It’s Time to Outgrow Your Childhood Limitations

We are a product of our emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and experiences, but it all starts with our beliefs. Oftentimes, we develop childhood limitations about what will or won’t keep us safe as we learn to navigate our surroundings. Some of these life-preserving beliefs are important.

“Don’t carelessly walk or jump off an object that’s high above the ground.”

“Don’t touch something that’s hot enough to burn your skin.” 

These beliefs are helpful to keep us safe, but many beliefs formed in childhood only help when we’re in our childhood environment. Understanding where these beliefs come from and why they no longer work is an essential ingredient for growth and expansion beyond your childhood fears.

Where Do Your Childhood Limitations Come From?

Sometimes children develop limiting beliefs in order to avoid negative consequences in an unhealthy childhood environment.

For example, have any of your caregivers ever had a negative reaction to a perfectly normal human emotion that you expressed as a child? Did any of your caregivers ever tell you to stop crying when you were hurt or sad?

Did any of your caregivers ever scold you for being too excited about something you were looking forward to?

When our caregivers repeatedly tell us to “tone down” our emotions, we often learn ways of suppressing our most heartfelt emotions and we continue this learned response into adulthood. We limit ourselves and give up the beautiful experience of self-expression.

Sometimes limiting beliefs can be passed down by our parents or caregivers unknowingly.

Can you think of a time when one of your caregivers said “Don’t do that! I tried that when I was your age and…”?

Again, sometimes these life lessons can be helpful, but not always. We may act as though life is limiting us when really our caregivers are just expressing how they’ve chosen to limit themselves. If your childhood caregivers had the tendency to be overly protective of you, you may have developed some limiting beliefs from those experiences.

Childhood limitations aren’t always influenced by caregivers – sometimes limiting beliefs emerge from personal experiences. When experiences feel emotionally overwhelming, we may remember an event as dangerous even though there is nothing truly dangerous about the situation.

Maybe you gave a handmade gift to a friend in school and she laughed at it, so now you’re scared of sharing your art with the public. Maybe you took a fashion risk in kindergarten and the result was humiliating or judged harshly, so now you feel self-conscious when your outfit attracts attention and receives compliments.

We all have personal experiences like these, and the first step towards outgrowing the experience is to confront the limiting belief that emerged from it.

So How Do We Outgrow Childhood Limitations?

Now that you understand where limiting beliefs may come from, it’s time to learn how we can outgrow them. Learn to recognize thoughts that start with, “I shouldn’t…” and carefully reflect on the reason within the rest of the statement.

This exercise might take some time, but it is a good question to ask yourself often. Can you think of any societal expectations that were common in your parents’ generation but not necessary in the generation we’re living in today?

Maybe those expectations should be updated! Don’t let expired societal expectations from previous generations limit what you’re able to achieve in modern times.

Learn to divest your fears. What situational phobias do you have that seem to be a breeze for other people? Do you recognize any similarities between your fears and the fears of your childhood caregivers?

Do you remember any childhood events or situations during which your caregivers seemed overly protective or controlling of your experiences?

If so, what can you learn about your limiting beliefs by reflecting on those experiences? What embarrassing experiences did you endure as a child? Did any fears or triggers for anxiety develop from those embarrassing moments?

The secret to resolving limitations is to question your limiting beliefs. Just because something made sense to you as a child, doesn’t mean that you have to agree with your childhood logic now that you’re an adult! Never accept a situation as socially or emotionally dangerous without asking yourself the conscious question, “why does this situation seem or feel dangerous to me?”

If you let your fight or flight response react on autopilot, you will forfeit your human right to rise above your circumstances. If you start to notice your fearful or anxious energy building when you’re facing a decision, take a moment to pause and ask yourself what would have to be true in order for you to feel this way?

What are you afraid will happen? Then dissect whether that fear is valid and rational, or simply limiting you from reaching your full potential.

Thoughts to Take with You

We are constantly evolving creatures. We reinforce and question beliefs almost daily without even being aware of it. Outgrowing your limiting childhood beliefs is something your brain is already designed to do; perhaps you just haven’t been taking the time to address them! One of the most helpful ways to outgrow limiting childhood beliefs is to talk about them with other people! See if your friends or siblings have similar limiting beliefs.

Be playful as you remember what it was like to explore the world through a child’s perspective. It may have been a logical belief for a child but unfitting for an adult, so remember to be kind to yourself as you discover how to become limitless.

Some of these limiting beliefs will seem silly once you just take the time to explore them, so focus your intention on self-exploration and curiosity rather than fixing something that’s broken.

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Tracey Vazquez

Tracey has been in the field of psychology and psychotherapy academically and professionally for 14 years. She owns District Coaching, a group practice in Washington DC, where she offers virtual or local one-on-one coaching and workshops. Her research and writings have appeared internationally, and she is a public figure on Instagram where she offers insight and encouragement.

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