The 3 Ways You Are Holding Back In Work And Life (Takes Initiative)

You're doing it right now. Holding yourself back, pulling away from opportunity, shying away from the light. But, you're not alone. Everyone makes excuses why they can't put themselves out there, but for this 29 year-old, turning 30 means it's time to stop the self sabotage.

holding back
Photo: Pixabay/Dimitrisvetsikas1969

Holding back is a concept familiar to most people.

As a child, when you’re dared to jump into the water from the highest ledge and hesitate, or in high school when you talk yourself out of auditioning for the school play, you are actively holding back.

Hey, we’ve all been there. Ask me what I’m best at and I’d say it’s coming up with excuses for why something wouldn’t be worth the potential failure. It takes a while to open up enough and realize that no one is going to point and laugh if you fall. It requires an even longer amount of time to recognize that you won’t be lesser for having tried.

So this, two days till my 30th birthday, is my pledge to stop holding back and start pulling ahead. I may not succeed, but hey, I'm entering a new decade, so if not now then when?

For every day we decide not to share that great idea, partake in that Zoomba class, or to wait until next year’s 24 hour film festival, we end up right back on that ledge, where you can hear the chants of your friends and stare at the water below.

So what’s holding you back? Why can’t you just jump?

You're Holding Back Because…You’re Waiting

“Well, of course I would start that big side project today if I could! But I should really focus on what I currently have on my plate.”

“Sure, I’d love to present my idea to my boss! But I really need to make sure it’s 100% perfect before I make the approach.”

“I could do that online course on the weekend, sure, but I think I need to unwind with some Netflix first…”

Sound familiar?

You will always find a reason not to take a major step in your life and career, because making a change is scary, and we all tend to fill with self-doubt when the chips are down.

Truth is you’re waiting for a ‘perfect time’ that may never exist. Making a bold move involves an inherent risk. And because you’re putting yourself out on a limb, that small protective voice in your head is trying to save you from the possibility of pain. The problem is, of course, that you end up waiting for a time that will never come.

That’s OK. It’s a normal reaction to confronting the unknown.

According to Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty, if you wait for a “perfect” time to start something, you end up ruining an important part of the growth process. As he puts it:

“If you kill the butterflies in your stomach, you’ll kill the dream. Most people back away when they get that nervous, uncomfortable feeling. But that feeling signals you’re doing something that matters to you. Embrace the feeling. Lean into the discomfort. Try to understand what the feeling is telling you. Train yourself in the alchemy of fear.”

The expression ‘forged in the fire of adversity,” certainly rings true here. So how can you start taking steps despite uncertainty?

Solution: Start anyway. Even if it’s something as small as clearing a space on your desk for your side-hustle paperwork or organizing time in your calendar, take a beat to evaluate a small step you can take today to get started. Every amazing project, idea, and company started with a small step. Eliminate your “all-or-nothing” thought process and opt for small incremental steps.

You're Holding Back Because…You’re Not Asking Questions

No matter where you are in your career at this very moment, there is one universal truth—you can always be learning more. Regardless of whether or not you’ve landed your dream job, there are people around you with vast untapped knowledge.

Asking questions can still come attached to some stigma. You’re scared to look dumb or as though you haven’t been paying attention. As the old saying goes, “There are no dumb questions.” You’d hardly look down on a teammate or supervisor if they needed to clarify a point in a meeting, would you? Of course not.

Even inquiring about your own interests, hobbies, future goals and dreams, can help you better understand yourself.

Liz Guthridge of the Connect Consulting Group and a Forbes contributor, says:

“The act of tackling new topics, especially outside your main line of work, can be empowering and enlightening. Plus, your new found knowledge can position you for new opportunities.”

Solution: Questions are a great way to open up doors and absorb as much knowledge as you can. The key to asking questions lies in reawakening your curiosity, and pushing yourself to engage more with your colleagues (you never know where people have worked and what they’ve studied!). Not sure where to start? Begin by learning more about those around you, ask about where they’re from, what hobbies they have, any interesting articles they’ve stumbled across.

You're Holding Back Because…You’re Not Holding Yourself Accountable

You planned to be done with Chapter 1 of your novel by the end of this month, and as the deadline comes and goes you say to yourself, “Well, I was really busy, so I’ll give myself till the end of this month to finish it.” Then, of course, the next month rolls past without a single page written.

While I’m a big proponent of giving yourself a break when needed, holding yourself accountable is really the best way to get ahead.

Solution: Remaining accountable can mean something as simple as having a friend, family member, or significant other prod you every once in awhile. Or it can mean setting up a reward/(gentle!)punishment system to help keep your goals in mind. Greater still, set your goals into smaller bite-size chunks. This can help you stay motivated as you step one foot successfully after another. Experiment with different methods of accountability to find one that keeps you on track.


Holding back is a universal instinct, one that everyone has experienced in one form or another. It's not easy to peel off our layers of protection and focus on our potential, but without vulnerability and an open mind, there can be no success.

So what are you waiting for?


Holding Back
Tara has been writing for over 6 years, from stand-up comedy, to think-pieces, to political satire and blog posts. She now writes and edits for, and her door is open to any interested contributors.