Here’s a hard truth about personal growth: Most of the barriers that are standing in between you and the version of yourself that you want to become are not coming from other people or the world around you. They’re coming from inside of you. To create positive change in your life, you have to learn how to get out of your own way so that you can feel happier, have better relationships, and reach your full potential.
The challenge is that these internal barriers to happiness and success are silent sleepers. They whisper to you in the form of half-conscious assumptions about what’s possible for you, or in little lies you tell yourself, or in old patterns that you don’t know how to change. Sometimes it takes support from someone like a good life coach to begin recognizing your internal barriers for what they are so that you can begin making real progress.
I’ve created this article to help you begin thinking about the common barriers people face, based on my own experience as a counselor, a life coach, and a human on her own journey of growth. I hope it helps you step aside and make space in your life for greater clarity, direction, and growth.
If you’d prefer to listen, I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this subject. You can find it on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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How to Get Out of Your Own Way: Be Honest with Yourself
The number-one way that I see people getting in their own way is by failing to be honest with themselves. To be fair, being honest with yourself isn’t easy. We all feel resistance to looking at the aspects of our personalities and our choices that make us feel bad. Being honest with yourself requires self-awareness, courage, and the ability to sit with emotional discomfort. But it is so worth it.
When you’re not being honest with yourself, you’re getting in the way of your own personal growth. Avoiding important truths can make less-than-ideal circumstances easier to tolerate… and that’s exactly the problem. You don’t want to tolerate your life, you want to take control and steer your ship in a positive direction. You cannot do that if you are using defensiveness, denial, or playing mental games that blot out reality while keeping you from becoming self-empowered.
The truth is your friend. It really will set you free. But don’t make the mistake of believing that being honest with yourself means being self-critical or beating yourself up for your imperfections. When you love someone, you can be honest with them while also being kind. You can demonstrate love for yourself by telling yourself the truth while maintaining self-compassion.
Interestingly, developing a more supportive relationship with yourself makes it easier to stay in contact with the truth, because you won’t need to use mental gymnastics to hide things from the mean, scary critic who lives inside of you. So you can feel better about yourself, while also unleashing your potential for personal growth. A win-win!
Self-Limiting Beliefs and Getting Out of Your Own Way
Your beliefs hold so much power. They’re an invisible force that shapes your life, so it’s very important to choose them with care.
I use the word “choose” deliberately. There are always multiple ways to look at just about everything; that’s why two people can have the same experience and tell very different stories at the end, both of which are valid and true in their own way. Your beliefs are simply the meaning that you make out of your experiences, and meaning making is an active, creative process that involves making choices.
You can choose beliefs that are helpful to you, and that make it easier to live the life you want. These beliefs will be characterized by your empowerment and agency, rather than your victimization. They will acknowledge your enormous potential for growth, rather than telling you a false story about your skills and strengths being an unchangeable part of who you are. They will help you feel worthy of love and respect, rather than making you feel toxic shame or self-pity.
But, we all have some beliefs that do not support our goals or our personal growth. Learning to recognize and dismantle these self-limiting beliefs is an important part of getting out of your own way. It can be hard to notice your self-limiting beliefs, or how they’re draining your motivation. They can reside in a very deep place that’s not totally accessible to your conscious mind. They may genuinely feel like “rules” of the universe, rather than a story you’ve made up about yourself (or one you’ve inherited from someone else).
This is where working with a good life coach can be incredibly helpful. A big part of the coaching process is uncovering these self-imposed limitations, challenging them, and replacing them with more helpful mindsets that move you forward. As you begin noticing your limiting beliefs, you’ll start to reframe the things you “can’t” do as things that you have chosen not to do. This is how you get out of your own way and get back in the driver’s seat of your life.
Using Your Habits to Get Out of Your Own Way
We all have habits, whether we’re thinking about them or not. Your habits can be something that “just happens,” or they can be something you design with intention to create the life you want for yourself.
Every big goal you have for your life requires supportive habits. If you want to get ahead at work, you need to regularly engage in habits like planning your time and learning new skills. If you want to take good care of your body (and I hope you do), you need habits like brushing and flossing every day, eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
The magic of a habit is that eventually you can do it without having to think about it. It requires less mental energy than a task you have to do just once. You don’t have to wrestle with your willpower to get yourself motivated to brush your teeth before bed. You just get up and do it, because it’s a deeply ingrained habit that you started forming as a small child. In fact, I would bet that brushing your teeth is a part of your identity. Deep down, you believe you are the kind of person who brushes their teeth. Not doing it would feel weird and wrong.
If you feel like you’re getting in your own way, try harnessing the power of habit (especially a keystone habit) and looking for ways to build a routine that is more supportive of your success. Breaking bad habits can be even more important than creating new ones; if you’re doing something that’s destructive or self-defeating and you don’t know how to stop, getting support can be the most important thing you’ll ever do.
Stop Self-Sabotage and Get Out of Your Own Way
Setting goals is fabulous, but not everything we do is in service of our conscious goals. No one’s goal is to play nine hours of video games on a weekday when they need to be searching for a job, and yet someone is probably doing that right now.
So, why is that? Why do any of us engage in self-sabotage? We might believe that it’s a failure of willpower or self-discipline, and that can certainly be part of what’s happening. But I think it’s more useful to explore the other goals you might be trying to accomplish through “self-sabotage,” particularly the goals that are lurking in your subconscious mind.
The guy who can’t stop playing video games may have an unconscious goal to avoid the anxiety of job searching, or the possibility of rejection, or the overwhelming sense of uncertainty he feels about making a big decision about his future. Playing “Skyrim” for nine hours straight could be a great way to accomplish those goals, at least for a little while. At some point, he’ll notice the sun going down and the bad feelings will start creeping back in. He may wonder why he is the way he is and decide that it’s because he’s just a lazy loser. That thought is going to hurt, and to get relief from that pain, he might have to play some more “Skyrim.”
You can see how the cycle of self-sabotage perpetuates itself. When you notice yourself doing something that’s self-defeating, try to be curious about why that is and the deeper underlying feelings you might be trying to manage. Then you can choose to deal with those feelings in a better way that does not hold you back.
Support for Creating Positive Change
We all get a little stuck sometimes, and that is what life coaching is for. Getting support from a life coach can help you increase your self-awareness, uncover your limiting beliefs, form positive new habits, and put an end to self-sabotaging behaviors. That is how you get out of your own way and take charge of your future.
I wish you all the luck on your journey of personal growth. And if you would like some support from a therapist or life coach on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
P.S. — For more advice on getting unstuck and building the life you want, check out my “Moving Forward, Fearlessly” collection of articles and podcasts.
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Music in this episode is by The XX with their song “Intro.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://thexx.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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