Are Your Beliefs Sabotaging You?

self-limiting

“It’s fine, but I could just never look like that.”

“I could never deadlift 400 pounds.”

“I just suck at singing/learning languages/math.”

Today I’m gonna talk to you about prophecies. No, not the cool ancient kind that foretold of some epic badass saving the day. Though I do love those prophecies. But rather, the ones that can either set us up to level up our lives, or doom us to a life of “that’s just how I am.”

Oftentimes, it’s ourselves who choose to sabotage our mind and goals.

Other times, we let other people set our expectations for ourselves. 

We all have these things about ourselves that we think “that’s just how I am.” We tell ourselves it’s been that way since we were kids, or there was a moment when our confidence was shattered, our path was altered, and suddenly these things we think about ourselves become true.

Today you learn why these prophecies are redonkulous. 

self-fulfilling prophecies

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Maybe we got cut from a team as a little kid and thus determined “I’m not good at sports.” Or we tried a musical instrument and were told to practice outside because we weren’t very good.

For whatever reason, we often encounter seemingly insignificant moments that drastically alter our mindset for decades. Here’s what happens:

  1. We hear we’re bad at something, or have a bad experience with something.
  2. We avoid trying again, because we are shying away from the potential for more pain of that experience.
  3. If we do try again, we try half-assed, so we can point to that and say, “See? It didn’t work.”
  4. We never get better at said activity, because we never practice it.
  5. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the book The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle argues talent isn’t born, it’s grown. But why do we often see specific people who seem to have more talent or get further and do better? Aren’t great athletes just destined for greatness and it’s obvious who has talent and skill and who doesn’t?

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, would tell us a resounding: No! In one example, Gladwell found that most professional Canadian hockey players are born in the first few months of the year. Why is this important? Are these months producing scientifically engineered better players? Nope.

Because these kids are a few months older than their peers, they tend to mature slightly faster, MAYBE giving them a slight edge in hockey skill or size as kids. So, these players tend to get selected for special teams early on as a kid, and thus they practice more. Over time, a gap is created, a self-fulfilling prophecy comes true. They practice more, and the gap widens further.

For these hockey players, their self-fulfilling prophecy is that they’re better at hockey, and thus they go on to become better at hockey.

How about this!? In 1964, a Harvard Professor named Robert Rosenthal ran a study where he told grade school teachers he had a special test that could predict which kids were about to experience a dramatic growth in their IQ. After the kids took the test, he chose several children from each class totally at random and told their teachers the test predicted those kids were on the verge of an intellectual “bloom.” What happened?

If teachers expected greater gains in IQ, the kids gained more IQ. Rosenthal found that the teachers gave the students who were expected to succeed more patient instruction and more positive feedback. And in turn, the self-fulfilling prophecy came true!

What does this mean for you?

Prove it wrong One time.

self-limit-beliefs

I’m going to tell you the story of a man named Danny O’Shea.

Spending his entire life in the shadow of his older brother Kevin, Danny became the football coach of a ragtag bunch of kids who had no clue how to play. Unsurprisingly, his older brother also coached a group of kids, except they were well-trained athletes.

When Kevin’s team had to play Danny’s team, Kevin motivated his team by telling them about the one time he beat his old brother in a bike race down Cherry Hill. That one single instance in which the outcome was different was enough to motivate these young lads to think, “hey, all it takes is one time,” and it lead them to an improbable victory.

This is the story of “Little Giants,” a movie that I remember fondly and refuse to go back and watch again in case it’s terrible.

But man, what a speech Rick Moranis gave:

It’s one thing to say “I am a confident person,” but if you don’t do anything about it…you’ll stay the same ole wallflower.

It’s one thing to write “I’m going to be rich and famous” on your dream board (or whatever the self-help gurus call those things), but without action and the willingness to die on the treadmill, you’ll never get there.

If you decide to break the self-limiting belief of “I’m just a fat person,” absolutely nothing will get done if you simply repeat this mantra while sitting on your couch eating cookies.

Identifying the new self-fulfilling belief is step one.

Frodo had a self-limiting belief that he could never get to Mordor… and then, step after step, day after day, he proved himself wrong… and freaking WALKED to Mordor. Become Frodo, and keep an eye out for EVERY tiny victory along your journey, no matter how hard you have to scrape, fight, and claw for it. Consistently remind yourself of those victories, and keep them at the front of your mind, to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that YOU decide on..

