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Why does understanding your so-called 'limiting beliefs' matter?

Because, what if there's no such thing? Back when I started learning about nervous system flexibility through Mastin Kipp's work, he invited us to rethink the idea of 'limiting beliefs' and replace it with the idea of 'responses' instead. When you think about behaviours in terms of responses that meet a need, understanding the why behind them becomes more important than deciding whether or not they're limiting in the first place. By understanding what that need is and why it needs to be met, you can then ask yourself: is this the most helpful response to meet that need or might there be another way that's more helpful in the long run?


Understanding the 'why' behind any behaviour requires answering one question: what need is this behaviour trying to meet? As a leader, chances are that speaking up and saying no are vital behaviours when leading your teams, community, or business. Too bad you're a human being like anyone else and you have a nervous system that knows nothing about being a leader. It only knows about staying alive and it can confirm that your behaviours up to this point have kept you alive so far.


As such, understanding the intent behind the 'responses' you're trying to change is key to repurposing your energy towards meeting those needs in more helpful ways long-term. For example, we could sit and talk about the fact that you need to speak up more or say no more often. The likelihood that you'd be wasting your time and energy is high, though. Instead of hyper-focusing on what you need to do more of, less of, or different, I invite you to ask a different question. Question: what need are you trying to meet by saying yes all the time or keeping quiet?


Maybe saying yes all the time makes you feel accepted by avoiding disappointing others. One option: we could sit here and demonize your need to feel accepted. Another option: we could help you think about more helpful behaviours to fulfill your human need for acceptance in a way that's more sustainable long-term. Overstretching yourself to the breaking point is less likely to be the most helpful way of meeting this need in the long-term. As Dr. Frank Anderson explains, every behaviour meets a need. Therefore, understanding the intent behind meeting that need is even more important than shaming yourself for the impact of your current responses.


For example, if your so-called 'limiting belief' is that you're not good enough and people will only love/accept/follow you if you never disappoint them, then the response of saying yes all the time and keeping quiet starts to make more sense. Instead of going down the rabbit hole of 'why am I like this', I invite you to ask yourself the question that Dr. Anderson shared during a seminar: "what's the unmet need?" Ultimately, in this example, the deeper need beyond acceptance might be one of belonging. If the need is belonging, for example, what might be other ways of fulfilling that need, which also include saying no and speaking up when you need to?


Following this example, rather than making the human need to belong or be accepted wrong or shameful, you're better off getting curious about how to shift your response into more helpful behaviours. Your energy can then be channeled into finding other behaviours or responses that are more sustainable in the long run. For example, that might look like starting to speak up or say no in low-stakes situations to help your body understand that the discomfort that comes with this change in beahviour is physiologically safe. It might feel like sitting with the discomfort that comes with accepting when someone else speaks up or says no to you.


It might sound like making the implicit explicit and being clear with others as to why certain things are within your bandwidth and why others are not. It might look like practicing these new behaviours with people you feel more comfortable being yourself with. It might feel like sitting with the initial knots in your throat and stomach long enough to notice when the tension eases. It might sound like people's perception and understanding of you changing.


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