Who or what restricts us from achieving our true potential? Oftentimes, I feel like I am being held back. Like there is this invisible line, and to chase my dreams I need to first cross this unseen boundary. So, I gather all the courage that I possess and approach the boundary – telling myself that this time I will make it across. But, as soon as I get close and it feels like I might make some progress, this invisible boundary becomes charged with electricity and shocks me back to reality.
These invisible boundaries keep us caged in.
During my commute to work, I came across the following quote on a billboard: ‘You are your only limit’. It struck me - we are the ones who set up these boundaries that keep us from achieving our goals and dreams.
The first step is to identify what limits we have placed on ourselves.
Being more conscious of the limitations in your life will help you to face them the next time you approach the invisibly spun line. And you will, most likely, come to realise that this boundary will have lost its electric charge, making it easier to climb over the obstacle and move towards your goal. Every time you make it past a boundary which you have set up for yourself, it makes it easier the next time you approach the same kind of boundary.
Limitations are created as a result of a few things – past experiences being one of them. A bad experience can create a limitation on your life. For example, when you speak up in a group setting to share your thoughts and no one takes note of what you are saying and continue talking over you, you start to feel unimportant. During high school I found that my classmates were less interested in what I had to say, than they were during primary school. In a conversation I would often be dismissed, talked over, or even ignored. These continuous social situations made it seem like everything I had to say was worthless, so I found myself thinking: “why bother”. The repetition of this experience confirmed my belief that what I had to say didn’t matter, and so set a limitation on my life.
For a while, I stopped trying to say anything in these social situations. Every time I wanted to say something I would think to myself: “What does it matter what I say? Nobody cares or listens anyway.” But I came to realise, God cares! He cares what you have to say; it is priceless to Him. He wants you to share your thoughts with others. He wants to use your words to make disciples, to encourage the people you encounter. Your words matter.
I speak up now, sometimes you struggle to get me to keep quiet, but I still find myself in situations where I find myself wondering if it really matters what I say. I wonder if my words can really help, can they cause change? Writing this blog is part of my journey of overcoming and removing this particular limit that I have placed on my life.
Who am I to restrict how God can use me to build His Kingdom? In addition to limits created based on past experiences, we also create limitations for ourselves based on how we think we need to structure our identity. There seems to be a status quo. An unspoken set of ‘rules’ around which we need to construct our identities. A certain way of behaving and certain things that are deemed ‘acceptable’.
Personally, I didn’t really fit into the ‘status quo’ while at school. I had friends, but I was different. I was the weird, creative girl. I wrapped this identity tightly around myself like a comforting and protective blanket. I thought that if I assumed this identity that everyone else had of me it couldn’t hurt me. Instead, it could become my weapon. But the truth is it just became an excuse, I could do or say anything as long as it was aligned with that identity and if people looked at me strangely I could just shrug it off by saying I am weird. But that meant everything had to be aligned to that identity which evolved from just being an excuse to becoming a stumbling block in my life. I was restricting my personal growth to an identity informed by people’s opinions instead of being rooted in Christ. Adopting Christ’s identity for myself showed me that I am no longer defined by any one thing.
Similarly, you are not defined by what you wear, or say, or do. I don’t have to only dress ‘creatively’, or ‘fashionably’, or ‘sporty’. Instead, I like to do a bit of everything. That is who I am. Some days, I like dressing like a crazy colourful artist and other days, it’s fun for me to dress up and look super polished. Sometimes I just want to be cosy, dressed in sweatpants and slippers, and curl up with a good book.
Yet, we all feel pressured to fit into the identity boxes that the world has provided for us.
Luckily, we don’t have to fit into any one ‘correct’ identity! Because God doesn’t say that only all the engineers, doctors and accountants are welcome. No! He accepts us all, quirks and all.
The last limit I want to mention is based on what we think we are skilled at. Each of us have skills or abilities that come naturally to us. For me, its drawing and being creative. For someone else, it might be sports or Maths or singing. We all have areas in which we struggle. These are the areas where we need to work twice as hard. Sometimes, despite all the hard work, we fail. This can often be demoralising. And just like that, a limitation is created.
Your perception of your abilities places limitations on your life. Just because you fail or have to put in double the amount of effort should not limit your potential. But it happens so easily.
Just as we accept the things at which we are good as part of our identity, we also accept the things at which we aren’t good as part of our identity. I often meet people who believe they can’t draw. And their conclusion and limitation becomes the belief that ‘I am not creative at all'. Here is a thought for you, if we were made in the image of God and He is the ultimate creator of the heavens and the earth, how can you not be creative?
Ok sure, maybe you aren’t very good at drawing. But your creativity should not be limited to your perception of your drawing skills. Find new ways to be creative.
I was recently reminded of the scripture: “My power is made perfect in weakness”(2 Cor 12:9). God is in the business of using our weaknesses to show off His glory and strength. The scripture even continues to say: “I will boast... about my weakness, so that [more of] Christ’s power may rest on me”.
As you might have realised, limits are all mental fences we have created for ourselves. They might be mostly based on the physical, but a limitation can only be created if we choose to accept it. Which means we can ‘un-accept’ it. This makes our thoughts and attitudes key players in forming or ‘deforming’ limitations. What use would it be to remove our current limitations, if we are still forming new limitations in our lives to fill that void?
We need to make a mental shift. Shifting our focus off of what the world is trying to convince us, and instead focus on God and his Word. This shift in focus will help us uncover His character and heart for us. We serve a God who takes shepherds and makes them kings. So, don’t limit yourself to a shepherd lifestyle and mindset. God has so much more in mind for you. Cut yourself some slack and don’t worry so much about all those ‘supposed to’s’.
Go do something you can’t!
Take some time to reflect:
What are the limitations that you have set for yourself?
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