All of this to say that you actually can change your fate. It will require hard work, consistent persistence, determination, and the ability to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, for that’s where growth happens. 

change and grow

self limiting beliefs

People can change, and do change. Nerd Fitness exists today because of that fact.

From Joe to Anthony to Saint to Bronwyn to Anne…I’ve seen thousands of people change as a result of this community. I’ve seen people transform physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally.

Hell, Staci was overweight and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, and now she’s a full-time member of Team Nerd Fitness, and can deadlift 400 pounds. Who she is now is nothing like who she used to be. But everything started with a single victory that allowed her to prove to herself that she WAS the superhero underneath.

My friend Benny Lewis “couldn’t learn languages” until he stopped accepting it as an excuse. What did he do instead? He turned this prophecy on its head, and gave himself permission to suck early on. With each small win, it gave himself more confidence to try more often to learn and to speak, which made him better at learning, which made him better at languages. Now, Benny is “the guy” who speaks 10 languages fluently and helps other people learn to do the same.

In each of these stories above, they all had ideas about who they were, what they sucked at, and what they could never do. With enough small wins, they were able to change their prophecy – a step towards the “I’m actually pretty damn good at …”

My self-limiting beliefs and how I crushed them.

Never Deadlift 400

I remember reading that comment above on a YouTube video of mine and thinking “shit, he’s right…I’ll never get that strong. I just don’t have the genetics for it.” That’s right, the guy who teaches you how to bust through plateaus and not listen to haters actually started listening to internet trolls!!

“I’ll never get really strong” was my self-limiting belief for years. 

I love strength training, but I never thought I’d get actually strong.

Sure, maybe “strong for a skinny guy” – but really strong? And then, day after day, week after week, month after month, I proved myself horribly wrong.

Over the years I’ve managed to turn the prophecy on its head, but as I realized in the below text exchange with my friend Anthony Mychal (who’s been coaching me remotely), I still have some prophecies to change!

Steve Anthony ConversationI had my mind focused on one day deadlifting 405 lbs since starting my training, feeling like it was light years away.

And then… I did it:

I’m getting strong as hell, and week after week my self-limiting belief was getting REAGAN SMASHED.

Now when Anthony says “you’re gonna pull 500 pounds,” it completely shifts my belief to what I’m capable of.

One time.

Rope course

Depending on what people around you expected of you as a child, or what you have expected of yourself all your life, you have been subtly guided to who “you” are.

That’s why today I want to hear about ONE self-limiting belief you have. It can be fitness related, it can be about some part of your life you hope to change, whatever. What’s one thing you’ve essentially decided is a fact about your place on this planet?

And then I want you to share with me ONE time, one moment, in which the opposite of that ‘fact’ is true for you. I don’t care how small of a victory it was, or even if it was a partial victory. What’s one moment you can look back on and say, “Hey, that was totally unlike ‘me’ – but I did it!”?

  • Lost weight and kept it off
  • Was the life of the party
  • Sang a note on key
  • Learned a new skill that didn’t suck
  • Approached a guy/girl, and didn’t fall on your face
  • Went on vacation and did NOT get derailed on your fitness journey

Once you identify the cracks in the wall of this belief, you can start attacking it. Small victories, more confidence, momentum, bigger victories, even more confidence, and so on.

Leave a comment with one belief you’re breaking, and one small victory in the past you can point to. We’ll give away a free NF shirt to a random person that leaves a comment, because I want you taking action!

-Steve

PS: Along with “I’m never going to be really strong,” I’m also currently battling this one: “I’m just a terrible singer.” I’ve been working hard on a plan to break this particular belief and also complete something that scares the crap out of me. The benefit of living in Music City! Epic Quest update coming soon 🙂

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photo source: Kenneth DM: Scrolls

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194 thoughts on “Are Your Beliefs Sabotaging You?

  1. Hey Tammy!

    We have tons of success stories on Nerd Fitness from people who are over the age of 40 and we’re excited to share yours eventually too, when you’re ready 🙂

  2. hey Big Adam!

