All of us set goals, some in which we achieve and some that stay in the abstract. But, why is that?
We live in a world where it is easier to justify our shortcomings by things around us. We somehow feel less responsible and pressured when we can put the blame on someone or something else. However, what I’ve recently come to realize, is that sometimes, most of the time in my case, we are our own worst enemy. This is true for many things in life, most that we don’t even realize. And, it is commonly exacerbated by well-intentioned friends and family, mirrors, and our social landscape.
So, how do we break this cycle and get out of our own way?
First, think of something that you want, whether that be about physical appearance, collegiate achievements, job opportunities, travel experiences, whatever you desire. Then, ask yourself, why you don’t have it. There are different things in life that hold us back, some that are out of our hands, but others that are in fact in our control. These factors are is different for everyone, and each individual will need to think about what it is that holds them back.
What is it for you?
For me, the five things that commonly hold me back are ____________________.
No. 1: Fear
Especially at this point in my life, I am realizing that fear may be one of the biggest obstacles that has held me back in my life and will continue to if I don’t learn how to control it. I’ve found recently that fear is ever present in many aspects of my life, most that I didn’t even realize. This fear comes in many forms, sometimes in ways I expect and others in ways I don’t even realize until afterwards. I have feared failure, but I’ve also feared success. I have feared being lonely and I’ve feared being in love.
When I was applying for colleges over four years ago, I remember being utterly afraid of making the wrong choice. What if I went to the wrong school, I could meet the wrong boy, choose the wrong major, get into a job I hate, and ruin my life. Dramatic, I know, but I remember having all of those worries – things in which I couldn’t predict or control.
When I was competing, I remember being afraid of meeting my actual potential. Everyone had always told me that I had a natural ability and the dedication to meet this ultimate potential, but I was always afraid of how much success I could actually achieve. What happens if I actually got to where everyone said I could be, where would my life go? How twisted is that, huh, being afraid of actually succeeding?
I have seen fear take its toll in my life time and time again. Once again, I have the chance to lean into it or fight against it. As some of you may have put together, my new-old boyfriend and I are back together. What broke us up? Well, several reasons he thought at the time, but one that I was aware of all along. He was afraid. Afraid of being together for a year at that point, being only 22 years old, a soon-to-be graduate, and knowing that growing up was coming around the corner. Without all of the intimate details, he let fear run his brain into a cycle that I couldn’t get him out of. He let fear take the lead, and it took him until he we were broken up and separated to realize what had happened. Now that we are back together again, I have fear – fear of being broken up with again in an instant, fear of not being enough, and fear of letting myself love and be loved.
But, I think that it’s okay to have fear, as long as it doesn’t take the wheel. He tells me repeatedly, “I let fear ruin something that was perfect, and now that I have you back, don’t let fear do the same to you”.
But unfortunately, thats what fear does. It can make people complacent and give up on their aspirations. It can wash away what we know to be true and fill our heads with doubts and concerns. Fear does all that. So, for me, the cure is about recognizing that fear is there, but then understanding that I can determine its course. I need to accept that I’m afraid, go with it, feel insecure, but not let that stop me from striving for my aspirations.
That’s where the difference is.
No. 2: Insecurity
I have insecurities, just like you, just like everyone. As someone that experiences insecurities in many facets, I am intimately acquainted with the ways it can destroy your confidence and stop you from trying new things. Like all habits, this one is hard to break. You have to play mind tricks with yourself to get you out of this cycle. Here is what I am learning to do about it.
Firstly, identify the insecurity and take comfort that other people are insecure as well, everyone just shows it differently. Let’s face it, as hard as we try, what others think feeds into how we see ourselves. After we identify the fear, its okay to feel the insecurity, but then we need to do it anyways; whether that’s talking to someone new, going to an event, making a speech, the list is endless.
It’s human to feel insecure, just don’t let that stop you from making decisions, taking risks, and living your life. Lastly, reward yourself for your efforts. Be proud of yourself that you went and did something out of your comfort zone even though you were unsure about it.
