Many of us want to live fully. We want to express ourselves and taste the many delights that this world has to offer. Like an eager child, we want to go forth into the world, to explore, to experiment, to play, to dive in. But equally, many of us don’t actually do this. We don’t live fully. Instead, we hold ourselves back. We stay small, we dismiss our dreams and we play it safe. We ‘umm’ and ‘ahhh’, we hesitate and even retreat from the fullness of life, from change, from opportunity. Considering we have but one life (as far as I know) and it is fleeting, you’d think we’d go all in and make the most of it. But instead, we leave so much on the table. And unfortunately, this leads to a life of regret and resentment.
Why do we live this way? Why do we hold ourselves back?
- We’re worried about other people’s opinions
Parents, friends, neighbours, colleagues, randoms on social media – what will they think about us? Whether you want to know if they approve of your outfit or your career, you keep looking outside of you for permission to do, be and have what you want.
I understand that. I do it too. This need for approval, belonging and acceptance is deeply baked into us all. It’s part of our survival instinct. But it also holds us back from our fullest, most brilliant and authentic life because we choose what others want, instead of what we want. Even though it’s us who must live with the consequences.
- We don’t like uncertainty
Another reason we hold ourselves back is because we don’t like the unknown. We want to get all the answers before we take a leap. So, we over analyse, over plan, predict and prepare. We wait for every duck to be in a row before we act.
This is futile because no one can predict or control the future, we cannot prepare for every eventuality and in most cases, you must take steps without all the information. All this overthinking and over analysis simply puts us off, wastes our time and holds us back.
- We fear failure
The shame associated with failure, the embarrassment and the anxiety is stifling and holds us back from so many things. “What if I mess it up? What if I get it wrong? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I must go back to the drawing board? What will other people think of me then (see point 1)?”.
There are so many steps we don’t take and moves we don’t make because we’re just too scared to fail. We take failure personally. We think it means something about us – usually something bad. And so, we’d rather stay away from that. We’d rather hold back and not try, than try and fail in the process – even if that process does lead to eventual success. We cut off our nose to spite our face when it comes to the fear of failure.
- We lack self-belief
I can’t. I’m not worthy. I’m not good enough. I’m an imposter. I’m not smart enough, confident enough, rich, pretty or tall enough – the list goes on. All this ‘not enoughness’ holds us back from so many things.
The problem is not so much the thoughts but that we let these thoughts stop us. Some people act in spite of their insecurities and as a result they are still successful, they still live fully. But many of us let our insecurities dictate our behaviour, they become the reason we never move forward, they become the excuses we make to justify holding back.
- We lack vision and direction
Where are you going? This way? That way? Many ways?! Are you darting around lost and confused and forever changing your mind? Now, not all who wander are lost but for many of us, not having a clear vision and direction only serves to make us more confused, more insecure, more trepid and hesitant. And that only makes us hold back even more.
Without a clear vision, we stutter our way through life never making any real progress, except in a few fits and starts. Without clear vision, we hold ourselves back.
It’s time to move forward
Simply being aware that you’ve got these shackles is enough to loosen them. But you can also be more active in taking those shackles off. Here are some ways that you can actively stop holding yourself back in life:
- Choose yourself and follow your own intuition. Rather than seeking everyone’s opinion and approval, try to not worry about what everyone thinks – you’ll never please everybody anyway. Just go for your truth.
- Get comfortable with the unknown. Surrender to it, practise moving forward amidst unpredictability, try it with small things, just take the next step. You don’t need to see the whole path ahead or gather every bit of information. Let things unfold.
- Reframe your relationship with failure. See it as an inevitable step on the path to success and an opportunity to gather data, to grow and learn. Also, don’t take it personally. It happens to everyone.
- Act in spite of your insecurities. You can’t get rid of these doubtful thoughts – even the most successful people still have them. But they don’t have to hold you back. It’s not the thought that matters, it’s the action that drives the result. Just do it.
- Find your north star. Know where you’re headed, create a vision. Instead of living a directionless life, choose what you want and commit, be dedicated and focussed and keep shooting for what you want. Soon, you will hit the target.
And after all that, just consider: why not go all in on life? None of us are getting out of here alive anyway! So, I’m all in. Are you?
Read more about Pinky Jangra and her other articles HERE
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