As a working mom you are no stranger to facing and overcoming many challenges, possibly on a daily basis. Each day you navigate the balancing act of your professional responsibilities with motherhood, trying to keep your career and your family afloat.
You’ve probably accepted and categorized certain things along the way as “possible” or “impossible”. The beliefs about what’s in each of these categories can become so fixed in your mind that anything to the contrary can seem false and even ridiculous.
Before you know it, you have a rolodex of excuses in your mind that can be selected from at a moments notice. If you’re not sure what a rolodex of excuses is, it’s the catalog you have in your mind that contains all the reasons you’ve accumulated for not being able to be, do or have something.
These excuses often begin with the phrase “I can’t” and are justified with “because”. They will always contain a belief and a justification:
- I can’t get up early to workout because I have to get the kids ready for school
- I can’t ask for that promotion because I’m probably not qualified enough
- I can’t tell her how I really feel because she will be upset with me
- I can’t say no because they really need me
Author Richard Bach famously said “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours”. Repeatedly saying “I can’t” can create such a strong habit of thought, even when faced with the possibility of “Maybe I can”.
The more you practice believing that things ARE what you believe them to be, the more evidence you will find to back up that belief. Before you know it, you are in a cycle of arguing for your limitations and believing you are just a victim to the circumstances in your life, or worse, that those beliefs are true.
This week I’m going to discuss why it’s so easy for you to argue for your limitations and how to stop.
Arguing for your limitations
When you join a belief with a justification, arguing for your limitations can seem effortless. Your brain thrives on keeping things the same and strongly resists change which is why practiced beliefs are so powerful.
Since your beliefs start at an early age, it can be difficult to catch a familiar limiting belief. By the time you become a mother, the origin of a belief coupled with a life-time of justifications will make your limitations seem obvious and irrefutable to you.
The term “confirmation bias” describes this phenomenon where you give unequal weight to any concept that you already believe and often develop elaborate rationalizations even in the face of evidence to the contrary. You basically fight for your right to be wrong.
For example, what was once the belief “I can’t write very well” because of a C on a 3rd grade writing assignment can eventually morph into the limiting belief that “I can’t possibly start a women’s blog”. When your limiting beliefs become so fixed in your mind, you may find yourself arguing when someone points out that you might actually be a good writer.
I once coached a client who was a super successful financial analyst that worked her way up the ranks of her industry despite not finishing college. However, when challenged to join a dating website specifically for professionals, she argued that she couldn’t possibly qualify since she hadn’t finished college.
The fact that she was a Vice President of a prestigious financial firm was inconsequential in her mind. Her firmly held belief that her worth was dependent on whether she finished college or not was practiced for so long that it was the only thing that made sense to her.
Interestingly, the need to be right, to prove that your position is logical and to be fixated on the “truth” of your belief is what lawyers and accountants are trained to excel at. This means that arguing for your limitations might be common practice for you, whether the effects of your beliefs are helpful or not.
For example, something so unfamiliar like believing that stress is optional during tax season can be extremely challenging to your accountant’s brain. Since your accounting training has prepared you to think logically, then when something challenges that logic, even if it’s in your best interest, your accountant’s brain will defer to what’s familiar.
When beliefs are so ingrained and set in stone in your mind, they can appear to be irrefutable truths. Like a lawyer arguing their case to a jury, your brain wants to win its case without concern for how the outcome will affect you in the short or long-term.
Since your amazing brain has been absorbing belief systems for so many years, it has become extremely efficient at believing them. It will not question them again unless you do it consciously.
In order to recognize and stop arguing for your limitations you have to become aware that you may have limiting beliefs, how they are affecting you and whether they are serving you or not. You have to begin to see that the key to open the handcuffs you placed on yourself are sitting right in front of you.
How to stop
The last page of every month’s O Magazine, Oprah has a section titled “What I Know For Sure”. This is where she shares a life lesson that she’s learned through her trials, tribulations and successes.
The messages she shares are thought-provoking and often uplifting. They pass along wisdom she’s learned from her own experiences and from the thousands of people she’s come in contact over her lifetime.
In light of this, I’d like to ask you:
- What do you know for sure and is it serving you?
- Do you like the current results you have in your life?
- How’s your career, health, relationships, finances?
- How strongly would you disagree or argue if I challenged one of your beliefs about what’s possible?
