What's holding you back?
30 Jul 2018

What’s holding you back?

Feeling you might be resisting success? Here are 3 possible reasons as to what’s holding you back from being the best and happiest you can be.

Marianne Williamson a spiritual leader, author and lecturer once wrote these infamous words (often attributed to Nelson Mandela) “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”

Whether it’s in the workplace or the therapy room, one of the most demoralizing things for an employee or client is when they become stuck, resistant to change and unable to remove obstacles in their life that hinder growth and render them unable to realize their own dreams, hopes and desires. But why would we resist doing that and as Williamson suggests being afraid of becoming all we might be? My experience as a psychologist suggests considering the following possibilities, to uncover what’s holding you back.

  1. Secondary gains. Secondary gains are the benefits or advantages that people experience by not changing, often these gains aren’t fully conscious thoughts. Often in therapy when a client is ‘stuck’ we examine what would be the consequences of change. For example, if you are depressed and your partner feels responsible for you and would never leave you while you are in this state, then this may offer you security within a relationship allowing you to put aside any abandonment issues you may have and also mean that you don’t have to take full responsibility for yourself.
  2. Fear of success. This fear is sometimes seen in the sporting world where a young, up and coming athlete fulfils his lifelong ambition and is capped for England. The night before the match he goes out gets into a fight or gets drunk and essentially self-sabotages his chances of success. But why? To be successful or the star of the show can be anxiety provoking as you suddenly find yourself under the microscope with people watching and assessing your every move. Waiting in the wings, however, whilst ultimately may be less fulfilling, can feel like a much safer, less exposing option.
  3. Lack of motivation to change. Van der Kolk’s concept that ‘The body keeps the score’ can be useful when considering our reaction to what appears to be a positive or progressive career or life opportunity. Some clients come to therapy having just recently been offered a promotion, yet suddenly begin to find it hard to arrive at the office on time, be enthusiastic with colleagues and fight off feelings of lethargy. Though intellectually the promotion makes sense it is important to note your somatic reactions. In my experience the body doesn’t lie and is often well ahead of cognitive or intellectual thoughts. The hesitancy of the body and its reluctance to ‘turn up’ must be considered because perhaps this isn’t the promotion for you, perhaps it takes you down an alternative path that compromises your values or perhaps it takes you higher up a corporate ladder which is pitched against the wrong wall.

So what’s holding you back? Be aware of the advantages and comfort factors of staying stuck and allow yourself to make a conscious decision about your future. Tackle the fears which might underlie your resistance to change and be aware of cycles of self-sabotage and if the changes you make are actually geared towards your ultimate goals, passions and values. Consider the support you might need if success brings you anxiety so that with support and self-awareness you can step confidently into the spotlight.

For further help and support get in touch or follow me on Twitter at @lostatmidlife