Why We Hold Ourselves Back


Photo: Thomas Frost Jensen / Creative Commons

I recently came across this blog post from Ramit Sethi, who blogs about money management, psychology and creating systems for personal improvement at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Despite the somewhat shady name, his blog is full of thought-provoking content about what he describes as “living a rich life” in all areas (finance, fitness, travel, etc.)

Here’s what he wrote about wanting more:

I realized that most people want you to stay exactly where you are in life — and if you explicitly talk about how you want more, they get really uncomfortable.

This is why you see people telling you to “just be happy you have a job in this economy” if you talk about finding a Dream Job.

This is why if you tell your friends you want to lose weight (especially if you’re a woman), your friends will say, “Why? You don’t need to change. You look amazing!”

And this is why, if you tell your friends you’re staying in tonight to work on a project or study for a class you’re taking, what will they say? “Come on, man…it’s Friday. You can do that any time.”

But it’s not just other people who hold us back.

Ramit writes often about invisible scripts, the deeply embedded but often sub-conscious thought patterns that govern our lives. When they’re negative, they can cripple us and prevent us from taking actions toward our dreams.

Whether it has to do with money (“All wealth is bad”) or learning something new (“I’m just not naturally athletic/ good with numbers/ etc”), people often have certain messages on repeat that stop them from even trying to move forward.

Actually, the world wants us to be vanilla… They never realize that by creating a lifetime of deferred enjoyment, you never built up the muscle to know how to demand — and enjoy — more.

– Ramit Sethi


As I’ve been thinking lately about completing the goals on my list, I’ve naturally adjusted to a mindset of more. I could think of lots of reasons why this list is too ambitious and I won’t be able to do some of the things I wrote about. But frankly, that gets me nowhere.

Even if I don’t achieve everything on the list by September, at least I will have opened myself up to so much more just by trying.


Photo: weheartit

This year, there are a couple of things I want more of:

  • Time for creativity – The older and more self-aware I become, the more I realize how little tolerance I have for routine and the workaday activities we busy ourselves with. One of the invisible scripts I used to say to myself was “I don’t like change; I like to follow the rules.” But whenever I’m not pushing boundaries, being creative and find ways to have an impact on the world, I’m extremely unfulfilled. This year, I plan to spend more time doing things that challenge me and that I enjoy.
  • Travel – The itch to get out and see the world is always present for me, and I’m starting as early as February this year. But Europe also beckons. I refuse to worry about how it will happen, and instead I’m trusting that I’ll figure it out (advice I got from Lesley Carter at Bucket List Publications.)
  • Family – I also want more for the people around me, and for me, that means spending more time with them and encouraging them to do more in their own lives.

I invite you think about your “invisible scripts” and what you could achieve if you destroyed them.



  1. April 6, 2015 / 1:25 pm

    I want to make a ‘things I want more of’ list now

    • April 6, 2015 / 1:38 pm

      You should definitely do it! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. March 11, 2015 / 11:10 pm

    Nothing says more about the way I feel about myself than the way I view and treat others. I am always grateful for what I have now, but to not want to better myself is to casually accept a soft step backward. A few harsh lessons in life have taught me that is not an option.

    Love stuff like this. I should be reading your stuff more often.

  3. January 21, 2015 / 4:39 am

    This post made me genuinely smile. I always want to push myself and set new goals and it amazes me how few people actually do that. But lately, I’ve been realizing how much I push myself back as well. That was the very reason I started a 101 in 1001 list a few months ago. We should never push ourselves back. Life’s too short for that.

    • January 22, 2015 / 3:44 pm

      Tanya, congrats on starting your own list! Do you have it published on your blog? It would be cool to see what things you included. But I agree, life is too short to spend it in fear of living our wildest dreams!

      • January 22, 2015 / 5:32 pm

        I do actually! My whole blog is about my goals! But I see you started following my Dutch blog, which is a Dutch story blog. The blog containing my list and progression of the goals is tanyas101@wordpress.com. (I hope it’s allowed to write down the link…)

  4. January 11, 2015 / 12:47 pm

    Well said, I think you raise a very good point. I never really thought about how much I hold myself back, which is a revelation considering I try to be conscious of not letting others hold me back. Definitely something to think about, thank you!

    • January 11, 2015 / 5:47 pm

      Thanks, Hayley. Glad you found this helpful!

Leave a Reply