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Identifying And Overcoming What Holds You Back In Life

What holds you back in life are subtle and very deceptive limiting beliefs that impede your personal growth and keep you from the success you desire. Identifying these limiting beliefs is the key to breaking free and moving forward.

The limiting beliefs and negative thinking that support your core beliefs are what’s holding you back. The information in this post will help you learn, identify and begin to overcome these limiting beliefs and the negative thoughts that reinforce them.

 Martin Ward | February 22, 2022

An Elephant with a chain around him that holds him back

Table of Contents

“The only person who is truly holding you back is you. No more excuses. It’s time to change. It’s time to live life at a new level.” ~ Tony Robbins


What Holds You Back In Your Life?

What holds you back in your life are your core limiting beliefs and the negative thinking you’ve developed to support them. 

You may have never heard these terms, and they can seem confusing when you first try to understand them. 

This post will help you get a better understanding of limiting beliefs and the negative thoughts holding you back.

Hopefully, this information will help you identify and overcome the limiting beliefs and the negative thoughts you’ve developed that reinforce them. 

Once you identify the limiting beliefs and negative thinking, you will learn to counter or challenge those thoughts with positive affirmations that you know to be true.

If you do the work, and it’s not hard, it just takes some practice; you’ll begin to see more successful results in all of your endeavors.

Nothing will stop you from moving ahead in your life when you begin to overcome the negativity and fear these limiting beliefs create. 

You will build your self-confidence, self-worth, self-esteem, and belief in yourself. 

Here’s a story that can help illuminate for you what’s going on in our minds. 

An elephant trainer in a circus would tie a new baby elephant to a stake in the ground so the elephant could not get loose.

As the elephant grew older, it learned to believe and accept that it could never get loose or escape whatever was holding it back. 

Even when the elephant became full-grown and could easily pull a medium-sized tree out from its roots in the ground, it still wouldn’t try to get away because it believed and accepted that it could never escape what was holding it back.

All the trainer had to do then was cut the rope, or chain, around the elephant’s leg, and it would stay put unless the trainer removed the elephant from the area himself. 

The truth is that what holds you back in life is the same belief(s) and acceptance or mindset that you’ve developed throughout your life.

Like for the elephant, your limiting beliefs are the ropes or the chains that hold you back in your life.

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The Obstacles That Are Holding You Back

The obstacles that hold you back are within your limiting beliefs that create negative thinking, resistance, and fear of rejection and taking chances.   

You can never find the perfect partner or companion in life if you are afraid to say hi to them for fear of rejection. Or get your dream job if you think you’re not worthy of the position.

The fear of failure plays a very subtle and deceptive part in the negative thinking patterns brought on by your limiting beliefs about who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing.

Your support of these misguided limiting beliefs with negative thoughts uphold these misguided thoughts that you’ve acquired throughout your life.

These misguided thoughts are the very thing that keeps you from reaching your goals.

A thought process needs to be developed and used to counter these negative thoughts you’ve come to believe for most of your life.

You need to identify and then challenge the negative thoughts you accept as accurate by positive affirmations. 

Limiting beliefs come in several different forms. Some of these in this shortlist may sound familiar to you.

I’m not smart enough, I’m too young, I’m too old, I’m not good-looking enough, or deserving, or worthy, or rich enough. Etc. etc.

These are just a few of the many negative thoughts you may tell yourself. What you need to overcome, what holds you back, are these limiting beliefs.

“The man who says he can,
and the man
who says he can’t are both correct.”
~ Confucius

Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back From Succesful Results In Life

As we’ve tried to highlight, what’s holding you back are the limiting beliefs and negative thinking that you’re developed throughout your lifetime.

These are several limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, or unhelpful thinking that many people experience.

I’m not good enough
I’m too old.
I’m not good-looking enough.
I need permission,
I should get more,
I need more money,
I don’t have the time,
I don’t have the energy,
I need somebody to help me,
I’m not smart enough,
I need more education,
I don’t deserve love,
I’m not good at relationships,
All the good ones are gone,
I’m not going to settle,
I’m scared of getting hurt,
I don’t have what it takes,
I couldn’t do that,
I don’t have the talent,
I’m not artistic,
I need to wait for the right time.
Successful people are just lucky,
I’ve never been good with money,
I’ll never make it,
I can’t ever catch a break,
I’ll never be given a chance.

