What’s Holding You Back?

It’s taken me forever to start this blog. Why? Oh maybe because I moved to a new city and I’ve been too busy with scintillating trips to Target and Bed & Bath.

Or maybe it’s because I secretly (or not so secretly) hate social media and dread the idea of having a public presence.  Many of the therapists and life coaches I see online spout info I see not only as inaccurate, but at times, harmful. I’d managed to build a successful psychotherapy practice on 5th Ave in Manhattan with almost no online presence. Did I really need the gods of the internet to launch my practice in LA?

Or perhaps…there was something else stopping me.

I thought back to a patient of mine who had failed out of a prestigious college twice before ending up tear-stained in my office.  She’d done the rounds with many a therapist, and her father was even a prominent psychologist himself.  She was smart, a straight-A student in high school, and ambitious.

Yet every time she would step back on campus, the colorful fall leaves crunching beneath her suede boots, she would freeze.

Not show up to class.   Isolate from her friends.  And eventually—end up in tears wondering why she was such a failure.  Her parents were bewildered as to why this intelligent girl could not succeed in college.

She dreamed of becoming an architect, and had visions of glorious, magnificent structures in her head. She saw the world vividly in shapes, and thrived on analyzing how different spaces made people think and feel.

She knew she was smart.   She knew she should be able to win. But what she didn’t realize, is that what was paralyzing her was not in her conscious mind, but a deep nagging voice that lurked beneath the surface, or where we therapists like to call the subconscious.

The killer thoughts of I’m not good enough. I’m different. No one likes me. What if I fail?

That’s the thing about anxiety—it’s just tricky enough that sometimes, people don’t even realize its what’s holding them back. It manifests in all sorts of creative ways, and blocks people from their dreams.

So I taught her calming techniques for when she felt anxious, and how to battle the negative voices in her head. We explored her complicated relationship with her parents, and inability to let anyone in to make authentic friendships.

So I taught her calming techniques for when she felt anxious, and how to battle the negative voices in her head. We explored her complicated relationship with her parents, and inability to let anyone in to make authentic friendships.

I see this all the time—anxiety that holds people back from their deepest dreams. Excuses after excuses as to why my patients don’t take the next step towards their goals. I see it so clearly, and call them out in an instant.

And, perhaps there was a dose of that, not consciously, but subconsciously that kept me from penning my deepest thoughts. Maybe it wasn’t a lack of time, as much as a lack of confidence, and a fear of being just not good enough.

So I ask you—what have you dreamed of doing that you have been putting off?  Is it a career change? Starting a new fitness program? Making new friends? Talking to your partner about amping up your sex life?

And have you really not begun because you don’t have the time—because I see those hours spent scrolling through the gram or all of that Netflix and chill! Or is it because it’s easier to avoid it than face your biggest underlying fears?

And what became of my college drop out patient?  She had a choice— stay local and finish out her senior year at a community college, or try again at her alma mater.

“You’re the heroine of your own story,” I prodded her. “How do you want your story to end?”

Her parents didn’t agree, but I felt she was ready. Because finally, she had not only faced her fear, but learned the tools to beat it too.  So she courageously packed her bags, and headed up North to her prestigious old stomping grounds. And while I felt certain she now had all the armor to succeed, the rest of the battle was up to her. So I prayed she didn’t fail out, again.

About a year later, I received an email. “Hey Dushyanthi, just wanted to let you know that I graduated with straight A’s. Thank you for giving me my life back.”

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