What stops you?
If you’re having trouble moving forward, taking the next step, pursuing the future, getting things done…I have been there. I’m overcoming. Because I had to face that, I have some lessons I’ve learned along the way- amidst the struggle. And hopefully something I can share can be encouraging to you or speak to where you are at.
There can be many things that that paralyze us- perfectionism, fear, doubt, making mistakes, obstacles, inadequacies, intimidation, insecurity, rejection, people-pleasing, past experiences, self-protecting ourselves from pain, rejection…
These are roadblocks.
The informal definition for “roadblock” is “something that stops someone from making progress” (Macmillan Dictionary).
Doubt (not trusting, believing, being unsure or uncertain) and fear (being afraid of what could happen) are roadblocks. They can paralyze you if you let them.
- Doubt is based on what we do not know, or feel we cannot fully trust or believe.
- Fear is the opposite of trust, and often times is irrational.
Those roadblocks can be torn down.
- We overcome doubt by truth.
- We overcome fear by faith.
Often doubt and fear enter in our minds and hearts when we encounter something new in our lives that we have to face or walk into. We’re all in different places in our walk, in our life journey, but for me and a lot of others I know, this is a time to pursue the opportunities God has given you. Whether that be the adventure of discovering what those are, which requires willingness for change and risk; or perhaps, like me, the opportunities are there, but you have to believe in yourself to make that choice and pursue them. There are many things that can paralyze you if you let them.
Let me share about my most recent experience. While I have struggled with everything I’ll mention in this post, specifically, a few weeks ago an ugly old paralyzer revisited me: perfectionism.
I’ve struggled with perfectionism (off and on) my whole life. This standard was not placed on me from others, but so often I find myself holding that standard for myself. In many ways, that benefited me by the fact that I do everything 110%, I’m self-motivated, I expect and do everything with excellence, and I have no problem putting in beyond the effort that is needed. When I’m confident in what I’m doing, there’s no stopping me from getting it done and I usually finish well. The problem with perfectionism is, it’s unattainable. There will be plenty of things I have to do that I won’t do perfectly or with excellence the first time, partially because they are new and I need to practice to improve my ability and get to that point. There will be tasks I’ll be responsible that I feel inadequate or inefficient in. How am I going to handle that? My first reaction is either, “Oh well, I’ll do my best, here goes…” or “I’m overwhelmed, why even try if I know I’m going to screw it up?” When I give into being a perfectionist, I either have to accept I won’t do everything perfectly and give myself grace to make mistakes (difficult for me to do), or I am hard on myself and get discouraged. I spend so much time trying to prevent making a mistake that I waste time I could be spending on doing what needs to get done. The more I care about something, the more debilitating my perfectionism is. The more I refuse myself the possibility of “screwing it up”, the firmer grip my fear has, the tighter it chokes me, the more pressure I put on myself until I can’t do anything at all. The core of perfectionism is placing a high value on the idea that your work reflects back onto you. It’s making what you do a personal reflection of yourself, but giving it power to make a statement about your value. You end up believing statements about the quality of your work define you.
When I realized how paralyzing my perfectionism was to my work, ministry, and even some of my relationships (which is where it’s most destructive…), I knew I needed to find a way to break free from it. I didn’t want to be paralyzed by it. I found a simple answer to the problem: put into practice a better attitude, take on a simple mindset, and take action.
- Realize everyone is not expecting perfectionism from you; you are expecting that of yourself. Stop expecting perfection of yourself. Release yourself from that strict standard. It’s confining.
- Stop thinking so much about it and do.
- Have fun! Enjoy your work.
- Leave room for making mistakes as part of the process.
- Be pro-active rather than reactive.
- Keep positive!
- Ask yourself if your ultimate goal was accomplished (getting it done).
- Realize if you get it done, you can always come back if you have more time and improve it some more. The work is first. The quality can be improved on after.
- Listen humbly to feedback and but don’t take it personal.
- Still take responsibility for your mistakes, accept constructive criticism as help, and improve where you can.
- Tell fear to shut up and tackle your task with boldness.
- Lighten up.
- Don’t dwell on the mistake.
- Put your effort into doing what you can to make your work better and completing the task as soon as you can.
- Persevere. Be tenacious in your persistence.
- “Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand” (Henry Miller, writer).
Honestly, you just have to do something. We have to move to break out of our paralyzed state. And once you do, you’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish and get done. You’ll produce better work just by getting something done and freeing yourself from all the pressure you placed on yourself.
Although I spent the better half of this post sharing about my latest paralyzer and how I learned to counter-act it, there are many more things that stop us in our tracks and keep us from moving forward. All of these have affected me:
I mentioned earlier doubt and fear, and how we over by truth and faith. Set your mind on the truth. Flush out the rest. We all have doubts that could swallow us whole if we gave ourselves to them. But we’re called to walk by faith. As Hebrews 10:39 says, “We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Doubt is never beneficial. It’s takes the rug out from under your feet, it destroys trust, it causes fear to rise up. The truth is, it’s natural to feel fear. It’s how you respond to that fear, the power you give it over you to debilitate you or the power you deny it in moving forward regardless. Choose instead to put your faith in something greater, in God, with whom you have nothing to fear.
