Top 10 Barriers to Self-Growth

Change can be scary as we feel new things, entertain different thoughts, and perhaps leave old ways behind. Here are 10 obstacles that can hinder your self-growth. See if you can relate to any and then use that to grow.

1. Denial.

It’s difficult to grow when you don’t see the need. Listen to the quiet voice inside and to what your loved ones are saying. Get the support you need to see the truth.

Psychologists talk about “defense mechanisms,” or manners in which we behave or think in certain ways to better protect or “defend” ourselves. Defense mechanisms are one way of looking at how people distance themselves from a full awareness of unpleasant thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Denial is the refusal to accept reality or fact, acting as if a painful event, thought or feeling did not exist. It is considered one of the most primitive of the defense mechanisms because it is characteristic of early childhood development. Many people use denial in their everyday lives to avoid dealing with painful feelings or areas of their life they don’t wish to admit. (Edited for brevity from article by John M. Grohol, Psy.D)

2. Seeing yourself as a victim.

If you’re always one-down, it’s really difficult to become the empowered person you are meant to be.

All of us want to be loved, accepted, and appreciated. It’s easy to become burnt out and maybe even resentful because you’re constantly doing everything for everyone. If you’re not getting what you need in your relationships, start asking for what you need. People can’t read your mind or read between the lines and sometimes it’s human nature to take advantage of people who are all too willing to do it all for you. So allow yourself to speak up. No need to be angry, just gentle but strong words will get the job done. It’s the intention that the other person will feel more than the words you speak. Example: “I’m sorry but I can no longer…perhaps you can ask someone else”.

3. Substance abuse.

Whether you’re self-medicating or seeking escape, the problems just don’t go away without the willingness to face them.

Change requires courage. Changing what we can is a healthy response to reality. A coach, counselor, or 12-step program can provide much-needed support. Making a decision is the first step. Then change also requires patience, for our heart is slow to catch up with our intellect. Gathering information and resources, surveying our options, thinking through different outcomes, and talking it over are all part of the planning phase. As we take these preparatory steps, we build courage and confidence. (Excerpt from article by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT)

4. Self-loathing.

Nothing banishes self-hatred faster than self-care. Choose in any moment the kindest path, the one that leads you to understanding yourself.

When you begin to hear those cruel and harmful criticisms, whether they come from someone else or you say them to yourself, step back and think carefully if they’re true. Parts of the words may be true. You may be overweight, but you’re not disgusting or lazy. You may have failed a test, but you’re not stupid. Replace negative thoughts with more honest, kind, and accurate ones. Remind yourself every day of the truth that you know deep inside you, that you are valued as a human, as a person, as a companion, and a friend. There is a much deeper affect and you’ll believe it more if you hear kindness in your own voice; even more so than if you only hear it from a friend, a partner or even a therapist.

5. Blame.

If we always point the finger at another, we never see our own role.

"All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy." Wayne Dyer

6. Defensiveness.

This is a racket we swing against anything that suggests we might be at fault.

If you often find yourself feeling defensive during a conversation, it’s quite likely that it has little to do with the intention of the person talking to you. Acting defensively is a common human behavior. Your brain's primary function is to protect you. When talking to people, if you feel psychologically safe with them, you’re more likely to have a rational conversation with them. If you perceive a possible threat, your brain will trigger a protective response, at which time you will either shut down or launch a counterattack.

7. Fear.

Acknowledge the frightened parts of yourself, praise your courage, and be gentle.

We most fear the things we don’t understand. If you have a particular fear, try and research the facts; keep those separated from the irrational thinking until you’ve had a chance to review it thoroughly. Then you can make a conscious choice on how you deal with the fear with compassion and understanding for yourself.

8. Rage.

Rage is a call for attention to our triggers, but sometimes we get stuck there. Accepting and working creatively with the feelings can help free you.

Rage can seem to pop out of nowhere. We stub our toe and all of a sudden we are in the throes of cursing or yelling at the cat or an inanimate object. Once the incident has run its course, take a few moments to review what the first words or memory that popped up. You may discover that it relates back to a past relationship, or the way you were treated as a child. Just make some quick notes so you can refer back to them at the right time and learn what rage was trying to show you.

9. Busyness.

Constantly moving allows no time for the reflection that lays the foundation for self-growth.

There’s a distinct difference between being genuinely busy and being caught in ‘busyness’. We all lead busy lives but when that becomes all you do, leaving no time for the things you love to do, then it has the same effect as if you weren’t interested in self-care. Take time each day for the things that make you feel connected, grounded and fulfilled.

10. Unwillingness to admit error.

As with defensiveness, if we stop judging “error” as wrong, an ever-expanding life awaits.

No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, errors in judgement that go against what we truly believe in. But with the admission to yourself (or someone that you faulted) you leave room for growth, spiritually, emotionally mentally and even physically. Errors can be wonderfully fast learning lessons disguised as a mistake. Be willing to learn from them.

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