You can fill in the blank. I’ll never be_____________. I can’t_________. I’m not_________.I couldn’t__________. I don’t have enough__________

Identifying your limiting beliefs like these, you can begin to challenge and overcome that which has held you back from being the best you can be in life.

Man tied to a chair that holds him back from escaping

Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back From Your Goals

Here is a simple example of how to identify a limiting beliefs that might be keeping you from your goals in relationships and in life.

This specific limiting belief may not apply to you at all, it’s just an example. 

Imagine that someone was at sitting at their desk at work one Monday morning, and they hear the person in the next cubicle say to someone else on the phone that they’re having a retirement party after work for Frank, a longtime coworker.

  1. How might they feel when overhearing this?
  2. What might they say to themselves when they realize they’ve not been invited to the party?

Many people might feel or think in a way similar to these.

  1. Hurt by not being invited.
  2. I’m always getting left out.
  3. I’m always the last to know about these kinds of things.
  4. What’s wrong with me?
  5. Did I miss out again?

These are examples of the negative thoughts that might support their own limiting belief that they are unworthy. 

“I’m not worthy” would be their core limiting belief.

A core limiting belief could have been developed or reinforced for them at a very young age when they always seemed to be the last one picked in their grade school Dodgeball games.

Even though this is a straightforward example of experiencing a limiting belief, the key point for you is that you need to recognize when this happens. 

Identifying when you have an adverse reaction or feeling or negative thought to an actual event in your life is the critical aspect of breaking free from the negative belief.

Imagine the more success you would have at communicating with others, if you focus on and understand the emotional triggers brought on by the limiting beliefs developed in your life.

Unfortunately, there can be an initial cognitive bias (see video below) towards the negative thinking about ourselves over the positive aspects that we know to be true.

An adverse trigger event is when you need to stop and reframe your thinking to make progress against negative thoughts and counter them with the facts of who you are.

Why Limiting Beliefs that Hold You Back In Life Are False.

In the example above, someone had an adverse internal reaction that triggered a core limiting belief about themselves.  

Now imagine that the person that felt this stood up looked into the next cubicle and said harshly, “You guys are having a retirement party after work for Frank, and you never told me about it?

Their coworker looks up at them a little startled, while still on the phone, and says, “Hey Bob, the party is not until next Thursday night after work, and I haven’t even sent out the invitations yet. Jeez, you nut job, I just got here!

Do you see how this works?

When these limiting beliefs are triggered in you and the negative thoughts happen, you need to train yourself to address these triggers right then.

It only takes a second to focus and reframe your thinking, allowing you to achieve a more mature and successful outcome from any triggering event. 

Stop, and challenge the negative thinking with other factual empowering beliefs or positive affirmations about yourself. 

Stewart Smalley on Saturday Night Live / Al Franken kind of had it right, but not quite.

The key to overcoming negative thinking is to use positive affirmations when negative triggers or events happen. 

You need to confront and counter the negative thoughts right then and not later. 

Constantly challenging and countering your limiting beliefs and negative thinking with a new focus on empowering positive thoughts and facts about who you are now will dissolve the power of your negative self-talk.

Remove The Fear In Reacting To Limiting Beliefs

The overall goal you’re trying to achieve is to take responsibility and focus on getting yourself through triggering events created by limiting beliefs. 

You also need to remove any fear you might have developed in your limiting beliefs.

When you feel that you need to say something that is in your best interest in your interactions with others, you need to do it.

You may have developed limiting beliefs like keeping quiet so I don’t upset anyone.

When you need to say something or let someone know what you want or need, you need to eliminate the fear that keeps you from saying what you need to say. 

Taking action to assert yourself is just as important as learning to refrain from saying something when overcoming limiting beliefs.

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy, it’s what you think about.”~ Dale Carnegie


stressed businessman caught in a box that holds him back

Get Rid Of What Holds You Back

The work you’re going to have to do is identify these limiting beliefs and negative thoughts that are bad for you. These are keeping you from experiencing success and living up to your potential. 

These core limiting beliefs and negative thoughts that support them have been playing on a loop in your mind. These are keeping you from moving forward towards your goals.

You need to take responsibility, challenge them with facts, and dispose of them and their potential adverse effect on your life. 

In a research article by Søren Ventegodt, Niels Jørgen Andersen, and Joav Merrick, for the thescientificworld.com website titled Quality of Life Philosophy V. Seizing the Meaning of Life and Becoming Well Again, they write;

“Taking responsibility is, quite literally, moving the barriers in our lives inside ourselves. Taking responsibility for life means that you are willing to see that the real barriers are not all these external ones, but something that can be found within yourself.”

