Stop Holding Yourself Back

Fear of failure

Don’t we live in a world where success is just everything? All the motivational gurus, all the self-help books, all the talk shows and etc., etc. — all are espousing success and how to get there.

And God knows, I’m not advocating for failure. Although it can sure teach us a lot.

But so often what I hear from folks (and have asked myself at various junctures before) is, why am I not successful?

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

And we can go on and on about the reasons — fear of success/fear of failure. Feelings of unworthiness. Or a plethora of others.

And while yes, it’s a good thing to sort that all out, including the mundane points such as not having enough knowledge, being a novice, etc., something underlies all of these issues.

The thing that trips up most folks, most of the time, is that negative loop of self-criticism.

You know, remember the time you failed at whatever in second grade? Or that marriage that didn’t quite work out? Or when you grasped for the brass ring and came up holding air?

Yep, it happened. Whatever “it” was. And yep, you learned from it, no? Gained beneficial information, another piece of your puzzle, etc.

But how often do you remember the latter, and how often do you instead focus on the former failure?

This can be much more insidious than it seems. Because of course you’re not focused on the negative, are you? You know better than that, right? You concentrate on your strengths and let those grow, attending to the weaknesses too but keeping your successes front and center? Right?

Probably not.

It’s a funny conundrum — the mind can be a slimy thing. We think we’re doing all the good with our spiritual/psychological walks, but do this exercise:

On a piece of paper draw a line down the page. Put Positive Thoughts on one side, Negative Thoughts on the other. For one day, for every single thought you have, put a mark below one or the other.

No cheating — you can’t discount some thoughts as neutral. Because if you dig down deeper, the impetus is positive or negative. Even about having to stop at the grocery store for cat food on your way home.

The results are pretty much always startling.

The thing is, no matter how many mantras you recite, no matter how much meditation or spiritual/psychological reading you do, if those aren’t backed up by focused attention to what you want to have happen, by knowledge of your worthiness to attain those things, then you’re pissing in the wind.

Far more folks focus on what they don’t want to have happen.

I mean, that’s natural, no? Often we see or think things we don’t want. Either in the reality of here and now, or in the imagined future.

The trick is, and it’s simple, really, to focus on what you do want instead.

Although nobody said simple was easy!

I wish I knew the tipping point, the formula, for where success lies — the percentage of the time you need to concentrate on the wanted vs. the unwanted.

But I don’t think that number actually exists!

What I do know is that every single spiritual practice points to focusing on the desire, rather than the lack, as the key.

“. . . if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” — the King James version of the Bible.

“Creators that create worlds are not trying to fix problems. Creators that create worlds are defining what is not wanted for a split second, and feeling what IS wanted for eternity.”Abraham Hicks.

We could go on.

Because one thing we know is that focusing on what you do want, while letting go of what you don’t, brings forth ideas.

And that causes self-doubt to wane.

I’ve often been amazed by studying folks with deep religious convictions. Even if I think their beliefs are pretty goofy, they use that as a foundation for success. Because it’s not the nature of the belief that matters. Rather, it’s the depth of that belief.

And, even if they believe in a purple polka-dotted elephant in the sky, if they truly believe that’s God, their faith helps them climb mountains.

As Jesus said, “Your faith has made you whole.”

Or as Dr. Wayne Dyer used to say: “You’ll see it when you believe it.”

All the focus, of course, being on the wanted rather than the unwanted.

The key is to simply keep focused on the desire.

Because successful people believe in themselves. Do they have self-doubts? Yep. But they play on their strengths more. Do they think they’re supposed to be successful? Yep. Do they know they have gaps in their knowledge or prowess? Yep. But they know they can circle back and pick up what they need.

And this, I know for true:

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

So how do you focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t?

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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42 comments
Colleen says March 22, 2017

Thanks for the reminder, Susan. I’m focusing on the wanted today! :O)

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Divya says March 22, 2017

I think I need to create a vision board and hang it up in my office so I see it every day. Images. Thoughts. All laid out in one place for me to see and get inspiration from.

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    Susan Malone says March 22, 2017

    Great idea, Divya! Reinforcing those images sure makes dreams come alive 🙂

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Rachel Lavern says March 22, 2017

Some people are not afraid of failing, but they are holding themselves back because they anticipate failure. No one would waste their time taking action if they had convinced themselves of a negative outcome. They need to change their belief, work on their mindset, tell themselves to give it a try anyway. Meditation, self-hypnosis, and visualization are possible tools to use to change the belief system. Also getting expert advice or consider changing the objective to one that’s more believable to them.

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Lisa Swanson says March 22, 2017

This really resonated with me. Each morning I’ll write out my goals, affirmations, what i truly want in my life in then by the afternoon I hear myself complaining, or utter words like “this will never work”. Not everyday, of course but it does happen. And sometimes we just roll with it and let it grow instead of catching ourselves and turning it around. Like anything, I think it takes practice. One thing I’ve noticed is if I take time for myself during the day, I’m a much more positive person and believe in my own success much easier.

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    Susan Malone says March 22, 2017

    That’s the key, Lisa–practice. I’ve always loved the quote by Zig Ziglar: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

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Tamuria says March 22, 2017

I really needed this great reminder this morning, Susan. I have been letting self-doubt hold the reins recently and it’s time to turn that around. Thank you.

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    Susan Malone says March 22, 2017

    I know that feeling, Tami. Funny how I tend to write what I need to hear 🙂

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Kristen Wilson says March 22, 2017

It’s ironic how certain parts of my life are great and those that I have no control over… aren’t so great… but I have gotten better about how I react to them and how I allow them (or don’t) to control me.

