Our beliefs are among the most powerful things in our lives. Many help us get through our day. Some support our moods and productivity. Others, what we’ll call our limiting beliefs, aren’t so wonderful. It is those limiting beliefs I want to help you think about now.

Before we get to the list though, I want you to think carefully about whether these beliefs are true. Paul Zak, a neuroscientist at Claremont Graduate University, says “Our brains take the facts and fit them to reinforce our beliefs, and those beliefs don’t have to make sense to be deeply held.”

Here is a list of some of the limiting beliefs that I hear when I talk with, work with, and coach leaders.

  • Imposter Syndrome - You feel you aren’t as competent as people think you are. You find yourself always wondering when people are going to figure that out. This belief often leads to self-doubt, undue stress, and overwork.
  • Lack of self-worth - You feel you don’t deserve the level of success, status, or position you have achieved. Not exactly the same as Imposter Syndrome, but related. This belief can lead you to always trying to prove yourself by not delegating, sacrificing yourself as a martyr, and more.
  • Perfectionism - Everything must be right all the time. You judge yourself, or feel others are judging you as a leader (and human), based on how often you make mistakes. If you suffer from perfectionism, you will never be satisfied. You likely have team members who can’t (and don’t need to) live up to your standards.
  • Fear of conflict - Do you avoid conflict with peers or your team? Perhaps you ignore it and hope it goes away. Or maybe you downplay the importance or severity of it. Doing so may limit the effectiveness or timeliness of constructive feedback. Your team may not see you as supportive of them. Conflict avoidance can also create additional drama and issues for your team.
  • Vulnerability is a weakness - You never want to let others see you sweat. People must think you have it all together because you are the leader. You may even expect that of yourself. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean you need to share everything in your life. But by sharing your challenges and issues, you make it safer for others to share with you.
  • I need to have the (all the) answers - Do you try to know everything? Do you sometimes hedge and act as though you know things when you don’t? You likely don’t expect your boss to have all the answers, and your team doesn’t need or want that from you. Besides, the world is too complex to put pressure on yourself to know everything anyway.
  • Belief in the zero-sum game - Do you believe that life and work is “winner take all?” For you to win, must others lose? If so, you will have a hard time building trust, because people won’t trust your motives. When you are willing to share credit and help your team be recognized, everyone wins.
  • Emotions don’t have a place at work - You think showing your emotions is unprofessional. Leaders should lead from the facts alone. If this is your belief, you will miss important information and context with your team. Plus, logic alone never carries the day or leads to the very best decisions in every case.

Spend some time thinking about how these beliefs affect you and your behavior. Then I urge you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I believe these things about myself?
  • What facts or examples do I have to confirm these beliefs?
  • Are these “beliefs” serving me in a positive way?
  • Are they helping or hindering me in reaching my potential?

Finally, after your self-reflection, share this article and your thoughts with a trusted peer, mentor, or coach. They might further help you remove a limiting belief or put it a more proper perspective.

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