10 Things That Hold Us Back

In life, there are many difficulties and roadblocks that stand in our way of achieving our goals. In movies and the media, these difficulties are often portrayed as things outside of ourselves. And, while in many situations, that is true, there are other times when the roadblocks are created by us. 

It’s easy to see the material and what others do, but it is difficult to see what we do to ourselves and others. We often think it is the right thing and when we are confronted we often do not take it well. There can be many reasons for this but if we do not work on ourselves and become aware we do end up becoming our own roadblocks. 

Sometimes these behaviors are things that we learn and are enforced by society so it’s even more difficult to address. If you want to know if you’re standing in your own way keep reading to know 10 things that hold us back. 

This article is not meant to diagnose or treat. This article is for education and entertainment purposes only. If you need any type of help or advice, please reach out to a mental health professional. 

1- Expectations

Have you ever thought that your partner, family, or friend would know exactly what you’re feeling or wanted without telling them because they’ve known you for a while so it’s what they should know? 

You may have also expected something to happen how you thought it would, a situation to go a certain way or someone to act how you perceived was the correct way only to be disappointed in the end. Many of us have done this, unfortunately, having unspoken expectations doesn’t get us anywhere. 

Whether for good or for bad, most people can’t read minds. Although, there are a few sensitive people out there who might be in tune with your needs but even they need a little verbal help sometimes. 

The worst thing about expectations isn’t necessarily the disappointment but the resentment we feel towards the person or situation. We feel sad and resentful that things didn’t go according to plan, maybe even a little bit shameful. 

But if you didn’t talk about certain expectations to people, how are they supposed to know that’s what you wanted or that was how you felt? 

In my personal experience, whenever I have expectations and feel shame, it is because I know that I should have communicated better and I didn’t. So, in part this disappointment I’m feeling is my own fault. At the same time, I don’t want to admit that at the moment so I start being resentful towards the other person. 

The problem with this is that these negative emotions hold us back from creating deeper connections, from getting ourselves out there, learning new things, and many other things that might propel us in the different parts of our lives. 

We need to remember that not everybody shares our views and our beliefs. People have their own needs, wants, and problems. They are whole worlds within themselves and the only way to get what we want or meet in the middle is by communicating properly, not by expecting the other person to read your mind. 

Or expecting a certain situation to be what you imagined it. Life and people are unpredictable, things happen, but with a little communication and flexibility we can make lemonade out of the lemons that life sometimes throws at us. 

2- How you view your self-worth

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Do you believe that the approval of others or that things outside of you will make you more valuable to other people? According to the Counseling Center of the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), self-worth is the internal sense of being good enough and worthy of love and belonging from others. The Counseling Center of UNCW states that sometimes self-worth and self-esteem are confused. But, self-esteem relies on external factors to define worth. 

“Relying on external factors can often be inconsistent leading to someone struggling with feeling worthy”, the Counseling Center of UNCW states on their website. 

One example of this is tying your self-worth to comparing yourself to others. No one is the same, no one has the same strengths and weaknesses. And they are not in the same stage of life as others. 

Comparing yourself to other people will inevitably make you feel unworthy because you can’t seem to equal their success, beauty, coolness, etc. This is especially true when comparing yourself to people on social media. 

We forget that those pictures are manipulated and that the success they appear to be enjoying may not be real or it comes only after years of working hard. We compare our lowest points to their highlight reels and that is unrealistic. 

Doing this and later developing a negative view of yourself and your life will make you cut yourself out from the wonderful things that are happening to you. All the opportunities, dreams, and goals that you had will drown in your negative thoughts threatening to never see themselves fulfilled. 

Another aspect of our personal lives that our view of self-worth affects negatively is relationships. More specifically, staying in relationships because we don’t think we deserve better. 

When our self-worth hits rock bottom, we don’t put up boundaries and we accept anything that comes. We make ourselves believe that the bad treatment we get is rightly due and that there is nothing better out there. 

This robs us of our lives in every aspect from relationships to experiences. Your life stops to stay in the pain and suffering. 

3- Your Attachment to things

There are different ways in which attachment to things can hold you back. One way is professional. While wanting something specific is not bad, not heeding advice and refusing to change the original idea because you are so attached to it might end up in disaster. 

Anyone in any professional setting can tell you that things can change in an instant, so if that vision that you had, whether is an idea or a potential job that you wanted to do, doesn’t change in some way or your view doesn’t change you might end up sabotaging yourself and spoiling the opportunity to get something better. 

A similar dynamic happens to the attachment to things and people. Attachment to things, can prevent you from getting something better for yourself, and depending on what it is, it can be a safety and health hazard. 

Attachment to people can turn the relationship toxic and prevent people from living their lives. You can prevent yourself from living your life and exploring more relationships outside of what you know. Which keeps you stuck in a place with no growth.

The attachment you have with that one awful thing someone said to you all those years ago will fill you with rage and resentment that can spill out into the rest of your life, damaging it.  

To prevent getting stuck, destruction, and not succeeding it is important to learn how and when to let go of things and people. Everyone lets things go in their own way, so exploring how you let things go is a good investment for a better life. 

4- Avoiding the discomfort of learning new skills

Image Credit/ Andrea Piacquadio

Have you ever felt resistance when it came to learning something new whether it was at work or another aspect of your life? While for some people it’s easy to learn new things, for others it is very frustrating. 

For the latter, it feels like there is no stability. They now have to learn how to climb another mountain after they finally learned to climb the last one. It feels like there is no rest and, sometimes, no true goal in sight. 

These feelings are what make learning new skills uncomfortable and what holds us back. While valid, emotions like these ones prevent us from acquiring knowledge that would likely help us get that promotion or enable us to have that adventure we always wanted to have. 

