This is a touchy topic because most writers aren’t even aware they have a problem with it. It’s something we all do, but that we examine very rarely. And when we try to change, our resistance kicks in big time and freezes us in our tracks.
It’s the curse of limiting beliefs.
A limiting belief is a perspective on some part of the world that you take to be unquestionably true, and that has rooted down into your psyche at the level of the subconscious. It’s a cognitive blind spot that blocks and disconnects you from your true potential.
And every writer has them.
Some of the most common limiting beliefs I run across in writers are:
Artists have it harder than people in other professions
Writers face more competition than people who work in “conventional” careers
Writing demands that you put in years of thankless hard work before you can even be noticed
The publishing industry is offering less to writers and opportunities for new writers are scarce
The thing about a limiting belief is that when it crops up inside your head it presents itself as an objective truth. This “truth” makes you feel depressed and alone—and powerless. Needless to say, your ego swallows it hook, line, and sinker. And most of the time, we’re more than willing not to fight the ego on it. Limiting beliefs become entrenched for a reason: They’re comforting, and familiar.
If we’ve been giving ourselves an excuse as to why we’re not reaching our full writing potential, the last thing the human ego wants is to have that excuse taken away from it.
So how do you spot limiting beliefs?
The trick is to start paying attention to your negative emotions, and then to trace those emotions to the thoughts hiding just behind them. You can usually catch your limiting beliefs embedded in the thoughts that explain to you why you can’t do something, or why you have to do something else. The main theme is powerlessness. Your limiting beliefs want to ensure that you feel cut off from your power of choice.
Another red flag is when you find yourself blaming others—especially abstract, general, faceless entities. Like the government. Or the publishing industry. Or a whole body of other people you’ve never met and who you don’t know personally.
A typical limiting belief sounds like this:
I’ll never get published or be appreciated for my work. The writing industry today makes it impossible for writers like me.
Okay, so you’ve identified a limiting belief just as it buzzed into your ear like a bloodthirsty mosquito. Now, how do you swat it?
First, cut the crap on the blame game. Your life is your responsibility and no one else’s. Your writing success is completely up to you. But that doesn’t mean you get a free pass to turn the blame around on yourself. Blaming is never helpful, in any form. To get clear on the truth we’ve got to disengage with blame and move into open-minded acceptance.
So now that we’ve cut the blame we’re left with:
I’ll never get published or appreciated for my work.
The next step is to write that statement down and then follow it with the word because. You can list as many reasons as come up for you in that moment. The important thing is to be as honest as possible, even if what comes out doesn’t make sense. The subconscious logic behind our limiting beliefs is never rational, so don’t stress yourself out looking for reason. For instance, something like this might come out:
I’ll never get published or appreciated for my work because…I don’t deserve it.
That’s a very common limiting belief. If it shows up for you, rest assured that you’re in very good company with a ton of other writers who struggle with the same thing.
The last step is to compassionately look at the reasons why you feel that way, and to replace your past, skewed reasoning with a more balanced and truly objective view. Like this:
Everyone deserves a fair shot at success, and I am no exception.
Uprooting limiting beliefs and replacing them with a real, accurate assessment of your strengths and abilities can be life-changing for writers, and for all creative types of people. Start by giving a few minutes each day to your thought patterns, and whether or not they’re holding you back. When you’re ready to take the next step, level up your game by rewriting your thoughts to reflect the new, more balanced you. The you who realizes every single one of us has the power of choice.
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