Some time ago I saw a television program that featured a man in a wheel chair. He was a lawyer and no doubt about it he was mentally alert. However, because of his disability others placed limitations on him. It was as if they thought he was incapable of the job simply because he was wheelchair bound. This is called an outer limit.
From childhood, our parents, authority figures (such as teachers), significant others and society in general place outer limits on us. They tell us how to think and how to act. They tell us what we’re capable and incapable of achieving. My son and I often talk about incidents at his junior school. We recall hearing a teacher consistently yelling at children, calling them derogatory names like ‘stupid’, ‘clot’, ‘brainless’, ‘oaf’ and ‘boy’, as if they didn’t have a name. Although I did not analyse this behaviour at the time, I now realise that the teacher was placing limitations on them.
We live in a world where limits are a natural part of life, and rightly so. Without outer limits, everyone would do as they please without recourse to justice or consideration of other people’s feelings. Chaos would reign supreme. Outer limits are positive when we do no harm, when we are respectful, when we choose to live in harmony with and obey natural laws, as well as when we understand the world from another person’s perspective. Notwithstanding, outer limits can be harmful when we accept negative valuations, thus neutralising our personal power. These limitations can be internalised powerfully, impacting the extent to which we are able to freely express our thoughts and feelings.
I want to suggest that outer limits must be sensible and in keeping with our sense of self-worth. On the other hand, we must avoid placing inner limits on ourselves, because when we do so it leads to a defeatist attitude and lack of motivation. When we are told that we are no good at a task, it is not to be accepted as truth, but only as another person’s opinion.
When we accept that there are no inner limits, we will give ourselves permission to be as creative as we can be. We will be able to do things that appear to be impossible. I know this for a fact because from my childhood days, teachers placed limits on my ability to achieve. It wasn’t until I refused to believe the messages they gave, that I was no longer constricted by negative thoughts. I could think, feel and act in a way that gave me self-confidence.
Outer limits, yes… Inner Limits, no.
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