In the game of life, we’re both spectators and players, both winners and losers (though I’d argue that even “losers” win in some ways, too!). The question is, whose side are we on? Are we truly rooting for our own best selves, or, at times, are we breaking out the pom-poms and subsequently cheering for the wrong team?
Put it this way: would a football player purposefully run the ball towards the opponent’s goal? Would a golfer decisively drive a shot from the green into the sandpit? Of course not! So why do we do this to ourselves?
Every time we say things like, “I’m not good at that”… “I’m not creative”… “I’m not athletic”… “My temper? That’s just who I am,” we are scoring against ourselves. Because when we argue for our limitations, we give them power. Cheer for them, even. We allow them to define us; and, in doing so, we cut ourselves off from manifesting our greatest potential. Instead of winning, we leave the game during warmup, before it’s even started.
So how do we shift our inner game in the right direction? We can start by better understanding the source of our limiting beliefs. More often than not, they come from those voices in childhood that took us from our pure, light-filled selves into the dark rooms where the “I’m nots” and “I can’ts” flourish. I know firsthand how the echoes from those hallways can resonate for years.
I heard that self-defeating sort of narrative throughout my middle and high school experience: I’m not a good student… I’m terrible at math (my bully of a math teacher worked hard to convince me of this one)… I’m a terrible public speaker… and so forth. And at home during my formative years, there was the unspoken message that mistakes are both unacceptable and, more specifically, unchangeable. Only after years of work did I come to realize that mistakes are, in fact, THE most important part of mastering anything! Think about it: how many free throws did Michael Jordan have to miss in order to become Michael Jordan? From the looks of it, he probably didn’t spend too much time arguing for his limitations.
Sometimes we argue for our limitations to excuse ourselves from putting in effort. This is fear-based thinking and amounts to self-sabotage. It’s much easier to say, “I can’t learn a new language” than it is to make the effort to take a class, struggle in the process, and study enough to become proficient. It’s easier to claim, “I’m not athletic” from the sidelines than it is to train your body and mind for the challenge. But no limiting belief can stay with you without your permission. As writer Richard Bach says, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.”
Kabbalah teaches that each of us vastly underestimates what we are and what we might be. No matter how much we have or think we can accomplish, our potential for growth, success, and fulfillment is exponentially greater. Case in point: In 2006, Mark Inglis, a New Zealand mountain climber, scaled the summit of Mt. Everest after a 40-day trek. Although he was almost 50 years old, he believed he could do it, and so he did. Never mind that Mr. Inglis, a double amputee, had no legs.
Countless others have found success against the odds, too–because they’ve refused to give power to their limitations. FDR held four terms in office after becoming paralyzed with polio. J.K. Rowling was nearly penniless and had suffered scores of rejections when she finally published Harry Potter (now a 45+ billion-dollar empire!). As Rav Berg said, “Consciousness is everything.” If we believe it, we can achieve it. This is when we become truly powerful, when we trade limiting for limitless.
What is a limiting belief that you’d like to change? Ask yourself:
● Where is this belief coming from? (Is it from childhood? From fear? From comparing myself to others? Or from somewhere else?)
● Is this belief pushing me forward, towards my own goals and potential? Or is it holding me back from something my best self would benefit from experiencing?
Rather than thinking of memory as a permanent record, think of it as something more malleable, a location we can return to in our minds to “rewrite” our inner narratives. How? By declaring the exact opposite of the limiting belief, while adding the action that will help co-create a new belief. So instead of saying, “I’m not talented enough to act,” try, “I’m an actor-in-the-making… I will take that workshop, and eventually, I’ll join a community production.” Where your attention lies, your life will follow.
Of course, sometimes limiting thoughts are both healthy and warranted. For instance, thinking, “I won’t get burned if I touch that fire,” is a thought that cries out for limits. Or believing that you should be promoted to president of a company after a week at an office job may be stretching the “positive self-belief” thing a bit too far.
Kabbalah teaches that we cannot have two competing desires or thoughts and expect either to manifest. I’ve learned to trade those old self-defeating beliefs for winning ones. For instance, while I may not be the next math genius, I’ve learned a few tricks for keeping my accounts in fine order (take that, Mr. Palzer!).
So next time you find yourself tempted to argue for one limitation or another, remember which team you’re rooting for. Because look! The crowds are cheering, and the stakes are high. But when we’re growing towards the light, the game is ours to win.