5 Negative Thoughts Keeping You from Living Life to the Fullest

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It’s always been my opinion that a life lived to the fullest is a well-lived life. When I’m old, I want to look over my life and reflect on all the adventurous things I’ve done and the interesting sights I’ve seen. I don’t see this as a rather bold opinion; other people have similar hopes.

Yet I’ve found that the hardest thing about living life fully was just getting to the point where I could really allow myself to do the things I want. Many years ago I had a lot of negative self-talk floating inside my head. It was a big stumbling block preventing me from really living life to the fullest.

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I eventually overcame all that negative self-talk. The weird thing about some negative thoughts is how hard they can be turn around. If the thoughts are ingrained enough into your thinking, you’ll eventually start to believe in them.

And having negative self-beliefs about yourself is like setting up a slow speed limit sign to how fast your life can go. Fortunately if you recognize them early enough, you can stop negative thoughts from seriously hampering your life.

1. The “I can’t do that” mindset

The most common and devastating thought you can have about yourself is thinking you can’t accomplish something. This thought alone probably causes most people to stop working towards their dreams and settling for something else. After all, if you honestly think you can’t do something than you’ll just stop working to get it.

The next time you are in conversation with someone else about their goals or dreams, ask them what is holding them back and it is likely you’ll hear them say they “just can’t do it”. However, it will often be paired up with an excuse. For example, they can’t do it because it isn’t the right time to do it or they have commitments holding them back.

I overcome this mindset by thinking about all the things I once thought I wasn’t able to do, but eventually did do. It puts a lot of things you think you’re unable to do into perspective. It also lets you feel more positively about accomplishing those things no matter how difficult they may seem.

2. I’m not good enough to do it

These kinds of thoughts revolve around the thinking that you aren’t talented enough to do something. However, it usually has nothing to do with how talented you are, but involves a negative comparison you’ve made to someone else. This can be very destructive and demoralizing.

For example, if I wanted to become a stand-up comedian and I compared how well my stand-up comedy is to someone like Chris Rock or Patton Oswalt, I might become demoralized and give up. However, something you never see with professionals is the years of hard work and failures they had to endure to get to that point. It’s only natural to think you’re not as good as they are if you are comparing yourself to the final result.

3. “What if” negative thinking

Everybody thinks about their future. But if all you can concentrate on are all the bad things that possibly could happen, you’re going to limit yourself. After all, if you only see a negative future happening, you won’t do them.

The future is uncertain so thinking only about bad things that could happen is illogical. All life is a chance and living life to the fullest means taking risks. It might not turn out the way you want, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking all risks. You won’t get very far if you don’t take some chances in life.

4. Thinking you have to be perfect

Perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with for many years so I know it can be a difficult thing to overcome. Being afraid of making mistakes and making sure everything is absolutely correct is exhausting. It’s also something that can really be limiting to the things you can do in life.

If you concentrate too hard on making mistakes, you’ll miss out on taking risks. You’ll limit yourself to things you already know really well and trap yourself into a comfort zone. Living life to the fullest often means accepting failure.

5. Generalizing your failures

Sometimes a failure is way more destructive than it really should be. If something didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to go, there could be numerous reasons. However, some people overgeneralize their failures.

For example, a man tries to start up a relationship with several women and fails. He starts to think that all women will have similar reactions and that there is something inherently wrong with him. I’ve found this to actually be a very common belief among men who have had trouble with women.

Generalizations like this don’t reflect reality. It doesn’t take into consideration numerous other reasons for things not working the way you want. It’s easy to just jump to a negative thought about yourself without taking in many other considerations.

Think Positive

The sooner you can stop these negative thoughts, the sooner you can start living life to the fullest. I really believe that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a well-lived life comes from negative self-talk. In some cases, it could be the only thing that is holding you back.

Turning around negative thoughts is important if you want to a life free from constraints. Once you get rid of those negative thoughts, you can go anywhere. So really getting to the point where you have a well-lived life doesn’t start with conquering the world, but rather yourself.

Have you ever had any of these thoughts? Any other negative thoughts you know that stop people from living life to the fullest?
photo credit: The Pondering Moose

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Comments

  1. I like #4 (maybe cause it’s the one I fight with most). I hate looking stupid and so when I attempt something at first, I’m so self conscious about it. It’s so hard to break with that mindset and know that everyone starts somewhere and perfection isn’t the goal, it’s the experience.

    PS – Love the Patton reference. :)

    • I used to be that way about looking stupid when I first attempted things too. Eventually I just had to get over it and accept anything stupid I do. It made it a little easier to try new things and break out of my comfort zone. You can’t let anything get between you and living your life, not even your own emotions.

      Also, I don’t know what Patton reference I used so I’d love if you could point it out for me. I’ve watched that movie many times and love it so perhaps I borrowed something from it without realizing it.