When clients argue for their limitations it’s because they have such a strong need to be right as opposed to being open to the possibility that they might be wrong. It can seem almost painful to challenge a long-held belief even if that belief isn’t serving them.
This is where the power of managing your mind is life-changing. When you become conscious of the limitations you’ve been arguing so vehemently for, you get to decide what to do about them.
The harder your brain wants to hold onto a belief that’s not serving you, the more powerful your results will be when you do some thought work. Since most of your thoughts are unconscious and lurking in the dark corners of your mind, it’s important to bring them into the light of awareness.
Before you do, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. You’ve probably been practicing your limiting beliefs for quite awhile and it can be super uncomfortable to challenge them.
In addition, if you have a limiting belief that others agree with, you may have joined limiting beliefs and have even more justification that “this is just the way it is”. Once you have a strong belief, you will gravitate towards others who tell the same story.
For example, other working mothers may agree that making time for yourself is too difficult and will give you all their proof for why it’s true. If you spend enough time swapping stories, it can become challenging to believe otherwise…but not impossible.
By being aware of how your limiting belief stories are actually not serving you, you can create the momentum to do something about them. Awareness is always the key when it comes to making any change in your life.
Once you have the awareness, you can begin to write a new story. Your brain will initially resist and want to give you proof that it’s absurd to think differently but that’s OK; you are just gently loosening the grip.
To continue loosening the grip, you just need to practice thinking thoughts about the possibility of something different. Once you begin practicing those new thoughts, your brain will begin showing you proof that these new beliefs are true and that’s when things can get really interesting!
When I discovered this work I decided to apply it to tax season. I had been in public accounting for many years and I realized that I had a lot of limiting beliefs about how normal it was to be very stressed during tax season.
Everyone I knew in public accounting was stressed so it was understandable that this was a general, firmly held belief in the profession. But just because it was accepted didn’t mean it was an irrefutable fact.
Once I began questioning it, I could see that the story that tax season was just inherently stressful wasn’t serving me at all. It affected my ability to focus, I was less productive at work than I was at other times during the year and I was tired and irritable at home.
I then decided to be open to the possibility that tax season did NOT need to be stressful despite years of proof to the contrary. I began working on my thoughts a month before tax season started, challenging the story my brain kept wanting to tell.
What was once the belief that “Of course, tax season is stressful” became “It’s possible that tax season doesn’t need to be stressful”. For weeks I practiced my new belief, gradually loosening the grip my brain had developed over the years.
Thankfully around mid-March, the first year I started working on my limiting beliefs, my husband actually made the comment “You don’t seem as stressed this year”. I was shocked that he noticed but grateful because I knew that what I was experiencing wasn’t imaginary.
Once I saw the effects of my new belief system and my bosses actually noticed the difference as well, I knew I could also apply this to any area of my life. I wasn’t beholden to a belief system that didn’t serve me and I definitely didn’t need to argue for the right to believe in it either.
As for my client who struggled with joining an online dating site for professionals, we worked on loosening the grip she had on her story about not finishing college. Whenever she argued for her limiting belief, I kept asking “Yes, but how is that belief serving you?”
Just by opening up to the possibility that she could tell a different story, she began to let her old belief go little by little. The amazing thing was that once she saw how she had been arguing for her limitations in this area, she became willing to look at all the other limiting beliefs that were negatively affecting her in other areas of her life.
So now it’s your turn to take a look at that rolodex of excuses you have. Begin to start challenging your stories, especially the ones that you argue for and defend, that aren’t creating the life you really want.
When you STOP arguing for your limitations, you get to create a much different experience. And that’s an argument worth walking away from.
- Your brain thrives on keeping things the same and strongly resists change which is why practiced beliefs are so powerful.
- Confirmation bias is where you give unequal weight to any concept that you already believe and often develop elaborate rationalizations even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
- Since your accounting training has prepared you to think logically, then when something challenges that logic, even if it’s in your best interest, your accountant’s brain will defer to what’s familiar.
- Since most of your thoughts are unconscious and lurking in the dark corners of your mind, it’s important to bring them into the light of awareness.
- Once you begin practicing those new thoughts, your brain will begin showing you proof that these new beliefs are true and that’s when things can get really interesting!
If you’d like some help with the limiting beliefs you may be arguing to keep, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to work together.