What’s holding you back? I don’t mean what external factors are keeping you from progressing. I’m not talking about the financial barriers, the lack of time, or the attitudes of others that may slow you down. Our circumstances change, people come and go, we have winning seasons, and we suffer losses, too. Because our circumstances are so unpredictable, we can’t allow our them to dictate how we are doing. Money and material possessions do not bring true happiness. Relationships do not make us whole. And even when we have extra time on our hands, we still don’t always use it wisely. We can have all of time, money, relationships, and resources possible and still not feel satisfied.
Do these factors impact us in a variety of ways? Yes. But what I’m really concerned about are those internal barriers that limit our growth and keep us from “living our best lives”. What is really keeping you from experiencing joy? What is within you that’s preventing you from becoming a better version of yourself? None of us are perfect and perfection is unattainable, but we all have room for growth. We all have the capacity to reach new heights. We all have goals, vision, and purpose in this life, even if we aren’t sure of what that is yet. We all want to be happy and content. If we only focus outward, we’ll never find what we’re really seeking. We’ll search and never find because we’ll be looking in the wrong places. It’s important that we spend time looking deep into ourselves so that we can identify what is hindering us from experiencing greater.
So I ask you again – what’s holding you back? There are a number of internal battles that may influence us, but below are a few common struggles that you may relate to:
Distractions & Mental Health
Have you been distracted lately? Maybe you’re preoccupied with the events happening in our world, busy with school or work, overwhelmed with problems in your relationships with others, or putting all of your focus on your external circumstances. Or have you been avoiding looking inward and instead finding ways to distract yourself such as binge watching Netflix, exercising, constantly cleaning, loading up your daily to-do lists with other household duties? Maybe you’ve even just been experiencing mere unproductiveness such as playing the Sims for hours at a time (guilty).
Whether you’ve been unknowingly distracted or intentionally keeping yourself busy, it is important to note these are not bad things. This pandemic is definitely anxiety provoking. School and work can absolutely be exhausting. If you’re experiencing mental health challenges, relationship challenges, or any other challenges, the thoughts and feelings you’re dealing with are real and can make it difficult to concentrate. Just getting out of the bed on certain days may be a win for you. So if you want to have movie nights to relax your mind, keep doing what you need to do to stay sane. Self care is necessary.
However, as discussed in one of my previous posts, there is a difference between healing and coping. There is also a difference between choosing to remain where we are and deciding to be intentional about our growth. This post is not to shame anyone who is tired after a long day or barely staying afloat, but instead to encourage those who feel stuck. And for anyone who may be struggling with mental health challenges, I recommend seeking support whether this be via therapy, mentorship, spiritual guidance, or even a community group. Don’t be afraid to take that step.
So is distraction the real culprit of what’s holding you back?
Maybe you’re more like me. Maybe you’ve been struggling with insecurities and identity issues that you didn’t even know you had. I recently realized I’m not all that confident in myself. I often don’t think I’m good enough and experience anxiety when I fall short. I’ve noticed that I tend to hesitate when it comes to sharing my ideas or taking on positions of leadership because I view myself as ordinary. Nothing special here. That other person probably has more valuable ideas and is probably a better fit for the position. I sometimes struggle to speak my mind in an effort to avoid conflict, and I’ve subconsciously kept parts of myself hidden as a way of gaining and maintaining approval from others. I guess they call this people pleasing. Unfortunately the need for validation can be toxic to ourselves as well as those we have relationships with.
These self-defeating thoughts have a power over me that I’m working to regain control over. If I tell myself I’m not good enough, then why would I even try? If I’m more concerned with what others may think of me, how can I ever fully walk as the woman God called me to be? Overcoming this requires a level of confidence that needs to be strengthened within me if I ever want to tap into my potential. I have to recognize who I truly am deep down, when no one is looking. I have to seek God and find out how He intended for me to live which is Free. Not bound by the opinions and expectations of others. Not bogged down by anxiety. Not consumed with trying to be perfect in efforts to prove myself worthy.
Another related struggle is self-doubt and being unrealistically hard on ourselves. Is this a challenge you have? Having difficulty forgiving yourself, feeling that you deserve to be punished, believing you are not doing your best even when you actually are putting in so much effort? This mindset has the power to keep us down and causes us to beat ourselves up. To be ridiculed by others can hurt, but to shame ourselves is far worse. The good news is that God does not see us that way. He forgives and does not hold our shortcomings against us. He hates seeing us treat ourselves so harshly. We have to stay reminded of His truths.
So what about you – have insecurities and conflicts with your self-worth been keeping you bound? Your struggle with these may look totally different from mine. Insecurities show up in various ways, from lack of self-love to not knowing who you are at all. So if insecurity and/or identity issues impact you in any way, I encourage you to take time to consider what sorts of self-defeating thoughts have you been rehearsing, and what are the truths that can replace those thoughts? For example: rather than me viewing myself as “just ordinary,” the truth is that I have been uniquely made and actually have so much to offer this world.
**When you self-reflect, be sure to include the holy spirit in that conversation. When we self-reflect without seeking God, we may end up condemning ourselves. Instead, when we involve God in that process, He is gentle and loving, and will show us who He says we are.Tip from my therapist
Another common culprit that hinders our forward progress is fear. Fear of falling short, fear of the unknown, fear of disappointment, fear of being hurt or hurting someone else, fear of the opinions of others, fear of taking the first step, fear of criticism, fear of failing, etc. But one thing I know for certain is that fear and faith are incompatible.
If you struggle to move forward because of deeply rooted fear, then first you will need to acknowledge the fear and then you will need to strengthen your faith in those areas. There is nothing too big, too hard, or too scary for God. If He placed that vision inside of you, then allow Him to use you to accomplish His purposes for your life. You can trust Him to carry you through it. This doesn’t mean you won’t fall, and it doesn’t mean it will be easy. Not knowing what’s to come is scary, but we don’t have to let that fear paralyze us.
I’m a believer that we are only made whole in Christ. No person, no amount of money, and no earthly accomplishment will ever complete us. These things do not provide lasting happiness. God is what we’re really seeking. He is the provider of true joy and contentment. But what happens when we struggle to believe that and don’t really trust Him? When we don’t understand His ways? When we’re secretly angry at Him? Or when we think we’ve messed up so bad that we don’t even feel worthy of His love and grace?
Spirituality is so complex. We all have such different journeys, thoughts, emotions, past experiences, and current circumstances. No two people will ever have identical relationships with God. However, what I can say with confidence is that He loves you and wants the very best for you. He has great plans for you. He wants your “yes”. Choosing to walk with Him won’t be easy, but it is worth it.
If you have even the faith of a mustard seed, He can work with that. The fear, the lack of trust in Him, the worry, the insecurities, the mental challenges we deal with, the anger, the sadness, the confusion – when we say “yes” and have even the slightest faith in Him, He will take care of it all. He would rather we bring these things to Him, being totally transparent about how we feel, than for us to shut down and turn away from Him. He can provide that healing. He can provide that confidence. He can make you new. He can help you to overcome any and everything that’s holding you back, and He can also provide you with the happiness you’ve been searching for.
So I ask one more time – what’s holding you back? While we can still acknowledge our external circumstances, let’s shift our focus and begin looking inward. Identifying and overcoming our weaker areas, soft spots, and short-comings will make us better individuals which also means we will be able to operate more efficiently and accomplish greater in this lifetime. The healing and character development that come from fighting through our internal battles will be worth it.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world,
and loses his own soul?”