10 Really Solid Ways To Undermine Your Own Brilliance And Potential

God & Man

Our world is rife with self-deprecation. Not enoughness. Trying to be someone else-ness.

It’s exhausting to sabotage your own gifts. I know because I’ve spent a lot of time doing it. Building myself up while simultaneously engaging in behavior and activities that, unwittingly, tore it all back down. It’s taxing on the soul to remain stuck in this way because it demands the energy of expansion, accompanied with the growing pains of change, but offers none of the tangible results of actually BEING that better version of myself.

The stuff that tears it all back down? Simple things, yet tricky to shift. Things in which, I’d wager, we all participate, to one extent or another.

1. Listening to your parents.

Enter sweeping generalization that’s (definitely) not always true. For the sake of getting to the actual point, however, let’s pontificate that most parents mean well. I’m not interested in discussing the extent to which you felt loved or not as a child, nor the degree to which your parents “failed” you or, conversely, won mom of the year.

Parents are human and, as such, they err in the same ways that all of us do. Additionally, having human parents and an upbringing of their own, they picked up a belief or two along the way that was inherently not theirs to claim.

In its crudest form: parenting is the job of ensuring that one’s offspring make it to adulthood. A toddler left to their own devices could easily starve/die of thirst/wander into traffic: and so parents serve as a survival mechanism.

In teaching us to survive, however, parents pass down more than the knowledge of how not to die.

It’s from their mouths that we often learn that art is not an acceptable vocation. That college is non-negotiable if you want to be taken seriously. That working for yourself is a luxury. To loathe/adore vegetables. To drink caffeine in excess. To drink anything in excess. That men are all little boys in need of a mother, not a partner. That women need saving by these man-children.

Our lists are likely endless. And our (presumably well-intended) parents meant well when they taught us all these things. Their aim was to not only teach us survival, but thrival. How to avoid pain. Their nuggets of wisdom are designed to spare us the lessons that they learned the hard way.

But the truth is that we are not our parents, nor are we of our parents generation. These nuggets are not applicable. Not only that: these beliefs do not serve us, they hinder.

If you’ve made it to adulthood and are reading this article then your parents’ role as survival mechanism has come to an end. Anything that you learned at their hands that does not assist in keeping you alive at this point can be let go. I repeat: let that shit go.

2. Maintaining friendships that are sinking.

Same same, but different.

Friends, as the old adage goes, are the family we choose for ourselves. Although I truly believe that friend ships are the best ships, certain ships that are no longer seaworthy should be retired to the bay.

We surround ourselves by the people we think we deserve and those that reflect our own beliefs back to us. What does it say about me, then, that I’m a self-employed human whose friends all email her “relevant” job openings?

Something needs to shift. Certainly I believe that some friendships last a lifetime (I will always have immense love for the women with whom I attended kindergarten and high school, for instance) but that doesn’t mean we are each other’s “people” anymore.

We can only travel as far with another as we’re willing to go with ourselves. If your beliefs about self worth/purpose/passion/meaning in life/whatever have grown in a direction that differs from those of your chosen family – those particular ships might be up for retirement.

The danger of keeping these friendships is that you also keep the mindsets you’ve outgrown. Again resulting in the sensation of growth without the reassuring appearance of spring’s new buds.

The solution could be as simple as a game of musical chairs to rearrange who sits closest to you and who sits further removed. Or, as is warranted in certain situations, composting and a fresh start. You have ultimate control of the navy.

3. Partaking in substances.

I enjoy beer, wine, and the occasional edible, and am not here to point fingers or be holier than thou. That being said, there are times when substances become a (subconscious) way to obscure our own light. It’s hard to fit in when you’re bright AF. You might actually blind some people.

So? Substances act as the perfect dimmer switch. Another means by which we dull ourselves to conform.

There is intrinsically a difference between enjoying a drink as an intentional decision to kick back, relax, and take life slowly for a few hours, and drinking socially because everyone else is or because an older version of yourself would have or because it’s a marvelous way to mute emotion.

The distinction between the two is completely personal. For some individuals it might take imbibing in just one beverage to leave them feeling like their radiance has been compromised, and for some it might depend on the mindset, situation, or emotional state. Either way, the effect of substances as a dimmer switch for brilliance should not be ignored.

