Where Limiting Beliefs Come From
Where do limiting beliefs come from?
This is a question that I am frequently asked as a guest on radio and podcast interviews. Unfortunately, given the time frame and the speed at which interviews need to move, I am not usually able to answer this question with a whole lot of depth. This weekend, however, I witnessed an interaction between a set of grandparents and their granddaughters that captured the essence of this question perfectly.
My daughter, Ferne (pronounced Fer-nee), needed new clothes. At 15 years old, the big, baggy sweatshirt look just doesn’t work any more. So I took her to the mall for some shopping. One of the stops we made was at a store called H&M. It’s a hip store, with modern styles that serve all age groups – from baby to adult. We picked out two huge loads of items for her to try on and headed to the dressing rooms. I sat down on a bench in the hallway right in front of her room, and each time she tried something on, she would come out and show me how it looked. She was in dressing room # 8.
A couple of doors down I noticed a little girl, about 3 years old, jogging from dressing room #6 to dressing room #3 and back to #6 again. Back and forth she ran, with a huge grin on her face. Each time she got back to room #3 she would break out into laughter, then run back to room #6, turn the handle, and run back to #3 again, repeating the same pattern over and over. She was entertaining herself in the most beautiful way.
An older female voice came out of room #6, “Sam, stop running, you are going to have an accident.” As soon she heard those words, Sam stopped visiting room #6.
My daughter came out of her own room just then, and said to me, “I can literally hear your thoughts in my head. If you were coaching that woman you would say, “ Tell the little girl what you want her to do, not what you don’t.”
I was surprised that my daughter had learned this lesson so well – however what I was thinking about the situation was, “And that’s how limiting beliefs are formed.”
The need to temper our children and have them ‘behave’ causes adults to use tactics that instil fear in their children. Who wants to have an accident? Better stop running or better just stick with the adult who’s okay with my behavior.
As it turns out, on this particular day, the grandparents were on duty and decided to spoil their granddaughters by taking them out shopping. I had a chance to talk to them while I was waiting for Ferne to finish trying on all the clothes we chose. The young girl’s name was Sammy – she told me they called her Sammy Wammy – and her sister’s name was Zoe, but they called her ZoZo. Sammy was so incredibly cute – I was instantly drawn to her big round eyes and huge smile.
I asked how well the two sisters got along. The grandmother reported, “Oh they get along great. Zoe is sweet; she’s terrific. This one (pointing to Sammy Wammy) has a mind of her own.”
I guess people with a mind of their own are not considered so sweet. Any child who grows up with this kind of messaging will learn to either become sweet in order to receive the approval of the adults in their lives, or learn to believe that they just aren’t so sweet.
It was obvious to me that the grandmother loved her grandchildren with every ounce of her being. She had no idea what kind of beliefs she was helping to form in these two very young beings. They probably came from the beliefs she grew up with when she was a child herself. They get passed along from generation to generation, from person to person, from one conversation to the next.
And that’s where limiting beliefs come from.