Psychology of Writing – Self-Limiting Beliefs

Are You Holding Yourself Back?

I wonder how many people out there — writers in particular — have a similar response to mine when asked, “What do you want your life to look like?” I was brought up to be unselfish, and over the years I tried to be content with the portion I was given in life.

This seems like a noble philosophy on the surface. But today something I read opened my eyes to a concept that is not only fully in line with my core beliefs, but is more in alignment than my merely  “being content” with my portion. Contentment, I saw in sudden clarity, is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Being GRATEFUL for what I have is much more important than mere contentment. The reason is, contentment is mostly a passive condition. Gratitude, on the other hand, is so much more. I can be content and not bother to say “thank you.” But if I’m grateful, I can’t help but show my gratitude in many ways. It happens spontaneously. That’s not passive. That’s organic!

So what does this have to do with writing? More than you may have ever imagined. It’s that important.

The blog post I read that inspired my ah-ha! moment began with a quote. See if it resonates with you as much as it did for me.

“All I want to do is grow my business, make a comfortable living, care for my family and contribute to the well-being of the world!”

At first glance, I wholeheartedly agreed with this philosophy. It fit in with my upbringing which taught me not to be greedy, and it fit in with my acquired belief that I should be content. This sentiment was the collective intentions of a group of people seeking to grow their businesses. As a writer, that translates into selling more books and reaching new markets in other countries.

The author goes on to say this:

“The talent, wisdom, experience and expertise in that room would knock your socks off…  [T]hey could not only contribute to the well-being of the world; they could change it forever! …That was never going to happen because unbeknownst to them, the “Fraud Factor” had crept into the room and settled quietly, menacingly without anyone even noticing.”

Have you ever felt that way? Felt like a fraud — someone who wasn’t really worthy of living any other way than modestly, someone who could never dream of changing the world?

This is related closely to the Impostor Phenomenon. For another blog post in this series, go here: Impostor Syndrome (opens in new window). The gist of  the impostor phenomenon is this:

(One golden nugget paraphrased from the original article (More on this article in the next post.)

Sometimes our perceptions of what it takes to be competent have a powerful, and often times debilitating, impact on how we measure ourselves. As a result, this affects our approach to achievement.

If you feel like an intellectual fraud (or writing fraud, or insert any other competence you feel you fall short of), then you’ve set yourself up for failure.

Why? Because your definition of competence is so grandiose that not even a bona fide genius could attain it!

Think about that for a few moments. Take it in. Breathe. Does this strike a chord within you? I hope it does, as it did for me.

Now read this:

“The Fraud Factor would slip stealthily into their thoughts  (telling ‘rational lies’) that they were not enough. This voice would whisper ‘You are a fraud!  You think you’re going to actually charge people for that incidental info of yours? You must have forgotten who you are because you’re not smart enough, fast enough or good enough.  You don’t know enough, you’re not experienced enough; you don’t have enough expertise.’ ”

Ever hear something similar playing inside your head? (Or even have someone say such horrible things to you?) I know I’ve heard those things in my head in my own voice. The problem is, these things are playing in the background in subliminal mode. It’s like those subliminal programs you can buy to cure procrastination, stop smoking, etc. I’ve always been skeptical of them, because I don’t know the person who created the subliminal stuff that’s not even audible and therefore not verifiable as to what it’s REALLY saying.

In this case, we know only too well who created these subliminal messages — our own subconscious mind. Self-sabotage incognito…

So as a writer

  • If you are reluctant to move forward with that book you’ve been meaning to write for years
  • If you have some measure of confidence in your ability to “blog” but not in your ability to create a novel
  • If you feel you don’t have any worthy ideas to write about and so you’ve become blocked
  • If insert your present circumstance here)…

…then today’s your lucky day. You have the opportunity to BEGIN to move past this self-limiting view of what competence really is. You can start to discover that you are already a genius in your own right.

Why should you? What’s wrong with a modest existence? What’s wrong with “contributing to the welfare of the world?” Nothing in and of itself. But what if you are capable of much, much more? What if you were born to effect great change in people’s lives? What if the world will suffer LOSS because you are unable to fulfill your potential and achieve the greatness you were designed for, that ONLY YOU can achieve?

One of my mentors, Jeff Herring the Article Marketing Guy, has this wonderful quote which I printed out and hung on the wall of my workspace.

“There are more people out there waiting to hear your message, who can only hear it uniquely from you, than you can ever get to in your life time.”

If you don’t write the book inside you — books that only you can write in your own unique way — then they will never be written. And the world will be a poorer place because the people who need to read what you have to say can never enjoy your message, never be lifted out of their problems, never be given a new way to look at their lives.

Only you can fulfill the destiny that you alone were created with the potential to achieve. Only you can put together the words that need to be said in your unique way.

If you’re still not convinced, go to the website below and read the entire article that first inspired this post at How Do You Fight a Dragon You Can’t See? It is perhaps one of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read on this topic.

And while you’re there, avail yourself of the other riches on that site. I plan to devour everything I can find. I NEED this stuff! Chances are you do, too.

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About Deb

Deb Gallardo is a published author for adults and children, an educator and an accomplished performer in concert and on stage. She helps fiction writers find story ideas, and offers writing tips, advice, exercises and inspiration.
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4 Responses to Psychology of Writing – Self-Limiting Beliefs

  1. Deb says:


    Thanks so much for taking time to comment. I appreciate your feedback. Your insight added a nice dimension to the discussion. Thank you, again.


  2. A great article! And oh so true. Limiting beliefs and negative rationalizations can creep so easily into our mentality, that it’s almost impossible to see them until we kick ourselves in the pants and wake up to some perspective!

    I work with different artists a lot, and see/hear this self-limitation all the time. Oftentimes, I’ll be introducing a particular artist (photographer, poet, painter, whatever) and praising their work, skill, creativity, unique perspective – and the artist will look utterly ashamed, and sometimes actively disagree with me!

    Being self-defeating doesn’t make us noble, doesn’t help us better the world, and doesn’t enliven or inspire anyone. Letting our beauty and insight and creativity shine, does 🙂

  3. Deb Gallardo says:


    I’m the one who should be thanking you for too many ways to list in which you’ve helped me. It’s an honor to have you take the time to comment here.

    You’ve probably already guessed that I number myself among the impostors out there. I’m hoping that your Workshop For One, which I just purchased, will go a long way toward upping my self-esteem and giving me new eyes to see myself truly and not through the lens of perfectionism.

    (Except it took me literally all day to write the follow-up post to this one, so maybe the course won’t be able to deal with anal retentiveness and incipient OCD tendencies. In my defense, I was doing 98 other things at the same time. Think that might have something to do with it?)

    Thanks again for commenting here. You’ll want to see the follow-up post at


  4. Deb,

    Thanks so much for bringing into the open the hidden fear so many bright capable people have of being impostors, fakes, and frauds!

    Although amazingly common, the impostor syndrome can also keep us from realizing our full potential.

    Fortunately it’s also not something anyone has to live with. Once we learn to contextualize more and personalize less (for example anyone in a creative field like writing or art is more susceptible to impostor feelings) and develop a new healthy response to failure and mistake making, we can turn things around

    Thanks again for kicking off this important conversation!

    Valerie Young

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