You just haven’t been paying attention to them and challenging them.

You’ve never challenged these negative, destructive, disempowering beliefs and thoughts you have. Most people don’t.

Generally, people aren’t taught to stop and counter these negative thoughts with factual, evidential, and empowering thoughts and beliefs.

Everyone should learn to use this challenging process early in life, ultimately creating more overall success for them in all things.

That’s what you’re going to need to learn how to do. Overcome these negative beliefs. It’s never too late in life to do that.

You can turn those core beliefs and negative thoughts you’ve lived with upside down and sideways, see them in a whole new light and begin to remove them.

Learn how to challenge these limiting beliefs and delete them so they can’t hold you back anymore.

Why Do You Hold Yourself Back?

Learning what a core belief is and where it originated is essential because it can keep you from success in all of your endeavors.

How you’ve developed a core belief is not as important as recognizing a negative thought supporting it. 

Why have you allowed it to be active, hiding in your unconscious mind? Just like our Elephant friend did.

Most core beliefs are embedded in our minds from our life experiences, whether from childhood or new ones we’ve developed. Traumatic life events can create new core beliefs.

You can be building new core beliefs thorough your life, or you can build upon the old ones you already have.

Let me explain.

The negative thought examples outlined above in the last section, such as, I’m not good enough, or I’m not smart enough, come from some fundamental core beliefs. 

An overriding concept or ideology that you believe is stored in the hard drive inside your mind.

These negative thoughts are ones that you’ve created to support core limiting beliefs.

You believe these limiting beliefs and negative thoughts to be true about yourself.

However, not all core beliefs are negative limiting beliefs.

For example, a core belief is; all people are created equal. 

A core limiting belief would be; all people are created equal, except those on the other side of town.

A core limiting belief can easily be disproven.

You may have a neighbor across the street that you are not fond of, but that does not mean that he is not equal to the same rights, protections, opportunities as you are or anyone else is.

An example of a core limiting belief that would directly be in that would hold you back.

An example of a core limiting belief would be that; you are unworthy.

How Do These Core Beliefs Become Set In Your Mind? 

The most typical example of how a core limiting belief developed would be when you were a child and a parent, or both parents, didn’t give you the love and attention you craved.

You saw your siblings or other children getting all the love and attention you needed but were not given.

You might have gotten a pat on the head or maybe a little hug, but you felt they did not give it to you with the same strength or connection as you saw your siblings or other children receive.

The core belief in this example that you’ve developed as a result of this is that; You are not worthy of love and attention.

This type of core belief is one, and you may have several different core limiting beliefs that you’ve believed your entire life. 

In her article, You’re Never Too Old to Change: How to Develop New Patterns at Any Age on the Chopra website, one of my favorite writers, Tris Thorp, writes, 

“As you get older, you begin to feel defeated and unable to access the ambition and vigor that was once so strong. That voice in your head says you no longer have what it takes, you’ve lost too much time, or that you’re too old. This is where many people give up on their dreams and settle for whatever is in front of them.”

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.~ Rick Warren



How Do You Break Free From What’s Holds You Back? 

Overcoming these limiting beliefs and breaking free from what holds you back is something you or anyone can do.

It does take understanding, identifying, and then challenging negative disempowering thoughts that support those beliefs. 

You have to make the decision that you will learn to dis-believe, disclaim, or disown your limiting beliefs and the negative thinking that you’ve listed to and have believed and accepted about yourself for so long.

These have been the ropes that hold you back, like a stake in the ground, if you know what I mean.

Letting go of something you’ve become accustomed to is never easy.

As we get older and develop routines or the daily habits of our lives, we get very comfortable.

It helps have some form of motivation that you can tap into when trying to let go of something that holds you back.

As the poor elephant did, no one should live feeling that something is holding them back in life, whether it’s self-imposed restrictions or those imposed by an outside source. 

“Step out of the history that’s holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create.”~ Oprah Winfrey

What Holds You Back From Succeeding

So many will stay in situations that do not serve them, which constantly creates conditions in life that hold us back from success.

Whether it’s a relationship, a job, a group, a team, or in our case here, trying to break free from beliefs that hold us back is not an easy thing to do. 

Success is possible when you control and counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations. 

