How to Overcome Self-limiting Beliefs in Negotiation

What is a self-limiting belief? It’s a hidden script, playing in your subconscious mind that runs your life without you even realizing it.

Self-limiting beliefs are those things about yourself that you believe to be true, which are setting limits on your abilities. They are whispering to you that something isn’t true, that it isn’t achievable. 

Your self-limiting beliefs stem from your preconceptions and are generated by your life experience.

You may not even know what your self-limiting beliefs are. But you know something is nibbling away at you as you struggle to make something happen, which for some reason you just can’t.

In the case of negotiation, you may be trying hard to reach a result that just isn’t happening. A self-limiting belief is the likely culprit.

In order for your actions to have the most significant positive effect, you need to have beliefs that inspire you and won’t hold you back. Dream big! Limiting beliefs could mean that you never fulfill your goals and dreams.

Why are self-limiting beliefs so destructive to your negotiation success? Because the MEANING you attach to your thoughts determines your emotions — and your emotions determine your behavior. This is what you act on and how you react.

The things that you say to yourself can be the No. 1 support tool you have to guide you toward your goals and dreams. When you don’t believe you can do or achieve something, the bottom line is, you won’t.

Before we dive into how you can overcome your self-limiting beliefs in negotiation, you need to know what they are. Here are some common examples: 

  • You are unlovable

  • You will never be a success

  • You will be a failure

  • You don’t deserve/you are not worthy of success

  • You fear you aren’t good enough to achieve what you want

  • Others are holding you back

  • Everyone worthwhile will hold you back — this thought generally leads to the avoidance of relationships or to people-pleasing behaviors

  • You believe there are negative attributes assigned to being rich/having money. For example, “I’ll never be able to run my own business/I’ll never earn as much as [insert large sum of money],” or you think people with money are greedy/selfish

  • The belief you aren’t capable of greatness, or that you are destined for mediocrity and so you shouldn’t aim too high

  • You think you have to work very long hours with vast amounts of effort for your money

How Are Self-Limiting Beliefs Formed?

Let’s look at the science. Your brain forms actual information superhighways and electrical impulses called neurolinguistic pathways. These are the bridges between your experiences and emotions, habits, behaviors and thoughts. They provide a reference point. These are all formed when you are very young, between birth and the age of seven years old. 

When you’re a baby, you’re a clean slate; you don’t have memories or a so-called manual installed. You then start to learn everything. Your subconscious creates these pathways so it can keep you safe. As you grow, you are taking on board information about what is appropriate and inappropriate, what is safe and unsafe, what is relevant and not valuable. Your brain would be exhausted if all of this processing were floating around 24/7. So, it stores it away in your subconscious as a guide.

This is how it manifests in your everyday life. Your reactions are generally formed around fear. For example, if you touched a hot cooktop on a kitchen stove, that would have hurt, causing pain and fear reactions. Your brain would then tell you it’s inappropriate to touch a hot cooktop, so you know not to do it again.

You might have been bullied at school. It could have been because you spoke up. Your strong emotional response and the pain it caused tells you this was an important experience. Your brain then creates a rule around this belief, and it looks for evidence to support that response. Your emotional wellbeing was threatened and subconsciously you are being told, “Don’t go there.”

Let’s be clear, your subconscious does this to protect you. But it doesn’t always work like that. It overrides conscious thought, and this is where the problems arise. For example, you may read a blog that tells you as a woman, you have the power to negotiate for a higher salary, and explains how to do that. But even though you’re saying, “Yes, I can do this,” your subconscious is going back to when you put yourself out there when you were a child (you could have been in the playground and got bullied) and is saying, “Uh-oh, red alert, you can’t do that.” Your subconscious is tough to convince, and it will put the block on your behavior in a bid to protect you.

Your subconscious self-limiting beliefs are why you don’t follow through on a goal or you feel blocked by the universe when you’re manifesting. So, how does this work when you are negotiating? Here are some self-limiting beliefs that could be holding you back and how to overcome them.

Self-Limiting Beliefs You Can Overcome to Succeed in Negotiation

I’m Not Worth It/I Don’t Deserve It

If you walk into a negotiation believing you don’t deserve to win, you have stacked the odds against yourself from the outset. The “I’m not worth it” mantra you hear in your head could apply to any scenario:

  • “I’m not worth that pay raise”

  • “I’m not worth that promotion”

  • “I don’t deserve that vacation”

  • “I don’t deserve to be treated with respect”

  • “I’m not worth having a loving partner/kids/family life”

How can you convince someone else of your value if you don’t believe in it yourself? 

Before you enter the negotiation, strike a power pose for two minutes. When you adopt a power pose, you take up a lot of space and hold your arms and legs away from your body. For example, with the Wonder Woman power pose, you stand with your feet apart, your hands on your hips, your chin tilted upward.