4. Forgetting that your brain is attached to a body down there.

Wait, we’re not each just a great floating head bubble?

There is a reason that embodiment practices are all the rage right now. It’s because so many of us drift about our daily lives neglecting the fact that the majority of our mass exists below the neck. We were born with this amazingly versatile corporeal form so that we could take advantage of its functionality, not to see how deep of an indent we can make in that “posture friendly” swivel chair.

The effects of not feeling connected to our own bodies are detrimental. When I feel out of touch it becomes frighteningly easy to choose food as if it has no real below-the-neck consequences. But it does. The way in which we nourish ourselves is instrumental in whether or not we feel “good” or “bad” on any given day.

If I feed myself in a way that isn’t right for my body I’ll end up bloated and lethargic, with a headache and no desire to do anything (except eat more because might as well/who wants to deal with reality). Talk about minimizing your own potential.

The same basic principle applies when I either don’t move my body at all or force a genre of exercise that does more harm than good.

So, while it is true that the food/movement that works for me is not going to be what works for you, it is also true that some form of movement is essential (walking is like, amazing you guys), and that what you put into your mouth greatly affects your mental clarity, spiritual well-being, and overall health; a few things that are crucial to brilliance-optimization.

5. Believing that work is inherently difficult.

This might be something you learned from your parents, but it could just as easily be something you picked up from society. Regardless, it’s so important it gets its own category.

Every week I see a countless number of advertisements, posts, and general comments to the effect of – How is it only Tuesday?; Mondays are the worst; TGIF; etcetera. Why? Because the majority of society seems hellbent on hating their jobs.

Because…we were all taught that work is hard. In fact, all of these constant, subliminal messages strive to continue teaching us that, every damn day.

The beauty of it all is that, contrary to what your dad might have begrudgingly grumbled at 6pm upon arriving home from his suit and tie, nine to five, office gig – work need not be arduous.

If you disagree, that’s okay. I did too for the majority of my life. Sometimes I still have a hard time believing that work can be easy.

But then I remember that I love photography and people pay me to take pictures. That I love yoga and dance and people pay me to teach classes. That I love working with individuals one on one and people seek me out and ask to pay me to hold space for them. That I love painting and drawing and people pay to own a piece of my art.

None of that is strenuous, burdensome, or painful and all of that is work. Because work is easy. And believing it’s not, or that it doesn’t have the ability to be, leaves us seeking employ (whether we notice it or not) that fits our limited, painful understanding of what “work” must be. It’s the law of attraction.

So, if we’re bound to the belief that work is hard, we find ourselves unable to do the work that comes easy. By subscribing to this belief we turn away from our natural talents and passions (the easy work), thus undermining our own brilliance.

Say it with me: work is easy.

6. Viewing money as more than an energetic exchange.

The topic of money is a veritable minefield, so let’s see if we can’t step on a few while we’re at it.

Society would have us believe that money is everything (success/brilliance/the purpose of life/whatever). It’s not.

Money is dead useful, yes. It affords us food, shelter, travel, opportunities, and more. But it isn’t the end all be all. It’s our current means of trade.

Trade was once accomplished by exchanging services for goods or materials that were similar in value. Now we have money. (Actually, most of the time we have plastic.)

Money serves as a placeholder for energetic exchange. In exchange for my services (energy), you can give me an energetically similar service if I need it (energy), or money. See? Placeholder.

I can either cook myself dinner (energy) or have someone else cook it for me (energy) and pay them for their effort (energetic placeholder). Either way, feeding myself requires a use of my own energy – be it in actual energetic form or via the placeholder of money.

Another good example is the successful but overly committed neurosurgeon that demonstrates love (energy) to their family and friends by paying for things as an energetic placeholder for being unable to physically show up because his job demands him elsewhere.

Putting money on a pedestal is dangerous because it places us in the position of not being able to ask enough for our services. This leaves many artists/healers/self-employed humans feeling like they are unable to take care of their own basic needs because they struggle to pay for food, shelter, and the everyday cost of living.

