“Getting a ‘B’ doesn’t mean that you failed.”
“Life isn’t always fair.”
“You won’t know what you can and can’t do unless you try.”
“You can run a half mile today and work up to running a full mile next week.”
Just like limiting beliefs, flexible beliefs don’t affect your life in just one instance of use. They take time and practice to become habit and take on an accumulative effect over time.
This week, become more aware of your rules and limiting beliefs and try expanding your flexibility in thinking. Rather than pushing for your limits, practice anxious flexibility.
Until next time,
Have courage and kind wishes!
Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.
The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.