How We Let Our Fears Limit Us

The power of recognizing and releasing what’s holding us back from living our best lives.

I woke up several times last night with something weighing heavy on my heart. Fear. Not my personal fear, necessarily, but the fear we all experience subconsciously. Fear that we avoid at all costs. I’m not talking about the fear of heights or small spaces. No, I’m talking about the fear that creeps in when we aren’t paying attention. The fear which limits us and holds us back from having the things that will ultimately bring us joy. What I’ve learned recently is that it goes back to an interesting concept called “Upper Limit Problems”

What I’m talking about comes from Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap. Hendricks suggests that we all have an Upper Limit Problem, which keeps us from reaching our potential — an internal gauge by which we decide how much happiness, love, intimacy, success, and wealth we are worthy of. Ultimately, when things start to get good in the area where we have an Upper Limit Problem, we will self-sabotage so that we can stay in a safe, familiar place where we feel in control.

So, often, when life gets good (especially in the area where we experience our Upper Limit Problem (a great career opportunity appears, we find a great relationship, have a financial success, we’re feeling healthy and fit), we unconsciously find ways to sabotage ourselves (we turn down the opportunity, withdraw from a romantic partner, overspend, overeat; you get the picture).

Here’s a quote about Upper Limit Problems from Hendricks:

The essential move we all need to master is learning to handle more positive energy, success and love. Instead of focusing on the past, we need to increase our tolerance for things going well in our lives right now. If we don’t learn how to do this, we suffer in every area of our lives. As we bump into our Upper Limit Problems, relationships suffer greatly.

It sounds crazy; right; that we would self-sabotage our own ability to reach happiness? That we genuinely want to be happy, successful, loved; but that we’re equally afraid of what we might lose in the process. That we literally turn around and run from it because we aren’t able to handle the positive energy that success and love bring. It sounds completely dismal, yet utterly familiar. I’ve seen these tendencies in those close to me…and in myself.

So, what can we do? How can we keep these fears from interfering with our life? Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the ways we actively and passively avoid our subconscious fears. I’ve become passionate about understanding why we self-sabotage and numb in order to avoid potential pain, and how we can learn to do better. Luckily, I have an amazing group of teachers, gurus, and experts that I’ve been learning from and am determined to gain a full understanding of how we can begin to recognize and release fear…and call in the awesomeness that is available to us. I’ll write more on this later, but here are the simple steps as I see them thus far:

  1. You must have the courage to be vulnerable and the will to grow.

We all have fears — many which we may not have even realized yet — which limit our ability to grow, stretch, and live our best lives. While we might receive outward and inward signals to ignore or resist these fears, I’ve become curious about the grand possibility that lies on the other side of fear. While our fears may be big ideas inside of our heads, they are just that: ideas. We can choose to feed them or explore them. Which path will you choose?

Originally published at

Seeker. Writer. Elective Sobriety. A 30-something sharing my journey of personal development, spiritual growth, & authenticity. IG: @authenticallyamanda.

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