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How to Realize Your Limitations and Exceed Them

Helen Keller on her Graduation from Radcliffe College

Limited ability or limiting beliefs?

In 1882, when Helen Keller was 19 months old, she contracted a fever that left her blind and deaf. Yet by her death in 1968 she had obtained a degree and had published 12 books, the first written when she was aged eleven.

My father, who is aged almost 89, is partially deaf and rapidly losing his sight. He would not be able to read the text in this article, and yet he is currently writing memories of his life for his grandchildren and working on a memoir of his time in World War II.

As you read about these two people do you feel inspired and think that you too could take on challenges in spite of your own limitations?

Or do you think there must be something special about them, and that you could never be like them?

If you answered yes to the first of those two questions then you probably don’t need this article. But even if you answered yes to the second question you can still go beyond your expectations. For most of us physical limitations create fewer barriers to success than our emotional or mental limitations do. We imagine how we might respond in the above situations, but we do this without considering that our own life experiences are different. Yes, it is possible we might give up and live life restricted by apparent limits – but it’s just as likely that given similar circumstances we would respond in a similar way.

Let’s take a closer look and see what Helen Keller and my father have in common to see where we can emulate them.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Helen Keller.

Get Support

Support From Others

While we may think we need to do things ourselves for our achievements to be of value, actually all of us are interdependent. For example the salary your employer pays you enables you buy food, which in turn enables a supermarket to buy from a farmer might then pay a builder to mend a leaking shed.

Those who successfully exceed their limitations have support.

Helen Keller’s parents did not give up on her. When one doctor said nothing could be done they saw another, and another. When they felt unable to cope and considered sending her away – they instead found a teacher who came to her. Under the guidance of this young teacher, who was herself sight impaired, Helen flourished. Throughout her life Helen continued to accept support – and as an adult she also gave it to others.

My father cannot see well enough to write in his journal, but he writes on sheets of paper. His writing is a barely legible scrawl, but my mother can make out enough to type it up and read it back to him.

How you can get the support you need

You could ask all your friends and family to help you achieve your goals, but that’s not likely to make you very popular! Instead here’s what I suggest you do:

1) First, make a list of people who already support or encourage you.

Make this as extensive as you like: you can include everything from the friend who gives you unconditional acceptance to the farmer who grew the food you eat. My own list also includes two techniques that give me support and the people upload free videos of these techniques onto the Internet to help people like you and me challenge our limiting beliefs.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this exercise and no prize for having the biggest list. It is simply to show you that you have support. Humans thrive on connection and when you realize you are supported your confidence is likely to naturally grow, and you will feel more able to tackle tasks you might otherwise avoid. An added bonus is that as you review your list you may well feel grateful – and gratitude is a great way to cultivate courage and strength.

If on completing this exercise you are still feel unsupported, I strongly recommend you see a counselor or other professional who can help you.

2) Now think about what you would like to achieve and list the skills you’d need to do that. If you don’t’ have some of those skills right now, this doesn’t mean you never will. It simply means that right now you are able to recognize you limitations and set in place a plan to exceed them.

The next step on that plan is to make a note of who can support you to develop the skills you need. For some skills you may be able to turn to those on your existing list, for others you may have to reach further afield. For example, when Helen Keller wanted to learn how to speak, her teacher couldn’t do that for her, but took her to someone who could. In my own case, when I started to write on-line, I knew nothing about search engine optimization. So first I watched a webinar. Then, after signing up for HubPages, I learned from other writers on the site and from HubPages staff.


Go At Your Own Pace

When Helen Keller realized that the words her teacher drew on her hand had meanings she wanted to know the names for everything around her, including herself, and learned as fast as her teacher could teach. She learned words from early morning till nighttime. My father, on the other hand, grew tired after an hour of recording his story, so we stopped and he took a nap.

Even very small children instinctively know their own pace: after the first time my older daughter took a few steps, we would encourage her to try walking again but she wasn’t interested. After all, she could go anywhere she wanted by crawling or holding onto furniture. Then one day she stood holding onto the sofa and noticed her large ball nearby. Suddenly she could see the point of this walking lark! I watched fascinated as she bent down, picked up the ball, and walked unaided. My younger daughter, on the other hand, felt so excited at being able to walk that she burst out laughing – and soon fell over.

Strangely enough both my daughters can walk equally well now!

If you think you should be able to do something because someone else can, remind yourself that everyone learns differently and that we learn better when we are relaxed than we do when were are stressed out!

Cultivate Flexibility

Helen Keller, her parents and her teacher were flexible: her parents adapted to a deaf and blind child, and invited a teacher to live in their home. When one method didn’t work, her teacher tried another. Helen herself, after initial resistance, Helen also adapted to the new ways of learning. At 88, my father learned to use a Kindle, which enables him to set the text large enough to read. For his memoir he is learning to use a Dictaphone.

