A barrier is a limitation only when you perceive it as one.Stephen Richards
We all have goals, ideas, or a vision for who we could become or what we could go on to achieve, but very few of us have the physical or mental ability to perform at full potential, most of us hold ourselves back from achieving more of what we could become. While some manage to live up to their potential, many either get stuck or don’t reach their desired goals and end up living down to their perceived limitations.
We all encounter many limitations, for instance, it is your job, major decisions or relationships, or just life getting in the way that’s preventing you from focusing on your true desires. Some of our limitations are real, but most of them are self-imposed. Not all of our limitations are chosen out of fear, there are certain limitations we can’t change or overcome. But majority of our limitations are often self-made and self-imposed. The single greatest area where most struggle is in overcoming these self-imposed limitations. But the fact is that most of us can do or be more than what we have settled for so far in ourselves.
It is great to have goals, vision and ambitions, but you have to be aware of your potential limitations that might hold you back in order to move forward in your pursuit of your goals. According to science, most of the things that hold us back are not caused by reality, but by our perceptions. It is not what happens that holds us back, but our judgmental beliefs about it. And it is important to discover the difference between a real-world limitation and a self-imposed limitation like self-doubt, negative outlook on life or old conditioning.
We all at times feel stuck, unworthy and have internal conflicts where we tell ourselves limiting stories. These limiting stories often stand in the way of us taking the next step we need to and we lack forward momentum. Even though limitations define your current circumstances or present quality of life, in reality, they are derived from your perception of the things you feel are limiting you. Denying what might be holding you back either real or perceived can keep you from operating out of your best self. We all have more potential than we allow ourselves to experience. Perceived limitations keeps you entrenched, the more you try to break free, more they tend to control you. Knowing the difference between what you can do or become and the kinds of limitations that are holding you back is important when it comes to living life to your full potential.
What are self-imposed limitations?
A self-imposed limitation is a boundary or a self-protective mechanism that we set for ourselves. These boundaries will stop us from living a fulfilled life and going after our goals. These are not objective breaking points, but are just what we choose to believe to be the limit. Facing a challenge, we often discover we are not resistant and strong enough beyond our expectation. They can be your fear-based emotions, judging yourself into believing that you are not good enough or not believing in your worthiness. Some arise from an egoistic mind while some from wrong beliefs. Self-made limitations are the reasons for some of the excuses we make, or blame external factors like lack of time, other resources, or tell ourselves limiting stories like, how successful person is lucky, had better resources so on and so forth. We tell ourselves whatever we need in order to stay in that limitation we have created for ourselves.
The view we have of ourselves has a direct impact of our self image. When we set limitations on our lives, we see ourselves as though we are capable of doing only certain things. One of a common tendency is to accept a limitation that is chained to self-doubt or faulty conditioning rather than to a fact. In other words, when we set a limit, we put a limit on what is achievable. As a result, we never move beyond our self-imposed standards, even if they are fully capable. And in a way, they are tied to a person’s self image. The lower the self image, the lower the expectations one has for himself or herself. Self- limiters make us struggle with self confidence, make us fearful of not meeting others’ expectations and of being rejected. They can result in unproductive state of mind where we end up doubting our abilities, either reach a point of giving up, blaming others and so on so forth.
Self-imposed limitations manifest further into lack of confidence, lack of language or communication skills, fear or insecurity. Sometimes, perfectionism or busyness can be a self-imposed limitation and so are unproductive and unhealthy habits. Waiting for the right time, unwillingness to take risks, not being consistent with your goal pursuit can all be examples of some self -imposed limitations. Here are some more of what may be holding you back.
Inaccurate self-assessment. Following someone else’s definition of success or comparing your performance to someone else’s timeline and goals leads to an inaccurate self-assessment. Instead, paying attention to your own definition of success will help you determine your true potential.
Lack of self awareness. Many of our behaviours don’t align with who we really want to be. Understanding who you are is important to optimise your potential. Without being aware of your current behaviours, you become victim of your old conditioning, unhelpful beliefs and rules that drive your decisions. This leads you to act in a way that isn’t in line with the persona you want to be. Pay attention to your self-talk or to the mental chatter that’s swirling around in your head. This can be a powerful process of understanding as to what is driving certain of your behaviours.
Self-doubt.Wrong self-judgment and holding onto past failures and mistakes leads to self-doubt. When you judge yourself as unworthy, you don’t believe in your abilities and hold yourself back from making productive choices and decisions because of some of the past regrets. You keep your expectations low and resist the positive changes. This leads to lack of self-belief and self-sabotage.
Fear. Whatever you fear limits you and sabotages your progress. Living a life without a risk, or in your comfort zone might seem like a logical thing to do. But limits your possibilities. It’s either the fear of failure, rejection or fear of uncertain future or insecurities that prevent you from taking the necessary actions in order to achieve the desired outcome. This in turn can reduce your level of self-esteem and therefore holds you back from taking the necessary action in other areas of your life.
Lack of resourcefulness. Perhaps you have identified your goals, but you may not have required external and internal resources like time, motivation, money, skills, relationships or assets to go after them. Past regrets or disappointments keep you from moving towards your desired goals.
Limiting beliefs. Our beliefs influence our choices, decisions, determine our expectations and perception of our reality. So, if you have beliefs that are limiting, you will likely to sabotage your efforts in moving forward in achieving your goals.
