5 Ways You Hold Yourself Back (And What To Do About It)
Do you ever hear about someone's success and wonder, How did they get there? Do you sometimes feel like you're on the outside looking in?
I have a friend who recently posted on Facebook page that he feels unable to find contentment in his life or in his work, and asked for his friends' thoughts on how he can change that. But for each person's response, he had a negative retort, listing reasons why these ideas would not be feasible for him.
I realized that more than suggestions from others, my friend needed to get out of his own way. For most of us, fulfillment and contentment are more available than we may realize. But without first acknowledging the roadblocks within, we may wind up feeling like we're spinning your wheels.
The following are five such obstacles that are common culprits in feeling stuck, and how to handle them.
1. Are you your own worst enemy?
Do you criticize yourself constantly? Stop it! Easier said than done though, right?
The truth is, thoughts, even unconscious ones, are not set in stone and can be changed. Keep a daily journal for at least two weeks, preferably in the morning when you first wake up, and start to take notice of how you speak to yourself.
Ask yourself, if you spoke to a small child the way you speak to yourself, would that child then go running into the world to take on life's challenges with courage and enthusiasm? Or would she or he sit in a corner wondering what's the point?
Once you can see for yourself how you berate and criticize yourself, you can start practicing more positive thoughts.
2. Are you a people-pleaser?
It's not necessary to make sure everyone around you is happy all the time. In fact, when you speak up for yourself and stay true to your needs, people will respect you for it that much more.
While it's important for many of us to be liked (guilty!), it's also essential to understand that if you have people-pleasing tendencies, you may feel like you don't deserve to live your life as you want to. If you're a giver and not a taker, it may feel awkward at first to remind yourself that you deserve happiness and fulfillment.
Play with the idea on a smaller scale, like if your meal didn't come out as you ordered it at the restaurant, let the server know, rather than eating something that was not prepared the way you ordered it. And then build yourself up to the bigger things like asking for a raise or promotion.
3. Are you engaging in all-or-nothing thinking?
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if one thing doesn't go your way, that's just how it's going to be in every area of life. But that's simply not true. We all encounter challenges in life, and sometimes they may seem insurmountable.
One of my best friends told me recently about a principle she has applied to parenthood, which I like to refer to as the "Right Now" theory. Did you sleep through your alarm, forget to bring your lunch to work and lose your wallet? (And we all have those days!)
Rather than assuming this is how your whole year is going to be, consider telling yourself that this is how it is Right Now.
Tack that phrase onto any negative all-or-nothing thought so you can accept how things are in the moment, and still remind yourself that this moment, as every moment, will pass.
4. Are you putting yourself through negative thought loops?
As you begin to take more notice of your negative thoughts, see if you can pick out the repeat offenders. Then ask yourself, "Who does this remind me of?" Once you begin to understand how you came to this way of thinking, you can start to make serious changes.
5. Are you afraid of failure?
We've all felt it, no matter what level of success we've achieved. When you feel that fear coming on and it's hindering you from taking the risks necessary for you to achieve your goals, try "reality testing" your fear. Play out the worst case scenario in your head.
Often when you really look at what is the worst that can happen, you realize that yes, maybe you'll lose a little money or time, or even worse, feel embarrassed or take a bruise to your ego. But you might also find that even in the worst case scenario, you'll not only recover, but you'll have learned about yourself, and be one step closer to fulfilling your dreams.
Alena Gerst, LCSW, E-RYT, is a licensed psychotherapist, yoga instructor, and certified LifeForce™ Yoga practitioner for anxiety and depression. She received her bachelor's in psychology from Northern Arizona University and her master's in clinical health from Columbia University. Author of A Wellness Handbook for the Performing Artist: The Performer's Essential Guide for Staying Healthy in Body, Mind, and Spirit, Gerst provides psychotherapy and therapeutic yoga in New York City hospitals and in private practice in Manhattan. Her Yoga practice is inspired by the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar.