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What’s Holding You Back? Break Free and Step Forward with Courage!

What's holding you back? You want a better life, but you sabotage yourself. Why? Here’s what you can do to Step Forward.“Sometimes the future changes quickly and completely, and we’re left with only the choice of what to do next. We can choose to be afraid of it. Just stand there trembling, not moving. Assuming the worst that can happen. Or we step forward into the unknown, and assume it will be brilliant.” ~ Sandra Oh

Carla (not her real name) came to me as she was beginning to dream big dreams. She felt like she’d spent her whole life waiting for her life to begin. She wanted desperately to start stepping forward into life, but she wasn’t sure how. Yet, at every turn, she seemed to be sabotaging herself. She’d say, “I can’t, because… I want to, but I’m just not ready. I just don’t understand what’s holding me back!” I recognized that she was a very strong and capable woman, but her limiting beliefs were holding her back. 

Like Carla, have you ever asked yourself, “What’s holding me back?” You’re not alone…

I can strongly relate with your feelings, because I was in that same position over 15 years ago. I was keeping myself hidden and small. I knew I had something to offer to the world, but I battled with past words I’d heard and had echoed internally for years, “Good girls don’t ask for things. They wait until it’s offered to them.” Of course, this was said originally in a certain context. But my mind took this advice and magnified it to apply to all aspects of life. 

It was only after I was courageous enough to slow down and examine this life-changing question in detail — What is holding me back? — that I made my breakthrough. Once I did, I’ve been stepping forward into many exciting new ventures. (Co-hosting an upcoming retreat in Costa Rica is one of them!) I want that freedom for you, too!

To help you, I’ve created an exercise, What’s Holding You Back Table of Discovery & Change, that allows you to articulate long-held beliefs and see them for what they really are. Every time you hear yourself saying, “No, I can’t” mentally finish the thought with “Why not? I could but I’m choosing not to because of what?” This will help you identify the limiting belief that you’ll be exploring in more detail.

Column one shows limiting beliefs and subsequent actions that keep us from stepping forward. Column two identifies a possible source of that limiting belief, and column three gives positive actions you can take to rewrite your story. Please create your own Table in your journal and fill it in with as much detail as possible.

“What’s Holding You Back?” Table of Discovery & Change

Limiting Belief 

(Resulting Action) 

Source of Limiting Action/Belief

Overcome the Challenge

“I’m not smart enough.”

  (Letting everyone else make your decisions)

Domineering and controlling influences past and present. 

Stop giving my power away.  Say ‘No’ and mean it. Pick my battles — take a stand on things that really matter to me. Always being ‘nice’ and giving in frustrates everyone.

“I should play it safe.” 

(No, I can’t, because insert excuse.)

Fear of failure. Taught failure reflects on personal value.

Be courageous and curious. If I step forward, how will it harm me in actuality? A moment of “failure” doesn’t define who I am. I welcome these learning moments because they strengthen me and make me understand my world better.  

“I should have done better.”


(Being really hard on yourself.)

Experienced shame in my past and think my value is determined by others’ opinions.

Stuff happens. My intentions were good. I will do this differently next time. This episode is over. It’s time to change the channel and move on.

“I’m not supposed to succeed. I’m the one who always has bad luck.”

(Failure to act on opportunities when they present themselves.)

Surrounded by pessimism which means I tend to regurgitate my list of perceived failures.

Look for the good. Remember and cherish all successes, no matter how small. I deserve good things.

“I shouldn’t have to work so hard.”

(Give up when there are any obstacles.)

Taught that “the world owes me” and it should all come easily.

I get out of life what I put into it. I’m proud of my achievements as I show the world what I’m made of.

Now it’s your turn to fill in the boxes:

What limiting belief would you add here?

Find the source: Keep peeling back the layers until you discover why you believe that.

Step Forward: What positive change can you make today? What steps will keep you moving forward in the future?

We get comfortable with limiting  thoughts, because they’ve been with us for so long and they have protected us in some ways. Yet, stop and imagine this…

Turn a limiting thought in your mind into an imaginary person who completely embodies that characteristic and behavior. For example, a person who doubts herself…imagine her posture and how she acts. How does she look, dress, speak, hold herself — what image does she present to the world? Now, imagine her walking up to you today. Exaggerate her shuffling up to you with a hangdog expression. How would she explain one of your recent ‘failures’ if it happened to her, perhaps blaming others? (Note: I don’t believe in failure; I view each as a learning experience that can enrich your life.)

When that negative belief is magnified like this, does it bring you joy? Do you really want ‘that person’ to be part of your life? If not, acknowledge its existence and then invite it to leave. Set clear intentions of how you’d rather be. 

One of the biggest things to help me was to make curiosity a part of everyday life. It quickly shifted me away from being judgmental to being accepting. As Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” 

If, like Carla, you’re sitting around, waiting for something good to happen, you’re going to be waiting forever. If you want good things to happen, you have to make them happen. I’ve been down this path, and I can help lead you. You can start by downloading an Introduction to The Stepping Forward Program. I’ve taken note of the processes and systems that create the greatest impact in my life, and put them into a road map for Stepping Forward. It works for me; I know it will work for you.


Thank you for the use of your photo Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash.

empower women, Personal Growth - Professional Growth, Self-Confidence, visualization

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