It’s your core limiting beliefs, surrounded by your well-crafted supporting negative limiting thinking, that has been holding you back.

These thoughts have kept you in life situations that do not serve you or have kept you out of those situations that would.

There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.~Howard Thurman 

It’s time to let go, break free, and overcome these limiting beliefs that have held you back.

There is nothing better for a partner, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, friends, or family members than your success. Setting goals, expectations, dreams for yourself and your family is what fuels your passion for life.

If they don’t want you to do what you want to do, that you would be passionate about doing, then you can see how you are doomed to failure by allowing yourself to stay.

Failure is undoubtedly more likely when you’re held back by the limiting beliefs you constantly support with disempowering negative thoughts.

You can overcome this negative thinking with practice and determination.


Why What Holds You Back Holds Others Back Too?

A challenging example of how limiting beliefs can hold many people back is that staying married is better than divorce. 

Even after therapy, if two people are miserable together, its problem for everyone. 

The stresses created from the conflict and unhappiness can be detrimental to all, and the chances are that you’re even going to raise unhappy children.

The caveat to this would be that children believe and accept that the parents’ unhappiness has nothing to do with them and it is not their fault. 

Kathy Hardie-Williams, writes In her article for Goodtherapy.org, Stay Together for the Kids? When Divorce Might Benefit Everyone,

“Children do much better when their parents are happy and doing well, physically and mentally. Sometimes finding this state of well-being and happiness requires ending the marriage or partnership

The kids will get it in the long run, if not in the short run because they see it as an example of a happy, healthy, loving parent.

Parents are probably happier after the divorce than before, which the kids will take in their core beliefs that more joyful is better than being mad and dysfunctional.

What You Believe Is Always What’s holding you back

It may be your self-confidence, self-esteem, self-doubt, self-worth, or any number of other aspects related to the limiting beliefs you’ve accepted as accurate that hold you back.

However, ultimately nothing and no one else holds us back but ourselves.

Short of incarceration, or some form of significant health issue, we hold the key to moving ahead in our lives.   

There may be those that disagree, but that would mean that they believe that the reason that they have been held back is someone else’s fault.

Childhood can create damaging negative core limiting beliefs that last for a lifetime. It’s hard, if not impossible, to come to terms with negative experiences that began these core beliefs at a young age.

But at some point in life, even someone who is reasonably early in life can decide they will not build their lives on these negative core beliefs and fight them off with positive empowering thoughts and rise above them.

Once you decide to come to terms with whatever you’ve learned has created your personal limiting beliefs or what’s been holding you back, you will break away and start to move forward. 

It’s our responsibility as people, a country, and a world community to reach out and help children of all races, religions, and upbringing find their sense of greatness.

If we help them build positive reactions to adverse situations, we not only save them, but we save ourselves.

In Conclusion

I’ve tried to outline a method for identifying and overcoming the limiting beliefs and negative thinking that are holding you back in your life. 

I’m sorry that it’s not something from outside of yourself where you could walk away. You can’t run away and hide from yourself or your problems in life.

You can only deal with these limiting beliefs that have kept you from moving forward in life yourself. 

Groucho Marx said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”

I like to rewrite this quote for myself, so it reads, I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that wouldn’t have me as a member.”

I apply this rewrite of Groucho’s quote for situations with all the people, places, and things that might not want or appreciate me, my time, or my talents.

It’s OK, and I get it. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine.

Because it’s a big world with eight billion people in it and tons of opportunities for everyone, just let it go. 

Why try to push a boulder up a hill when something does not work for you.

What good does it do if you try to convince, persuade, or impose your will on other people in situations where it’s not needed or wanted.

Why do we fight so hard to hold on to something, anything, or anyone that doesn’t want us? 

A section in the book A Return To Love By Marianne Williamson described how a baby screamed and held tightly to its abusive mother while a child services worker tried to take the child from her arms.

We tend to hold on to possessions, thoughts, ideologies, and relationships that no longer serve us well.

However, getting rid of or letting go of any core limiting belief or negative thinking which holds you back in your life falls on you, it is your responsibility, and it’s in your best interest. 

It’s time to reframe your mind and set yourself free, releasing yourself from what holds you back in your life.

Identify and overcome your limiting beliefs and negative thoughts you’ve been living with for too long. You’ll be glad you took the road less traveled, as most don’t, and you’ll become more than you ever thought you could be.

“When I let go of what I am,
I become what I might be.” ~Lao Tzu