Break free of the self-limitations you’ve imposed on yourself
I recently had a mentoring session with a smart woman I’ll call Jan. She had been out of work for a while but had finally landed a job. The salary was 50% less than what she wanted to be paid, but at least it was a job. Only a few weeks into her new work, however, she realized this company had problems; in fact, it was a serious mess.
Jan knew she had the skills to help the company dramatically, but she also knew she was not being paid what her help was worth. She didn’t want to be taken advantage of. She worried that her boss would take her efforts and never reward them financially.
So Jan asked my advice: should she make a difference in her new role, even though she wasn’t being paid for it—or only do what she was being paid to do? She’d been burned before by unscrupulous employers, and she didn’t want to make herself vulnerable in that way again.
At first, I was baffled by the idea that Jan would intentionally hold herself back. But as Jan and I talked about her situation more, we realized something: her dilemma was about her, not her boss and whatever he might or might not do. She could play it safe and hide her true worth, but she would be limiting herself far more than she would be protecting herself.
Ultimately, my advice was to try to expand her role and show her value to her employer. If that value wasn’t being recognized, she could look for another job, but in the meantime, she would be growing and learning—and who knows what unexpected opportunities her experience in that setting might lead to down the road?
Sometimes we convince ourselves we’re practicing sensible caution, getting into the pool feet first instead of head first, when really we’re just afraid of giving life all we’ve got.
The world doesn’t need people who are hiding under a bushel. It wants people to shine and go forth with their special abilities, talents and energy. All of us, though (including me), have experiences that hold us back. Because we were hurt in the past, we try to protect ourselves against those same wounds reoccurring in our current lives.
In my case, before I developed my habit of “delusional optimism,” I struggled to move past the experience of feeling rejected by my middle school’s cliques which made me just not want to try (lest I be rejected again). How silly is it that certain things kids said to me so many years ago could have the power to hold me back! (Of course, they didn’t deserve that power, and now I won’t allow them to have it.)
All of us have wounds like that, injuries to our self-concepts that we’ve absorbed so deeply we act as though they’re today’s reality.
It’s not Suzy Jones from middle school who threatens to derail my success, nor is it Jan’s employers, either past or present, who are holding her back. Ultimately, it’s me who sets limits on what I can do, just as Jan was setting limits on her own achievements.
Stop listening to those old voices in your head. You can choose to live a new reality. Whatever flaws you have won’t magically go away—but you can learn to work with them. You can grow in amazing ways, reaching out to your full potential.
Isn’t it time to give the world all you’ve got?
Make It Personal
Ask yourself three important questions:
- Where do you hold yourself back?
- What patterns have you learned that have protected you in the past but are hurting you now?
- How are your beliefs about yourself and others limiting your true potential?
If you ask yourself these questions and then commit to answering them by writing longhand for 30 straight minutes, no interruptions, you may be very surprised by your deeply honest response.
Reaching these answers is the first part of the battle. You will begin to feel your own potential more fully once you realize what self-limiters you’ve placed on yourself without even knowing it.
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash