Barriers to Growth
Below are the articles in the Barriers to Growth category. Each article title is followed by a brief summary introduction to the content. Click "Read Excerpt" for a more comprehensive review. Click "Add to Package" to buy or redeem the article.
Accepting the “Gift” of Criticism
Most of us can accept compliments. Some of us can accept suggestions. But most of us draw the line at criticism. Yet, criticism can be one of the most constructive and profound tools to change ourselves and improve our relationships with others.
Bernie Siegel, author and physician writes that criticism is an opportunity to become a better person. "When you feel inadequate or imperfect, criticism is threatening and makes you feel that you have to defend yourself. When you are secure—not perfect, but secure—you can listen to the criticism and consider its value."
Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, calls criticism “a powerful tool for self-realization and growth.” She suggests that when we are criticized for being wrong, unkind, uncaring, etc., we should ask ourselves if the criticism is true. If we can accept the truth without stress or pain, we free ourselves from trying to hide who we are from others. We know our faults and we accept them and, therefore, criticism from others cannot hurt us. “When you are genuinely humble, there is no place for criticism to stick,” she writes.
Are You a Perfectionist?
There’s a difference between excellence and perfection. Striving to be really good is excellence; trying to be flawless is perfectionism. This quiz will help a person determine if he or she is striving for the unattainable.
Perfectionism can cause feelings of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt; it can cripple self-esteem, stifle creativity, and put a stumbling block in the way of intimate friendships and love relationships. Ultimately, it can create or aggravate illnesses such as eating disorders, manic-depressive mood disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance abuse.
Everybody has some “built-in” perfectionism, especially in our achievement-oriented, competitive culture. Complete this questionnaire to discover how perfectionistic you are.
❏ I never do anything halfway; it’s all or nothing for me. Everytime.
❏ I get angry or defensive when I make mistakes. I hate to make them.
❏ I often procrastinate on starting projects. I seldom meet deadlines. Or if I do, I kill myself meeting them.
Are You Living with a “Victim” Mentality?
Times of stress can stir up the victim in all of us. This quiz helps identify if “victim” is too-often a part of one’s experience.
Old-fashioned melodramas featured hapless heroines who always seemed to find themselves tied to a railroad track or evicted from home into a fierce storm as the villain twirled his oily moustache. Only a white-hatted hero or the cavalry could rescue them as they cried, “Woe is me!”
Here’s a quiz to help you see if you’ve been carrying around a victim mentality that may be robbing you of your sense of personal power. Answer true or false to the following statements.
T /F My first response to a setback is to blame someone else for what’s happened.
T /F No matter what I do, things are not really going to change for me.
T /F I often find myself beginning thoughts with phrases like “I can’t...,” “I’m no good at…” or “I’ve never been able to....”
NEW! Are You Living Your Own Life?
A quiz that explores how well you live in alignment with your own values and live a life of your choosing.
Fulfillment in life is related to how well you are living in alignment with what’s truly important to you. Do your decisions emerge from the essence of who you are—not from who you think you should be? Take this quiz to see how well you are living a life that is of your own making.
1. I have spent time thinking about what’s important to me, and I can articulate those things.
2. While I have been influenced by my parents, teachers, society and other outside forces, I have not simply adopted their values and beliefs. My own values and beliefs come from deep inside.
3. I am not easily swayed by others’ opinions. I know my own mind.
Do You Give It All Away?
Quiz assesses and raises awareness about whether one gives away too much time, energy and/or money.
Most of us have been taught that it is more noble to give than to receive. While giving can be a wonderful, heart-warming experience, giving too much of our time and energy can be detrimental to both our physical and emotional health, leading to anxiety, overwhelm and burnout. Take this quiz to see if you are giving it all away.
1. I force myself to do things even when I don’t have the energy to do them.
2. I ignore my body’s “no” signals when I think someone’s needs are greater than mine.
3. I hate conflict, so I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid it, which often means doing something I don’t want to do.
Do You Have the People-Pleasing Syndrome?
When does being nice become toxic to oneself? Take this quiz to find out.
