Overcoming Self-Made Psychological Barriers

We often talk about the value of having a healthy sense of self and of the future. However, it’s equally important to be aware of the other side too: we should know how to recognize toxic thought patterns and, if not completely remove them, then at least learn how to cope with and manage the different ways they manifest in us and practice a little more self-compassion.

In this blog, your life coaching partners at Daftein cover the topic of psychological barriers, how to identify the root cause of these struggles in you, and how you can use mindfulness to improve your mental state of mind.

What is a Mental Barrier?

In a nutshell, mental barriers are harmful thought patterns about ourselves and how the world sees us that inhibit us from truly reaching our potential. They could be in the form of negative beliefs regarding one’s ability or skill, doubting one’s potential to grow or achieve goals, or a backwards attitude towards one’s self-worth.

Such diffident behavior impacts us in various ways in our lives. It keeps us from acting on something that we want, such as asking for a promotion or getting started on an exercise regimen to get fit. It also puts a damper on our motivation to do new or necessary things, like learning the ropes of investing so you could improve your finances or trying out public speaking.

As they say, we miss all the shots that we don’t take. If you let the pressure of unhealthy thought patterns get to you, then you’ll miss out on so much on what makes life worth living.

Examples of Unhealthy Thought Patterns

Your mental barriers can be classified into three types of thinking. The first is thoughts and beliefs regarding yourself. The second is thoughts and beliefs about others. And last is thought and beliefs about the world in general. Although they all have distinct targets, it does not mean that they are mutually exclusive.

Unhealthy thought patterns have a way of cannibalizing one another so that one’s negative way of thinking becomes all consuming, tainting every aspect of the way one perceives and lives their lives. These are some ways that your self-made psychological barriers may come out in your behavior and thinking in daily life:

Invalidating one’s ability. This type of toxic thought pattern manifests itself in the often unfounded belief that one is unable to perform or behave in some manner or standard. For instance, you actively avoid being assigned or taking positions of power or authority because you think that you can’t do it or are not up to doing the task flawlessly.

You vs. the world mentality. A particularly harmful but prevalent thought process is that if the world isn’t actively against your growth and development, then everybody is at least ambivalent and won’t care if you succeed. This translates to thinking that you have no social support and that isolating yourself, cutting off communication, is the best policy.

Worry over perceived incompetence. Another example of an unhealthy way of thinking, overblowing one’s poor view of their level of knowledge often leads to self-isolating behaviors. This includes avoiding engaging with others because of a fear that they have nothing to offer to the discussion or that someone else would be more qualified than them to have an opinion or thought on the matter.

Toxic independent attitude towards a situation. The type of dysfunctional behavior that manifests as toxic independence is similar to a you vs. the world mentality in that a person often comes up with scenarios presupposing no one is available or will take the time for them. Thus, they must always face the struggle on their own, blinded to the possibilities of outside support.

Root Causes of Self-Made Psychological Barriers

There are limitless reasons why people put up psychological barriers, but all of them are rooted in one thing – fear. We’ll put them into more specific categories of fear to help you discern one from the other:

Fear of not being enough. One’s fear of inadequacy often stems from an unhealthy desire for perfection. People who let this fear get a hold of them develop tunnel vision and only see a point in time where only the ideal is acceptable; they do not see the process or journey towards a state of “being enough” and lock themselves out of the possibility of growth.

Fear of failure. The fear of the worst possible outcome comes from an excess of pride and a desire to avoid accountability. Those who fear failure believe that not being able to accomplish something will make them a laughingstock or an object of derision; their ego cannot take the blow because of the way they see it instead of thinking about it as an opportunity to learn or be responsible for their imperfect actions.

Fear of the unknown. Uncertainty over one’s future is a natural fear to have. And exercising caution, in reasonable amounts, is wise. However, when taken to extremes, it hinders a person from living and enjoying life. Letting your belief that everything it’s safer to stick to you comfort zone limits your ability to grow and discover more about your true self.

M3A2 Woman Journaling
Woman Journaling. Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/thoughtful-woman-writing-in-notebook-at-home-3769013/

Breaking Down Your Mental Barriers

Breaking away from the grip that fear has on your thoughts and beliefs can be hard, especially when the toxicity was allowed to spread unchecked for a long time, but it’s not impossible. A critical shift in thinking, a method to fall back on, and, most importantly, the renewed commitment to think kinder thoughts about yourself are all key ingredients to successfully breaking down your psychological barriers. Here’s how we do it:

Psychotherapy and journaling. One of the best ways to start chipping away at your mental barriers is by talking about it. Yes, the simple act of speaking of it, in therapy or writing it in a journal, helps you gain a better understanding of your negative thought patterns. Instead of letting it hang like an amorphous, toxic cloud over you, you acknowledge that your way of thinking leaves much to be desired and thus gain power over it.

Having a mental health professional listen to you or keeping a written record to reexamine when your thought processes are much more stable can help you identify these self-limiting beliefs. There are several benefits to hashing out your thoughts. Among them are: difficult emotions can be processed in a healthy manner, your anxiety buildup is relieved, and you can put complex feelings about situations into words.

Reexamining comfort zones. Much of our self-limiting thoughts and beliefs are driven by an unwillingness to leave our comfort zones. The concept of what constitutes your “safe space” thus, needs to be reexamined if you’re ever going to expand your horizons.

This exercise is ultimately going to be about patience because getting over your psychological block about putting yourself out there isn’t going to be cured by a shock to your senses except in very niche situations. So, try expanding your comfort zone in increments and small (or single) actions. This way, you won’t be overwhelmed.

Practicing self-compassion. Toxic thought patterns always harm the person experiencing them the most. So, focus on your practice of self-compassion. Be a kinder, gentler you to the self that resides in your mind. This means thinking kinder thoughts, of course. But if you’re not used to that, then how do you shift away from the bad habit?

You can start by asking yourself honestly: what am I afraid of? Like journaling and psychotherapy, identifying and acknowledging our fears is always the first step in formulating a more compassionate line of thinking about yourself. Next is to debunk those thoughts. Ask yourself where did I hear that? If it is from a dubious source, like something you imagined instead of an actual other person telling you that, then throw that thought away! Make your mind a space that only works with empirical evidence about yourself instead of one living by conclusions that you came to under the unhealthy influence of toxic thought patterns.

Last but not the least, if your negative thought pattern is one that limits your ability to do new things instead of just diminishing yourself, then you can try turning the thought on its head. Ask yourself: is this type of ‘different’ really a bad thing? If you can’t come up with a solid reason for avoiding it (people will actually be harmed, for instance), then the only thing that will happen is that something mildly comical will occur–and you can laugh a little about it along with everyone else if you let yourself.

Talking to a life coach. When you want to be more proactive about driving away your psychological barriers, you can talk to a life coach. Not only do they help you identify what you want to accomplish by overcoming your unhealthy thought patterns, but they can also ensure that you stay on track. Life coaches worth their salt can and will keep you honest and focused on your commitment to unblocking your mental hindrances to your goals.

M3A2 Woman with Self Love on the Beach
Woman with Self Love on the Beach. Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-kneeling-on-shoreline-317061

Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking

Don’t let your unhealthy thought patterns be a hindrance to experiencing life to the fullest. Break the cycle of negative thinking today and ask Daftein’s coach for advice on how to practice mindfulness. Contact us here.

Scroll to Top