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2017

    I know that feeling, Kristen. But all we can do is choose how to react, and as you say, not let those things control us, no?

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Apolline Adiju says March 23, 2017

I have been considering making a vision board or sticky notes for my office. It will be good reminder to me of how to keep a positive mindset for success.

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2017

    I really like sticky notes, Apolline! They change based on what I’m working on at the time 🙂

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Sonya Kolodziejska says March 23, 2017

They say self doubt can kill a business and they’re not wrong! I read great business books to help keep me inspired and moving forward.

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Beverley Golden says March 23, 2017

One of the things that I have learned is the skill of objectively looking at what is happening from a “only the facts” perspective. This helps to remove the emotions and the lower ego self-talk that I am definitely subject to…and often. Another thing I continue hearing is to find something, regardless of how small, to be grateful for. Even in the most challenging of self-doubt moments. I guess if we can shift the perspective, we can shift our thoughts to more positive ones. Thanks for the reminder today, Susan. Lots of self-doubts in my world lately too!

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2017

    It’s all about perspective, isn’t it, Beverley! And gratitude works so wonderfully. We simply cannot be in gratitude and fear at the same time. I also love taking that “only the facts” perspective! Great tool.

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Candess M Campbell says March 23, 2017

Susan I love this! In my practice I have often had clients write out what they say to themselves and then challenge it. I did that myself and after awhile I quickly shifted my thinking in my mind as to not have to stop and write it out. There are lots of tricks for thinking positive and it is a practice. We are a whole system. What we do, think, feel and our physiology all affect each other! Be happy!

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2017

    I love the idea of writing it out, Candess! And looking at anything we think or say and ask, Am I 100% sure that’s true? Of course, it’s the quite rare case we can affirm that!

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Mary says March 23, 2017

Hmmmm, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I actively focus on what I want. I get a bit caught up in day to day activities so my focus is usually there. I’ll have to give this a try.

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2017

    Getting caught up in the day-to-day is so easy to do, Mary. We all have so much to do! But by focusing on the wanted, we get there a whole lot faster.

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Janella Panchamsingh says March 23, 2017

I find that I hold myself back because of fear that I will fail or simply by comparing myself to others

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    Susan Malone says March 23, 2017

    So true, Janella. It’s like we say in publishing–you can’t find an agent or publisher if the manuscript stays in the drawer!

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Vatsala Shukla says March 23, 2017

I remember reading an article many years ago that said we humans were capable of thinking over 83,000 negative thoughts in a day, Susan. Imagine the waste of grey cells!

It’s a better approach to focus on our end goal and use our resources to bolster our self-belief. Positive, self-confident people achieve a lot more than their negative fearful counterparts. No wonder Tony Robbins mentions Dr Emmet Fox’s The Seven Day Mental Diet in his book Awaken the Giant.

I’ve tried the diet and it does work with a little positive thinking.

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    Susan Malone says March 24, 2017

    I’ve seen many studies on our thoughts for the day, and isn’t it amazing that we’d spend 80,000 of them on negative ones. As you see, the waste!
    And oh, Vastal–I LOVE Emmet Fox! Studied him for many years. I need to pull back out his books! Thank you for the reminder 🙂

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Marielle Altenor says March 24, 2017

I am my worst enemy. I often find myself sabotaging my chances to happiness because I sometimes don’t feel like I’m worthy. I know I can do great things if I could just stop doubting myself so much.

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    Susan Malone says March 24, 2017

    Ah, but what a wonderful place you’re in, Mariella! Acknowledging a problem is 75% of fixing it. Now, you can address that, use tools to change your perception. And you’ll soar onto great things!

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Jim says March 24, 2017

What a timely post! Thank you for sharing.

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Reba Linker says March 26, 2017

You hit the nail on the head with this one: “The trick is, and it’s simple, really, to focus on what you do want instead. Although nobody said simple was easy!” That is it! And the tipping point is just that: over 50% is good, the more over, the better. Simple, but not easy! Sneeze on the truth: achoo!

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    Susan Malone says March 27, 2017

    I love the 50% rule, Reba! We can all do that, no? And I love ‘sneeze on the truth’!

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Katarina Andersson says March 27, 2017

So true, it is important to focus on what you do want, and try to step by step do small things to reac those goals.

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Lorii Abela says March 28, 2017

I agree. It takes consciousness or mindfulness to follow through. Thoughts can trick us to believe negatively so there is a need to observe and curve them.

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    Susan Malone says March 29, 2017

    Thoughts really can be tricky, Lorii! And observing them is 75% of the battle.

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Tanya Ince says March 28, 2017

Susan, this is a great post! And it perfectly resonates with this New Moon in Aries theme of saying “yes” to ourselves. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

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    Susan Malone says March 29, 2017

    Love that, Tanya–the New Moon in Aries saying yes to ourselves. Ahhh!

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Joyce Hansen says March 28, 2017

How do I focus on what I want? I get up every morning and turn on the computer and write. This is not what I thought I would be doing but it’s what I want to get better at. Impressive post, Susan.

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    Susan Malone says March 29, 2017

    And that’s just everything in a nutshell, isn’t it Joyce–get up and DO that thing you want to succeed at!

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Tandy Elisala says March 29, 2017

Susan, I relate to this article so much. One thing that helps me focus on what I DO want IS to get clarity on what I don’t want. Sometimes, this contrasting experience fuels me emotionally towards what I want in life. Thanks for your thoughts on this important topic.

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    Susan Malone says March 30, 2017

    Isn’t that contrast just the most wonderful thing, Tandy. Seeing what we don’t want helps oh-so much for finding clarity on what we do!

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