    That’s great – dating is always a challenge for everybody, and now you know that it wasn’t a good fit and you can move on and see if you can find a connection with somebody else. Great work dude.

  3. hey Paul

    Go back and read the first few months of posts on Nerd Fitness. most of them make me cringe how bad they are. You get infinitely better when you publish, polish, learn, and grow that way. Write, publish, write, publish, write, publish

  4. You’re marrying this man! sounds like he’s not putting up with you, but rather loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you 🙂 I’d say that’s a good start! Congrats on the upcoming wedding Lucia 🙂

  5. I love that. Thank you for sharing!!

    I’ve been saying “I’m a terrible singer” my entire life and my voice coach has to continually tell me “Steve, shut up. you are a singer. You’re singing!” And now I have an epic quest goal to put that one to rest 🙂

  6. Hey Matthew!

    Thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your story. I’m proud to have you in the Rebellion brother 🙂

  7. I want to change more than one thing about myself, but what I what to change most of all has nothing to do with fitness or diet, but with household chores.

    Somehow, I can’t keep my house and gardens clean, clutter free and organised. I just don’t like doing household chores and I always come up with excuses. Nevertheless I like the results. I like a clean and organised house. Not sterile, I mean you have to see that people live in it, but ….. you know.

    Yesterday was yet another of those days that I had so many other things to do that had priority, but at a certain point I told myself : ‘You’re feeling down and you know that a tidy house induces a tidy mind. So do it !! Don’t think, just do it.’ And I did and it didn’t even take that much time. It was a small victory because I unloaded the dishwasher, put everything into the cupboards, filled it up again, started it and cleaned the kitchen while it was running.

    I’m a bit ashamed about this story because for most people this is an everyday chore they do maybe 3 times a day without blinking an eye. For me however, it gave me the satisfaction of ‘Yes, I can do it !!!’

    I’ll need to think a lot more about that tidy house inducing a tidy mind. Maybe make a banner and put it up somewhere where I often see it !!!

  8. I’m struggling with procrastination. I plan to live instead of actually leaving. I prepare to do something insteadd of doing and failing or succeeding.
    Once in a while I’m able to do small victory: making myself actually finish something, but those things are so rare they don’t even count.

  9. This sounds so true for me too. I am like my own negative nancy and at times and it seems like I build up a mountain of reasons that I am not able to do stuff like yoga or marathons… I thought I should try hypnosis or something to break the habit, but then I realized I didnt believe in hypnosis so I never tried that either, smh.

  10. Patience and manual dexterity don’t come easily for me. I have always been ambidextrous, but my fine motor skills are in my left hand, hence the lefty handwriting. My handwriting sucks. Barely legible. Doing anything small scale was always a challenge. I’m a big guy, so naturally clumsy just came along for the ride.
    A friend of mine is into making paper models. No, not cutting up copies of SI’s swimsuit issue and playing with them, I’m talking about scale models of tanks, jeeps, fire trucks and so on printed on card stock and assembled using glue. This guy put together a life sized sniper rifle made out of paper. I don’t even want to know how long that took. It’s a simple and cheap hobby but is a challenge for me due to the time and small scale of some of these things. For example, my first model was a Jawa Sandcrawler that measures about 2 1/2 inches long 3/4 inches wide and 2 inches high. It was 6 pieces and took me 3 @#*%-ing hours to assemble. The next one only took 2 hours. But between all the fine detail cutting of various pieces and using tweezers to hold 2 small pieces I just glued together I assembles a ragtag fleet of Tie Fighters, AT-AT’s, AT-ST’s, Tiderium Shuttles, a fire truck with an extendable and rotating ladder (because who doesn’t want a fire truck), The Kodiak from Mass Effect and the Defiant from ST:DS9. My current projects are an articulated and transforming Optimus Prime and a larger AT-AT with moveable legs. Patience and persistence coupled with lots of practice= Success!

  11. “I’m never going to be able to run a marathon.” Truth is, I never have. I’ve completed one, but never mentally “ran a marathon” from the start line. That’s too much to stomach. I’ve never done any large task in one fell swoop. I can run the next 20-steps, and I can study language for 20-minutes today, but I can never run a whole marathon. The process is more important than the product, so I don’t take on finish lines anymore, and yet I cross them all the time.