  2. Hey Steve,

    What an awesome roundup of negative and limiting beliefs. I’ve struggled with all of these. One which I’m still often dealing with is impatience. Thinking things have to come faster than they do (which actually slows them down). When I get discouraged now, it’s usually always because things aren’t moving fast enough for me. In those cases I have to realize that it’s not my job to set the timeline and that everything happens with perfect timing (I have lots of examples in my life to back that up). It’s not important that I get there today, just that I move another step closer. Thinking positive thoughts is a step. :)

    Huge hugs!
    Melody

    • You have a great point about impatience. If I get discouraged, it’s usually because I don’t think things are moving fast enough too. It seems as if impatience is more common now because people have expectations about how fast everything is suppose to move. You’re right that it isn’t your job to set the timeline. It’s best to just relax, keep going and not get discouraged. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very good post Steve. I had problems with perfectionism for years. I had to be perfect. It took me a long time to get over this type of thinking. I realised that the only person who had created this idea of what ‘perfect’ was, was me. I had no real evidence of what ‘perfect’ was.

    • You have a good point about perfectionism. Perfectionism and what perfect even is all happens in your own head. My idea of what is perfect might be completely different from your idea of what is perfect. That’s an interesting thought.

  4. Another one is the “if only” or “should have” mentality. By thinking in these terms, you are dwelling in the past (which is an energy drainer and time waster) and not dedicating your energy in a productive (more positive) way.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Holly Em. You have a good point. Dwelling too much on the past can really affect what you do in the present. It really can be a time and energy waster. Also, if you’ve had some bad things happen to you, you could start thinking negatively and even bring yourself down from thinking about it too much.

  5. Hey Steve, I love the line “having negative self-beliefs about yourself is like setting up a slow speed limit sign to how fast your life can go” (in fact I just RT’d that because it’s quality – if that’s your own quote my friend, it should go down with the greats).

    This is a great article – as a coach, I’ve done a lot of work around Limiting Beliefs (in our ‘Be Your Own Life Coach’ series we have an article about the subject here: Limiting Beliefs: Are You Being Your Biggest Hurdle? which has a brief exercise anyone can use to help them overcome limiting self-beliefs) and it’s amazing how greatly a little self-doubt can affect people (and how easy it is to deal with once you understand the problem).

    Great job picking out some of the most common limiting beliefs in your article – I could talk forever about each individual point you make above (e.g. #4 is huge – as you already know from my Cicero post, I’m a big believer in not spending too much time worrying about the future (which is effectively ‘what-if’) or the past). I’m almost tempted to pull out my favourite little Chinese proverb again but I keep saying that too much lately ;-)

    thanks for another really excellent post Steve,
    Alan

    • I’m glad you like that quote, those are my own words. I thought it was a pretty good way to sum up negative self-beliefs. Thanks for the RT on it.

      It really is amazing how a little bit of self-doubt can be so damaging. I’m the type of person who likes things to be perfect so I know how bad it can be for taking action. I agree with you that you shouldn’t spend too much time in the past or future too. Ever since I read “The Power of Now” I’ve realized the benefits of keeping your thinking to the present.

      • Hi Steve,

        Check out some of the (hand picked) quotes on my site and you’ll see you’re in good company. You are #150, riught between Seneca and Dale Carnegie!

        it won’t come up often (the quotes are randomely chosen) but when it does if someone sees it it could be a good way for people to discover you – via a cool quote!! ;-) – could have a lot more impact than the usual comment link or social media referral,

        take care,
        Alan

  6. Hi Steve,

    Your post reminded me of the movie “YES MAN” (Jim Carey)..If you have not seen the movie…A guy starts saying “YES”…to everything life has to offer…Things he always wanted to do… but feared….he says “YES!” to…He let go of all the limits he had created in his life. No more holding back..no regrets. Once we let go of our limiting beliefs and negativity; a world of endless possibilities opens. Just by going from “NO” to “YES” – can be life changing..It seems so simple! We have to choose our beliefs wisely and banish all distorted thoughts. I am reading a book on cognitive thinking, and it is amazing the power we all have over our lives — just by how we THINK..A person’s reality is a projection of their thoughts or the things they habitually think about..So keep things positive! Thank you for your insights.

    • Yeah, I like that movie too. In some ways it was really inspiring to see how one simple thing like saying yes to everything can make your life better. As I was watching, I thought back to all the things I said no to, but later regretted. I think you’re right on with what’s great about that movie. The best thing it can teach is to not hold back and do the things you fear.

  7. great post! So simple yet sometimes you forget these things. Really helped to hear them said so clearly. Thanks :)

  8. Kinasia says:

    Hi Steve,

    I am so glad that I came across this site. As I’m reading this it does reflect me and what I’ve been doing for a long time. I’m still going through negative self-talk which I believe is holding me back a lot and stopping me from things in life i want to accomplish. I really hope that one day i can see this come to past, but it has to start with me first. Thanks–:)

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