There is something strange about humans. We have all this potential to exceed expectations, to be great, to achieve incredible things, to be happy and to live an amazing life… but we so regularly run into blockers. One of the worst kind of blocker is the glass ceiling.
Sometimes we don’t even know it is there!
Glass Ceiling Definition
A glass ceiling is simply a barrier to your progress that despite having all the right things going for you, despite striving for success, somehow, inexplicably, you are blocked from reaching your potential.
The most common example is the global salary glass ceiling for women. There’s not much point beating around the bush, there is a huge statistical glass ceiling effect for women in the workplace globally, and the effect is significantly more than reported because of the maths around fun money.
Glass ceilings come in many forms. Here are the main ones:
- Those we create for ourselves
- Those individuals create for us
- Those society creates (or continues to support) for us
- Those we create for others.
Glass Ceilings – Ignorance & Fear
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
– Marianne Williamson
Somewhere in our minds we create the belief that we are not good enough to achieve remarkable things. We create beliefs that we are somehow inferior, that we don’t deserve to be happy, that we don’t deserve to have many friends.
The list of things that we limit ourselves on could continue for pages, but basically, they all come down to limiting beliefs
What Is A Limiting Belief?
Limiting beliefs or self-limiting beliefs are false ideas or thoughts that are accepted as the truth. The belief then holds you back from achieving things that you can easily achieve.
For example, “I am stupid”, or “a female is not as good at this job”, are two false beliefs that could prevent you from pursuing a career in computer science because you or someone else thinks you are too stupid for this field. Yet you might have been the next Steve Jobs and revolutionized the industry.
These false beliefs are formed through repetition either by repeating them to yourself or within the society/firm/etc. The more the false statement is repeated, by yourself or by others, the stronger the limiting becomes. For example, if one person tells you that you are not intelligent, it doesn’t mean much. But when 20 people tell you that you are not intelligent, over a longer period of time, then it can start to eat away at you. The belief only really gets formed when you start repeating it in your mind (i.e. you tell yourself, “I am not intelligent”).
People are especially prone to accepting a false statement as a limiting belief when they are weak, ignorant or afraid.
How Are Glass Ceilings Formed?
Glass Ceilings are often formed by self-limiting beliefs. You can have lots of glass ceilings at one time. You might have multiple glass ceilings at work, at home, in your relationships, and you might not even know they are there. They hold you back invisibly because they are simply believed and rarely tested. Remember that you may also be placing glass ceilings over other people including people you live like your own children.
There is one type of particularly insidious glass ceiling, and that is the conscious glass ceilingwhere someone or a group of people impose the glass ceiling on you. There are lots of reasons why people impose glass ceilings, and again they come down to a limiting belief. Again they can be found anywhere – at work, home, in the school yard, by parents on their children,…
Typically in this case, the limiting belief and the glass ceiling are distinctly different with the conscious glass ceiling here are some examples
Examples of glass ceilings
- I am stupid / slow / clumsy / not capable of … / don’t like … / no good at … / …
- Jim/Jane is … (any of the above)
Examples of conscious glass ceilings
- Your boss feels insecure (limiting belief) so takes credit for your work or blocks (the glass ceiling) you moving departments for a promotion.
- Someone doesn’t like you (limiting belief) so works against you to hamper your potential (eg disrupt friendships, promotions, etc)
Smash Your Glass Ceiling
Personally I like the analogy of smashing the glass ceiling.
A glass ceiling is transparent but will stop you from ascending (just like self-imiting beliefs are imaginary but stop you from making progress).
Think of it like you are standing on a giant elevator. If you were to take a giant hammer and hit the up button, you could keep moving up and smash those glass ceilings as you come to them. You can move higher to that higher place that you already know how it looks but couldn’t get to. Stand tall and smash through the glass ceiling by moving to a new level of you own capability. Rise above where you are now and above those people who want to keep you down.
What you need to break through glass ceilings
It’s much easier to resist false statements as truth with strong confidence and high self-esteem. Even if 20 people tell you that you are not intelligent, if you have high self-esteem, you can brushthem of as ignorant. Ramon has a cool saying about tattoos – Tattoos are a window for my friends and a mirror for the rest. People will see what they want to see, and often they in-fact see themselves – ignore them.
For you own glass ceilings, check out previous post on How to kill limiting beliefs for the step by step process. This will fix your self-created limits.
The next problem comes when you hit glass ceilings created by others. You need to be committed to breaking through them in a positive way.
IN THE MIDDLE OF EDITING THIS ARTICLE – I’m splitting it into 2 articles. Please accept my apologies, I’ll be back with it soon
The problem comes in when you are feeling weak and vulnerable, and then you get some sort of bad luck (like failing 2 tests in a row). Then you might actually start to doubt yourself and let the idea of not being intelligent into your mind. And that is when that idea has the potential to become a limiting belief.
When Are Limiting Beliefs Formed?
Limiting beliefs are often formed at an early age, where the first 7 years of your life you are especially vulnerable to creating limiting beliefs.
These first 7 years of your life are what is called the critical age, where you cannot really think for yourself, but you just accept what you are told and you imitate the people around you.
Thus, if you have bad influences around you in these early years, it can create an enormous amount of limiting beliefs and complexes that you carry with you for a very long time if you don’t learn how to overcome those limiting beliefs.
The years from 8-18 you are still very susceptible to forming limiting beliefs, but a little bit less that those critical first 7 years. The time from 8-18 is usually when you are in your early school career and thus are heavily influenced by your friends, peers and teachers.
Again, if these influences are negative, they can result in the formation of many limiting beliefs that you carry with you for a very long time.
How To Overcome Limiting Beliefs
A limiting belief is like a habit that has been forged through lots of repetition. The limiting belief feeds on repetition of this belief to maintain it’s strength.
Thus, to overcome any limiting belief, you need to do two things:
Step 1 – Overcome a limiting belief
The first step to overcoming a limiting belief is to cut off it’s source of power.
This means that you need to stop any repetition of your limiting belief that you are trying to overcome. You need to consciously stop yourself from repeating that limiting belief in your mind. Just bit your tonuge. Don’t complete the phrase.
It will be difficult to do this at first because it has become so automatic for you to do this. To make it easier, simply counter the limiting belief with its opposite.
For example, when you catch yourself thinking “I am not intelligent”, you need to stop yourself as early as possible and counter it with “I am intelligent”.
Step 2 – Overcome a limiting belief
The second part to overcoming a limiting belief is to start looking for affirmations that the limiting belief is not true.
This means that you actively need to start doing things that are going to prove the limiting belief wrong. In the case of the example of not being intelligent, start taking IQ tests or similar quizzes. Just one little bit of proof that the limiting belief is false (i.e. that you are in fact intelligent) is enough to do some serious damage to that limiting belief.
Combining the fact of stopping the repetition of the limiting belief together with proving it wrong is the most powerful way that you can overcome your limiting beliefs.
I suggest reading a previous article titled – Kill your limiting beliefs.
So what are you waiting for?
Take that hammer and start smashing away at those limiting beliefs. You are capable of much more than what you are doing right now.