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Disarming your inner saboteur

Are you keeping yourself from reaching your goals?

Each of us can accomplish goals far beyond what we think we’re capable of achieving. The problem often is that our self-limiting beliefs sidetrack us from getting what we desire.

A self-limiting belief is composed of thought processes or feelings that cause us to maintain the status quo. There are many terms to describe this, including: inner critic, comfort zone, saboteur, negative self-talk and self-doubt. All of them take away our confidence and limit us from moving forward so we can accomplish our goals.

For many years, I gave in to my self-limiting beliefs because I didn’t realize how they were running my life. I played life safe, knowing that I had more potential but also not having the confidence to pursue my goals, which seemed out of reach.

But learning to identify and overcome self-limiting beliefs has been a game-changer for me. Here are some cues for recognizing when your self-limiting beliefs are running you:

  • You predict a lot of struggle and find yourself shying away after thinking or saying, “This will be hard.”
  • You lack confidence.
  • You compare yourself with others and convince yourself that they are better than you.
  • You are stuck behind a seemingly insurmountable barrier.
  • The same issue presents itself over and over.
  • You use words such as, “I can’t,” “I should” and “I need to,” instead of saying, “I can,” “I will” and “I want to.”
  • You are consumed by a fear of failure and catch yourself thinking or saying, “What will people think?”
  • You know deep down you are selling yourself short.
  • Even if you are successful, you think people will discover that you aren’t so great after all. This is called the Imposter Syndrome.

If you’re feeling this way or experiencing any of these, here are some techniques for overcoming self-limiting beliefs:

  • Try a “future pull.” Think about your vision or goal and focus on what it would feel like to achieve it. Let yourself feel the joy and pride of completing your objective.
  • Apply an “antidote’ by remembering a past accomplishment or a situation in which you were successful and then telling yourself, “I made it through that, so I can make it through this.”
  • Use your imagination. Think of putting your inner critic in a balloon and then pop it. Or make that critic melt away like the wicked witch. Or maybe just send the critic on a long vacation.
  • Feel the fear… and do it anyway. Intentionally stretch beyond the inertia of self-limiting beliefs by simply taking a leap.
  • Challenge yourself with words such as “I’m bigger than this barrier” or “I have it within me to move beyond this doubt.”
  • Own it. Act like you’re already there.
  • Declare, “Game on.” See yourself on the field playing your best … and winning.

I’ve used these techniques successfully to beat my inner critic. I now show my coaching clients how they can employ them and achieve similar results. I suggest you try them as well to give yourself confidence to achieve your goals and live your dreams.

Pam Solberg-Tapper

Pam Solberg-Tapper, president of Coach for Success Inc., is a Duluth-based executive coach, professional speaker and adventure marathoner. For questions or to submit questions or ideas for future columns, please contact her at or (218) 729-0772.