Self-sabotage: It could be the reason you are holding back, missing out on opportunities, and stalling in your career.

Think about your life over the years. Have you made the same average salary, lived within the same standards, or faced the usual struggles in your private and professional life? If so, you might be dealing with an upper limit problem.

A coaching client once told me: “I feel my life is like a house of cards. I have ideas and projects to work on, but things fall apart easily. I set up simple tasks and can’t make them stick. It’s like my changes are fueled by fear and scarcity.”

Throughout the session, he then realized why this was happening: self-sabotage.

I can relate to this. I call it living between the upper and lower limit. Let’s take income and the lifestyle that it provides as an example. The lower limit would represent the minimum I have to earn to fulfill my basic needs. If I ever get too close to my lower limit, I work hard to stay above the line. I get more clients, reduce my expenses, add hours to my day, or hustle to sell my services. In the years, I became quite good at fighting that lower threshold. In fact, most of us are, especially when destitution comes knocking at the door.

The upper limit, the one beyond which we earn more, live a larger life, have a higher status or a wonderful relationship; that is where we tend to sabotage ourselves. Why? Because an inner critic perpetuates self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. We all possess our critical inner voice; this is what I call “gremlin.”

Our gremlin casts doubt on our abilities, undermines our desires, and convinces us to be suspicious of ourselves and the choices we make. This gremlin often filled my mind with critical self-analysis that would steer me from achieving my goals. It put me back under the covers, where it was comfortable and safe, a familiar place with low risks. But low risk means boring and unaccomplished. That doesn’t work for me!

The Four hidden barriers based on fear

According to Gay Hendricks, in his book The Big Leap, the false foundation beneath the upper limit problem is set of four barriers of fear:

  1. Feeling Fundamentally Flawed: I cannot expand to my full creative genius because something is fundamentally wrong with me.
  2. Disloyalty and Abandonment: I cannot expand to my full success because I’d end up all alone, be disloyal to my roots, and leave behind people from my past.
  3. Believing That More Success Brings a Bigger Burden: I cannot expand to my highest potential because I’d be an even bigger burden than I am now.
  4. The Crime of Outshining: I must not expand to my full success because if I did, it would outshine………and make him or her look bad.

Here are suggestions on how to overcome the four barriers once we have recognized a pattern in self-sabotaging thoughts:

Overcoming barrier one: Challenging your deeply engrained attitudes might bring anxiety. Keep your goals in mind and take small steps to build your confidence. Have a chat with your gremlin, give it a name, a shape, make it your friend and ask him/her to take a hike when you’re about to try something new. This is your time to shine and to let go of old sabotaging beliefs.

Overcoming barrier two: Believe me, you won’t end up alone; in fact, you might be surrounded by a bunch of freeloaders hoping to get a piece of your success. This fear is often stemming from interpretations about others and the stories we create. Challenge these interpretations by initiating communication with those people and speak openly with family and friends. It’ll all work out.

Overcoming barrier three: Is that an assumption? If it happened in the past, will it necessarily happen again? Think of other ways to view it so you can let go of that assumption. A feeling of guilt could also trigger this. You deserve it just like everyone else. There is plenty for all of us, and if you don’t want to keep it all, feel free to share and help those in need.

Overcoming barrier four: for this one, I’ll leave you with the poem “Our deepest fear” from Marianne Williamson.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously permit other people to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Why not me? I deserve it

A friend told me her story about reaching for a higher lifestyle. She came from hardship. She was working as a waitress while finishing her college degree and had two young kids in tow. One day she was walking in an upscale neighborhood and thought to herself, “Why not me? Why wouldn’t I make that same amount of money and live that kind of life? I deserve it just as much as they do!” That’s what it took to change her mindset. It wasn’t always easy, and she had to work hard to achieve her goals. Several years later, she became one of the top sales award-winning account executives for her company.

After my client recognized his self-sabotage, his solution was to consciously let it go and connect again to the vision he had in mind, making that his top priority. Just like him, when I sense that I lean towards self-sabotage, I pause and take the time to observe what the fear behind it is. Then I work my way forward.

We are familiar with the lower limit because of the friction that it provides. This friction is what gives us the drive to fight against it and push away from it. As for the upper limit, it is not as tangible, and we have to keep it alive with our dreams, visions constantly, and the results it would create. That is where the effort is. We are built for change, and we have an endless innate drive to reach for higher levels, so we may as well learn how to deal with that upper threshold.

As for you, have you noticed patterns of self-sabotage in your work, relationships, or goals? Are you living within the two borders and fail to fulfill your desires?

What is the vision that you connect to that will give you the courage to shatter that upper limit?

Roberto Giannicola — Coaching & Facilitation —




I’m an Executive Coach & Facilitator. You might know algorithm. Now let me show you how to dance!

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Roberto Giannicola - Executive Coach & Facilitator

Roberto Giannicola - Executive Coach & Facilitator

I’m an Executive Coach & Facilitator. You might know algorithm. Now let me show you how to dance!

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