  12. I’m breaking the belief that I can’t do it by myself. I’ve put off pretty much any kind of physical activity for the last few years because “I’ll never do it by myself, I need other people physically there doing it with me.” Because I don’t have those people to back me up, I’ve given myself a pass all this time. Instead, I’m breaking that belief and have signed up for my local Color Run in a few weeks, despite not being able to get anyone (including my husband) to do it with me. I may have to crawl the whole way, but I’m gonna do it!

    My victory feels small looking back on it, because it feels like no big deal on the other side, but it was a huge mountain to climb. It was always a given in my mind that I’d go to college, but I ran out of money after my first two years and withdrew. Two years later, it was really bothering me that I hadn’t finished yet and that my youngest sister was going to be graduating high school soon. I re-enrolled in school with the goal of graduating college before my sister graduated high school in just under two years. I went to school more than full time in the evenings (mixture of online and seated) with a double major while working a full-time day job. I graduated with both my degrees the DAY BEFORE my sister’s high school graduation. I was the first in my family with a college degree. 😀

  13. I actually discovered this one my chance. I had to go to a company conference a couple weeks ago, out in the bush in South Africa (i live and work in SA), and there was mandatory river rafting and obstacle course (like a cargo-net climb, monkey bars set 2 meters high, and a balance beam on chains). I ride motorcycle to work, a little 125cc honda, and i found that because of that, to a degree, it helped me with my shoulders during the paddling, so that afterward, when the rest of my colleague were moaning and groaning about their sore bodies, i didn’t feel a thing, just a little tired. And then, later in the day, we broke into teams to do the obstacle course, and i breezed through them with ease, realizing that i was in better shape than I thought I was. Surprises like that are great for the confidence.

  14. Hey – I wanted to give a quick update. The FitBit was charged this morning and BACK ON MY WRIST, yippee. I started focusing on me this week and have lost 2lbs already with just remembering that I’m allowed to come first and that happiness will not be on a couch or the bottom of a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs (however, I can have one or two without feeling guilty). Not sure how you can find me on fitbit, I don’t tend to give out the personal information on forums – darn Identity thieves, ruining it for the rest of us.

    Hoping that you’ve kept the motivation going and you’re on the right track!

    Cheers – Shayla

  15. My self limiting belief is a biggie that has stemmed from a cynical and depressed view of the world….”People don’t change, at least not for the better.” It started with little elementary school aged me being told by my mother that I shouldn’t try to change people. Over time I warped that good advice into some awful advice, and applied it to myself. “I can’t change in any good ways.” Every pound I gained, every bit of fitness I lost, every failed attempt to start a new habit…all of it backed that up. My husband is the one who is helping me see that it’s not true. I HAVE changed, and for the better, in many areas of my life. I’m much more stable than I was back in high school, in a lot of ways. The struggle for me is to acknowledge those changes as real, worked for, beneficial…when the temptation is to ignore them and beat up on myself instead.

    TL;DR:
    So the self limiting belief I’m changing is that I cannot change in any beneficial ways. My small wins are actually numerous but I’m pointing to the most recent, a run of over a month of steady working out and decent eating. My motto will be “My past doesn’t have to define my future.”

  16. It’s amazing how a simple thing like that can drive success in other areas! I wonder if your supervisor knows how much her simple act of believing in you has helped you.

  17. My bet is that you’re really a fantastic singer, but stage fright gets the better of you. Stage fright is a big struggle for a lot of people, myself included! You can do it! Go for it and don’t let yourself tell you no.

  18. Thanks Steve! One of my reasons for competing is also to jumpstart conversations about femininity in the context of bodybuilding – I think it’s a fascinating topic, and one that is worth discussing. I’ll be documenting my journey closely, creating a vlog, and (hopefully) building a community around it. You’re definitely one of the people who has inspired me to do this, so thank you 🙂

  19. I have asthma and ACL reconstruction on both knees. At 35 years old I had never run a full mile in my life. I scheduled an appt with a sports therapist so that I could learn how to run correctly and started slow. That year I ran my first 5K and didn’t stop once. No asthma or knee problems. Who would have thought?

  20. I loved this article. One of my fears in life is feeling addicted to sugar. I have a major sweet tooth but have been baking paleo treats. Its worse around holidays. I need to remind myself i can do this, i can overcome. This is my body i am in control of what i fill it with. Thanks for being so inspiring Steve!

