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What is the One Thing Holding You Back?

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The following article is from Melanie, our new staff writer. Melanie is in the beginning phase of her journey to Financial Freedom and she’ll bring a refreshing point of view for us. 

what's holding you backWhen it comes to living life and making money, I often think of myself as a hustler and willing to do whatever it takes to make an extra buck. After all, I do have massive student loans that I am currently working hard to pay off.

In my quest to be adventurous and hustle my way into financial freedom, I find myself pushing my boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone. I will apply for opportunities that I think I won’t get or appear to be out of my reach. I will do things that scare me. I will work crazy gigs just for the experience and of course the extra cash.

Recently, I worked at an indescribable, you-really-had-to-be-there art installation. There were marching bands in silver latex clothing, miniature golf, and zombies, yes zombies! In addition to my full-time job, I was working on the weekends until 3 a.m. doing a variety of tasks at this event. It was fun, unique, and a good time.

Mental Barriers

As I continue to search for the Next Gig, I realize that I have some mental barriers to overcome, even now. These mental barriers are holding me back from reaching my full potential. Not only that, but they are preventing me from reaching my full income potential.

This reminds me of my mom, who for a very long time made an average salary, but catapulted her way into a higher income bracket simply by overcoming fear. For her that fear was driving on the freeway. I grew up in Los Angeles, where she currently lives — LA is ripe with opportunities but covers a vast territory. It’s a driving culture at its very core. You are practically required to have a car if you live in Los Angeles. My mom had an irrational fear of driving the freeways so she always chose jobs close to home; always took surface streets and almost always avoided driving on the freeway. In 1999, she interviewed for a job that was an hour away — and there was simply no way to take side streets the whole way there. She pushed through her fear and made it happen. She eventually got the job and more than doubled her salary over the next few years. When she realized she was going to do that drive every day, she started to practice and get comfortable with the idea. To think she could have left so much money on the table just because of an irrational fear.

Fear of Failure

For me, my mental barrier is fear of failure. If I don’t understand something in the first fifteen minutes, I think that it is too hard and that it’s just “not for me.” For years I didn’t apply for jobs because of certain technical requirements. I was hesitant to start a blog because I had no clue how to manage a website. As irrational as it is, my mind just shut down if I didn’t understand something. I wanted to move on and not even try.

I was like this until last year when applied for a job that I was perfect for, except I didn’t have knowledge of or experience using the design software required for the job. I was about to employ  my typical avoidance mechanism  and just give up and not apply. But then I thought, well, why not? What’s the worst that could happen? Considering the job posting said the technical software knowledge was required, I thought it was a long shot. Lo and behold, I ended up getting the job. In the interview I was very transparent about my current skill set and acknowledged that while I didn’t have experience using the software required – I was passionate and demonstrated that I was more than ready to learn. Of course once hired, I had to prove myself and learn quickly. My employer was very open with me as well as patient,  and thought that it was much better to teach skills, over character.


After this experience, I really started to think about how many missed opportunities I’ve had in my life because of fear. How much has this fear cost me?

I kick myself for all the income I could have made, but I’m determined to do better. I now recognize when I’m falling back into a pattern. Everyone has some form of insecurity and manifestation of fear — rational or not — that holds us back.

The next time you are self-sabotaging a good opportunity, think about the worst thing that could happen. Oftentimes, the worst thing that could happen isn’t that serious and likely won’t happen. Instead of focusing on fear, focus on what you could be missing if you didn’t pursue this opportunity. Would you miss out on a significant amount of income? Friendships? Travel? Whatever the case may be, fear is powerful, but it’s often irrational.

For me, keeping things in perspective is key. I try to look at the scenario from a variety of different aspects and try to push myself through it. There is something absolutely exhilarating from pushing your boundaries out of complacency and into new territory — and instead of missing out on opportunities, you’ll be getting stronger with every chance you take.

It just requires practice and patience. Neither of those things are my strong suit either! But in my quest to live a debt-free, meaningful, and adventurous life, it means facing my fears and breaking up with that one thing that is holding me back.

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{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Clarisse June 25, 2014, 2:01 am

    My hubs wants to take a next level for his job. One company called him and offered a higher income, but more complicated job responsibilities. I know he is a bit hesitant to accept it, but I push him for that and I told him that I would support him whatever his decision would be.

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 7:56 am

      That’s awesome! Having that support must mean a lot. I think fear affects our decisions so much — also the desire for routine and staying in one place. He might be afraid of change.

