Dream Killers: Overcoming Self-Limiting Beliefs and the Impact of Media


Self-limiting beliefs kill far more dreams than failure ever could.

They are the insidious restraints that keep many from ever trying.

Failure doesn't even get the opportunity in most cases, sadly.

Beliefs are what thoughts and actions are made of. They can serve us or limit us. However, we have the power to decide our beliefs. We're able to replace toxic, self-limiting beliefs with those that truly empower us. To be the best versions of ourselves, we need the right beliefs to get there.

But where do self-limiting beliefs come from?

Some are handed down to us through our upbringing, while others come from our experiences. Advertising and media are also additional sources that influence our beliefs.

We can't choose our upbringing and we don't always have the ability to decide our experiences. Some experiences like having a learning disability or the country you were born in are chosen for us. We can choose though how we process these experiences.

Let me tell you my story with self-limiting beliefs

I'm dyslexic. When I was growing up, I struggled to keep up in school with my classmates. I saw myself falling behind. What came easily to them was a challenge for me to grasp. From this experience, I developed the belief that school wasn't for me. I thought I was simply not smart enough. 

This belief was a major obstacle for me. It kept me from giving my full effort. This only reaffirmed the belief that I wasn't smart. I avoided the challenge of learning because I assumed I would just fail at it.

My actions aligned my with beliefs. This is why self-limiting beliefs can be so difficult to shake. Our actions create evidence that supports our beliefs. And our actions are based on our beliefs. So most people aren't even aware that their beliefs are limiting. It's a dangerous cycle. 

It wasn't until I developed a habit of self-reflection through journaling that I began to realize that these beliefs I had weren't true. My new belief was that I'm capable of learning if I work hard at it. 

Then I started to give learning my all. I began to succeed in college in my major as an engineer. And this was all because I developed study skills, confidence, and started to prepare myself for success. 

My actions aligned with my new beliefs about myself. I even became a habitual reader. That is a complete 360 from where I started. In high school, I was voted most likely to make a teacher retire and now today I'm obsessed with learning. I went from fearing learning to embracing it. The only thing that sparked this evolution was a change of beliefs.

The influence of media and advertisers on our beliefs:

Now let's talk about media and advertiser influence on our beliefs. 

Mainstream media programs us to want things we don't need, and fear things that are irrelevant. They need us to feel as if there's something missing externally that could make us feel whole.

This is simply a product of the incentives where media and advertising operate. Advertisers need to sell, and they need your attention to sell to you. People buy things to fill an unmet need.

So how do they get your attention in the first place?

They hook your attention and use your own basic human nature to do so.

Our human nature evolved to help us survive in times well before advertisers existed. What kept our ancestors safe back then is being used to manipulate us now.

Here are some tools in the media and advertiser's toolbox:

Fear, anger, pride, greed, herd mentality, scarcity, and comparison. Just to name a few.

The constant presence of these insidious messages shapes our perspectives. They help mold our view of the world and what we believe about ourselves.

Instead of focusing on the players, change the game.

Let’s focus on what we can control here… Our beliefs and environments.

We should constantly evaluate what our beliefs are and where they come from. Let's ditch toxic beliefs and replace them with ones that empower us. To do this, we unpack the origin of our beliefs through journaling and self-reflection.

Our environments today are set up for failure by default. This gives advertisers and media ample access to our attention. It takes intention to design an environment that protects us from intrusive influence.
It's not practical to rid your life of advertisers completely. Nor should you want to. There are products out there that improve our lives. Without marketing we would be oblivious to their existence. The vast majority of marketing messages are completely irrelevant to us though. And many advertisements are for harmful products. It takes intentional action to cut through the noise and limit advertisers access to your mind.

What to do next:

  • News:  Avoid watching the news. The news often reports on developing stories. The most efficient way to understand a story is to wait till it is finalized. This way you avoid the speculation, and won't have your attention hijacked by each new development. Statistics will show that the world we inhabit today is much safer than the world our ancestors inhabited. Murder rates in most developed countries are at an all time low. But spend an evening watching the 6 o'clock news and you'll believe the world is burning down. Why's that? Because we have access to more information now than ever before. We live in a world with 8 billion people so everyday horrible things happen. The media cherry picks the most captivating stories because they need your attention. Often these stories are captivating because they foster emotions like fear and outrage. Naval once said, "The goal of media is to make every problem, your problem." Much of what is on the news is completely irrelevant to our lives. But we don’t need the news… There's other ways to get information that is relevant to you without the emotional roller coaster. Need to know the weather? Check your weather app. If an important event happens in the world that you need to know about, you can be sure that someone will let you know.

  • TV: Avoid watching TV… If you do, try muting the commercials. Definitely avoid leaving the TV as background noise. I myself was guilty of this at one point. My first two years in college, I would leave the TV on while I studied. I was interested in investing so I thought just maybe if left I CNBC on all day that I'd begin to understand the markets. It turns out I was completely wrong. Not only did I not understand the markets. But I also didn't understand what I was studying. All I knew was that I had Jim Cramer yapping in my ear while I was trying to study. Where your focus goes, energy flows. With my energy focused in two directions, I was like a car spinning tires. Once I learned to focus on one thing at a time, I was like a car driving down the highway. The constant chatter of the intrusive noises robbed me of my clarity.

  • Social Media: Limit time on social media. I try to have a clear intention for my use of social media while using it. I avoid mindlessly scrolling and using social media as a tool for personal comparison. I grew up in the times when social media was invented. MySpace was still a thing.. I've been guilty of using social media for all the wrong reasons. I learned though that social media is simply a tool and it's my responsibility to direct how I use it. It simply just amplifies who you are. I now approach social media with intention. I block out a period of time and don't use it outside that time. When I use it, I'm intentional about my purpose for using it. My feed is filled with inspiration and learning opportunities because I only engage with content that aligns with my goals.

  • Internet: You can limit your exposure on the internet as well. Free tools like the Brave Browser or Adblock browser extensions can allow you to bypass advertisements. The use of these tools can be controversial with some creators since they are a threat to their income. If you have the budget, YouTube TV is a great way to avoid ads but still support creators at the sametime. I use YouTube for meditation videos and focus music while I work. The last thing I want popping up during that is a damn Taco Bell commercial. No way! 

By focusing on the two things we can control: Our beliefs and our environments, we can take the power back. Let’s avoid the chaos and be selective with what we allow into our lives. When we evaluate our beliefs through journaling and self-reflection we can ensure that our beliefs serve us. And get 1 step closer to being the best version of ourselves.


Brave Browser - Chrome Based web browser with adblockers built in. Excellent for using YouTube without adds
YouTube Add Accelerator - Browser Extension for avoiding adds on YouTube

AdBlock - Avoid adds on websites. 

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