What is Holding You Back

Things you do that are holding you back from success.

It was  a public meeting and the speaker  was answering questions. Gregory was interested in the subject. He had studied it and knew far more about it than the average person. At home with wife  and friends he could  be eloquent enough, marshalling facts and figures and  presenting an interesting argument.

But as he rose to his feet to ask his question, something was holding him back, making his voice a croaking whisper, and his speech hesitant and confused. He was a different man, a shadow of his real self.


Nothing is more disheartening than to know we have shown people only a travesty of our true selves. What holds us back? How can we overcome this handicap? If you are interested enough in people to study them intelligently, you will find plenty of evidence to show that others are fighting the same battle. To realise we are not alone is a great help. But we must not stop here. We must get down to the job of discovering why we are like this.

Gregory, for instance, is the son of kind, thrifty, hard – working parents. They are really nice people and  he loves them. All their lives they have had to work hard for very little. Caring for a family and building a home has meant a great deal of effort and anxiety.

Gregory grew up in this anxious atmosphere. His ambition was to leave school as soon as possible, and to find a job which would help his parents financially. He wanted to please them,  his employers, and people as a whole. He had become so eager to please that it made him chronically overanxious.

When he stood up to speak in the meeting, he was over shadowed      by a fear of stimulating criticism, of making a fool of himself in front of people. His  desire to speak  and his interest in the subject was swamped by anxiety about the impression he was making, and how he looked in the eyes of the world.

Fear  of looking silly of making a mistake, of failing, of letting down the side, these are the things that hold us back. What will people think?  What will they say?  Are we being  ridiculous, undignified, vulgar, reckless unconventional? Is it done? Will we  be sorry we spoke or wrote, or drew attention to ourselves?

Behind all this conscious self – questioning lies the subconscious attitude of the scared little boy or inhibited little girl. Check back on your childhood and see what it is that makes you self – conscious, over – anxious to please, frightened of people. Only children are often nervous in adult life of doing anything which will make them conspicuous.

This is a “hangover” from the days when we were subjected to the full undivided impact of parental criticism.

Someone who was given too much love and protection in childhood will only feel happy when  people are sympathetic and he is the centre of friendly attention. Antagonism, criticism, even competition is likely to put a brake on his efforts.

Never sit down under inferiority feelings. Work hard at understanding them and then do something about them. This in itself will make you feel better. Ask yourself: “What  can I do to adjust to this trouble and give myself more confidence? Can I learn to dress more elegantly? Or cultivate a friendlier manner?

What about a course of study to  make me more efficient or to improve my general standard of education? Will it help if I take a more active part in social life, or do I need quiet and a chance to learn to know myself better?

Knowing oneself is the most important thing of all. We must be with the outside world. This implies learning to accept ourselves as we are without fear or bitterness. Only then can we give others their rightful place in our lives, without elevating them to a position in which their approval or disapproval is the only thing that matters.

How many of us hold back from learning a new handicraft or a new interest because it involves taking lessons or joining a study group, and being shown and possibly,  corrected in front  of others? One of the best gifts we can have is the knack of being able to “muck in”. In  other words the ability to see ourselves as just one of the crowd, taking everything in our stride, being teased, argued with, put in our place, and occasionally “sat on”.

If you can’t face this, look behind your attitude. Depend on it, something is holding you from whole hearted enjoyment in the company of others, a barrier both to your happiness and success.


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