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Power Of Your Subconscious Mind: How To Overcome Limiting Beliefs

power of your subconscious mind

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Ever felt that something is holding you back but can’t quite put your finger on what it is?  
This is the power of your subconscious mind at work.  
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks grappling with this feeling and trying to identify what might be holding me back.
I wanted to share how hard I’ve found this exercise and why that might be.  I’ve done some research on how to overcome those pesky limiting beliefs lurking in our subconscious.  
I hope you will find what I’ve learned so far useful!

So What Is the Subconscious Mind?

In her book “How To Have A Good Day” Caroline Webb talks about us having a ‘two system’ brain.
mind picture
She refers to the first of these as the ‘deliberate’ system.  This is the part of the brain we are aware of, the part where we do our conscious thinking.  
She says the deliberate system “is responsible for putting us on our best behaviour.  When it’s in full control, it makes us wise, self-possessed and reliable”.  It is responsible for our most adult and ‘best’ behaviour.
Caroline refers to the second part of our brain as the ‘automatic’ system, otherwise known as the subconscious. You may have also heard this part of the brain being referred to as a ‘monkey’ or ‘chimp’ or the ‘primitive’ part of our brain.
This part of the brain is about a zillion times faster than the deliberate bit.
It handles all the things we do on autopilot and without thinking.  Things we have learned to do such as driving a car and riding a bike sit in this part of the brain.    
Of course, for these things, the power of the subconscious mind is entirely useful.  It does, however, have a downside.
One of these is that learned habits and thought patterns that don’t serve us so well become deeply rooted in this automatic system.  
It also takes over if we feel threatened.  You’ve probably heard of the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. This is triggered by the subconscious mind as a defence mechanism to protect us.

How Can It Hold Us Back?  

woman behind glass
Photo by Artem Kim on Unsplash
Your subconscious mind is not a fan of change!  It’s learned all those habits and routines and it wants to stick to them thank you very much!  
I certainly felt the power of my subconscious mind when I decided to take a 90-day break from alcohol.  I’d tried many times to take a break and had failed after a few days.  Why?  Because the benefits my subconscious believed opening that bottle of wine gave me were rooted as deeply as a huge oak tree!
We may hold many limiting beliefs in our subconscious mind.

So What Is A Limiting Belief?

A limiting belief is something you truly believe about yourself, others, or the world, that limits you in some way.
Limiting beliefs can hold you back, stop you grasping opportunities (or make you blind to them altogether) and keep you stuck in your present reality.
Because we hold these as true beliefs, they can be very difficult to spot and even harder to address.

I recently sat down with a blank piece of paper in an attempt to identify what is holding me back

person about to write on blank page.Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

I stared at the piece of paper for about 10 minutes whilst my mind wandered about.  Eventually, I managed to write down ‘I fear rejection’.  Then I gave up as nothing else was coming!  

A few days later, I tried a guided meditation as part of a course I’m doing on the wonderful Insight Timer.  The meditation focused on identifying and letting go of limiting beliefs.
Following this, I jotted down in my journal “I fear embarrassment” and “people find me annoying”.

I still felt there were more in there!


Always a fan of a quiz, I then decided to see if there were any online quizzes which might help me!  I found this one.

I did find this quite useful.  It helped me to identify a few more limiting beliefs.  These included doubts about my abilities, a belief that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want and that I often feel stuck.
There’s a quote from Lao Tzu which says:
Time is a created thing. To say  ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying ‘I don’t want to.’
Focusing on external things that we feel we can’t control, e.g. time and money, can be something we use to give ourselves permission to stay stuck.   I found this great article over at Tiny Buddha which says:
Lasting change starts internally, with things like energy, willpower, clarity, and passion; and as your internal resources start to grow, your external resources will naturally start to grow as well.

Next, I came across a list of common limiting beliefs

The full list is below.  Maybe some will resonate with you as they did with me.
  1. I’m not good enough
  2. No-one does that
  3. I don’t want to be rejected (yup, one of mine!)
  4. It’s impossible. (Remember everyone thought running a mile in under 4 minutes was impossible until Roger Bannister came along!)
  5. Tunnel vision – seeing only one or a limited number of solutions
  6. It’s not going to work anyway
  7. I’m not special
Working through these and writing down what has come up in my journal has helped.  They are now coming thick and fast.
I expect now that I’ve started to unlock my subconscious more limiting beliefs will materialise over the coming weeks!  There will be beliefs that are so deeply rooted in my subconscious mind that I don’t know what they are yet!

What Action Can You Take To Overcome Limiting Beliefs?

The way I did this with the alcohol example was (with the help of Annie Grace’s fantastic book This Naked Mind) to challenge every single belief I held about alcohol.  I questioned whether each belief was true.  So for example, I used to drink alcohol to relax.  
Then I read about the science behind alcohol.  I realised that yes, it may relax me temporarily.  However, very shortly afterwards it would make me shaky, anxious and stressed (i.e. hungover).  
It required repetition of this message over several weeks and months to debunk the myth and effectively ‘rewire’ my subconscious.
Discovering the limiting belief is half the battle and the hardest part of the work.  Once you’ve acknowledged it you can challenge that belief with questions.
am i good enough?Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Write the belief down and then challenge it until it begins to lose its power

Ask questions such as:

  • Is it helpful to believe in this statement?
  • Does it make your world better?
  • Has there been a time when this belief hasn’t been true?
  • Has this belief been less true or not true at different periods of your life? (For example, I could definitely relax without alcohol as a child!)
  • Is the belief true all the time?  Are there occasions where it isn’t true?
And so on.

