Chasing dreams is never easy. That’s why they’re called dreams – they exist in that space somewhere between reality and delusion, and it’s our job to bridge the gap between the two. If you are on your path to chasing your dreams, there are probably some obstacles you’re expecting. Hard work. Long hours. Lots of rejection. Feeling overwhelmed. Feeling like the newbie. Imposter syndrome. Demanding bosses. Lessons learned the hard way. You probably know there will be many things, people, and events that try to limit you. But you may have never guessed that the person who may work the hardest to limit you would be yourself.

Shining bright takes bravery. Standing out isn’t always comfortable – that’s why it’s called standing out, you’re separate from the rest. One thing that can be particularly challenging about success is feeling that it creates distance between you and your loved ones who have perhaps not attained success. It’s incredibly common to have feelings of guilt about surpassing your support system. Surpassing them doesn’t mean abandoning them – but you might tell yourself that it does. And if you do that, you might limit your potential in order to make those around you comfortable. When you get past the long hours and tough bosses and hard lessons, the final gatekeeper to success may be you. We spoke with Deana Davis (IG: @deanadavis_lsw), author of “Self Love Work Book” about signs you limit your potential to make others comfortable, and why you do it.

Expecting perfection is limiting

When we talk about limiting your potential to make loved ones comfortable, the mind might instantly go to not trying as hard, and not going after goals. But sometimes, limiting behaviors manifest in a very different way, as shown by one of Davis’ stories about a client. She brought up a client who is in medical school, and who wants to pay homage to her family who paved the way for her to get there. Every step she takes, she takes under the pressure of, “I must be perfect, for my family.” But those expectations of perfection can be limiting in and of themselves.

You must feel free to fail

Davis explained that her patient would be incredibly hard on herself if she didn’t get a perfect grade on something, full of fears that her family wouldn’t be proud of her. Because of this, she didn’t feel she had the freedom to make mistakes and to even fail sometimes – both of which are an integral part of success, in the long run. When the client would get a bad grade, “Rather than thinking ‘Okay things happen,’ she felt she failed her family,” explains Davis.

With failure comes growth

“It’s a limiting thought process…A ‘lack mentality,’” says Davis, about those who are so focused on perfect results to impress others, that they don’t appreciate the lessons learned in making mistakes. “With failure comes growth. There needs to be the freedom to fail. It’s about how you view it.”

When it’s part of your heritage

“From a historical standpoint, certain ethnicity groups are pre-wired to dim their own light,” explains Davis. “That’s a component a lot of people don’t think about as they’re transitioning into adulthood or motherhood or their careers. That pre-wiring sets the tone of dimming one’s light instinctually. In therapy, you learn to think ‘Let me step out of that shadow of historically dimming my light.’”

How the pressure impacts the relationship

Whether living under the pressure to be perfect to honor your ancestors or feeling guilty for making progress, both of those limiting experiences can impact the relationship with the very people you hope to please. Davis explained that a lot of that impact will depend on where someone is in their personal growth.

Some don’t even see it

“Someone who hasn’t put any work into growing or healing or maturing, they may not feel the resentment,” explains Davis. “They may think ‘This [the pressure to dim one’s light] is okay. This is what I’m supposed to do…I don’t want my mom or dad to think that I think I’m better than them.”

If you’re healed, you don’t take it personally

“For someone who is more experienced with growth and healing and focused on themselves, the focus shifts. Their success isn’t supposed to be about anyone else,” says Davis, adding that these individuals can say to their family, “This isn’t about you. I understand you may feel that I’m acting like I’m better than you, but this is actually about me.”

Taking back control of the process

“Someone who is healed may not feel resentment,” Davis says of goal-getters with families who hold limiting beliefs. “They’re more open to shining their light. They can say ‘I don’t care what you think. This is what I want to do. If you don’t want to be a part of my process, I’m okay with letting you go.’ Not like cutting them off but, just not making them a part of the process.”

Are you limiting yourself?

If you’re struggling to know where you stand in all of this, Davis listed some signs you may be limiting yourself for the comfort of others. One such sign is, “You’re constantly saying yes to things that you don’t want to do. You’re putting your own needs on the back burner for other people. You can do it without realizing it or recognizing it. In that sense, you’re being a people pleaser. That is another form of limiting yourself. You’re limiting yourself so that other people can feel comfortable.”


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