  21. So I never liked running and had to stop playing football because of knee injury + no real drive to run. 2 years later (and 8 months after joining Nerd Fitness), with some strengh exercise for the knees, i ran my first 5km on a treadmill with very little knee pain towards the end. Ridiculous time. But a true victory for me!

  22. Ive struggled with my self image and fitness for as long as I can remember. Even though I have a very physical job (Naval Aircrew) and completing the physical challenges required to get there, I have always felt pretty lame and even more so against my wife, who could be a fitness model. Recently I let myself get into a solid funk of “well im 25 now and ill never be strong like i could have been if id started at 14”. Been too long since Id been on NF and i knew thats where id find some motivation.
    Exactly the article i needed. Time to get back on the pony.
    Thanks man 🙂

  23. I am a driver I drive a mini bus full of kids on a daily basis. Europe changed its rules on the license so I needed another card which says Im a professional driver. I live in switzerland and thier law is that u need to do the test in this country in 1 of the 3 languages. I didnt speak any and was about to pack up and go home. My mother was on the phone to me 1 day and said “since when do you give up on anything? So u need to learn another language u have a year. Dont ruin what u have out there without even putting up a fight! And so the battle began and here I still sit 4 years later!

  24. Hey Steve,

    Since I discovered Nerd Fitness, I’ve read many of your articles and I am amazed and humbled by their quality.This one is no different.

    The idea that we set limits and tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough or we simply lack the genetics to achieve a goal is really eye-opening.

    I know that for sure because I had imposed limiting beliefs on myself throughout my teenage years and refused to believe that I could get fit, strong and more confident and those beliefs limited me from doing anything with my life.

    Only after I decided to take control of my life and stop telling myself lies did I see a change for the better.I lost about 40 lbs, improved my physique over the years and gained alot more strength than I thought I ever could.

    All it takes is to stop limiting yourself.Whether someone once told you that you weren’t good enough or you lied to yourself.

    I’m bookmarking this amazing piece for future inspiration.Thanks for publishing it! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Philip

  25. My self-limiting belief is “I’ll never get really healthy, not really, because my chronic illnesses prevent it.” I’ve had sarcoidosis since I was a kid, and now I have fibromyalgia too. I take chemotherapy everyday. But when I was in high school, I trained in kung fu everyday of the week, usually 3 hours a day. Once, I did 1,000 kicks in one hour – something I never thought possible. I was on chemo then, too. The only difference now is my fibromyalgia, my weight, and utter lack of confidence. I recently decided to re-embrace my martial arts training; it makes me happy, you know? I’ve always loved martial arts, from real-life training to movies.

  26. I always thought I was terrible at sports–very nonathletic, combined with very poor hand-eye coordination. Then on a whim, I decided to play horseshoes with some of my peers (hey, Steve said it doesn’t matter how small the victory, it still counts). I actually earned my team a huge head start and we ended up winning. ^.^
    It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that was kinda the moment I realized I can try new things and I might actually be pretty good at some of them. It even made me feel less anxious about exercising in front of others because I feel like I’m not nearly as bad at sport-like things as I used to think I was.

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  28. This is just what I needed to read. I am embarking on studying for the bar exam in a new state. It took me 3 tries to pass in the last state. I felt like a failure after failing twice, and don’t want that little nagging voice to get in the way of success this time. I am also working on losing 20lbs and getting back into running. I realized the other day that I am my own worst enemy.
    Thanks for this!

  29. I always wanted to get thinner, but deep inside I always doubted myself. One month ago I started a paleo low carb diet. This past weekend I got out of track. Before I would just keep eating no stop. This time I got back on track! This is a victory to me! I am so happy with this change in my behavior. I can and will do it this time.

  30. Very encouraging. I understand exactly. Except I say “art/creativity was the one part of my brain I was born without”. I just realized after reading this article how many times I must have self-sabotaged and not even tried in art class growing up because I believed I sucked at art. It stopped me from trying to learn a musical instrument too. Maybe I should give it a try

  31. I never thought I could do a 50 mile cycle sportive. But I did 🙂 Before that, 50 miles was something I considered to be a reasonable long car journey, not something I’d cycle in one go.

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