Ep. 88 Changing self-limiting beliefs

changing self limiting beliefs

In today’s episode, Anna looks at changing self-limiting beliefs: how we can identify the stories that we tell ourselves that are holding us back from getting to where we want to be, and creating new stories that will support us in our goals.

There are stories that we tell ourselves that can – and this is why it’s so important – hold us back from getting to where we want to be. On the other hand, there are stories we can craft and tell ourselves that can actually allow us to get exactly to where we want to be. We need to be aware of those stories and reframe them where they don’t serve us, creating new stories that will support us in our goals and get us to where we want to be.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

Get private mentoring for your business– Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator– This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5



Changing self-limiting beliefs


Hello there, and welcome back. Now, we’ve been talking a little bit about building a brand platform, and I wanted to look at this from a slightly different angle, which is the stories we tell ourselves. So not the brand story, the personal brand that we’re putting out there in the world, but actually almost our internal branding, the way in which we see ourselves. And let me explain a little bit more what I mean. So I think there are stories that we tell ourselves that can, and this is why it’s so important, that can hold us back from getting to where we want to be. On the other hand, there are stories we can craft and tell ourselves that can actually allow us to get exactly to where we want to be. And I have lots of stories that come to mind for myself, and maybe some of these will resonate with you and you’ll have others as well.

One big one for me was the career-path story. Initially, I think I blamed everyone but myself for making the choices or lack of choices when it came to intentionally choosing degree subjects, and so on. I always kept my options open. I was very easily swayed by someone saying, “Oh no, you can’t possibly earn money doing that,” and, “Oh, you should study this.” Because in a way it was positive, I was interested in all the subjects really at school. Yep, I was that person. I liked both humanities and languages and also maths and science and so on. So it was difficult for me to work out what I wanted to do. And now I realise, I guess I’m one of those multi-passionate, multi-potentialite, Renaissance women, as I like to call it. But at the time, I just was inspired and interested in lots of things.

And so for that reason, in a way it was easy to be pushed away from one thing to because I thought, oh, there’s lots of other options as well. So for me, it was a question of, oh, blaming parents, teachers, society for pushing me in the direction that I didn’t necessarily want to go in. And for a long time, I wished I’d studied something else and I wished I’d studied in America and whatever it was. And that’s not a very empowering story because first of all, I was blaming other people. And even if it was their fault, which of course it wasn’t, because I think I was old enough to make my own decisions, there’s nothing I can do about that 10 years after. I can’t go back and change the degree or change the country I studied and so on. So, that was one of the first stories.

The second linked one was, and I’m sure you’ve heard me tell this story many times before if you’d been part of my community for a while and listening to the podcast. I studied, in the end, PPE, philosophy, politics, economics. I then went on to study at Geneva, a master’s degree in international relations, law, economics. And I wanted to work in development. So I did an internship at the United Nations Development Programme at a couple of different NGOs, nongovernmental organisations. And I applied to lots of jobs in the public sector. And my story was, I want to work in development, but I’ve ended up in the private sector because I think, as I tell it, the one job I applied to that was in the private sector, was the job that I was given. I had the interview on the Monday. I had to make the decision by Wednesday and boom, suddenly I was in this private marketing job for perfume.

And I really accepted this story, first of all, that development and the UN was my dream. That’s what I really wanted to be. And it’s the only way I could possibly make a difference and have fulfilling work. So that in itself was something I perhaps should have questioned and have questioned since then. And secondly, this idea that I ended up in the private sector was completely out of my control and more to the point, I couldn’t do anything about it. And that’s again, a very disempowering story that I was telling myself and anyone else that would listen. Because I wasn’t actively trying to… I think I half-heartedly, once a year would apply to a UN job. And then I’d just say, oh, well, you need more experience and so on. So there were lots of excuses.

Now luckily for me, for whatever reason, I did take control. So 2013, I took a sabbatical. And since then I’ve worked with coaches, I’ve challenged a lot of my underlying beliefs and assumptions.

I’ve done lots of soul-searching, exploration of what I really wanted to do, and I’ve taken steps to intentionally create that. And it wasn’t necessarily the surface thing that I thought I should be. And it wasn’t… I’m not working at the UN, unfortunately, but I like to think I’m making a difference in a different way. And obviously, it’s still a journey but here I am, I’m loving my work. I’m doing fulfilling work. And most importantly, I’m making intentional choices, and I’m certainly never blaming anyone else for where I am.

