But isn't there also a sense in which belief about ourselves, which are shaped by our actions, can have a very powerful effect on what we deem possible for ourselves? If we have a certain understanding our who we are, that almost always encompasses things like our abilities, skills, feelings, etc. Some people go so far as to say that they wouldn't do such and such because "that's not me".
If you mean that they wouldn't do something because they think it's wrong - fair enough. If you mean they wouldn't do something because they may be embarassed by it - then this is their 'beliefs' affecting their action (most fears exist in the absence of positive beliefs, and in effect are beliefs about what we should fear...but if you don't like that, then just include them in 'things that affect your actions').
As I mentioned - beliefs affect your actions & your actions affect your beliefs.
Going by that - you can see that if you have a 'fear' - you can overcome it by doing/acting/practicing.
Isn't that way of understanding ourselves, by defining ourselves in a single particular way, inherently limiting?
Only if you believe that is all there is. Only if you believe you can never improve. Only if you accept that fears rule your life (ie your beliefs affecting your actions).
What I am saying is that it can happen that people can mistake a representation of some part of themselves, such as their own perception of their ability, to be an actuality, and by doing so they may dismiss a possibility for themselves as being impossible, therefore limiting their own possibility of becoming.
True enough - I would ask people : what is the foundation that you are built upon?
We are largely a structure, and while that structure influences us greatly, we can change that structure. And the core beliefs that we have affect all our other beliefs. I am using 'core belief' here rather loosely, to involve self view (which is a belief), fears (which are mostly beliefs about what we should fear), automated responses (which are built on our beliefs, but then reinforce our beliefs about who we are as we act them out). That is why the foundation is so important. We can reinvent our foundations (as well as the upper structures) and come out 'better', happier people.
The way I've experienced it - one you understand the concept of 'building', you realise that you will never stop learning, never stop improving. Excellence is achievable (more quickly with a good foundation) and yet 'ultimate excellence' will never be achieved (you can always
improve)...hence you can never stop learning, and there will always be challenges before you.
Once you realise that - you also then realise that everyone has something to teach you.
Many philosophers talk of doing away with attachments, and yet they are impossible to do away with (has to do with the wiring of our brain). Rather, I think we should embrace them, and think we should guide the formation of them in a way that serves us - and take responsibility for 'who we are' and our very lives . In someways it is similar to 'doing away with attachments' in that you realise you can change your programming/attachments, and you therefore realise they aren't permanent, but something you put in place to serve you. Once you view it that way, you can then evaluate your programming/attachments as time goes on, and if need be, reprogram them (ie the meaning they hold is that they serve you in your life...and if they no longer do that, they no longer need to have meaning)
Most people have grown up with haphazard programming - letting the random events in their 'life' dictate to their subconscious, and holding on to those structures long after their usefulness has passed ('issues' from childhood for example), rather than consciously creating what structures their subconscious should form so that their subconscious serves them in a way they deem useful. In this way you can have your subconscious serve you, rather than you serve your subconscious.
And a large portion of being able to program our mind to serve us (not the whole portion) comes down to understanding that 'our beliefs affect our actions & our actions affect our beliefs'