How You Can Learn Flexibility

As with support, it pays to take stock of what you already have. If you don’t believe you have flexibility it’s hard to imagine that you can exceed limitations, and that imagination can be the motivation we need to begin.

So start to notice where you are flexible, even in small things. Perhaps you went out to dinner and ordered risotto, but the restaurant had just run out so you ate pasta instead? That’s flexibility. Or maybe you didn’t get the grades you needed to get into the university you wanted, so you went somewhere else instead? That’s flexibility.

You may think, “Yes, but I didn’t have any choice.” Not true. You could have given up and gone hungry or not gone to university at all. It’s very easy to be hard on ourselves and look for where we need to improve, but that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. When instead we look for where we already have the qualities to succeed it builds confidence. You already have flexibility; all you need to do is transfer it to new situations.

Accept Frustration And Other “Negative” Feelings

Helen Keller felt extremely frustrated as a young child and frequently lashed out at her family and teacher. As an adult, when visiting soldiers during World War II, she said, “Of course you will have bitter moments.”

Frustration, sadness and even feelings of hopelessness do not mean you have failed. They simply mean that you are having a feeling. Allow these so-called negative feelings, welcome them even, and they will transform. For more on how to let go of these feelings see the links section in the blue box.

Notice and Challenge Limiting Beliefs

As I said at the opening of this article, most of us are limited not by physical disabilities but by our beliefs. Start to pay attention to your thoughts and you will soon see the same thoughts occur over and over. You might be surprised to know that most of us have variations on the same limiting beliefs, and mostly they run along the lines of: I am not good enough.

All the suggestions I have already listed will help you to see that in fact you are good enough, you just don’t realize you are. Perhaps you will never have what it takes to be an Olympic swimmer or win a Nobel Prize for Literature. But you have exactly what it takes to be the best you can be.

Let’s leave the final word to Helen Keller:

Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight.


Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 06, 2018:

Shivani, having an introvert and sensitive nature can make some aspects of life more challenging for sure - I also have both so can empathise!

The steps here are perhaps extra important when we don't feel able to do our best or fear we won't be able to.

You say you are struggling with emotional and mental problems so first of all you need to take care of those - getting support is extra important in those circumstances. It sounds as if you may find it hard to trust people because of your experiences but if there is anyone you trust, speak to them. We can't expect someone else to fix our problems for us, but talking it over can help us see where we feel stuck.

I would also recommend you see a mindfulness therapist or coach to get on-going support. When we feel discouraged or afraid our minds tend to come up with images of the future that are bleak and exactly what we don't want to happen,. But holding these images of future in mind makes it much harder to take action and it sounds as if this might be what happens to you. It's very, very common and we can do something about it! It's also very common to replay times from the past that didn't work out, which again makes it hard to feel motivated. Just by noticing the mind's tendency to dwell on past and future, we loosen some of its power. Mindfulness enables us to see our thoughts and feelings without getting so caught in them.

Shivani on March 16, 2018:

How can I give my best even when all of around me are discouraging ?? It simply affects me as I am very sensitive person and introvert too....I have already gone through many emotional and mental problems. They all happened when I need to give my best, but because of all those, the worst happened.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 03, 2012:

idigwebsites, you've summed the hub up pretty well! Thanks for your comment and glad you feel encouraged.

idigwebsites from United States on October 02, 2012:

All of us have disabilities and limitations. But if we have boundless hope and trust in ourselves plus endless support from our family and friends, we'll going to overcome them! Thanks for your encouraging hub. :)

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Jools, thanks for your comment, and I agree with you on Keller for sure!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Alecia, thanks very much for reading and for your comment. I agree that life is too short to dwell on the negative. My father is very inspiring, you are right. He's had quite a struggle lately with a bad reaction to chemo, but your words "determined to leave a positive legacy" are actually very apt. Thank you for that. I feel very touched that you saw that.

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on October 01, 2012:

Yvonne, interesting and inspiring hub. If Keller doesn't inspire us then nobody can.

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on October 01, 2012:

This is a great hub that reminds us that life is too short to dwell on the negative. Your father sounds like a very inspiring and engaging man who is determined to leave a positive legacy. While it is easy to give up at times, it's harder to stop once you get started.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 28, 2012:

Hi ishwaryaa22,

I remember reading a while ago how valuable it can be to observe and learn from people who excel in what they do, and more and more I’m noticing how true that is. I’m not sure my father would agree he has excelled, yet his determination in spite of having cancer and losing his sight is such an inspiration. He in turn, is inspired by a book he read that was written by a man in his nineties who had been a prisoner of war in WW2.