  • The Stoic June 25, 2014, 4:52 am

    I think fear is a problem for many of us. I’m not sure it’s the failure that we are most afraid of, but a combination of how we will be perceived by others and a belief that failing in some way is an attack on our fragile egos that scare us most. As you said, What’s the worst that can happen? It’s usually no where close to being as bad as we make it out to be.

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 8:02 am

      You are right! It is the fear of how we will be perceived after the fact that scares us. I recently heard that people’s fear of public speaking is higher than dying! That is crazy. But it’s because of that fear of how we will be perceived.

  • EL June 25, 2014, 5:58 am

    I believe we need to face fears in order to grow. If you do not grow, you stay stagnant in some way. Learning new skills for me is the best way to overcome job related fears.

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 7:32 pm

      I agree! Pushing through is key to overcoming fears. Trying new things and realizing the world doesn’t end is a nice confidence booster. 🙂

  • John June 25, 2014, 6:49 am

    I find that the one thing that holds me back time and again is irrational fear, which is sort of on the crazy side as I’m such a planner. I did it with our business and now look back and wonder why on earth I waited so long to take the leap. I know a big part of it was because we have kids and didn’t want to do something stupid, but I had planned to get us to the point and held back because of the fear. I think it can be so easy to fall back into that trap, but have found that if you truly want something you need to be able to face that fear and work to move past it.

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 7:37 pm

      I am still dealing with some of those very fears! I’m moving into freelancing and wanting to really break down some barriers to continue forward and be successful. It’s easy to think the worst will happen, but most often it does not. There are risks and rewards!

  • Hayley June 25, 2014, 6:51 am

    Excellent perspective on this Melanie. Like you, I’ve often looked into opportunities and have given up almost instantly if I see something I’m not comfortable with. Sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone and just try. We never know where trying and learning something new might take us.

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 7:54 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Hayley! Getting out of my comfort zone has opened up so many opportunities for me!

  • Michelle June 25, 2014, 8:00 am

    Before I left my day job and completely focused on freelancing, I had a lot of fears holding me back. I was afraid that I would be making a huge mistake and that I would ruin a possibly good career forever. I was also afraid that everything in my freelancing life would completely tank. My fears were crazy and I knew I just had to make the jump one day. I’m glad I did it!

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 7:58 pm

      You are such an inspiration, Michelle! Truly.

  • Nicola June 25, 2014, 9:50 am

    I think fear is a problem for me too – I’m scared of failing or not being good enough. However, good things happen when I push myself out of my comfort zone, it’s just easier said than done!

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 8:00 pm

      So true. It is easier said than done, but if you make a conscious effort to get out of your routine and comfort zone once per day, or at least once per week, I think you start to change yourself for the better!

  • supernova72 June 25, 2014, 10:15 am

    In my 20’s and 30’s not much fear. In my 40’s starting to think about work life balance. Now in 50’s think about WLB a lot. It’s the old “how much money do I really need anyway”. You might be in a different age bracket (sorry I didn’t see you profile).

    I still believe retiring even in your 50’s is considered “ER” (early retirement). Cheers.

    • Melanie June 25, 2014, 8:03 pm

      Interesting perspective! People always say do things when you are young, but do we listen? Some people do, but I’m still scared sometimes. I don’t want to live with fear or regrets.

  • Tania June 25, 2014, 11:48 am

    As a type A personality, I am often at odds with my need to know the next 10 steps before I start anything. Jumping into the blogging world with both eyes clenched tight has taught me that there’s nothing wrong with learning as you go and just tweaking things as you go along! Glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with talking myself out of opportunities.

  • Asset Grinder June 25, 2014, 7:18 pm

    Only thing holding me back is my wife and kids! LOL. I would sell almost everything i have including my home and live in a dingy 1 bedroom basement suite counting my riches. But this doesnt jive with a happy happy lol.

  • Andrew June 26, 2014, 11:18 pm

    I hate my job and want out, but can’t seem to get out. I have this house that I’m stuck with and could sell, but don’t know where I’d go afterwards… Feel totally paralyzed.

    • retirebyforty June 27, 2014, 9:49 am

      Sorry to hear that. Do you have a family or are you single? Maybe you can just sell and rent a cheap place instead. That way you’ll have more options.

  • Jason July 2, 2014, 8:02 am

    It’s funny that you talk about overcoming fear and yet still say you want to live a debt-free life. You’re afraid of debt!

    I see this on a lot of different blogs. Debt is just a tool and, when used properly, can help build wealth over the long term.

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