I must admit if I think back, relatively recently I’ve been blaming or using as an excuse I guess, the situation that my partner had a nine-to-five job here in London and said, “Oh, we have to stay in London.” We were tied by this. The exciting thing there is that he no longer has this nine-to-five so the world is our oyster and we can maybe go and do something else. But it is easy to latch on to that comfort zone to have that story that then holds us back. It just gives us an excuse to stay in our comfort zone.

So that’s one story or many stories that I had around career and so on, but there are others. One I had was, I’m a Libra and if you know anything about astrology, that means that you’re indecisive. So that was a massive excuse for me, always, “I can’t make decisions” whether it was at the restaurant or again for my career, my degree subjects and so on. So, that’s a very convenient excuse, “Oh, I can’t make decisions.”

Another interesting one for me, a bit more implicit is, I’m not a sporty person and what’s strange is, if I look back at school, throughout primary school, I was winning the 100-metre races. I was tall, so I was good at the high jump. Although I did that scissor sort of tech tactic from the 19th century, rather than doing the proper high jump technique that they do now. I was goal attack in netball. I won the netball prize for getting like eight goals in one match. I even got the sports cup when I left the school, which is very strange, I think because I really was more academic than sporty, but fine. So clearly I was sporty at that time. I was very active.

Now, secondary school, and I talked to my sister and some friends about this recently, unfortunately, we went to an all-girls school where we had to wear these awful briefs, basically underwear in public. And you could imagine going through puberty, feeling uncomfortable with your body, not to mention we had to walk past a field where they were boys pointing and laughing. In the changing-rooms girls would be giggling and pulling aside the shower curtain. At the swimming pool, you’d get verrucas. It’s just not a very conducive environment to enjoying sport, unfortunately. So I’m jealous of others. I know my boyfriend went to a school where they really encouraged sport and loved it and he’s good at every sport now. So I think partly there you go, there’s a disempowering story, again, I can blame school and so on and puberty. But the truth is, what is a sporty person? Nike says that we’re all athletes, right? And since then I’ve run 10K races, half marathons. I’ve done long hikes. I do lots of hit sessions.

Right now, I must admit I’m not being super sporty for various reasons, but having that, “Oh, I’m not a sporty person” implicit assumption gives me an excuse to not exercise, to not bring my sports gear when I go abroad on holiday or whatever.

And is that a story I want to believe? Well, no, actually not, I don’t want it to be a lazy lump, just sitting on the sofa all the time. So, that’s not very helpful. Another one is, I’m the good girl. And I’ve talked about the good girl syndrome. And this is not to say that I need to be a rebel, an outlaw, and do lots of crazy illegal things. But it also doesn’t always serve me to follow everything by the letter. There can be some shortcuts. There can be creative ways to do things that aren’t necessarily the correct way, and that’s okay. And especially running your own business, there is no exact path to follow. And actually, it’s much more empowering to try things, to be creative and to create your own path.

So lots of different stories there and I could probably go on and on. Others you might recognise. I hear this from clients, “Oh, I’m a procrastinator. I’m lazy. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not an entrepreneurial person. I’m an introvert.” Now that’s interesting because, yes, some people are more introverted than others, but the implicit assumption is that because you’re an introvert, you can’t then do X, Y, right? That’s the disempowering aspect of the story. Because you’re an introvert you can’t market yourself, you can’t do videos, you can’t speak or whatever it is. When in fact there are ways to build a brand and a business without being extroverted, lots of people do it.

And that’s my passion, designing a business that works for you in terms of your lifestyle, your priorities, and also your personality and your preferences.

Another one, and I hear this from a lot of people, is “I thrive on stress.” What is going on there? I know that there are lots of us who are excited and full of ideas and yes, we, to some extent I guess, thrive on having lots of balls in the air and so on. But I don’t think anyone thrives on stress and verging on burnout, and so on. So I think that’s not a very helpful story. Another one “I’m a perfectionist.” This one’s definitely just an excuse for holding things back and not taking action. So it’s one of those things that we think is quite virtuous, but no, it’s not a good thing to be a perfectionist. You need to get things out there. The only way things are going to help others and make a difference is by putting them out in the world.