Replace your limiting belief with a more positive belief

Using my alcohol example, my new belief is I can most definitely relax without alcohol.  I now know that alcohol wasn’t relaxing me anyway and I have a range of healthier means to achieve this aim!
Write your new belief down and repeat it to yourself daily!  Gather evidence of where you have disproved the belief and write that down too.
monkey looking in mirror

I AM good enough!

Consider what the cause of your limiting belief is

Does it stem from a bad experience?  Or was it because your parents told you that you couldn’t do something?  (Mine, for example, told me I couldn’t draw.  This led to me believing I wasn’t a creative person, something I have disproved since).

Work through this with a therapist

The subconscious mind is made up of deep-rooted neurological pathways.  Don’t be hard on yourself for needing some help with this stuff.  

Have you experienced the power of your subconscious mind?  
What limiting beliefs do you have?  
Do you find them hard to identify?  Can you give examples of where you have overcome limiting beliefs? 
I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. Geraldine

    I really enjoyed learning about the science behind these things and learning about the power of our subconscious! If I had to write down things that were limiting me I believe I would be writing the same thing, especially the fact that I may not be good enough. I’m currently struggling with it in terms of changing careers but I’m trying to fight it now so I can be happier! Thank you for sharing this Alison ☺️

    1. Alison

      Thanks Geraldine. I’m currently experimenting with reading my new, more positive beliefs out loud in the mirror! Feel a bit silly, but there is science behind that too so could be worth you joining me?!

    1. Alison

      Thanks Marie, I know I have only scratched the surface of this topic. Will keep you all posted on what else I learn 🙂

  2. spiros

    Alison, this was a great blog! Thank you so much for gathering all the information in one place. I really liked the fact that you related the topic to your own limiting belief about alcohol 🙂

    1. Alison

      Thanks Spiros! I enjoyed researching this one, even though it has made my brain hurt at times!

  3. Chloe Chats

    Loved this post! Also this quote – ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying ‘I don’t want to. – I totally get that, I was actually talking to my boyfriend the other day about this. I have always said to loads of things ‘I don’t have time’ and we were saying that it’s literally just an excuse. If you’re passionate about something, you will make the time. We will work hard at things if we really want them, no matter how much time we have or how tired we may feel! Fab post Alison 🙂

    Chloe xx

  4. Loniesha

    This is truly amazing Alison! I felt like I was in one of my cognitive psych classes again (which I love btw!). And I love your perspective so I can’t wait to see more about this!

  5. Chloe Daniels | Clo Bare

    Such great reminders! This is a lot of the same stuff I learned about in a DBT course I took a while ago. It’s so true and helpful to recognize when what we think is really just a false belief sometimes. It’s good to question that part of our brain that’s holding us back <3

    1. Alison

      Thanks Chloe, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It is really important stuff. I still can’t believe how hard I found it at first. I’ve been spotting limiting beliefs all week now though!

  6. Kate Findley

    So many great suggestions! I’ve recently found journaling to very helpful in uncovering limiting beliefs, but I like how you have targeted questions that help you to uncover those beliefs. I also like how you combine a logical approach with suggestions like meditation.

  7. Nives

    Thank you for sharing this. You are helpful!

    Roots of limiting beliefs can be strong…but digging into is worth it.

    My example: I am more quite person, who wasn`t taught how to stand for myself. Then one day I told my short-time boss, how I felt and thought about unplesant situacion at work. She accpeted what I said and I surrvived. This experience I will remember as good one.

    I will share your article with others…

    All the best to you! 🙂

    1. Alison

      Thanks for stopping by. I love your story. A brilliant example of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone 🙂

  8. Lydia

    I think this is my favourite read from this morning; very eye opening. Thank you so much for the helpful tips. I’m trying to let go of some of my own limiting beliefs and I’m happy knowing that it’s doable because you did it! Thank you for sharing

  9. Abby Heird

    Another great post, Alison. I am going to take the time today to write down my limiting beliefs and challenge them. I know I have them but I don’t think about them enough to beat them. Loved this! <3

  10. hanmwill

    This post is brilliant, Alison! I love it! I always find myself doubting my ability to do things and this post has really made me think about it! Thank you so much for sharing! x

    1. Alison

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 I caught myself in the middle of a limiting belief at work today. I keep thinking back to this post every time one pops up!

  11. Sigrid Chu

    Hello Alison,

    Thank you for sharing this with me on Twitter. I think one must go through the exercise to identify and remove the power of one’s limiting beliefs. I will be bookmarking this and of course pinning on Pinterest!


    1. Alison

      Thanks Sigrid, I’ve found it a useful exercise. I hope you find it useful too. For me it needs to be ongoing as I’ve found the limiting beliefs to be so deep rooted!

  12. Melissa

    Great post! Fear of rejection is such a driving factor for so many of the choices we make. I love how you explained the science behind the subconscious mind and the great resources you provided. Thank you!

  13. Ash

    The power is in your subconsious mind
    So nice ti ready i understand magic of mind how to work
    Its Great’s

  14. Weldon Paul

    The unconscious mind of an individual is virtually perfect. The job of a subconscious mind is to ensure a person that he is responding exactly the way he is programmed. If you know how to overcome limiting beliefs, then you can move forward with your life. Staying conscious of the lies is the best way to overcome negativity. Your reflection can create you. It can destroy you as well. Limiting belief can put negative impact on the life. Better you use your subconscious mind and try to eliminate your limiting inclinations, so that you can bring positivity into your life.

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