Having served with the British Military in Berlin after the war, and marrying a Highly Decorated British Military Officer, my Nana was old-school military pomp and posture. It was of greatest importance to her that her grandchildren learn the manners becoming of the grandchildren of a Highly Decorated British Military Officer. She took every opportunity to instill ‘please’, and ‘thank you’, and all manner of pleasantries into my brother and I as young children.
Sadly, she passed away when I was eleven, but she left me ingrained with her lessons in manners among other things. It wasn’t until much later in my 20s, when I started to delve into my own personal development journey and begin to study coaching techniques that I realized just how deeply her words had affected me. Unintentionally, my Nana’s words were the source of one of my greatest limiting beliefs.
“I want, never gets.”
I remember her saying this phrase to my brother and I time and time again. “Please may I have” she would correct us. Asking for sweets, or a toy, or anything we wanted became a teachable moment for her. She would tell us “I want, never gets”, and that if there was something we wanted, the polite way to ask was “please may I have”. She was true to her word, and any request from us that started with “I want” or the like NEVER got us results. We quickly learned asking “please may I have” was the key to success.
While her intention was merely to teach us how to politely ask for what we wanted, those four little words have rooted themselves much deeper into my mindset, forming points of reference from which my beliefs about the world were unconsciously formed.
Those four little words taught me much more than good manners.
They taught me that ‘wanting’ is bad.
I want, never gets.
To ‘want’ became awful, naughty, and selfish. Only rude, unpleasant little children wanted. Good, polite little children asked if they ‘may have’, and only if they had been good were they granted their request. I began to associate the idea of ‘wanting’ with being selfish and spoiled. I learned you had to be worthy to be allowed to have things, and that to just ‘want’ them was downright rotten!
Fast forward to my 20s – during an activity exploring my own limiting beliefs, I realized I would have an actual physiological reaction to thoughts of wanting something! It felt like a tight feeling of guilt in my chest, and I would quickly attempt to dispel this unpleasant feeling by disregarding thoughts of what I wanted. Logically I knew such a physical reaction to such a simple thought made no sense, but I couldn’t stop feeling terrible and guilt-ridden for ‘wanting’ things. “I want, never gets” had grown into the limiting belief that wanting is bad, and that I wasn’t worthy of those things that I wanted.
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How often during the day are you asked what you want? What do you want for dinner? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What do you want to be? Imagine if every time you were asked those questions you responded with feelings of guilt at the thought of answering them? So often I would throw the question back – well, what do YOU want for dinner? Doing so gave me such relief, feeling like I was being a good little girl and thinking of others before myself. So I didn’t get to have what I really wanted for dinner – at least I didn’t feel guilty and spoiled.
The more I thought about it, the more I could see how this one simple belief cut across so many areas of my life – from my relationships, to my career, to my health, to deciding what I want for Christmas! Uncovering it has given me such an amazing insight into how it has shaped my life experiences and the decisions I’ve made, both good and bad. As Tony Robbins says, the challenge with beliefs is that many are created unconsciously as a result of experiences in our past. The good news is you don’t have to continue to believe them. You can find new points of reference and choose new, empowering beliefs that will help you move forward, not hold you back.
Now I understand the source of my limiting belief, I choose to see “I want, never gets” in a new light. Now it is more a reminder of a loving Nana that wanted her little girl to grow up to be kind and polite. I like to think I would have made her proud. Am I more comfortable with wanting things for myself? Absolutely! I still feel there was some value in the part of the belief that said some things should be earned, I just no longer feel guilty for wanting them. Now when someone asks me what I want for dinner, I tell them!
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