Pleasing other people—who could find fault with that? Isn’t it a good thing to consider the needs of others, to be gracious, to be nice? By all means! But for many, the desire to please becomes an addictive need to please others, even at the expense of their own health and happiness. It takes a toll on health, relationships and quality of life, and it drowns out the inner voice that may be trying to protect us from overdoing it.
“As a people-pleaser, you feel controlled by your need to please others and addicted to their approval,” writes Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D., in The Disease to Please. “At the same time, you feel out of control over the pressures and demands on your life that these needs have created.”
Take this quiz to see whether you can benefit from learning to say no to others more often—and yes to yourself.
1. I put others’ needs before my own, even when the cost to me and my own happiness is great.
2. If someone needs my help, I can’t say no. In fact, I often find it difficult to say no. And when I do, I feel guilty.
3. To avoid reactions I’m afraid of, I often try to be who others want me to be, to agree with them, to fit in.
Facing the Green-Eyed Monster: Learning from Envy
Many people would rather deny than face their envy of others, but like all shadow creatures, the monster ultimately reveals what is missing from one’s own life.
When William’s neighbor drove up with a new Mercedes sports car, William suddenly felt “less than.” Spoiled little inheritance baby, William thought. At least I work for my money.
Frances wanted to be happy for her friend—who had just landed a lucrative book publishing contract and had a new boyfriend—but inside she was ticking off all the reasons her friend didn’t deserve either.
Envy isn’t pretty, is it?
Even on a good day, news of someone else’s good fortune can send us spiraling into a pit of bitter—though silent—accusations and weak self-righteousness. It poisons our confidence and undermines our sense of worth. Given enough energy, envy can balloon into outright hate.
But facing this green-eyed monster, looking it in the eye without flinching, can tell you powerful things about yourself—what you really want, what needs to change and what you need to let go. Seen this way, envy is information. It points us to the good we thirst for and points out our belief that good or excellence is out of our reach.
Healing the Roots of Self-Hatred
You may never silence the voice of self-hatred completely, but it is possible to lessen its impact, and find relief and healing.
The Critic is a common and unfortunate constant in our inner lives. This internalized voice assumes the tone and language of our mother, father, religion and/or society. After every step forward there it is, doubting or damning our choice.
But for many people, “critic” is much too mild a word. The voice they hear is relentless, a vicious screaming that cripples and controls. They might call their voice the “Self-Hater” or the “Killer Critic.”
Not everyone hears self-hatred as a voice in their heads. Sometimes, it’s a way of being that manifests in myriad forms, including:
• sabotaging healthy relationships or good jobs,
• attempting to prove worthiness by being perfect or through high achievement,
• being drawn again and again into abusive situations.
How Avoiding Things Keeps Us Small
Avoidant behaviors such as always being late and not returning phone calls are examples of the subtle and not-so-subtle means people adopt to side-step issues and situations. But those behaviors really serve a deeper purpose.
Ken, a serious and long-time drinker, hadn’t been feeling good for a while and his wife insisted that he go to the doctor, which, with reluctance, he finally did. Upon examination, the doctor said, “Ken, if you don’t stop drinking, you’re going to die.” Of course, this upset Ken tremendously. When he came home to his wife, he was near tears. “The doctor said I’m going to die,” Ken wailed.
Poor Ken. He didn’t really hear what the doctor said. He was practicing one of his chronic avoidant behaviors: selective listening. He heard only what he wanted to hear and shut the rest of the message out.
Like Ken, we may adopt avoidant behaviors as subtle or not-so-subtle means to side-step issues, situations and uncomfortable feelings. These behaviors are an outer manifestation of what’s going on inside. And what’s likely going on inside is some kind of fear.
We avoid because something is at risk.
How Controlling Are You?
We all know them…the folks who MUST CONTROL EVERYTHING. This quiz will help identify if that controlling person is you.
Perhaps it’s the mother-in-law whom you secretly call “Controller of the Universe,” or the boss at work who has to have a hand in every little detail of your work, or the parent who directs every aspect of their child’s life. However well-meaning controlling people might be, their actions often result in alienation, resentment and a lack of intimacy with loved ones. When they have a choice, people don’t usually like to be around controlling individuals. Take this quiz to see how controlling you might be.