Ever been afraid of screwing up? I have. A lot. It’s stupid. We will make mistakes. It happens! We won’t do everything flawlessly or perfectly. We will encounter obstacles. We will be inadequate and fall short at times. But it’s how we pick ourselves up and keep our heads held up despite what holds us back. You only stop if you accept defeat and believe that it’s final, instead of viewing it as an opportunity and chance to grow, overcome, and improve from.
As you pursue what you need to do, everything is not always set up. You are hardly ever completely prepared or ready for what you have to dive in and do. Accept the process, the mess, the fact that it won’t go perfectly, and have the backbone to say you won’t let any of that deter you is what it takes. Don’t let fear, mistakes, obstacles, doubts, insecurities, or the process intimate you. Go and do. You won’t know if you can do something unless you actually go and do it. I’ve accomplished the most not when I did everything perfectly, but when I put in the most work. It’s by doing- not perfection, which can paralyze you if you hold yourself to that standard, and then you get nothing accomplished.
“Real life is about reacting quickly to the opportunity at hand, not the opportunity you envisioned.”
– Conan O’Brien, humorist and talk show host
We all have times we struggle with insecurity. We all want to hide our weaknesses, perceived “flaws”, and shield others from seeing the less-attractive parts of who we are- because of our desire for love and acceptance. We project the most likeable image of ourselves to others. We shield them from the things about ourselves that they may respond negatively to, for fear of rejection. We want to be liked, and that can turn into people-pleasing…which will tear you apart if you care too much about what others think about you. You’ll end up even more insecure. Be true to who you are and don’t apologize for it; people aren’t attracted to perfection, they’re attracted to authenticity. We -well, I– need to learn to be vulnerable with others and trust them to take me as I am. The more we let the weight of how much we want others to love us and care for us push us to lose yourself. Be true to who you are. Stay strong. Don’t shut up within yourself. I’ve done this and it doesn’t do anything good for your relationships…you come off as fake because you won’t let yourself open up and be real. Free yourself from being shaped by the opinions of others and be confident in how God made you, and accept grace for the areas you need to grow and be humble about them when they are exposed to others.
“To avoid criticism,
– Elbert Hubbard, writer
I know many insecurities are a product of being vulnerable with someone and they responded negatively or differently than you hoped or expected they would. I’ve experienced this, and I know it can tear you apart, it can destroy you, it can affect you for years. Forgive them. Don’t let the pain control your ability to open up or to stand back up again. Don’t wither into a safe place away inside yourself to try and protect yourself from that happening ever again. You need to heal and overcome it. Ask God to heal your heart where you feel hurt, then release it from holding on to you. Pain is debilitating, too. I think many perfectionists become that way because they want to do everything they can to avoid a pain they once experienced. Don’t let a past wound that hurt turn into a reason to avoid that pain again. If you’re always afraid of what will happen if you open up parts of who you are to others, and you’ll miss out on a lot of depth because you only let people into certain rooms of who you are, and you lock them out of the ones that need to be shared still and that are a part of who you are. Insecurities about sharing who you are with others may keep you from rejection or negative responses that could hurt you, but it also robs you of the chance to be loved more fully and experience a love that sees the less lovely parts of who you are and still not only accepts, but truly loves you. It’s the most powerful love there is. You don’t need everyone’s love. But you do need to know perfect love- which is found in Christ, and His true followers, who love like Him. Find those people. Be that person to others.
“In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy. Humans connect with humans. Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.” – Robert Glover
I’m learning these things again…mainly because I have just now begun to put it to practice more than I ever have before. As in, it’s been in my heart as God’s teaching me, yet today is probably one of the first days I’ve seriously put actions to all my intentions. I’m growing, it may be messy, it may expose things about myself even I don’t like, but I am done being timid or afraid and letting these things hinder me. Honestly I don’t have everything put together or figured out…but my confidence is not in what I know; my faith is in God who is greater, His power in me, His Spirit counseling and guiding me, His presence with me all the way, and knowing I am done letting these things paralyze me from being and doing all I am made for. If you want more, you have to pursue it. And to pursue something, you have to do it. And when you do, you can’t expect perfection. You can’t hold yourself to an unrealistic standard. But you can see where He will take you if you’re willing to put aside everything and keep going with Him toward what He has for you. Most of us have yet to discover it because we’ve stopped. But God is calling us to pursue, to go, to do, and to be by living. Not in theory, not in thought, not in dreams- but as He created us to be: whole, free, and secure in Him.
You can be paralyzed and miss out- or you can be free and discover more. You can let fear, doubt, or insecurity stop you- or you can focus on what you know is truth and step forward in faith. We rob ourselves (and others) of so much when we let ourselves be paralyzed; and we experience such beauty when we simply allow God to tear down those roadblocks we’ve built up and set us free to see all He has for us to do and to be with Him. Freely. Fully. But we won’t know if we don’t move. So, move- and don’t let anything stop you.