Limiting beliefs about yourself are those thoughts that stop you from really experiencing life to its fullest. As far as learners are concerned, you can identify their beliefs in their language and thinking patterns – some phrases may be repeated (in different ways), or they explain things in absolutes (such as ‘everyone will laugh at my new haircut’).
When coaching a young person, it might be a good idea to make a note of any limiting belief statements as they may reveal a central theme (such as different ways a learner might say they are stupid, without actually saying, ‘I’m stupid’). We must however, be careful when looking to challenge a negative belief – this limiting factor may be the way the child sees themselves in the world.
So, for example:
- a student might say, ‘I’m stupid’.
- first, look at the costs of that limiting belief and ask them what are the reasons they don’t want to believe this is true. They might say they don’t feel well in class when the teacher goes round the class asking random students a question, or they don’t put their hand up to ask a question, or don’t ask the teacher for help even when they are unsure of what to do. This might take awhile to unpick so please be patient.
- then, ask them why they might want to believe this statement is true (the ‘pay offs’). They might say, they don’t have to push themselves hard, and risk failure, or that they want to feel part of a certain friendship group, and they don’t want to stand out. Again this might take time to unpick.
Before we get to creating a new positive thought, that they can believe in, there needs to be a discussion about the evidence that both supports and disproves the limiting belief they have. So, two good questions to ask are around thinking about times when something happened to make them think they were stupid, and of course, times when they thought they were not stupid. Again this might take time to unpick. Hopefully however, you will find a reason or two, that the learner thinks supports their assertion. In the above example, it might be because they did badly in a test.
Talking this through, it might become apparent that they didn’t revise, know how to remember things, do the homework set, didn’t know when the test was etc, and so they can’t expect to get great marks without putting in the hard work.
Now comes the reframing part of the negative belief, or the creation of a positive thought. In the above example it could be, ‘I can do well in tests. (but I must revise and do the associated homeworks)’, after having uncovered some evidence of success in other tests.