1. I discourage the people around me from expressing anger, fear or sadness.
2. It aggravates me when others don’t want to do something the way I suggest; I’m only trying to help them.
3. I hate to admit to others that I am wrong or make mistakes; in fact, I rarely do.
4. I’d rather do most things myself.
How Defensive Are You?
When most of our communication is spent defending ourselves, there’s not much room for meaningful contact. This quiz helps identify the problem and offers alternative perspectives.
In her book, Taking the War Out of Our Words: The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication, Sharon Ellison estimates that we use 95% of our communications energy being defensive. Indeed, as soon as we feel any threat, either of not getting what we want or of being harmed or put down in some way, we are ready to protect ourselves by being defensive. Imagine how much more enjoyable our communications could be if we learned how to respond nondefensively and to avoid provoking defensiveness in others! Take this quiz to see how defensive you tend to be.
1. When people criticize or judge me, I am quick to point out their own faults.
2. If people are upset or disappointed with me, I let them know with explanations and excuses why they are wrong.
3. I’m always looking for the hidden critical message beneath people’s requests.
How Well Do You Handle Failure?
Failure may be inevitable. But how a person handles failure can mean the difference between accepting shame or gaining wisdom from lessons learned.
Because we are human, we cannot help but fail. We make mistakes at work. We lose relationships. We parent in ways we later regret. We fail to win or succeed at all we do. How we handle these failures makes all the difference in the world to our ability to learn and be effective in our work and personal lives. Take the Self-Quiz below to see how you tend to handle failure.
1. I make realistic (safe) choices about what to do. If I’m unsure whether I can succeed at something, I don’t do it.
2. I feel so ashamed after losing a job that I can’t bear to see colleagues from that workplace again.
3. If I fail at something, I give up and take it as evidence that I’m not “meant” to do that.
NEW! How Well Do You Handle Your Inner Critic?
A quiz that helps you discover how much power the voice of your inner critic has over your life.
Most of us have an Inner Critic, an internal “voice” that judges our actions or inaction, tells us what’s wrong with us and how we should or should not be. This constant judgment can lead to debilitating feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety. While it’s difficult to silence the critic completely, there are ways to cope with it. Answer these true/false questions to discover how well you handle your Inner Critic.
1. I can’t seem to do anything right. I feel depressed and incapacitated by the constant nagging, judging voice inside me.
2. I don’t necessarily realize I’m at the effect of my Inner Critic, but I often compare myself to others and never quite measure up. I feel inadequate.
Judgments—Criticism or Mirror?
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” That Biblical question is just as relevant today.
You could see the red flush of rage start to rise on the mother’s face. “I have never, ever experienced a more defiant, stubborn, selfish child,” she said through clenched teeth to her friend.
Washing the dinner dishes for the fifth time that week, her husband was nursing a resentment against his wife’s “laziness” in the kitchen, while their son was in his room calling his parents “mean” and “unfair” for requiring that he complete his homework before going out to play.
There’s one thing they all agree on: It’s the other person’s fault.
But there’s another thing they’re all missing: Every judgment we pass on other people is a revelation about ourselves, an expression of our own needs and values.
For example, the mother may need to look at the rage she felt as a child, when defying her own parents resulted in physical punishment, something she would never do to her own son. The husband may need to work on his assertiveness, asking for more shared responsibility in the kitchen. And the son may need to understand the consequences of the choices he made regarding his homework.
Oh, the Tales We Tell: Getting Beyond Our Stories at Work
Outlines a path of investigation into the horror stories people tell themselves. It shows how to get beneath those stories to the beliefs and assumptions that really live there, and then offers a strategy for using that self-awareness to free oneself.
Every day, Jerome begins his work by telling himself his favorite story: I’m not valued around here. They’re heaping on the work just to see when I’ll quit. I’m sure to be passed over for promotion.
His co-worker, Alissa, has her own favorite story: This company’s president is a critical and demanding control freak, who shuts me out of every decision but expects me to know everything....
We live our lives as if the stories are true. We act and react, often in pain, from our often mistaken understanding of another’s words or actions, our assumptions about why they are saying or doing what they are, and our thoughts about how those people—and we, ourselves—should be different.
