In the A-type world we live in today, we're very focused on doing stuff, on proving things and on showcasing our abilities. In our professional lives, we carefully consider how to best move forward and how to make a great impression.
We work hard. We strive. We are smart and strategic.
But are we our real and true selves?
And are we able to contribute our best to the world?
Given the conversations I have with my very talented and ambitious clients, I believe that, often, we are not.
Ironically, it seems that all this hard work actually keeps us from what might be most important in our careers: reaching our full potential and sharing our gifts and talents with the world.
What is keeping you from reaching your full potential?
Over the course of years, we develop strategies to deal with the opinions and judgment of others -- real or perceived and with our own fears and beliefs.
These strategies help us cope in a world where relations with others and with ourselves are often challenging at best.
The problem is that, because these stem from negativity, they don't help on a structural level, but they only serve as a patch. And worse, often they get so ingrained in our habitual responses, that they start to define the way we see ourselves.
How my strategies used to hold me back
Right. So that's all nice and theoretical. But what are we really talking about here?
Let me give you one of my own examples to make it a little more concrete.
From an early age I was very much occupied with other people. I was an empathic child and could almost sense what other people were thinking and even feeling. What may be (and now is) a talent, turned into a burden when it was combined with my ingrained need to be liked. Also, I was quite good at it, but I never actually checked if I was right. So I spun stories, based on assumptions by an inexperienced empathic...
One of the beliefs I developed was that I could cope with being handled unjustly or misunderstood, but the other person may not be able to handle my opinion. They might feel hurt or disappointed. And because I wanted basically everyone to like me, I couldn't let that happen!
So I developed a strategy to deal with that: I learned to fluently adapt my own needs and opinions to what (I thought) others wanted. Of course, the risk of that is that you get completely out of sink with who you really are and what you really want -- and that is exactly what happened to me.
The six most common strategies that keep you from reaching your full potential
There are six strategies people develop to deal with their fears and limiting beliefs:
Strategy 1: Striving for perfection to deal with the fear of not being good enough.
People who use this strategy are afraid that they might lose people if they would know who they truly are. Also, they may be afraid that the things they are really good at, aren't important or relevant.
Strategy 2: Making yourself seem smaller, less important, less significant to handle the fear of being fantastic.
This may not seem obvious, but think about the fear of alienating people by being too strong or the fear of people being jealous of you.
Strategy 3: Giving in to what others want to deal with the belief that people's feelings or opinions are more important (or more fragile) than yours.
This strategy comes from beliefs like the one I described: the belief you can handle being handled unjustly, but the other person may not be able to handle your opinion. Or the belief that, even though you feel you're right about something, you shouldn't tell that because you might hurt someone's feelings.
Strategy 4: Building a protective wall around you to cope with the fear of being vulnerable (either because you are afraid of being hurt or because you consider vulnerability weakness -- or both).
Think: Keeping up appearances and composure, not showing the real you. Also: Avoiding the real conversation, so you won't be told the things you are afraid to hear.
Strategy 5: Relying on outside sources, spending a lot of time gathering information and then thinking things through very, very carefully, to deal with the belief that listening to your intuition or gut feeling is just mambo jumbo.
People who do this ignore their feelings and intuition, to find out later that they were actually spot on.
Strategy 6: Accepting the next challenge, before you've properly ended the last, to deal with the belief that you should always strive for more.
People who have this as their main strategy, are always looking ahead, not enjoying the present moment.
How I handle these strategies every day.
To be honest: I use all of these strategies. But there are one or two that I most rely on, because the underlying fears and beliefs are my biggest ones.
To know these strategies and to see when, why and how I use them didn't make them go away. But slowly, over time, I do find I recognize them early on. And I can make a conscious choice whether or not I rely on one of my default strategies -- or choose a different path.
The fact that I've spend so much time getting to know myself and that I've learned to understand my fears and limiting beliefs by looking them in the eye, is helping me every day to choose a different way to deal with them.
It took me a while, but finally I grew into myself, as I like to call that.
Growing into yourself
I really believe personal development -- or Growing into Yourself -- is the key to creating a life you love and to doing work that makes a difference in the world, while at the same time helping you to reach your full potential. It took me plenty of time to take the steps I needed to take to get on the right track.
I now love to help people move past the barriers that keep them stuck. One of the ways I do that is by offering you a cool free test to find out which of these is your default strategy. Of course, I'll also give you some tips on how to move past each of them.