How to overcome self-imposed limitations
To be aware of your limitations is already to be beyond them.George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
We can always take control of the way we view our perceived limitations and break free of them. But unless we are willing to question our beliefs and actions, we won’t breakthrough them. Also, it all depends on how much you are committed to what you believe and how much you are willing to let go of what you think you know to discover what you don’t know. Here are some strategies to live up to your true potential by overcoming your perceived or self-imposed limitations.
Set clear standards.
Set some clear standards and expectations for each area of your life. In other words, you must identify set of standards you will follow to accomplish your goals. These standards can become the rules you live by. Knowing what you want and how you plan to accomplish those things can help you move past your limitations. Take one of your roles, be it at a personal level, professional or at a relationship level, set standards for what you believe, behave, work and live. Lay down the foundations for an objective you are working toward. Ask yourself, what will I believe and expect of myself within this role? Take control of your fears or that which are holding you back.
Dig deep and ask questions
Asking yourself, “why am i holding myself back” will give you more reasons behind your self-imposed limitations. Define your limitation and the consequences. You must know and understand your limitation. Be clear and specific by asking yourself, what is the real problem I am dealing with? What is preventing me from doing? What is preventing me from being my best self? What will happen if I do nothing about it? What are the negative consequences? The answers act as leverage to motivate you to make a change and transform the way you perceive your problems and how you interpret the obstacles or challenges you face.
Having defined the consequences, it is important to imagine a life without your self-imposed limitation. Ask yourself, What am I trying to accomplish? How will things be different once this limitation is gone? What will I be able to achieve? This improves the clarity of what it is exactly that you would like to accomplish. If you want to overcome a particular limitation, you must be clear what it is going to accomplish for you. For instance, if it is fear of communicating, imagine how your life is going to be without that fear. When you have a clear goal, you can visualise your goal to fruition and while you do so, you know what will get you closer, what is holding you back, and what are you going to achieve once you get to that goal.
Increase your self-awareness
It is important to know your natural tendencies in order to intentionally alter them. This puts you in control of your limiting behaviours or beliefs. Recognise that no one is perfect. Change your negative self-talk into positive. When it comes to taking on new challenges, most of us tend to make irrational comparisons between a past bad experience and a current situation. Your past doesn’t have to remain an obstacle in moving forward in pursuing your goals. Ask yourself, How did this limitation originate? This makes it clear to gain better insights, solutions and ideas that will help you overcome your past fears. Know your weaknesses and build on your strengths.
Transform your perspective
Shifting your perspective and understanding of your limitations opens your mind to possibilities that you may never have considered before. Use different perspectives to expand your creative capacity and pushing the boundaries of what you believed was possible. For instance, shifting to a bigger perspective allows you to take short-term risks. Put yourself into someone else’s shoes. Instead of getting trapped by your limited perspectives and thinking patterns, explore learning new skills, insights, knowledge and information. Have a plan of action to overcome the limitation from this perspective. Consciously thinking in terms of how could I approach from an alternate perspective helps you effectively free your mind from the constraints of limited thinking.
Face your fears
Sometimes, our fears persuade us to do nothing about some of our self-imposed limitations. Acknowledging your fears and accepting the situation you are in helps you come up with actions to move beyond them.Take your next step, if you fail, figure out why , make the appropriate adjustments, and try again. Changing how you perceive your fears might not make them disappear, but you can move past them. Try to think about the worst-case scenario or that which is keeping you stuck and limiting. It is important to realise that you would be still be able to find a way out and can initiate positive change.
Let go of self-doubt
Self-judgment is one of the limitation that stunts progress. It is that persuasive negative inner voice that chimes up almost always when not needed. When you are not connected to your strengths, you don’t believe in your abilities and keep your expectations low and resist the positive changes. Without proper awareness of your strengths, you can often end up remaining stuck in an unchallenging position. Reflect back on your past successes and identify your strengths. Do not let your past mistakes or failures to keep you right where you are. Put them in proper perspective to learn and move forward.
Commit yourself to continuous learning.
Consistently acquiring the necessary experience and skills can help you move forward toward your desired goals. Understand how to express your needs, desires and wants effectively. Share your beliefs and opinions without fear of judgment, rejection or criticism. Take responsibility and take initiative by going for what you want. When you take charge of being your best version, you can make a conscious effort in cutting down on your self-sabotaging behaviours and habits. Likewise help you improve your self-confidence and self-worth.
Questions for self-reflection
Do you know what limitations you have in life?
Are these real or self-imposed?
Which areas of your life, you tend to hold yourself back from operating out of your true potential?
What is holding you back from becoming more of whom you would prefer to be – is it your mindset, fear, belief or expectation?
Is there some way that these limitations can be overcome?
Are your current patterns helping you in making progress towards your most important goals? or Are you capable of putting more effort in what you want to accomplish with your life?
Is it possible to achieve what you really want from where you are right now or is something holding you back ? or Do you have required skill set to be successful in your area of interest?
Do you feel good enough about yourself to attempt new things?
What would it take to breakthrough this brick wall to achieve your full potential?
What framework do you have in place to overcome your limitations?
As humans, our tendency is to continuously evolve, grow through time to adapt, and same goes for each of our individual lives where we have different goals, dreams and aspirations but they all lead to the same outcome becoming better than what we were before, But in becoming so, not only having clear set of goals is essential, but it’s also essential to know what’s keeping you from achieving your true potential in pursuing those goals. You need to look at the limitations that are holding you back for what they are, real or self-imposed. Above strategies help you shift your perspective and turn any limitation you may be having into an opportunity that is achievable. You will be able to transform yourself to achieve your goals and break free from anything that is holding you back. Remind yourself that doing so is an important part of the process of identifying your true potential.