Thank you as always for your very kind comment and for sharing.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on April 28, 2012:

An awe-inspiring hub with an engaging title! Helen and your father served as ideal examples in this enrapturing hub. The points presented by you, especially flexibility, are very thoughtful and helpful. Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Awesome. Voted up & Socially Shared.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 24, 2012:

Hi vocalcoach, I am glad you enjoyed this. It sort of surprised me as I wrote and the ideas just came, for instance in that section you mention on flexibility it hadn’t occurred to me until I wrote it that we all have flexibility but just don’t give ourselves credit for it. In my humble opinion, the human race could do with less time focusing on flaws and more on nurturing what’s good and great in each of us!

Thanks for your comment and the vote up.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on April 23, 2012:

Thank you so very much Melovy for this most motivating and inspiring hub. We use so little of the potential we have...sometimes laying dormant, just waiting for the chance to break free.

I like your section on "flexibility." And thanks for listing other links to your hubs which I will visit.

Voting up and across with the exception of funny.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 22, 2012:

Hi SidKemp,

I am so pleased to see you found this inspiring, as I read your profile and saw all your experience. Most of us need reminders and I certainly do, so writing this kind of hub is great for me. I can relate to what you say about pushing too hard, and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges we have in western society where the emphasis is on push and push. It’s easy to get caught up in that.

I wish you well with your novel and with your health. Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 22, 2012:

Hi raciniwa,

Helen Keller is such an inspiration isn’t she? Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for your comment!

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on April 22, 2012:

Thank you, Melovy! You inspire me (I want to publish a novel, as well as write on HubPages, but I face health challenges and the road is long in front of me). And this hub shows me the way. Even for an experienced healer and coach, there are good reminders here, and put forth in such simple language. My biggest challenge is to learn to go at my own pace - most of my illnesses arose from pushing too hard! Seeing this, I commit to steadiness and to my own pace.

raciniwa from Talisay City, Cebu on April 22, 2012:

Helen Keller's story is worth being emulated upon, i have always included her story to my students to let them know that there is no hindrance to achieving ones goal in life...great hub melovy...

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 20, 2012:

Stacie, I agree that not everyone gets the encouragement that is needed as children. If parents are fearful or haven’t had the encouragement they needed, then they can’t pass it on. I agree too that it is up to us all to move beyond that if we want to exceed our limitations. Thanks for your comment, I am glad you found this inspiring.

Stacie L on April 20, 2012:

It's good when adults in your life encourage you but many of us don't have that. We have to develop the inspiration ourselves and find others to support our dreams to exceed the limitations others have set for us.

This was inspirational and I voted up.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 19, 2012:

Hi Mmargie,

Your comment is so wonderful because my whole purpose in writing this hub is to encourage people to see that we can do much more than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. I am so pleased that reading this helped to you feel able to do activities! Thank you for your comment; I am sure it will be an inspiration to others!

Mmargie1966 from Gainesville, GA on April 18, 2012:

Wow, Melovy! I guess you put me right in my place. I have medical issues that I won't go into right now, but they hinder the amount of activity I want to do. After reading your hub, I realize that I CAN do those activities!

Thank you! I voted up and across!


Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 18, 2012:

Hi Rosalinem,

Ah, excuses - been there done that. I’ve come to see that excuses are just fear of not being good enough and if we believe we’re good enough we don’t need them at all. Glad you found this useful and thanks for your comment and for voting up!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 18, 2012:

Hi Ardie,

Good to see you too! I’ve missed being here and writing. It does me good to write these hubs too as I also need the reminders at times, though less often than I used to. Thanks for reading on even after you’d answered yes and thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 18, 2012:

Hi Pamela99,

It took me a long time to realise that belief in yourself was as important as anything else, and seeing that you have support goes a long way to developing that belief. Thanks very much for your comment and vote up!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 18, 2012:

Hi Ruchira,

Thank you. I really have been astonished at the lovely comments on this hub and feel so glad it has touched people. Thank you for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 18, 2012:

Hi Marcy,

I’m glad you think this is helpful and interesting! It’s funny but it was only when I began to write that I noticed how important accepting support from others is. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

Rosalinem from Nairobi, Kenya on April 17, 2012:

This was a very good read and it has inspired me to be more flexible and do the best I can in any situation instead of coming up with excuses. Voted up and interesting.

Sondra from Neverland on April 17, 2012:

Melovy, I've missed your inspirational and uplifting Hubs! This is just what I needed to read tonight as I head off to bed. I need reminders like this every so often to help me see my potential and to stop imposing limits on my mind and body. As for the question at the beginning, I answered yes to the first statement. But I continued to read :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 17, 2012:

I absolutely agree that support and a belief in yourself is extremely important for success. This is a very interesting hub. Voted up and awesome.

