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Are You Unconsciously Holding Yourself Back?

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

That Nagging Feeling

Do you have this nagging feeling that you’re holding yourself back? Maybe you’re even aware of your insecurity and you just overcome it with a mantra like “fake it until you make it” (one of my favorites). Or maybe you are aware you have an authority complex because you’re mouth goes dry when you are called into your boss’s office only to find out she just wants your take on something.

I remember a distinct moment I realized I was standing in my own way. Even though I accomplished everything I set out to do, I always felt I didn’t quite achieve as much as I could have. As I was reflecting about an award I was to receive I realized I had always sought out reassurance from others that I could do something, which wasn’t all bad because at least I asked for what I needed to move forward, but I also realized something sinister going on in the background of my life. I had this mind-blowing realization that my seemingly altruistic motivation for giving back was actually my desperate need for validation. Initially feeling demoralized at this insight, I eventually just embraced it and my breaking down in tears during my speech was like a big dose of antibiotics as I realized the truth that I am worthy because I exist, not because of my good deeds.

I share this because I realized that the psychological need for validation was the source of the invisible obstacles I kept coming up against. Once I explored the shadow part of my good intentions, I became liberated from the need to receive validation from anyone other than my transpersonal source. Since then I have felt unleashed, and without that nagging need for validation I not only have a different type of confidence, I connect with those I lead and interact with in a more powerful way. By tearing down the wall of a psychological need to get something, there is this space between me and all I encounter that is filled with trust, love, and the kind of interaction that leaves people feeling nourished.

Try This!

With my new expertise in depth psychology, I have a framework and language to offer this kind of self-exploration to others who have a nagging feeling they may be holding themselves back. Here are some things you can try in order to explore the source of what may be holding you back.

Strong emotions are key - Try journaling about times in the past when you had a strong emotion to someone or something. Is there a co-worker that annoys you or brings out one of your areas of insecurity? This is a great place to start, because like it or not, that thing that annoys you is a mirror of something going on inside you. For example, passive aggressive people really leave me feeling

stressed and annoyed. I had to consciously find my own passive aggressive tendencies and accept this part of me, which likely acted as a strategy I used to navigate the challenges of childhood. Try journaling about this person or event and then ask yourself “When did I feel this way in childhood?” Identifying this will lessen the power this complex has over you.

Someone who disgusts and intrigues – Is there someone who infuriates you but at the same time also intrigues you? It’s like you really admire them but are uncomfortable with them at the same time? This is a clue about something in you that is an undeveloped potential. For example, I discovered a theme in the two reality TV shows that I was obsessed with for a period of time. The two shows featured women who were super talented, influential and came across as "arrogantly" confident (Millionaire Matchmaker and Tabitha Salon Takeover). At the same time I fantasized about being as influential and successful as they were, their language and extreme direct approach made me so uncomfortable. I came to realize that their arrogant confidence reflected a need to further develop my own confidence. Try journaling about someone like this in your life and especially explore what disgusts you about them, which may be code for “this is missing in myself.”

Dreams offer clues – C.G. Jung suggested that dreams compensate for your waking life, that the images in your dream are often telling you what is missing in your life. For example, if your dreams contain a lot of violence and include images of you stabbing someone for example, you may be repressing these negative but important emotions during the day. Your dream may be telling you that you need to find a way of honoring the anger or other negative emotion you’re trying to repress. Many times, as a result of exploring intense negative feelings, new insights come about, which causes the negative energy to transmute into some creative idea or pursuit. Start by writing down your dream and then taking one of the images and writing down everything it makes you think about and then ask yourself “Where is this in my life?” You might be surprised what you find.

Movies you watch over and over – C.G. Jung suggests that images are the language of the unconscious, and going to the movies offers a great opportunity to explore those mysterious unconscious motivations behind your thinking and behaving. I seem to be particularly sensitive to film images, and I have unexpectedly learned the most interesting things about myself by exploring my emotional reactions to film. Sometimes it’s obvious why you feel a certain way after watching a film, but sometimes a film may affect you in an unexpected way. Or if you’re obsessed with romantic comedies, there may be an underlying unconscious reason for that that goes beyond the obvious. I’m still processing everything that Wonder Woman means to me (I’ve seen it six times). Simply become more aware that films offer you an opportunity to explore your unconscious and become curious about their effect on you and journal about it.

As always, I love to hear your stories if you want to share. Check out my website ( for services I offer to individuals, groups and companies. I love working with people who want to understand themselves better in order to find a greater sense of purpose or to overcome obstacles. Exploring reactions to periods of transition, loss, struggle, and disappointment are perfect openings to go deeper to find the hidden treasure needed to grow and to find one’s unique purpose. I seek to empower people with practical approaches to tapping into the wisdom of their unconscious, for example working with dreams, psychological type, complexes, how we relate to our body and mind, and even emotional reactions to film and music.

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