Identifying And Overcoming What Holds You Back In Life

What holds you back in life can be the very subtle and deceptive limiting beliefs that have been impeding your personal growth and keeping you from the greater success in life you desire. Identifying your limiting beliefs is the key to breaking free and moving forward and becoming the best version of yourself.

The term, limiting beliefs, may sound very foreign to you initially and may require you to keep an open mind and step out of your comfort zone a bit for you to continue reading. But here’s the thing, everyone has a set of core or foundational beliefs. You, me, your plumber, your doctor, everyone. Beliefs that throughout our lives we’ve come to believe as true.

The first step, and the biggest obstacle, is being able to recognize when your core beliefs are holding you back and are limiting you in your life. Generally, limiting beliefs show up when you feel emotionally triggered in some area of your life. If you are feeling underlying pain or any emotional discomfort created by an event or circumstance sudden or otherwise. This is when your core limiting beliefs are firing up in your mind and are having an effect on how you think, and more importantly, respond.

Limiting beliefs often create the negative thinking, or your inner voice, that supports your core beliefs and are what’s holding you back. The information in this post will help you learn, identify and begin to understand and overcome these limiting beliefs and the negative thoughts that reinforce them and make a positive change and become your best self. Your limiting beliefs created the inner critic that has probably been following you around in your head all of your life.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

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trainer with elephant that has ankle chain that holds him back

“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


 Martin Ward | February 22, 2022

What Holds You Back In Your Life?

What holds you back in your life, as I’ve started above, 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. New ideas are often easily brushed off and especially on social media by negative people these days.

But the only way that you’re going to be able to rise above the negative impact these negative thoughts and limiting beliefs have on your life is to start to see all of these core beliefs from different perspectives when they show up.

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 hard work, and it’s not really that hard, it just takes some practice, you’ll begin to see more successful results in all of your endeavors, maybe for the first time.

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. 

The Elephant In The Room

Here’s a story that can help illuminate this idea of limiting beliefs, and help create a new way of thinking about what may be going on in our minds as human beings regarding what holds us back in life

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 only thing that was holding the elephant back was the thought of being tied down. It’s an amazing thing to think about, isn’t it?

This is so often the case and our personal battle is being held back in our lives by our limiting beliefs.

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 in life are most likely found within your own limiting beliefs supported by your negative thinking, which creates resistance, fear of rejection, and fear of 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.

Often simply taking a small risk of being rejected and asking for what you want or need can unlock untold doors for you.

There is a high level that you place on the misguided opinions of others over your own which supports a low level of self-esteem and the negative thinking that holds you back.

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.

You support these misguided limiting beliefs of yours with negative thoughts that you’ve developed and acquired throughout your life.

These misguided thoughts are the very thing that keeps you from having real success in your life and achieving your goals.

The Man Behind The Screen

We’ve all seen it, and we all know now that the Wizard of OZ was a bit of a fake, and just a regular guy with a loud voice over the speakers, stuck behind a screen.

That’s most of us, still stuck behind the screen of our limiting beliefs that we’ve continued to believe throughout our entire lives.

So, the key in all of this is that we need to take full responsibility for the development of a clear vision of ourselves and the vision of the person that we want to be as opposed to being caught up in our imposter syndrome.

Becoming your authentic self and not the imposter that your negative thinking has always been telling that you are.

You need to begin to identify and then challenge the negative thoughts you accept as accurate with positive self-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 I’ve tried to highlight, what holds you back are the limiting beliefs and negative thinking that you’ve 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.

You can live life fully and live it in your own way. Not the way others may have programmed you to believe you should be living it.

At the end of the day, it takes a leap of faith to move forward and reach one’s full potential.

The way of your success is found in accepting the new challenges and the new opportunities available to you in this often scary and complicated world.

Take a deep breath and make the next move.

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 limiting beliefs that might be keeping you from your goals in relationships and 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 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 ones 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, in your present moment thought process, when this limiting belief is happening to you. 

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 and 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

The best way to learn to overcome negative thoughts is to confront and counter them right then and there 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 real 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 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 throughout 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. 

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, and opportunities as you 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-believedisclaim, 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 for our elephant friend.

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 to 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, and dreams for yourself and your family are 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, it’s a 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, 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, and the kids will take in their core beliefs that a more joyful life is better than one that is filled with anger and dysfunction.

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. The levels of success that we achieve are truly up to us.

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 about your core beliefs that create your personal limiting beliefs or what holds you back, you will break away and start to move forward. 

It’s also our responsibility as a country, as people, and as the world community, to reach out and help all our children of all races, religions, and upbringings to find their sense of greatness through building positive core beliefs about themselves.

If we help children build positive mental images of themselves and teach them to counter the limiting beliefs and the negative self-talk and negative thinking that come as a reaction to adverse situations in their lives, 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 that you can blame on anyone or anything outside of yourself. which would allow you to walk away and say it’s them. You can’t run away and hide from yourself or your core limiting belief issues in life.

You are the only one that can only deal with your present reality and with the limiting beliefs that have kept you from moving forward in life yourself. 

The perfect time is of course now to give yourself the great gift of change through the examination of the core beliefs you have and how they may oftentimes be limiting beliefs for you.

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?

We can all have unrealistic expectations of ourselves for others and the world around us.

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

Martin (Marty) Ward

My Name is Marty Ward and I’m the creator and publisher of the 1-Vibrant-Life blog.

On March 8th, 1984, I sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident while I was driving to my day job.

At the time of the accident, I was having a fairly successful life as a musician in Chicago, which had included a recent appearance on Star Search 84′ with Ed McMahon and preparing to be included in the group’s major independent recording contract. 

However, after my accident, I was unable to perform or play my instrument. I was out of work and I had lost all confidence in myself and my abilities, felt lost and with no direction. 

My injury and my recovery led me down a path of self-improvement, and self-discovery which gave me my life back filled with many amazing experiences and a newfound sense of hope. Learn more about my story on the 1-vibrant-life about page. 

CBTCP Certification (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Certified Practitioner) | 10-16-2021  Certification From The Academy of Modern Applied Psychology, in The Transformative Science of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT