This week I’m answering this question:

“Everything’s going great at the moment, but I always get the feeling that I’m holding myself back in some way…can you help?”

This is a common question, and it really doesn’t matter where you are on your leadership journey I can pretty much guarantee that we’ve all done this at some point or another.

The thing is that our brain loves to keep us in our comfort zone. Now although you might think this is a pretty rubbish thing for it to do, it does have great intentions.The reason being is that when we’re in our comfort zone it knows that we’re safe – and after all that’s its primary objective to keep us alive. Now the problem comes that when we start to push the boundaries of our comfort zone it might start to try and nudge us back in and it can do that in so many different ways. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try and stretch, but it does mean that we need to recognise when we start to hold ourselves back so that it doesn’t stop us from progressing.

So, here are 5 signs that you’re holding yourself back…

  1. We hide behind being busy

Being busy is a common problem, but it can also be a really good hiding place to stop you from doing anything outside of your comfort zone. You might say or think things like ‘Oh I’d love to do that but I’ve no time.’ ‘I’ve got loads on at the minute’ ‘I’ll do it when this [project finishes; or things calm down a bit]’

If this is you: Have a think about whether you’re using being busy as a hiding place, or whether you genuinely are too busy at the moment, and be honest with yourself. If it’s the former, it’s time to look at how you can make space for new opportunities.

2. You have an excuse

We can all come with excuses why we don’t want to do something, but are you coming up with an excuse to stop yourself from having a go at something new? For example – do you say things like…I’ll do it tomorrow; I’m too busy right now; I’m too [fill in the gap here eg – old, young, inexperienced, not been here long enough; not got the right or enough qualifications etc]

If this is you: Next time you hear yourself saying one of your excuses question whether it’s actually the case, or whether it’s just a myth? Do you really need a degree to do whatever it is? Are you really too young or too old? and so on.. chances are it’s not a valid reason to not have a go.

3. We get annoyed with ourselves later

Have you ever had the opportunity to do something, and you’ve said no and then kicked yourself later? If so, this is a clear sign that you’re holding yourself back.

If this is you: Tune in to how you’re feeling at the time and take a moment to listen to yourself. Ask yourself do you just need to have a go? Or do you need more information? Or are you going to regret it if you don’t have a go?

4. You push other people and not yourself

You tell yourself that you want to give other people around you the opportunity instead – and it’s good for them to have a go, rather than you. You’re very good at side stepping opportunities so your team, friends, peers etc can do it instead.

If this is you: Ask yourself whether you’re doing it for the right reasons. Are you genuinely wanting to develop other people? Or are you really passing it over because you’re not ready? If it’s the latter it might be time to take the leap too.

5. You feel the fear

Fear is a really common way that our brain uses to hold us back, and it works because it feels so rubbish that it’s not surprising we run for the hills when we feel it.

If this is you: Have a go at recognising that all that’s happening is you’re stretching your comfort zone and that you’re not really in any danger. It also helps to know that this fear is only temporary and that pretty soon whatever you’re doing will become normal and no longer scary.


So I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences on holding yourself back let me know by leaving a comment.