In my 20s, I was completely driven by what other people thought of me. If they clapped, I listened. If they winced, I took note. If they said I should do something, I did it.
It was exhausting.
But that exhaustion also taught me something important. Turning to others for every little piece of feedback wasn’t about trusting their judgment; it was about the distrust I had for my own.
This realization was life-changing for me.
Once I discovered that a “no” to someone else is really just a “yes” to myself, I started building healthier boundaries. I learned that I could trust my instincts, follow my intuition, and stand my ground. I began to reclaim my personal power.
It’s time for you to do the same. Below, I share 15 harmful, destructive, and toxic habits that may be holding you back from reaching your full potential.
At least I know they were for me. And if I can learn from and grow out of them, then so can you.
All you have to do is try.15 Harmful Habits Holding You Back
1. Trying to please everyone.
I’m going to be blunt with you: You won’t be able to please everyone in life. Truth is, there will be some people who simply do not like you. These folks are quick to judge you, determined to misunderstand you, and perhaps diametrically opposed to you. That’s okay. Let them think and feel that way. It is not your job to convince other people to see your worth. In fact, most of the dissatisfaction these people feel about you is really just their own dissatisfaction with themselves. What you’re experiencing is simply a projection of that.
Give up the idea that you should be well-liked. Instead, give stock to the notion that you should remain well-grounded—in your values as well as the relationships that really matter to you.
Fulfillment can’t be found in another person, so stop expecting someone else to provide it to you.
Look within. The only person you need to please is yourself. So, tend to your own well-being. Focus on you. And quit looking outside for the worth and validation that can only be found inside.
You’ll save yourself a lot of unnecessary worry in the process.
2. Apologizing for every little thing.
Over-apologizing is an epidemic. When we apologize too much it diminishes the value of what someone else has offered us either graciously or begrudgingly as a result of our actions. And it devalues what it means to apologize in the first place.
Here’s a potential solution: Stop saying “sorry” so much and start saying “thanks” more often.
Instead of “Sorry I’m late,” say “Thanks for being patient.”
Instead of “Sorry for being difficult,” say “Thanks for being flexible.”
Instead of “Sorry for all the questions,” say “Thanks for the helpful responses.”
Choose gratitude over guilt every time.
3. Offering up an explanation when it’s not needed.
“I can’t make it.”
“I’m busy at that time.”
“That doesn’t work for me.”
What do these statements have in common? They are all complete sentences. Hence, they don’t require any additional context.
Ask yourself, Why am I giving further information that’s not necessary? You’ll likely discover that you feel a sense of responsibility. Why do you feel that way? Because you don’t want to let the other person down. Why don’t you want to disappoint them? Because you want to be liked. (Hello again, #1 from this list.)
What you really need to do is sit with that part of yourself that wants to be liked, not offer up explanations that aren’t necessary.
Speak with clarity, intention, and brevity. Nothing else is required.
4. Saying “yes” when you really want to say “no.”
If it doesn’t align with your values, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, if it’s harmful for your mental health, then just say “no.”
Even if you’ve already said “yes.”
Even if you feel like it will be an imposition.
Even if the other person will be mad.
Your word is your bond. Say what you mean.
5. Giving too many chances.
We all make mistakes. We all hope to receive a second chance. But a third, fourth, or even a fifth? That seems egregious. In fact, a mistake made more than once is a choice. And we each need to take responsibility for our choices.
So, how many chances are too many? Well, if you have to ask, that’s an indication that you already know the answer.
Take back your power in the situation and walk away from what is no longer serving you.
6. Glorifying always being busy.
Constantly being busy is not a status symbol, badge of honor, or healthy habit.
On the contrary, maintaining an impossibly busy schedule is typically an unconscious response ingrained in us from some traumatic experience we endured. Stay busy so you don’t have to feel it, our unconscious mind convinces us. If you achieve enough success, it negates the pain. In turn, we avoid and repress and numb our emotions by taking on an impossible schedule and keeping ourselves restless, like some sort of human Energizer Bunny.
But even he eventually runs out of fuel.
Let’s make one thing clear: An impossibly-busy lifestyle simply isn’t sustainable. A packed schedule doesn’t make you important, it makes you neglectful. A full calendar might give you material wealth but it’ll rob you of your inner peace. Even if you’re doing it in the name of a burning passion, you’ll only end up burning yourself out in the end.
We’re called human beings, not human doings. Stop giving so much and start taking what you need. Take time to rest. Take care of your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Take the space you need to refresh.
It’ll pay off in the long run.
