What’s Holding You Back?

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what's holding you back
As a therapist and coach I often work with people who are holding themselves back.  This can be in work, leisure, home or family life.  This holding back, or difficulty being able to do things, can become a frustration and also cause stress and anxiety in people.  Many of us assume there are external factors to this; people or circumstances that are difficult.  Often, this comes from us doing things we’re not always aware of.

I’ve been there too! As I say to everyone I work with:

We all have stuff (emotional or mindset issues) it’s whether it bothers us that we need to be concerned about.”

What might that stuff be?  Here are 6 common things I often see that can contribute to that feeling of being held back and frustrated.


We often compare ourselves to others around us.  We want to be accepted, to fit in or even to be better than others around us.  Yet when we don’t quite match up to who or whatever we are comparing to it can leave us feeling not good enough.

The thing is, that what you see when you compare might only be a window of the whole picture.  You might not see the struggle, the many attempts, the worry that’s going on with someone else.  That’s why it’s important to know about yourself and work from there, you’re not in someone else’s shoes.

Are you comparing yourself to others then?  Maybe not across all areas of your life, but possibly in some areas.

Limiting Beliefs

We learn these in our early life experiences from those around us (parents, teachers, authority figures).  They can come from messages like “don’t show off”, “boys don’t cry” “children should be seen and not heard”.  We can absorb these messages without even realising and then we carry them through in our everyday life.  These are beliefs that limit our ability to get on a do the things we want to do.  So maybe you don’t like to have attention on you, but you know that you need to do speeches or presentations to get on in your job.  Maybe you need to approach someone and raise something but you’ve been avoiding it?  Recognising these beliefs is big step because then you can work to ensure it doesn’t control you.  I’ll talk more about limiting beliefs in another blog later this month.

Being Busy

Often we can find things to be busy with, there’s so much to do, and you don’t have time for … whatever it is.  You don’t have time now, how will you cope with a promotion?  You’ve got such a massive to-do list and that ‘thing’ doesn’t ever seem to get to the top of it.  It’s easy to sit for 20 minutes surfing the net or social media but is it productive?  Have you spent time emptying your inbox when you could have just got on with that difficult task?  Have a little look – are you creating your own busyness?  You may actually be putting things off.

Wanting Permission or Approval

We are social mammals.  Historically (from tribal days) we’ve needed to be accepted and needed to fit in.  So we have this hidden need for permission or approval, yet sometimes it really just needs to come from ourselves.  I’m often heard suggesting that you “give yourself permission”.  Trust your instinct (since that’s been there since tribal days too) you know what’s best for you.


Fears can sometimes be bigger than you think!  Often we have fears we don’t even realise too.  There are many people who have a fear of failure – or even a fear of success.  Again they are often linked to early beliefs that we formed in our younger years.  They can often be because really, it’s safer, more comfortable, less embarrassing to just stay where we are, doing what we’re doing, than actually have a go.  Recognising that fear its the first step in doing something about it.  I’ll be talking more about this in a future blog too.

Wondering Why

We can often be asking ourselves questions about situations in order to try and progress.  Why did I do that?  Why do I always…?

When we ask WHY – to ourselves or to others around us (colleagues/clients/family/children) it sets off a defensive mechanism in our brain.  Really!  That puts us/them on high alert.  When we’re on high alert we’re going to respond in a way that keeps us safe, that protects us.  So that’s not going to get to the root of the issue really.  A better way would be to approach that question in a gentler way, with more of a thinking aloud approach and some wondering.  Mmm, I’ve noticed that when I’m with that colleague I often feel… I wonder what happens there.  Granted, it’s a bit more wordy, some might say a bit fluffy, less direct, but try it, it really works to stop the defence and helps to gain more clarity.

Sometimes, despite being successful, we continue to strive onward, upwards in our work or personal life but we never quite seem to get there.  You may have something holding you back.

If you’d like help figuring out what’s holding you back, then get in touch to learn what we can do about it.

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