Ruchira from United States on April 17, 2012:

Such an inspirational hub on a Tuesday morning, Melovy!

I like how you kept addressing Helen Keller and moved on with your topic of inspiration.

loved it! voted up as interesting and inspirational (HB TEAM should plug in this button)

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on April 17, 2012:

You give a lot of helpful information on how to remain positive and how to use the support of those around you to exceed your own expectations. Very interesting topic! Thanks!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Ah Bill, your comment made laugh! Thanks for carrying on reading after the screaming! You are so right that there are unlimited possibilities within us all. Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Brian, thank you so much for your lovely words. I am glad you enjoyed this and I agree it is wonderful to see people reach their goals, especially when they have huge challenges to face.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Hi Lynn,

Yes, attitude is all! The older I get the more I realise that. Thank you for your comment, and I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Hi tillsontitan,

Yes they are exceptional - and yet I do think that we all have within us the qualities to be that way too. Thanks very much for your so kind comment and your lovely thoughts for my Dad.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Hi Jainismus,

I am glad you found this useful. Thank you for your kind comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Hi Gail,

I am not surprised that you fall into the first category, and I’m grateful you went on reading. It’s not so very long ago that I was firmly in the second category, and I guess I wrote this hub with those who are how I used to be in mind.

Although I’ve known about Helen Keller for a long time, I only really got familiar with her story when my daughter bought a book about her in a charity (goodwill?) shop. She is definitely an inspiration and seeing my father slowly go deaf and blind yet still retain his spirit and love of life is equally inspiring. I possibly could have included that he in turn is inspired by a man who was a prisoner-of-war and who wrote his memoirs of that time when in his nineties. (He waited until his wife died because he didn’t want her to know what he went through!)

I so agree with you that Helen Keller’s story makes me grateful for sight and sound. t

Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for your prayers for my parents.

Love and hugs to you too.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 17, 2012:

I love the message here; at first when I glanced at it I thought you were saying we should know our limitations and I started to scream...duh...then I read the rest of it. Wonderful, uplifting message of the unlimited possibilities that are within us all.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Hi rahul0324,

Thank you. I love that phrase you have used: "the upliftment of inner self”. That’s exactly it - when we address what holds the inner self down and let it go, then as you say there is not stopping us. Thank you for adding to the hub with your wonderful comment!

BRIAN SLATER on April 17, 2012:

Melovy you are an inspiration to many of your friends and followers. I really enjoyed reading this hub, when you see people overcoming difficulties and reaching their goal it is really wonderful. Voted up.:)

Lynn S. Murphy on April 17, 2012:

Very thought provoking and inspiring. it's all about the right attitude. I really enjoyed your hub.

Mary Craig from New York on April 17, 2012:

This is what inspiration is all about. You took two exceptional people, Helen Keller and your Dad, and used them to show how we can all be the best we can be. We need to find what that is, and follow your steps to gaining success. This is an exceptional hub! Voted up, useful and interesting. Thanks for SHARING. P.S. God Bless your Dad!

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on April 17, 2012:

Great Hub. Well written and useful. Thanks for writing on such topic.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on April 17, 2012:

I definitely fall into the first category but kept reading this article because it was so interesting.

I can still remember learning about Helen Keller as a very young girl (through the movie that I believe starred Anne Bancroft as the teacher and Patty Duke as Helen Keller, and also through classroom discussion after reading about her).

Helen Keller's story was truly inspirational and I knew that if she could acomplish so much so could I. The thing I remember most about the movie is how unruly, wild and unkempt Helen was before her teacher broke through to her inner world and helped her find a way to relate to the outer world and how grateful I was that I could experience the world through sight and sound.

I love how you included your dad's story in this hub because it's such a positive example for those on the other end of life and in a way is even more touching and inspirational than Helen's story.

Thanks so much for sharing this on Hub Pages. I voted it up across the board except for funny and will say a prayer for your parents. I'm sure your dad's story will become a treasured family heirloom but it's equally possible it will inspire others to write their own stories regardless of how old they currently are or their limiting physical abilities. With new technologies, it is easier to do so than ever before.

Sending Hub Hugs & Love,


Jessee R from Gurgaon, India on April 17, 2012:

Truly very inspirational! All the points mentioned here are a key to achieving what we call " the upliftment of inner self"

once that is achieved... there is no stopping you!

Great words of motivation.. thank you :)


Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on April 17, 2012:

Thanks Habee. My aim is to inspire and help, so glad you think this succeeds! And thanks for the vote up.

Holle Abee from Georgia on April 17, 2012:

I found this very inspirational. The tips for finding support are also helpful. Voted up!

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