No. 3: Jealousy and Resentment
Let me tell you something right now, jealousy and resentment, will take you nowhere in life except not liking that person staring you back in the mirror. Whether that is jealousy over the attention of a boy, the lifestyle of someone else, or the appearance of a peer. Have you ever known someone who makes it all look so easy? Whatever they do and whatever they want, they get. Of course, you know people like that, except that is just our perception. Everyone has things to deal with whether we see it or not. The trick is to remember that and help it stop jealousy and resentment in its tracks.
I battle with jealousy more than I’d like to admit. From “why did she get a so may likes on her picture” to “how come she can eat like that without getting fat” or “why does he like her instead of me”? But what is this doing for me? When this happens, I become way too concerned with how and what others are doing with their life and forget about my own. I’ve seen this within in several different relationships in my life whether that be with a boy, a friend, or a competitor.
Jealousy stands in the way of me focusing on my own life and my own goals. With this (not so healthy) dose of resentment, I end up consuming others into my life in place of myself. I forget all the valuable qualities that are my own and begin to doubt what I am capable of.
I don’t have the answers and I am very much in the beginning stages of solving this problem. But the best advice I can give is figure out ways to combat these thoughts when you are beginning to have them. Learn to distract yourself and change your thinking. Things are not what they usually appear. Everyone has different highlights, and comparing and being jealous of others, will not help shed light on your own.
No. 4: Attitude and Excuses
As cliché as it is, your attitude affects everything. You can have the same scenario play out but have two completely different ways of looking at it. You ever have those days where nothing is going your way – like, everything is going completely wrong? There’s two ways this can play out. You can either get so angry at every little thing and lose yourself in it, cry, ask why me? Or, you can laugh at how pathetic your luck is that day.
That is just one example of how attitude can stand in your way.
Now, what about excuses? We all make them, whether we think we do or not. You can set your mind on one thing, but then justify why you should or shouldn’t do it to change your guilt post-decision. This justification can take the lead in such a way that soon you’ve convinced yourself that backing out of your original goal is acceptable, and you won’t even feel guilty about it.
For instance, when I was in Queenstown, New Zealand, I wanted to bungy jump off of the world’s first commercial bungy. I knew that if I went home without following through I would be disappointed in myself. At first, my friend wanted to go as well. As time went on and the idea was still in the abstract, she grew more nervous about her ability to jump, but at that point, she still wanted to participate. However, as we got closer to the day, I listened to her slowly explain reasons why she shouldn’t jump and sure enough she talked herself out of it. When we arrived on the day, she justified the expense over her fears, so that she didn’t have to jump, and there would be no guilt afterwards either. Whether her financial reasons towards the end were accurate or not, I watched her use these to justify her decision.
No shots are meant to be fired here, this I believe is just a good example of how a person’s attitude and excuses can stand in their own way. I have done this countless times, more than I can even remember. It is a constant characteristic that I have been trying to at least identify if not remove completely.
No. 5: Environment
This last one is a fun one because it isn’t something necessarily about you, but it is one that you have the power to change. Sometimes what is bringing us down and holding us back is the toxic environment around us. This environment can be greatly attributed to those who we are forced to interact with in our daily lives and the climate of the people we choose to surround ourselves with.
Environments can contribute a great deal to success, or the lack thereof. The people we choose to surround ourselves with have an effect on our behavior, attitude, motivations, and more. Even if we don’t initially see the relationship as toxic, later on you may notice that your goals have subsided. Toxic relationships can be blunt and obvious or they can come subconsciously by how you let yourself act around someone you love.
For instance, when my boyfriend and I were on a break, I ended up realizing that although I loved him very much, and he was never holding me back, I ended up consuming his life and compromising some of my own goals. This wasn’t due to him, this was completely on me. The break gave us a minute to take a step back and figure out certain things, one of them for me being, that I had my own goals and although I love him very much, those need to be a priority for me.
Other toxic relationships that can hold you back can come in a more obvious form. If that’s the case, heres some tips on how you deal with it.
First, determine why they are toxic to your life. Is this environment making you lazy, rebel, disobey, focus on them and not you, alter your goals, make you feel less than? Is it fixable? If it’s fixable, begin an open dialogue about what’s bothering you or ways you can both change your attitude to help the situation. If there’s simply no way to fix it, limit your time with that person as much as possible.
Basically, if you end up understanding that the person or people you are surrounded by are not feeding you positivity and growth, maybe its time to re-think those relationships and shift focus on your own goals and future aspirations.