Have you ever wondered why it seems so. hard. to break habits, move past events, or overcome adversity in your life? It may have to do with cognitive dissonance and limiting beliefs. Here's a powerful way to overcome limiting beliefs. #limitingbeliefs #cognitivedissonance #selfcare

Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere, and along with it signs of rebirth and renewal. For Christians, the weeks leading up to the celebration of Easter act as a lens to focus on the death and resurrection of Christ. Death and rebirth. For the next four weeks we’ll look at how this time of rebirth can help us renew our commitment to self-care—to stay on course with MAPS.

A limiting belief is a thought you think is true that limits your development in a certain area. For example, for years I believed that I wasn’t good at math. It all started with a high school math teacher that made me feel inadequate in geometry class. I had a strange elementary school history, and arrived at high school with gaps in my basic math knowledge.

A math teacher that exuded impatience with my lack of basic knowledge didn’t help the situation. He reminded me of photos I’d seen of Abraham Lincoln (minus the stovepipe hat), and his physical height, solemn demeanor, and impatience created a belief in me that I couldn’t do math.

I carried that belief deep inside me, and it prevented me from taking any more math classes in high school. It also helped me score in the 13th percentile in math on my ACT test. I had to drop out of two college math classes before I finally found one I could pass.

Limiting Beliefs Carry into Adulthood

Three years after I finished college, I found out that I had to take a basic skills test in order to keep my teaching certificate. The test consisted of three topics—math (including algebra), reading comprehension, and writing. I had two choices—I could give in to my belief that I couldn’t do math, or I could find a math textbook and try to figure it out.

Have you ever wondered why it seems so. hard. to break habits, move past events, or overcome adversity in your life? It may have to do with cognitive dissonance and limiting beliefs. Here's a powerful way to overcome limiting beliefs. #limitingbeliefs #cognitivedissonance #selfcare #selfcaresunday

Because I really wanted to continue teaching, I decided to overcome my limiting belief and study math on my own. I spent the summer reading through my younger sister’s college algebra textbook. Each time I answered a question correctly, I’d give myself an internal high-five.

By the end of the summer I had only made it halfway through the textbook, but I felt confident. After all, I knew a whole lot more than I had when I started. I aced the test (including the math portion).

My experience with the limiting belief that I couldn’t understand math illustrates a common theme. Children often pick up limiting beliefs from parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, family members, and other significant adults in their lives.

But before you blame all the adults in your life for your limiting beliefs, you need to understand that my math teacher never told me I couldn’t do math. He never told me I could, either. Children can acquire limiting beliefs by what people say as much as they can by what people don’t say.

Children can acquire limiting beliefs by what people say as much as they can by what people don’t say. #limitingbeliefs #cognitivedissonance #selfcare Click To Tweet

Why do limiting beliefs from childhood have so much power in our lives as adults?

Cognitive Dissonance and Limiting Beliefs

Cognitive Dissonance, a term invented by Leon Festinger in 1957, simply means ‘belief disharmony.’

According to an online article in Simply Psychology:

Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.

Saul McLeod

Leon Festinger first observed what he called cognitive dissonance in 1957. According to Festinger,people have an inner need to have their beliefs and behaviors align. When a person’s beliefs and behaviors align, they feel harmony or consonance. When beliefs and behaviors don’t align, it produces disharmony or dissonance.

Bottom line—when our beliefs don’t line up with our attitudes or behaviors, something has to give. We will change one area in order to make it line up with the other. This can work both for us, or against us.

As children, someone else’s words or attitudes can heavily influence us and cause dissonance. My math teacher’s failure to encourage me and his subtle impatience with me caused dissonance in my heretofore positive belief that I could understand math. Because an authority figure caused the dissonance, I adjusted my behavior to live up to his expectations.

I moaned and groaned and whined about geometry. Class took on a depressing routine of effort and failure. I passed the class (barely), but failed to learn anything useful.

Fast-forward to my experience after college where I proved to myself that I could learn math. Did I become a sudden math whiz? No. My limiting beliefs lingered with me until another 25 years had passed. I found myself in charge of the 7th-12th grade students who needed help with math basics (1st-4th grade math).

Escaping Limiting Beliefs

As I helped my students figure out input and output charts, word problems, and fractions, I gained confidence in my math abilities. By the end of the year, my students and I had made it into 6th grade math! Sometimes students in 7th or 8th grade math will even come to me for help (I still teach the basic math class).

Because I had to teach math—a behavior that I thought I was bad at—I had to change my limiting belief or give up my job. I value my job more than I value the belief caused by cognitive dissonance so many years ago.