Stories Damage Relationships—at Work and at Home
Yet, it is these stories, and the emotions that come from the stories, that are usually the source of the pain and/or discomfort we feel in our relationships, whether at work or at home. We want to blame another, but in reality, it’s usually our thinking that is causing the discomfort, says Byron Katie, author of the best-selling book Loving What Is.
Samantha doesn’t realize it, but there’s a victim lurking inside her.
Though she wears a sunny disposition outside, inside, the perky 42-year-old mother is resigned to three ideas:
1. It’s too late in her life to go back to college like she always wanted to. She’d look ridiculous, and who has the time, anyway?
2. Her ex-husband is to blame for her financial problems and for her children’s disrespectful behavior.
3. No matter what she does—no matter how many self-help workshops she attends or how much inner work she does with herself—things are not really ever going to change for her.
Quite a life sentence she’s given herself: hopelessness and helplessness, twin offspring of the same poisonous parent known as “Victimhood.”
When we operate from a victim mentality, we give the power to create our own life to someone else, and then we moan about how controlling the other is. To avoid taking responsibility, we create (and protect at all costs!) the dangerous illusion that we are always right. We blame others for our circumstances and remain stuck in a silent “poor me” that keeps us small.
Saving Yourself from Self-Sabotage
Is there any relief from the snake of self-destruction that coils in many of us? This article can help.
When he was a boy, Stan vowed he’d never be a father like his own father—aloof, critical and emotionally unavailable. Yet, 30 years later, he catches himself treating his son harshly and constantly judging him for not measuring up.
Patricia loves her job and her boss. The only thorn is that her boss prizes punctuality and Patricia just can’t seem to be on time for anything, whether it’s a team meeting or that project that was due last week.
What Stan and Patricia have in common is the all-too-common disease called self-sabotage. It eats away inside, creating a cycle of self-destruction with the result that we aren’t really living the life we want for ourselves.
Self-sabotage “hides inside us and toils against our best interest. If we don’t succeed in identifying and owning this sinister part, we can never be free,” says Stanley Rosner, author of The Self-Sabotage Cycle: Why We Repeat Behaviors That Create Hardships and Ruin Relationships.
NEW! The Danger of Comparisons
Tips to help you stop comparing yourself and your loved ones to others and live with more freedom as a result.
Comparing ourselves and our loved ones to others seems to be ingrained into us. We notice similarities and differences. It’s one way we learn to navigate our world.
The trouble comes when we notice differences and then use that information to feel “less than.” For instance, rather than noticing someone’s success and letting that inspire us to take the risk we’ve been wanting to take, instead we may despair, believing that we could never have that kind of success ourselves.
“Tolerations” Take a Toll
What do a boss who’s always yelling at you, your mate’s over-spending habits, a cluttered house or office, tight shoulders and a ho-hum (or bad) relationship have in common? They’re all tolerations, those little or big things we put up with—often without realizing it—that sap our energy and drain our life force.
At the root of our tolerations are a variety of limiting beliefs that immobilize us. For example: “That’s just the way it is.” “I’m not worth it.” “Don’t rock the boat—play it safe.” “Don’t complain or be too demanding.” “I don’t have enough time/money/support.”
If we are committed to feeling better about ourselves, to making changes that will bring us greater peace of mind and happiness, it will greatly help to evaluate and eliminate the tolerations standing in our way. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
Appraise. Make an honest appraisal of what you are tolerating in each of the areas of your life: home environment, health, work, money, relationships and so on. Write down everything that annoys you or that you feel you are putting up with. You will likely come up with more than 100 of these tolerations!
Top 10 Barriers to Self-Growth
Most of us want to grow as human beings, but sometimes we just get in our own way.
Change can be scary as we feel new things, entertain different thoughts, perhaps leave old ways behind. Here are 10 obstacles that can hinder self-growth.
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.
2. Seeing yourself as a victim. If you’re always one-down, you can’t become the empowered person you are meant to be.
3. Substance abuse. Whether you’re self-medicating or seeking escape, the problems just don’t go away without the willingness to face them.