We live our whole lives believing certain things are unavailable to us, beyond our reach, off limits. These are limiting beliefs – untruths we tell ourselves over and over again, until they become our perceived reality. I’ve recently been working hard at squelching one of mine entirely, this negative mantra I’ve repeated silently to myself and out loud to others, by reflex and habit, “I don’t have enough time.” This is not true. The obvious truth is, I have enough time for what is important to me. My problem then, is with priorities, not time. I may have a problem using the word, “no”, but I have enough time. I have the same 24 hours every day that everyone else has.
It seemed more than coincidence, that the morning I was searching for inspiration in writing this post about turning away from the limitations of our fears and beliefs, I had the lyrics to Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine” running in a loop through my mind.
I’m trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it’s only life after all
Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrapped my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I’m crawling on your shore.
Isn’t it true that our limiting beliefs are closely tied to our fears? If you can silence one, then you make giant leaps in silencing the other. The Indigo Girls describe this struggle pretty accurately in their lyrics – we find the comfort of familiarity in our fears and limiting beliefs, somehow they make us feel safe. Stepping outside their comfort zone takes conscious effort, fighting the voices that lie to us and hold us back. However, doing so can allow us to do something that makes us think, “If I can do that, I can do anything.” Those moments of brilliance, come at the cost of ignoring the fears and limiting beliefs of our mind. This weekend, I had one of those moments, a hard fought accomplishment at the expense of ignoring the fears and limitations of my mind. It was by no means a quick or easy battle.
About five years ago, my husband began marathon training to improve his winter mountaineering skills. Out of a desire to lose some baby weight, after having our youngest daughter about 8 months earlier, and friendly competition, I decided to join him. I had some success at running short distances on a treadmill (2-4 miles) in the past, so I was pretty sure I’d work up to that in running outside and just maintain there. However, after my husband went out for his first run, he came back with a report of over a 6 mile run. I got ready to set out, following in his tracks, with him waiting by his phone for a call to come get me when I couldn’t go any further. By the time I reached the edge of town, I was about 2.5 miles in, with a couple of thoughts playing through my head.
I didn’t always think I was bad at sports, but some unsuccessful attempts at team sports, coupled with judgment of high school coaches and peers, left me with some limiting beliefs – “I’m not coordinated.” and “I’m not good at sports.” Once I thought it, it became true. When I went out for that long run, and things started to get hard, those were the first thoughts to begin circling my mind. Though on this day, for some reason, I let another thought creep in, “If he can do it, so can I.” I chose to listen to that voice, at the expense of the others. Before I knew it, I had run his exact route and enjoyed it. Good bye limiting belief!
Through many unexpected twists and turns, that one run has led to me swimming in a few triathlons and running in a few very challenging races, as part of relay teams. There are so many limiting beliefs that had to be ignored to participate in any of those. I shared just a couple above, but the biggest ones came several months after that first long run. Several doctors and days and days worth of tests, put me face to face with my current rhuematologist and pulmonologist telling me I had, “tracheobronchomalacia with 85-95% collapse”, “relapsing polychondritis”, “mixed connective tissue disease”, “lupus”…Those conversations and google searches added to my limited beliefs. I could have used them as an excuse to “wrap my fear around me like a blanket”, and there were days that I did. Then one night, in a fearful conversation with my husband, I showed him some googled images of autoimmune diseases I’d heard thrown around as diagnosis. He promptly googled, “scary lettuce face img.” (Are you googling it? If you need a laugh you should.) That search gave us some pretty scary pictures to look at too. How blessed was I that I didn’t have that disease (and so many of other real ones)! The realization sank in, fear is always out there, waiting to take hold. It doesn’t matter what or why.
I know now that there is a reason I’m able to run mile after mile and swim lap upon lap in the pool, in spite of an advanced lung condition. There’s a reason I can depend on my lungs to work hard for me, when others with my condition require stents or more just for clear breathing. I don’t have a complete understanding of the reason yet, but I know that my lungs will do what ever I ask of them. So I ignore the fears and limiting beliefs of my mind. They are lies that would waste the gifts I’ve been given. Ignoring them allowed me to spend time with humble, inspiring people, doing inspiring things, winning the battle with their minds and pushing their bodies beyond what they thought were their limits. This last weekend, spent running a relay with a team, up the side of a mountain, in the black of night and the heat of mid day, nearly 15 miles in total, left me saying, “If I can do that, I can do anything.” That doesn’t sound limiting at all. That is the gift of saying goodbye to fears and limiting beliefs. The most beautiful part about it is not to be left without limiting beliefs, there’s still plenty of those to go around. The beautiful part is to be left with inspiration and momentum to meet the next limiting belief head on.
I’m doing that right now with each peck at the keys, using the momentum to fight that voice in my head that’s saying, “You’re not good enough…No one will like this/you…They’ll think you’re stupid if…” Limiting beliefs can sound like so many things, often playing on our worst fears and insecurities. That’s what makes them so hard to silence and overcome. All limiting beliefs have one thing in common, as the name implies, they hold us back. Of course this is what makes it so worth the work to move past them, opening up entire new worlds that our minds would have us believe are unavailable. If you’re struggling with limiting beliefs, let me give you an honest phrase to replace them, “If she can do it, so can I!” It’s so true.
Transparency requires that I share that it has taken me over a month to push the publish button on this piece. I’m sticking my fingers in my ears to quiet the lies my insecurities tell me. I’m pushing the button.