Snarling chihuahuas! I woke up this morning with an awful and familiar feeling of shame. Shame?? Why? Exploring the feeling further, I uncovered this pernicious snark, “you’ll never amount to anything.” Aha! This wasn’t MY voice. I knew immediately who’s voice it was–no surprise–it’s where most of my limiting beliefs originate. Whoever’s voice tends to be the puppeteer behind our personal limiting beliefs typically isn’t evil, doesn’t hate us, and isn’t usually conscious of inflicting any harm–they’re simply so limited themselves with little-to-no awareness of those limitations, that they couldn’t help but pass this erroneous stuff on to us.

No matter how we were raised or by whom, the vast majority of us grew up with limiting beliefs simply because we’re humans enculturated by other humans who don’t understand what they’re doing. We defined our existences within the bounds of who we knew ourselves to be, largely influenced by the mirrors around us. Though in reality these mirrors had nothing to do with us and simply reflected the limiting beliefs of those holding up the mirrors, we didn’t know this. We thought they were talking about us, and so did they. But as adults, we’re in charge of who we are, we get to let go of untruths, and dispelling the power of these limiting beliefs is high on my priority list.

Which is why, this morning, I was glad that this particular limiting belief appeared so strongly–it’s been nipping at my heels lately because I’ve been doing some really cool stuff, and it felt good to wheel around and face it–what I found, instead of an enormous frothing beast, was a tiny, snarling chihuahua. Sure, they’re small, but chihuahuas are really really fast–you can’t outrun them. And those little teeth hurt! But when I turned around, scooped him up and held him, I felt compassion for this little guy, and he calmed right down. Just call me Cesar Milan.

Limiting beliefs are insidious. We hate how they make us feel, so we avoid avoid avoid. But as long as we’re running, they’re running us. Though they possess no real authority of their own, we invest them with power by believing them. A lot of power. Left to their own devices, they’re weeds that take over a garden, leashes that, though all we need to do is reach down and unsnap them, keep us tethered to smallness and deny us full lives of joy and wholeness (chihuahua, weed or leash–pick your poison). The truth is that while, “you’ll never amount to anything” is no more true than the statement, “you hate green beans,” if I believe it and live as if I do, then it becomes “true” for me.

For years, I battled against this particularly icky limiting belief, this “you’ll never amount to anything” showstopper. I argued with it by earning a lot of college degrees, landing a good job, buying a house, involving myself in socially back-patting work, and attempting to be all things to all people–approval approval approval. It wasn’t other people’s approval I was really after, but freedom from this belief that I’d “never amount to anything”–freedom from limitation itself.  Like all limiting belief bullies, this was a sneaky bastard: whenever I’d attempt something that might possibly be defined as “amounting to something,”  I’d get the Shame Smackdown because, well, duh, I wasn’t supposed to amount to anything–who was I to be doing this thing so obviously above my station??  When I forged ahead with the action, the shame went away, but the line moved. Whatever I’d accomplished suddenly didn’t amount to anything anymore. Amazing, right? Everything you do to combat your limiting beliefs will be neutralized by them.  A limiting belief is a self-fulfilling prophesy of the first degree–this is a game that cannot be won.

One key truth–the only Truth–demands to be understood before limiting beliefs cease to wield any more power: there’s nothing wrong with you; there CANNOT be anything wrong with you. Let me explain.

Once we realize that we are all expressions of Love, period, everything else is simply a misunderstanding.

We don’t argue with misunderstandings. As soon as we realize we’re seeing something wrong, by definition the misunderstanding, now understood, ceases to exist. Poof! But until we really GET that we are Love and that’s it, we move back and forth between getting caught up in the misunderstanding that there is something else and remembering who we really are. So the work is this: love ourselves. How do we do that? Start to recognize where limiting beliefs show up in all areas of our lives, feel them, watch them dissipate and realize they are misunderstandings. Come back to Love. Over and over and over.

Understanding I Am Love dispels any imagined reality or power in limiting beliefs, revealing the Great and Powerful Oz behind the curtain. It also renders judgment impotent. What does “amount to something” mean in the context of Love? Nothing. It melts away. Limiting beliefs are about our worthiness; a lurky fear that maybe we don’t matter, that we won’t measure up. None of this can be true or hold any power when we realize who we really are. The duality inherent in physical existence (if there is “alive” then there is also “dead”) bends us towards fear; our bones can be broken, we can lose things we need, we can hurt and die. But this is not who we are. Limiting beliefs exist only in duality, and underneath this “cape of holes” (from my Sylvia Plath days), there is no duality; only Love. Remembering this, and not snagging on the story of our physical reality (not unreal, just not the whole Truth) is the panacea for limitation, and is our journey. When limitations are banished, life becomes a gorgeous opportunity to experience all that it is to be human.

While it really clicked for me at an Amir Zoghi event, so I wanna give him my shout-out here, the process of recognizing and releasing these limiting beliefs is a well-known method taught by many, including Martha Beck and Bill Ferguson, and is at the root of the Buddhist take on working with fear. It’s also common sense. Note that it applies to any limiting belief, which essentially, at the heart, is Fear.

For me, the most effective place to do this work is in meditation, but if a limiting belief feeling arises on an airplane, at a family picnic or other public place, I’ll simply close my eyes while I do this, if that works, or excuse myself to go somewhere quiet where I can be by myself for a few minutes.

Step 1. Notice and acknowledge what you’re feeling. Stop running. You don’t have to label what it is you’re feeling, but if you can and want to, go ahead. For me, labeling it and recognizing, “oh, this is that old thing again,” helps me identify it when it resurfaces somewhere else and allows me to release it more quickly. But labels are only labels, and the important thing is to simply acknowledge the feeling.

Step 2. Turn to face the feeling. Sit with it–which means FEEL it. REALLY feel it. Allow it to be there. Don’t try to manipulate it, make it go away, or change it. Don’t try to feel better. Just give it space to exist as it is. Go into the heart of it, let it grow as big as it wants to. Watch it.

Step 3. Notice you are not the feeling. Just breathe.

Step 4. Sit there and allow the feeling to be there until you notice it isn’t anymore. It will dissipate, usually surprisingly quickly.

Step 5. Repeat step 1-4 when limiting belief feelings resurface. Each time, the emotional charge that accompanies the feeling will lessen, until the belief simply dissipates completely.

That’s it. You know what this process is?  It’s Love. Love is giving space, allowing and acknowledging without judgment, and that’s what we’re doing here. This is what loving ourselves means. This is what loving means, period. So. Folks. I send you peace and love today. Be brave enough to feel. LiveLove&Bu

Image credit: wha??

Thanks to Amir Zoghi for his Love definition, which was a crazy “aha!” for me. Get it got it good. I’m working with this too, y’all, which is the why behind all of this.