Throughout my 34 years of working, I’ve experienced one very chronic pattern – I’ve tended to wait far too long (years, in certain cases) to do what I instinctively knew was right or that I deeply longed to do. Whether it was staying in business partnerships or relationships that weren’t right for me, or remaining in jobs I disliked intensely, or resisting having the critical conversations with people (including my bosses and loved ones) that would change everything, I somehow found myself NOT doing what I wanted to, often until a crisis hit that pushed me to make a bold move.
Turns out, this experience — of waiting years before doing what you long to — is a very common practice among thousands of people around the world (I know because I hear from thousands of people each year asking for help about this). I’ve discovered, too, through my research that women fall prey to this much more than men.
Through my work as a marriage and family a therapist and tuning in closely to people’s energy, and in coaching people in my programs and courses, I’ve become much more aware of this tendency, and can now see it more clearly for what it is – a deeply-entrenched fear of nurturing and supporting ourselves, and a fierce resistance against bravely honoring what we believe will make us happy, and ACTING on it.
Why do we hold ourselves back from doing what feels right?
Below are the top five reasons behind our not speaking up, standing up or braving it to take the actions that will create a more nurturing, rewarding and satisfying life that aligns with what we believe and want deep down:
#1: You question if you’re right to have these thoughts and feelings
Using my life as an example, I waited years too long to take action, because I questioned if I was “right” to think the thoughts I had. For instance, after leaving corporate life and becoming a therapist, I found that the therapy work for me, while rewarding, could be, for me, very dark and disturbing. It was really hard to be in such close proximity every minute of the day with some of the darkest experiences of human life, including rape, incest, pedophilia, child abuse, drug addiction, depression, attempted murder, and suicidality.
So much despair and pain was wreaking havoc on my own life and it colored my personal experience in many ways. My boundaries just weren’t sufficient at the time to experience all this pain and not have it bleed into my own life.
But I felt very badly about thinking about leaving the therapy profession and I doubted myself. I asked myself over and over, “What kind of true helper and healer am I if I leave this line of work?” So I didn’t leave, for years. Until a crisis occurred (a client called me one morning to tell me she was going to kill herself that moment by “wrapping her car around a tree”), and I realized that I needed to make a change. And I’m so glad I found coaching, teaching, writing and training.
I use all my therapy experience and knowledge every minute of the day in my current coaching and teaching work, but my professional identify and role have shifted to ones that I love much more, because I finally honored what I felt deep down.
#2: Others may disagree with your thinking, so you doubt yourself
So often, my clients tell me that they doubt what they believe or know to be true because others tell them that they’re wrong. I’ve learned this – if you listen to other people about what you should want and what they think is best for you, and refuse to make yourself your own highest guide in all things, then you’ll suffer and life won’t go well.
After all, you’re the only one on this planet who knows everything about you and can make the best decisions for where you want your life to go.
#3: You don’t want anyone to be upset with you, and standing up for yourself upsets people
This is a terrible problem for so many women – we don’t want to upset anyone by our actions or words. We’ve been societally trained, many of us, to be people pleasers – to do, act, appear and speak in ways that are pleasing, appealing, and supportive of others.
The problem with that is that it stifles and suppresses our independence and strength, our ability to think our own thoughts and act bravely on them, especially if they’re going to be upsetting or angering to other people.
Again, you can’t live the life you’re meant to if you never want to upset anyone.
As a writer, I’ve seen that if you’re not upsetting someone with your ideas, you’re probably not saying anything important.
#4: You are afraid of change or starting over because you don’t want to lose ground
Many folks know what they want to do, but are deeply afraid and resistant because this new direction will represent some form of a “loss” – of money, status, self-esteem, position, security, etc. So they don’t make the move, until something forces their hand.
The question we need to ask ourselves in these cases is this:
“What are you giving up (what is the true cost) of you’re NOT making the move you dream of that you know will, in the end, suit you better?
What are you giving up by staying where you are?
#5: You are somehow compelled to remain attached to not loving yourself, because that’s exactly where you’re most comfortable
Finally, I’ve seen over and over that, due to pain and damage in our childhoods where we weren’t validated, loved, appreciated or recognized as valuable, we’re more comfortable stuck in pain, disappointment and unhappiness. You feel more comfortable and familiar with what it’s like to give up on yourself, to play the victim, to hand over your control and to make excuses for all the reasons you can’t have life as you want it.
But once you see exactly how your subconscious sabotage is keeping you immersed in pain and regret, and even self-rejection, you’ll never again agree to keep yourself stifled and suppressed.
Are you ready to start finding brave and finally do what you’ve been longing to all these years?