So, I changed my attitude in order to create a new harmony. In fact, maybe I am the best teacher for the job because I understood what it feels like to have an impatient teacher who doesn’t tell students that they CAN figure math out.

Of course, I have struggled with more limiting beliefs than my relationship with math. Beliefs that tell me I’m disorganized, messy, impatient, not worthy of success, and short-tempered. Those beliefs (especially the last three) hit closer to who I am at my core, and thus have a bigger impact on my life.

In order to work through those limiting beliefs, I had to change the consonance that I had lived with for years.

The Most Powerful Way to Overcome Limiting Beliefs

The Bible tells us in Titus 3:5 that:

he [God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,


God offers an antidote to every limiting belief that we hold as gospel truth.

  • We are loved AND worthwhile—John 3:16
  • He will walk with us and comfort us—Psalm 23
  • We are not powerless—Philippians 4:13
  • He will give us wisdom—James 1:5
  • We don’t have to follow the crowd—Romans 12:2
  • God will be our family—John 1:12
  • We are not forgotten or abandoned—Deuteronomy 31:6
  • He will take care of us—Hebrews 13:5
  • We can have confidence—Hebrews 4:16
  • He has a plan for us—Jeremiah 29:11
  • We are valuable—Matthew 6:26
  • He created us—Genesis 1:27
  • We are part of God’s plan and have a purpose—Psalm 139:13

A New Kind of Dissonance

When we repeat and internalize the promises of God, they create cognitive dissonance within us. The God of the universe has an antidote for each of the beliefs that the devil has whispered in our ears.

We can use the promises of God to create dissonance in our lives and old beliefs. By repeating his promises, we will start to believe them because we want consonance in our lives. If the God of the universe says that I am valuable, I must be valuable.

I don’t know all of the limiting beliefs that you hold, but I can guarantee you that somewhere in the Bible you can find a promise that tells a truer story.

Know this: God wants the best for you. He stands by, waiting for you to ask him to help you overcome the beliefs that have held you back. When you have dissonance in your life, seek the promises of God to find out how HE wants you to align your beliefs and actions.

When you do this, you’ll discover a rebirth and renewal you never thought possible.

Join us for Inspire Me Monday!

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  1. First of all, I love the verses and the corresponding truths you give us, Anita. But I also am glad that you went through this, especially as a teacher. I think this gave you incredible insight that must help your students tremendously! I wish I had had a teacher like you! Btw, I’m horrible at math too. Not sure if I psyched myself into that inability or simply didn’t have good math teachers or both, but I’m encouraged by your message today!

  2. I love this, Anita, and I’ve been doing some reading lately about neuroplasticity and a growth mindset, and this fits right in with what I’ve been discovering. Those negative messages become so much a part of us, but the good news is that positive messages from a Romans 12 renewed mind can take their place.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Evidence of Grace in the Cycling of SeasonsMy Profile

  3. I was and still am not good at math and I’m pretty sure it’s a reality lol. However, this is very interesting and I know there have been other areas where this imbalance was the case. It also reminds me of an exercise that you do in a program called Freedom In Christ, where you speak aloud the same list of truths each day of who you are in Christ over the course of 2 weeks. It was amazing what it did within your heart and mind. They were things I knew but it truly added this extra confidence!!

  4. I think we all have limiting beliefs of some sort but I am so grateful, we can overcome them with God’s help. He re-wires our thinking. Wonderful post!

  5. I think this is one of my favorites of your posts. We all have limiting beliefs of some kind, but we need to find our identity and ability in Christ. I love the verses you shared that showed that. And how interesting to consider that God first has to create cognitive dissonance about our mistaken beliefs in order to turn us to His truth.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…The Forgotten Element in Bible ReadingMy Profile

  6. I’m glad you were able to overcome your limiting beliefs and I’m sure your experience equips you for helping your students overcome theirs. I love the list of verses you share. Those truths make such a difference when we really grasp them!

  7. I’m so glad God has words to combat the lies we believe about ourselves. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, dear Anita! Blessings to you!

  8. This was a great article! I definitely take on the things that other people say about me. I love all the verses you gave us that counteract the limiting beliefs with the truth of God’s word. So powerful!

  9. This is such a good post. I love the correlations you provided to the Bible. I wish I could say I don’t know anything about self-limiting beliefs but sadly I do. I also have seen it played out in the lives of my sons. Thank you for your wisdom, my friend!

  10. I so needed this today, as I get started working for a major financial advising website and think about my own struggles with all things numbers-related! Good thing they hired me for the writing more than anything. Still, I’ll have to follow in your steps and study extra hard so that I can become comfortable in that language.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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