Gossip is one of the cheapest forms of communication. Don’t believe me? Take shame and vulnerability researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown’s word for it. “Common enemy intimacy is counterfeit connection and the opposite of true belonging,” Brown writes. “If the bond we share with others is simply that we hate the same people, the intimacy we experience is often intense, immediately gratifying, and an easy way to discharge outrage and pain. It is not, however, fuel for real connection… It’s also the kind of intimacy that can leave us with the intense regrets of an integrity hangover. Did I really participate in that?”
When you can, talk about ideas, not people. And when you must talk about others, build them up instead of breaking them down.
It’s what you’d want others to do if they were tempted to talk about you.
8. Harboring resentment.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This quote, often paraphrased and rearranged through the years, is a powerful one because it shows us that resentment only hurts one person—and that person is you. Holding a grudge is the same thing as shackling yourself to the past. Why do you want to carry it around with you? Allow yourself to process the grievance, then let go when you are ready.
Like the liver purges the body of physical toxins, we must allow our heart and spirit to forgive as a means of purging emotional toxins.
It’s truly one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
9. Feeding fear instead of faith.
Life goes where your energy flows. If you keep feeding your fear, you’ll perceive and receive more things about which to be afraid. If you keep feeding your faith, you’ll perceive and receive more blessings.
Seems like an easy choice to me.
10. Getting defensive.
Getting defensive is often a knee-jerk reaction when we feel scared, triggered, or threatened in some way. But it’s not the only way to respond.
What if instead of getting defensive you started getting curious?
Try some of these on for size the next time you feel a strong reaction rising within:
- What did you mean when you said: [insert statement here]?
- I’m sensing some tension here. Did I do something to upset you?
- Can we pause for a second? Would you mind [insert request here]?
When we stop jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst possible outcome, and bringing more ego and negativity to a situation, we can have a more fruitful and honest discussion.
Try it on for size.
It’s okay to confide in a friend.
It’s okay to vent to someone you trust.
It’s even okay to not want to have to deal with something, but to roll up your sleeves and do it anyway.
But it’s never productive to complain. Complaining keeps you locked in a state of negativity and lack. And rarely does it ever bring you closer to inner peace. And if it doesn’t bring you closer to inner peace, then why are you doing it in the first place?
12. Thinking you need to fix yourself.
Please hear me loud and clear on this one: Anytime you feel you need to fix something about yourself, it’s actually an indication that you need to practice self-acceptance instead.
It’s great to have goals and to push yourself to grow. But if you’re doing it in the name of fixing something about yourself, you’ll never be satisfied. Because you’re trying to fix the wrong thing. What you really need to fix is the idea that you think you need fixing. You are beautiful and lovely and awesome just as you are. Once you realize that, then you have a solid foundation of self-worth on which you can build.
Never is the idea of fixing more prominent than at the start of a new year. We make New Year’s resolutions that are impractical and unsustainable all in the name of self-improvement. But that’s not self-improvement; it’s self-sabotage. Only when you realize just how great you already are can you grow in a way that’s healthy and realistic.
So, before you set out to completely transform who you are or what you look like, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I appreciate who I am and what I have to offer at this very moment?
- Why am I looking to make this change?
- Is this change for me or for someone else?
You’re never going to be perfect, which is why you need to lean into self-acceptance, even and perhaps especially as you look to evolve.
13. Chasing people.
Never, ever chase another person. Whether geographically or emotionally, it’s not wise and seldom does it end well.
Love and affection are smothered when held too close or too tight. Let the other person be. Don’t try to control or manipulate them. If they care about you and want you in their life, they’ll show you. And if not, then you have all the information you need.
14. Accepting the bare minimum.
Can we all please stop celebrating and rewarding bare minimum effort, especially in our relationships?
He’s supposed to text you back.
She’s supposed to be happy for your success.
They’re supposed to encourage you.
A relationship should be an equal partnership. If you’re consistently the one putting in more effort, it might be time to release that person from your life.
15. Believing someone’s words instead of their actions.
How many times has someone told you one thing and then done another? And how many times did you take their word for it instead of seeing things at face value and for what they were?
Yeah, we’ve all been there.
Here’s the thing: People will tell you what you want to hear, but their actions will show you what you need to know. If what they say doesn’t match what they do, always trust that their actions are speaking louder than their words. Because, while our word is our bond, it’s our actions that prove or disprove whether we can be trusted.
What are some other habits you think hold people back? Tweet me at @crackliffe—or tell me in the comments.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the posts below, or explore my new book, It’s Good to See Me Again!