The world around us is always changing, it makes sense that the skills required to live in the world change as well. 

5- Feeling like you need to be better

Do you often feel that you need more preparation in order to do something? It’s easy to feel like you are behind when you look around and see job postings asking that their applicants be able to dominate an array of things that you probably never thought of. 

Or when you see so many other people with various degrees, certifications, specialties, and diplomas. You may feel like you need to be better in order to go after what you really want since many in that area have so much to offer. 

While bettering yourself is generally good, feeling like you always need to be better can set you back. It can get you caught up in the mindset of “When I get better at this, then I’ll be ready to do it”. Only to later feel like you need to be better at something else before you go after your dream. 

This cycle keeps going, trapping you in the perpetual mindset of becoming better. But not actually doing anything with the knowledge you have obtained and never reaching your original goals. 

The truth is, most of the people who you see or think are successful, had to throw themselves out there and learn things along the way in order to get where they are. Yes, some had previous schooling or knowledge, but others did not. These people got better by practicing while they went after their dreams instead of the other way around. 

6- Bringing back people from your past 

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Reaching out to people in our past because we are lonely can keep the old patterns and cycles going. Not only that, it will re-establish a connection that might not serve you anymore except to harm you. 

It will make it more difficult to get over that person. And if you were already trying to move on, you will have to re-do all of the work that you had already done. 

If it is a toxic person, then it will plummet you further into negative thoughts and difficult situations. All of this contributes to not truly moving on, getting stuck, and not finding your true happiness. 

Maybe there’s someone else who wants to get to know you and will treat you better but you are ignoring that person for someone from your past that you know will not add anything of value to you or your life. 

You also run the risk of not fully healing your own wounds and patterns, instead, making them bigger and worse. It can cause friction with family, friends, even at work, and it can worsen your mental health. 

7- Judging people 

Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’? When it comes to people it is the same dynamic. While there are people who are the same way they portray themselves always, there are other people who have layers to them. 

And their ‘cover’ may not contain everything that is to know about them. It may not even be how they truly are but a temporary mask that they use to participate with on the outside until they feel comfortable enough to be themselves. 

Judging people before we know them can prevent us from making meaningful relationships, from acquiring different perspectives, or even helping someone in need. It can also set the precedent for judging everyone we think are not to par with our beliefs. 

Which in turn, traps us in a mindset that does not let us become open-minded and accepting to others. It keeps us within limits that we may have outgrown but we are unwilling to let go of, so we stop our own growth mentally and emotionally. 

8- The Critic (or Judge) and The Victim

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Our minds are wonderful and powerful things, able to create beyond measure. The problem is that sometimes what it creates is a slew of negative thoughts that lowers our self-esteem. 

Medicine people and psychologists often tell of two voices in our heads that are the ones responsible for all of the negative thoughts we have: the critic and the victim. The critic puts you down and undermines what you do by brutally criticizing you. 

The victim tells tales of woe. It makes you believe you aren’t worthy by telling you things like ‘I don’t have what it takes, I’ll never make it’. ‘I won’t talk to them, I’ll know what they’ll say anyway. It’s not worth it’. 

These two voices conspire to knock you out of your plans and make you feel sorry for yourself in a corner. It is important to learn how to recognize them and realize that you can do whatever you set your mind to. It just might take some time to get there. 

9- Your Fears

‘Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will’ – Suzy Kassem 

This American poet portrays the reality of so many people in the world. Fear, while important for survival, can overcome us at times. And, it is in these times, that we hide and let go of our dreams because of the fear of rejection. 

Sometimes it’s the fear of failure, other times it’s the fear of what other people think or the fear of success. Whichever fear it is, if you let it overcome you completely it will hold you back from doing what you most want to do. Because of something that might or might not happen. 

Instead of asking yourself ‘What if this bad thing happens?’, train yourself to ask, ‘What if this good thing happens?’

A lot of opportunities are lost by only concentrating on the negative ‘what ifs’. If you really want to reach that goal, it’s time to look into the positives of what might happen. 

10- Waiting for the “right time”

Have you ever wanted to wait for the correct moment to have that conversation or take that step you’ve been thinking about for a while? Unfortunately, the right moment may never truly come because there is no “right” moment for anything. 

There could be more conducive or less stressed moments, but no right ones. There are too many things outside of yourself that can happen and that you can’t control. Including that person, you want to talk to. Situations can go swimmingly or they can be absolute chaos. 

Waiting for the “right time”, will deprive you of other things that need your attention as well as of opportunities that could have been better than “the right time”.  And, that conversation that you’ve been waiting to have, you should have it now before things get out of your ability to control. 

Of course, don’t have difficult conversations when the other person is going through something difficult or isn’t capable of handling the conversation. But, other than that there is no correct moment to have a difficult conversation. Difficult will always be difficult no matter the time or the day. 

Just be kind, truthful, open, vulnerable, and understanding. That will open many doors for you and the conversation will have more probability of running smoothly. 

Do you identify with anything on this list? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below with your stories. Follow our Youtube channel for more things about psychology and mental health. Thank you for reading. 

Image Credit/ Ketut Subiyanto


Counseling Center. (s. f.). Self Worth. University of North Carolina Wilmington. https://uncw.edu/counseling/selfworth.html

Dozier, M. E., & Ayers, C. R. (2020, 25 agosto). Object Attachment as We Grow Older. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7445186/#:%7E:text=Object%20attachment%20is%20the%20experience,with%20the%20object%20%5B4%5D.

Scott, E. (2021, 10 October). The Stress of Your Expectations vs. Reality. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/expectation-vs-reality-trap-4570968

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