So, I’m sure you can think of other stories that you have. And in fact, that’s what I encourage you to do. Literally, just grab a piece of paper, write down the stories you’re telling yourself. And it’s a strange one, What is a story? It’s also, in coaching we call them limiting beliefs, but anything like, “Oh, I’m always going to be single,” or “I’m a lazy person. I’m not good at planning. I can’t make decisions.” All these stories that we sort of assume are almost immutable truths. And that’s just fact, and there’s no way we can change them. And I would argue that all of these are things that we can work on. And if we literally just shift the way we’re thinking about it, that’s already a game-changer.

And then if we actually start taking different action, you will be shocked and incredibly impressed with how quickly you can shift things. And my career and business path is a prime example. From being that good girl, not an entrepreneur, all these things, in my comfort zone at the corporation and in a small town, whatever, in 2013. I’ve completely flipped my life around. And yes, I’m now settling into a different comfort zone, but that was all really work I did, intentional choices and a lot of work on shifting my beliefs and my stories.

So write down the stories, write down the beliefs you have and for each one ask yourself, Does this serve me? Is it empowering? Is it going to get me to where I want to be? And if not, the next piece of course is, What is an alternative story? What’s a new story that would help me do what it is I want to do?

Now, I’m not saying lie. I’m not saying try to be someone you’re not. I’m just saying, find a story that is equally true, or more true probably, and authentic to you and will help you get to where you want to be.

So really thinking about, okay, yes in the past I’ve struggled with making decisions, however, I trust my gut. I have trusted advisors I can turn to, and I want to make a decision. I’m going to set myself a deadline and I’m going to do it. And I’m going to practise making decisions, whether it’s a trivial one, what are you choosing at the restaurant? If we’re allowed to go to restaurants ever again. Or if it’s a bigger question, right? So what can we actually do differently rather than just resting on that excuse? “Oh, I’m a procrastinator.” “Oh, well, I’m a creative so I’m really bad at organising myself,” or, “Oh no, I’m introverted, I could never do that.” So fine, by all means, believe that if that’s what you want to believe, but know that there is another way. Know that there are other things you can believe and work on in order to craft a better way for you.

All these stories I have to say, soul-destroying is the word I always use, when you’re putting your fate in other people’s hands, when you’re spending all this time and energy regretting things from the past and thinking I should’ve done this and oh, I wish I were more like that. Well, what if you were more like that? And if you look at other people, last week I talked a little bit about that envy we feel when we look at other people who are maybe more confident and more whatever, ask yourself, Oh, that’s interesting, why do I admire that person? Why do I feel a little bit envious of that person?

Because they have that confidence. They just go for it. They make a decision and they stick with it, they’re committed. They don’t worry about perfectionism. They just get something out there. And yes, there’s a typo here and there, but amazing, they’ve done it and they’ve had a successful launch and made lots of money. So what is it that they’re doing that makes you a little bit envious? Because that can tell you a whole lot of the kind of person you want to be.

And again, I’m not talking about making this up. I’m not talking about coming back and being a completely different person. If that’s what you want to do, then by all means. I’m just talking about the power that these intangible, emotional stories, beliefs that we have, can have. And if I think I have this particular goal that I’m working towards, unfortunately, some of those stories can be sabotaging my progress and that’s the last thing we want. So I think just sitting down, write down those stories. They’re beliefs, they’re not facts. They’re not immutable. There are things we can work on. We can choose to work on, or we can choose to leave them, but make that intentional choice.

So again, have a think about what are the stories you’re telling yourself in every area of life. Of course, we’re talking specifically about career and business, but I’ve shared a few more personal ones from the sports, relationships, and just general lifestyle, I guess. And they’re all interconnected. So what are the stories you’re telling about yourself? And by the way, would you say those things about other people? Because that’s really harsh sometimes to say to about someone else, “Oh, they’re just a lazy, not sporty person. They’re never going to be a successful entrepreneur.” If you don’t say that about other people, your friends, why would you say that about yourself as well?

So what are the new stories you want to tell about yourself? Who would you need to be in order to achieve what you want to achieve? So I’ll leave you with that. I’d love to hear how you get on and I’ll see you back here next week. Bye for now.

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If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:

Get private mentoring for your business– Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall

Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5– After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator– This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Up-level with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is  is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate


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