7 Ways You Hold Yourself Back from Your Calling

by Amanda Miller Littlejohn As a personal branding coach , I help people beef up their offensive...

by Amanda Miller Littlejohn

As a personal branding coach, I help people beef up their offensive strategy – to score points if you will – in the game of life.

But sometimes you need to go on the defensive, too.

Beyond what you should do to express your gifts, find and follow your calling in life, you should also be on the lookout for the fears and negative thoughts that are holding so many people back.



After working with hundreds of individuals through my signature coaching sessions, I’ve started to see a few themes. I will continue to share these as I compile, but for now, here are seven ways you may be keeping yourself from your calling.

[1] You keep waiting on permission.

I see this all the time. People have some amazing idea that’s outside of their normal everyday realm. They have a desire to step out and beyond their regular mode of operating. But for whatever reason, they won’t allow themselves to step out because they haven’t been told it’s “okay” to do so.

They keep waiting on the green light. They are paralyzed in their waiting for acknowledgement from someone else – a mentor, parent, friend, spouse – to tell them that it’s okay to do whatever it is they have in their heart to do.

Spoiler alert: permission isn’t coming.

Once you hit adulthood, you’re on your own and it ‘s up to you to call your own shots. If you do decide to do something – travel the world, start a business, change careers – it’s up to you. No one can give you permission to live your life.

[2] You keep putting off being great.

Sound familiar?

You put off being great because you think you can always “come back to it”. You dabble with your skills, and refuse to earnestly commit.

Maybe, you put it off out of fear of failing, or even of succeeding.

Or maybe you get the chance of a lifetime to follow your dream, but postpone to do something more practical like get (another) degree or work a job to pay the bills.

You keep telling yourself that one day you’ll go ahead and write the book, audition for the play, start the business.

But guess what? And this is kind of harsh, but it needs to be said.

Windows – of timing, youth, talent, skill – don’t stay open forever. What comes easy today, may be impossible tomorrow. A business idea that is revolutionary today will be stale in 5 years. If your window is open now, don’t take it for granted.

[3] You let one past failure cripple you indefinitely.

Failure happens.

Success is cyclical.

Every year is not “your year” and every idea is not brilliant.

We all fail, or have seasons that we weren’t at our best.

I can recall feeling like a loser during a season of unemployment in my early twenties. I was trying to make my way as a writer, but was watching the bills pile up – and I had no idea how to pay them. I didn’t know what else to do, so I wrote and wrote and wrote. I fought off the loserly feelings and channeled them into my work. Eventually this resulted in a writing fellowship that changed the trajectory.

But I had to ride it out.

And even after that there were other rough patches. But I didn’t let the rough patches define me for too long.

I held on to my greater sense of purpose around my writing and my work.

Even now I consider myself a success, but everything I do isn’t a home run. But I do enough that it all averages out to equal a life and career that I am proud of. And I try not to linger too long when a business partnership doesn’t work out or an idea falls flat. I don’t let the failure define me.

[4] You’re not steering your own ship.

I talk to a lot of people about their goals, dreams, and deepest aspirations.

One thing I am often surprised at is how much many of us let other people dictate what we do with our own lives.

I talk to people who are well into their 30s and 40s and are still hoping to make their parents proud. They follow a path that is not their own, and listen to advice that is not suited for their unique personalities.

They choose to exploit their talents for economic gain, instead of exploring their passions.

And ultimately, they’re unfulfilled.

[5] You’re waiting on everything to be perfect.

For people who have grown accustomed to a certain number in the bank account, a certain standard of living, and a need to fulfill a list of obligations that – truthfully – are not requirements for life on this planet, the conditions never seem perfect to do something else.

And here’s another spoiler alert:

You may never have enough money put away.

You may never have the 3 year plan in place.

You may never find the right sense of work-life balance once you follow your dream.

You may never feel like you have enough time to spend with your kids.

Things may never be perfect.

But if we get real for a moment, how perfect are things now? If you find yourself regularly longing to do something else, things aren’t really perfect in this moment, either.

Might as well follow your bliss.

[6] You refuse to own your unique contribution.

Does this one sound like you?

You REFUSE to own that you have a contribution to make to the world. People tell you all the time that you’re amazing, talented, should turn that into a business, should be speaking on stages – and you hush them into awkward silence.

Instead, you choose to focus their attention on the other people who are doing it way better, or have been doing it for far longer, than you. You look at what already was or what already is, instead of what could be.

You believe there is a finite amount of attention, success, limelight in the world. And because there are others who do a version of what you would maybe do, you tell yourself that no one needs what you do.

But what if Lorraine Hansberry refused to write plays because Gwendolyn Brooks was penning poems and Zora Neale Hurston was killing it with her fiction? What if Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou decided to never pick up a pen because their literary godmothers had already done it so well? They all belong to the same canon of African-American literature.

Yet, somehow there was room for all of their voices and the world is still hungry for more.

[7] You dim your light.

You insist on being modest about your gifts.

Words like genius or expert? You run from those.

You think (or at least you let others believe you think) that any and everyone can do what you do. But you don’t believe it – you just don’t want others to be put off by how amazing you are.

Truth time? Maybe you really fear being alone. Maybe you know deep down that your circle – social and professional – are overdue for an upgrade.

You should surround yourself by people who make you want to soar, not shrink. And if the people in your circle do anything but, maybe it’s time for a few new friends.

You’ve heard before how dimming your light serves no one. And beyond that, you never know who is watching you right now. By dimming your light, you may be unwittingly blocking others from their blessings if your light could help them find their way out of the dark.

Photo Credit: andresr


Amanda Miller Littlejohn is an award-winning life, business and branding coach on a mission to empower you to build your brand, pursue your passions and package your genius.

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