Then spend at least five minutes listing how darn amazing you are. To do this, you must first shift into a positive mindset. For more long-term background preparation, spend five minutes every day telling yourself: 

“I am worthy of [insert what you want, e.g. ‘earning a six-figure salary’] and I am capable of achieving this. The path is wide open for me to succeed.”

Never underestimate the power of positive thought. You need to develop new neural pathways so that your brain will stop with the subconscious negative talk. The way to do this is to uncover those self-sabotaging stories you’ve been telling yourself, then flip that story. 

Challenge the truth of the beliefs underlying your negative narrative. Choose a more empowering way to visualize and tell the story. Simply flip your negative frame to a positive one. For example, “I never get a lucky break,” becomes, “I make my own luck and grab opportunities that arise.” Change your thoughts, change your life.

I explore this in more depth in my Art of Feminine Negotiation program, where we look at how you can kiss goodbye to these self-limiting beliefs.

Gender-Specific Limiting Beliefs Around Negotiation

As a woman, when you negotiate, you are prone to believing the following because of your gender: 

  • This is going to be a disaster

  • Rewards only come if I work very hard

  • It’s no big deal to negotiate for my salary

  • I can’t negotiate

  • Negotiating might hurt my relationship with this person

  • If I try to negotiate, I will be seen as aggressive or as a bitch

Here’s how to deal with these. 

Firstly, instead of believing you are facing a disaster, rewrite the script and tell yourself that it’s an opportunity. Look at how this can work for you, and then rephrase it so it sounds like you are doing your counterpart a favor with your proposal. It’s all about reframing in your mind and in theirs in a positive vein. 

Next, the self-limiting belief rewards only come when you work hard. Think back to all the work environments you’ve been in. How often have you thought to yourself, “Why did they get the promotion? They don’t do anything! I work really hard!” And how many times have you seen a man promoted when they do precisely the same tasks as you? The likelihood is, in both those instances, they have simply put themselves forward. 

Did you know that studies suggest men will apply for a promotion with only 20 percent of the listed qualifications? Meanwhile, women with 80 percent of the listed qualifications won’t apply, thinking themselves unqualified. Don’t listen to the voice that embedded itself in your head in childhood that has been telling you to keep your head down. As they say, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. If you don’t speak up, you won’t get noticed or have your efforts recognized. You have to advocate for yourself.

Moving on, why would you think it’s no big deal to negotiate for your salary? Did you know that staff turnover costs employers 100–200 percent of the leaving employee’s salary? That’s from placing the job advert to successful onboarding. Some research even puts this as high as 400 percent! (This is a nifty fact to take to the negotiation if you are looking for a raise.) So, it IS a big deal, especially for your boss, if they face losing you.

Next, you may believe you can’t negotiate and that there’s no point to doing so. Women tend to operate from a “playing small” mindset. You think of your business as a side hustle, while men think of ventures in terms of enterprises. Women also think their success comes from luck or a helping hand from someone else. The skill of negotiation is not something you are born with; rather, it’s something you can learn. And you will find you’ve been doing it without even realizing. 

Your feminine attributes — which include your ability to listen, build rapport, be flexible, intuitive and empathetic — mean you can be a great negotiator. If you’ve got kids, how many times have you stepped in to break up an argument by offering a negotiation to stop the tears and tantrums? What about when you ask your kids to do something: “If you clean your room now and do your homework, then we can look at your staying up for an extra hour.” That’s negotiation!

Finally, as a woman, you believe negotiation will hurt your relationship with this person. The answer here is, not if you do it right. Women typically put others first by nature, and in fact, it’s better to tackle something head-on than let it fester. Having a meaningful conversation about something that has the potential to turn into a problem stops it from becoming a problem. As a woman, you have the built-in skills to be a great listener and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Yes, there may be an uncomfortable moment, but better to have a small, uncomfortable moment than a long period of anxiety.

There’s No Such Thing as ‘Can’t’

The most common and destructive, self-limiting belief is that you “can’t” do something. You leave yourself no other option. There is no such thing as “I can’t,” and this is because you always have a choice. Whenever you hear yourself say, “I can’t,” immediately remind yourself that you always have options.

In conclusion, think about this: If your beliefs have such a powerful influence on your results, how much more significant would your personal potential be if every belief you had completely supported and nurtured you?

And on the flip side, think about how you are sabotaging your progress and success if they don’t. That’s why it’s essential to overcome your self-limiting beliefs and realize your true potential in negotiation.

If you liked this blog post, then check out my series on how to negotiate your personal confidence boost.


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feminine attributes, Negotiation, playing small, Self-limiting beliefs, suconscious, you always have a choice.

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