Get the scalpel and cut it out

OK, I admit it – it’s a dramatic title for a blog; however it is descriptive of my current condition, because earlier this week I had a minor operation to remove a lipoma, a small fatty lump.  It necessitated a general anaesthetic, so I’ve spent a few days since taking it a bit easy.  Which led me to thinking …

doctor surgeon with scalpel removing limiting beliefsI wouldn’t have said the lipoma was causing me any anxiety or distress; however having had it removed I did find I had a kind of psychological relief or perhaps release is a better word; I felt pleased that it was now gone and I could go forward in life without it.  Now with minor physical ailments, like lipomas it might be straight forward to have them physically cut out; however what about those ‘fatty lumps’ that sometimes end up growing in our minds?  Here I’m talking about limiting beliefs; things that by themselves might seem harmless and benign, but which can seriously hold us back in some cases and stop us achieving what we would like to achieve.

The types of thing I’m talking about are things like: “I’m never any good at presentations”; “I’ll never be good enough to become a senior manager”; or “People are not interested in what I have to say”.  Basically any belief you have about yourself that is negative.

But how can we go about removing these negative beliefs?  Beliefs are thoughts and ideas that we have come to believe are true or real and that we no longer bother to question; they are opinions we hold.  We take them as fact and allow them to influence our behaviour and actions.  The good news is that they’re not permanent and they can be changed or dispelled entirely.  We can’t of course take out a scalpel and cut them out; however we can remove them through taking a rational viewpoint, asking questions and challenging them.

Try this exercise in examining the beliefs you have about yourself.  Make two lists: one with all the positive beliefs you have about yourself; and the other all of the negative beliefs you have about yourself, things that you think you’re not good at or can’t do.  Then look at the positive beliefs and for each one take a little time to reflect on what led you to hold that belief in yourself.  Now look at the negative beliefs and select the top three: the ones that hold you back the most.  For each one, ask the following:

  • Where did this belief come from?
  • Who gave me this belief?
  • How do I feel about the person who gave me this belief?  Do I respect them?  Are they or were they always right?  What is their history?
  • What is the belief costing me on a daily basis?
  • What will holding this belief mean for me in the long term?
  • How will my life be different if I let go of this belief?


Sometimes these questions alone are enough to dispel the negative belief: you may realise your circumstances have changed and the belief is no longer actually relevant; or you may realise the only basis for having the belief is the opinion of someone in your past, who you don’t even respect.  Now decide what the alternative should be, the positive belief you would like to have, and decide on the appropriate actions you need to take to instil that belief.

Don’t let yourself be held back by those ‘fatty lumps’ of limiting beliefs in your mind; get out the scalpel and cut them out!  In the words of Brian Tracy – “The outer limit of your potential is determined solely by your own beliefs and your own confidence in what you think is possible.”

Mike Jones specialises in developing people’s potential.  If you would like help in overcoming limiting beliefs you hold call him now on +44 (0)1908 509088 or email

About Mike Jones

Mike Jones is an executive coach specialising in developing Emotional Intelligence through transitional and performance coaching. You can contact him directly on +44(0)7747 011 589 or via


  • 12 May 2013 | Permalink | Reply

    Sometimes we’re quite good at reinforcing our own negative beliefs too. It comes in the form of a voice telling us that we’re not good at something or other, or that we’ll never be able to do something. Sometimes that voice is ours, sometimes it belongs to someone else.

    • 12 May 2013 | Permalink | Reply

      I would agree Marianna – our own self-talk is one of the main ways in which self-limiting beliefs are strengthened. The good news is we can also use self-talk to establish new positive beliefs.

  • Jon
    13 May 2013 | Permalink | Reply

    You’re right Mike, self talk is so, so strong. But it is talk and we can say different things. Somebody I knew said to me that she kept on getting up to deliver a great presentation and doubting herself. I suggested she did what she said – but doubt the doubts. Confused her enough to work.

    My two lists are always of different lengths and I have to make myself take a long hard look, that exercise is well worth it.

  • 13 May 2013 | Permalink | Reply

    The trick is noticing that you do this. The superego is so dominant. It stems from the (usually good) advice and guidance we received when we are young, and that advice has served us well, saved our blushes, even saved our lives. The trouble is that once we are adults, it can be too cautious, and we are so in the habit of believing everything it tells us that we don’t even hear the negativity.

    It helps to really listen to what you say and how you say it. Perhaps record a conversation and listen to it. Once the “I can’t” pattern is noticed, it is easier to begin to correct it.

    • 13 May 2013 | Permalink | Reply

      You’re right Joanna, spotting it can be difficult to do yourself. By definition a belief is something you don’t normally question, you simply accept it as true; and it may be a belief we’ve held for a very long time. Language is certainly a way to spot it in others, so doing a recording or asking a close friend or a coach to tell you when you’re coming out with terms like “I can’t …” or “I am never …” is a good way to become aware of it. When coaching people my normal reaction to those type of statement is simply to reflect the word back as a question … “Can’t?”, “Never?” That is quite often enough to break the solid conviction of the belief and open it up to question.

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