Why You Must Break Your Rules

Rules are in just about every facet of life. There are family rules, school rules, societal rules, organizational rules, religious rules, just to name a few. Rules are used to create order and exercise authority and as a guide for conduct and procedures. One may argue that rules are necessary for a thriving society. And this may very well be true. However, rules can also become a form of a prison if not reviewed for relevancy and effectiveness.

When it comes to individuals, limiting beliefs become rules that have been internalized from experiences. Maybe you were raised to be the “good girl” and are unconsciously (or consciously) allowing flawed beliefs to keep you suspended in time as you wait for the perfect moment, perfect degree, perfect opportunity to have the success you dream of. You may even be frustrated because as you see others around you achieving the things you desire, you ask yourself, why not me?

Why Not You?

I once read a story that provides a great example why beliefs should be challenged: A mother was preparing a family recipe that was handed down from previous generations. The mother was proudly teaching her daughter the coveted recipe and told her that it had to be prepared in a specific dish that she was finally able to find. When the daughter asked why that dish, the mother replied “Hmm, I don’t know, let’s call your grandma to find out.” When she got grandma on the phone, she didn’t know either. She replied, “That’s how Nana always made it, I will ask her.” It just so happened that Nana lived with grandma and so she asked her. Nana chuckled. “When your Dad and I first started out, we were very poor and the specific dish was the only one I had that was big enough to hold the contents of the recipe.”

So generations of women thought using a particular dish was required for a recipe when it was only used as a resolution to Nana’s specific situation. What “dish” have you allowed to keep you from making your “recipe”?

Research has shown that women tend to underestimate their skills. It may be due to societal images in media, music, advertising, other people’s experiences or mindsets, false statements that were made to you when you were a child, etc. For example, there have been many flawed explanations why more women were not in leadership positions and why it may take years for gender equality to happen. Research has proven these explanations to be false (See post) and there are companies who have achieve gender leadership parity (See my post about these companies).

So Why not you?

It’s time to take control of accepting who we are by getting to know ourselves based on factual information.

You are stronger, smarter, more skillful and talented than your limiting beliefs say you are. Get rid of the noise that’s keeping you on the sidelines. Challenge your limiting beliefs this weekend!

Take Action

You will need several pages of blank paper for this exercise. Pretend you are an investigator who is trying to uncover the truth about your limiting beliefs.

1. At the top of the page, Write one of your limiting beliefs (I’m not qualified to ask for a promotion)

2. On a new line, Write the word, “Evidence”
Use as many lines as necessary. Write the facts you have gathered supporting the belief.  Note the circumstances surrounding where the belief came from (I.e. parent, classmates, teacher, etc.). What makes the belief true?  Is it a fact or opinion? [ A fact is the quality of being actual (proven and certain). An opinion is a prediction about something without factual evidence or support (Merriam/Webster Dictionary)].
Please note that at times limiting beliefs based on someone else’s statement says more about the person who made the statement than it has to do with you. Is this the case with belief?

3. Skip a line and Write the word, “Determination”
On the next line, Write “True” if the evidence shows your belief is true and “False” if your evidence indicates the belief is “False”

If the belief is false, cross out the limiting belief at the top and replace it with the truth. For example: Cross out I’m not qualified to ask for a promotion and change it to “I am qualified for a promotion”.

If the evidence shows that the belief is true. What actions can you take to change it. Back to the example: If you are not qualified for the promotion, what will it take to make you qualified? Is it more education, experience? Who can help you get to where you are qualified? Do you need a mentor? Is it the company’s culture?

Do share:  I would like to hear your results, or if you have any questions or concerns, I offer a free 30 minute Proactive strategy session to help you get crystal clear on your vision for your career. We’ll identify the hidden obstacles that may be sabotaging your career success. You’ll have insight into how you may be holding yourself back in this area. I invite you to make an appointment here.


Kay, K., & Shipman, C. (2014). The confidence gap. The Atlantic, 14, 1-18.

Minter, R. M., Gruppen, L. D., Napolitano, K. S., & Gauger, P. G. (2005). Gender differences in the self-assessment of surgical residents. The American journal of surgery, 189(6), 647-650.

Reuben, E., Sapienza, P., & Zingales, L. (2014). How stereotypes impair women’s careers in science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(12), 4403-4408.

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About WritingTeam

The Writing Team for Qualified Blog is led by Nancy Gettridge, founder of Phenomenal Image, a consultancy focused on helping aspiring women leaders achieve their dream careers .   Frequent points of discussion include gender bias in the workplace and aligning one's career to one's purpose.  Other key topics include career  strategy, leadership, and overcoming workplace issues.  You can get weekly career tips straight to your email by subscribing here