Perceptions   How others see us compared to how we see ourselves.

I am not enough.

Psychologists report that the most common limiting belief that we humans suffer from is ” I am not enough”

Put what ever adjective we can think of before “enough” and we can come up with reasons to prevent us doing almost anything.

  • Not good enough.
  • Not smart enough.
  • Not attractive enough.
  • Not strong enough.
  • Not old enough.
  • Not young enough.

That belief that we lack some essential quality stops us from reaching our potential or achieving our goals in everything from relationships with the opposite sex, to parenting, careers or business, sports.  Practically everything in life that requires us to stretch a bit, go out on a limb, take a chance or move beyond our self-imposed boundaries of familiarity.

Note that I use familiarity deliberately and not the more common “comfort zone” term. This is for two reasons:

  • We can be decidedly “uncomfortable” in a situation, but accept it because it is familiar.
  • The term has been so overused that it no longer commands attention.

One of the most common motivators for people to overcome their limiting beliefs is when action is required to protect, support or help a close family member, especially a child. That could be protection from a physical threat resulting in heroic action by the parent beyond what that parent ever dreamed was possible. Or action to get information or cut through bureaucratic red tape to get the necessary treatment for a sick child.

A person I have been coaching had difficulty in believing that she was capable of taking on new challenges in her job that required new skills. Then her daughter became ill with an uncommon condition. She had no difficulty researching the condition, locating experts, being assertive with unhelpful officials and doing whatever it took to get her daughter seen by specialists who could help her.

She acted totally out of character, completely different behaviour from her normal self. Why? Because she had a cause (her daughter’s health) that was big and important enough for her to overcome her limiting beliefs, smash through her boundaries of familiarity and just do it.

Why do we let these limiting beliefs hold us back?

One of the reasons is our perception of how others see us, the fear of being seen as a fool, inadequate or incapable. Being seen as a failure and fear of the humiliation that would result from that.

Luckily for me, having lived most of my life in much more rugged parts of the world where common sense was far more important than political correctness, I have had more than my share of unpleasant and dangerous situations, heartbreak and humiliation. What this has taught me is that most of the world lives without the security nets most Westerners take for granted.  For millions of people, their very survival depends on them breaking those boundaries of familiarity every day, if anything other than poverty and starvation  could be called familiar.

When risk becomes part of daily life, as it was for a big part of mine, it loses its ability to paralyse. When mobs of people are threatening to kill you, burn your house and kill your livestock, you soon stop worrying about what the neighbours might think of your speech at the last district wedding.

What all of this means is that most people, including us here in the West, have far more important things to concern ourselves with than what other people would think of us if we failed at something new.

Even the sensational headlines of a great scandal soon lose their appeal, do many people give President Bill Clinton’s adventures with Monica in the White House any thought today? No if anything it may have enhanced his marketability as a highly paid speaker.

If I look back along my exciting journey through life, every time I achieved something worthwhile was as a result of taking a risk of some sort, venturing into unfamiliar territory, sure some of those ventures were imposed by external forces, some ventures failed. There were some parts I could have cheerfully done without but it has been an amazing journey.

Last night I had another personal reminder of the value of moving beyond those boundaries and of how badly we over estimate our fears of not being enough, in my case prepared enough.

I joined a local Toastmasters club last year, because I wanted to improve my public speaking skills. In the course of working through the ten projects to become a certified communicator I have given four prepared speeches of between five to seven minutes before an audience. I had volunteered to give a speech at another club for their members to evaluate. The organiser gave me a weeks warning to prepare the speech which is to be given tomorrow (Wednesday). Over the last weekend, I spent a couple of hours planning the speech and practised speaking it twice, intending to polish it up yesterday and today.

Last night (Monday), at our club meeting, the member designated to give a speech was late, so certified risk taker that I am, I volunteered to give my partly prepared speech if he did not arrive. He did arrive but our chairman invited me to present mine as well, feeling somewhat unprepared but never one to back down from a challenge I went ahead.

I had no notes with me, I mentioned to the audience that I had volunteered to fill a potential gap in the evening’s programme and that I was not completely prepared.

The speech went well, I did forget two minor points but I kept to the sequence and within the time limit. I got a good evaluation and here is the important bit. The evaluator said that if I had not mentioned my incomplete preparation, no one would have known.

I mention this not to draw attention to myself, but to illustrate 3 lessons:

  • Until I mentioned it, no one knew that my preparation was incomplete.
  • My fear of not being prepared enough was totally unfounded.
  • I crossed that boundary of familiarity and reaped a big reward – completion of a project, good evaluation and another practice opportunity.

On that subject, I would highly recommend Toastmasters for any one needing to improve their speaking skills or just to gain confidence and practise in their ability to communicate effectively in a business or social environment. Here is the link to the official website where you can find the branch nearest you. Toastmasters International.

What are your thoughts on limiting beliefs? Leave a comment below.

Someone who is an expert communicator is Bob Bly, he has a series of eBooks that will help you become confident and competent as a writer so that you can break through your boundaries of familiarity and start a business from home that could grow into your own retirement fund. Check his site out here. CTCPublishing.  (this is an affiliate link, if you order you will not pay any more but I may get a commission)

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

Perceptions   How others see us compared to how we see ourselves.


Perceptions   How others see us compared to how we see ourselves.
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