Money is a number that equates to the amount of energy invested in creating a good or service. Until we realize that, we leave ourselves exposed to feeling like our basic needs aren’t being met. This causes a crisis of the nervous system (“yo, we’re dying”) and inhibits the ability to perform at our best.

7. Endeavoring to be someone else.

There’s a difference between wanting to learn from someone you admire and wanting to learn to be that person. It’s a subtlety that’s often overlooked.

The same concept applies in the artistic world. As an artist I have two choices: to use the works of those I admire as inspiration to fuel my own creative fire, or to aspire to copy them. (The caveat here being that, as an artist who is still learning, copying is sometimes necessary until a unique style is developed – and that is when credit to the other artist is due.)

I see so many people – entrepreneurs, artists, coaches, healers – seeking “success” by using what worked for someone else. Yes, field research and trial and error are absolutely crucial, and taking a cue from others that have already accomplished what you are seeking to do is both wise and unavoidable (this is why there are coaches in just about every field now), but always remember that you are you and they are them.

A client of mine seriously dislikes Facebook. But, as a Financial Empowerment Coach, she felt an obligation to do her due diligence and join groups, create her own page, and cross-promote her business just like every other coach out there. Why? Because of every other coach out there, despite the fact that the energy she was investing in Facebook was returning nothing of value to her.

When you do something out of obligation or any type of “should” belief, your magnetic energy just isn’t there. And that magnetic energy is what makes you unique. It’s your brand of fire that draws in the crowd who’s meant to listen.

Another friend of mine shifted into authentically sharing her beliefs along with her niche work of pediatric chiropractic and gained 70000+ Instagram followers in three months. It’d previously taken her over a year to get 4k. Not that numbers are always a great indicator, but in this instance they just so happen to be.

When you act from a place of passionate overflow, your light draws people in. When you operate from a place of should, i.e. “it worked for someone else and so I should do ______ too”, you blend right in.

You are the only you. It’s a hugely unproductive energetic drain on your system to think, act, or behave otherwise.

8. Spending too much time on social media.

Go into the settings on your phone and see how many hours you spend on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter.

That was scary, right? (If not, I applaud you, you may skip ahead to number nine.)

Not only does social media devour time, but when we engage in endless scrolling we’re essentially telling ourselves that witnessing the lives of the people we follow is more important than living our own.

When we invest our energy in social media in this manner we see no return on investment. Talk about an energetic black hole. (It should be noted that I’m not referring to intentional time set aside for planning, posting, and engaging with followers, as social media is now crucial for most businesses.)

Not only is scrolling and liking and story-viewing draining, but it can often lead down the thorn-stricken path of comparison. This leaves us in the position of acting from a place of not enoughness which draws us into a whole other set of brain games.

Brain games are where brilliance and potential go to cower in the fear generated by our nervous system. We all end up here sometimes anyway, we’re human after all, but we do have a duty to steer clear whenever it’s within our power.

Notice how you feel the next time you end a scroll sesh. Do you feel inspired, grateful, excited about your life, and motivated to take the next steps forward? Or do you feel constricted, tense, and weirdly queasy or unsettled. If the latter, perhaps this is an opportunity to reevaluate your social media use. Your brilliance and potential will thank you.

9. Failing to account for your environment.

Similar in theory to maintaining friendships that no longer serve the current version of yourself, failing to update your environment can be equally limiting.

One of the simplest examples is when someone makes the decision to give up alcohol. Refraining from alcohol while continuing to socialize in breweries will not yield a high success rate. If, however, the same person were to shift the way in which they spent their time to reflect their new attitude, they’d be removing a lot of daily strain on their willpower and freeing that energy to be put to use elsewhere.

With proper care, sunlight, and love, a houseplant will – over time – undoubtedly outgrow its pot. On this joyous occasion, it’s our responsibility as loving plant parent to gently remove said plant from its pot, and transfer it over to a more suitable home.

You are the plant. You are also the plant parent. Both the growth and the transplant are in your hands, because no one else is going to do either for you.

A plant that fails to be repotted not only lacks the proper nutrients to grow but is also stunted by a lack of physical space in which to grow.

Don’t stunt yourself. Change pots.

10. Lacking adequate boundaries. 

The beauty of a well placed “no.”

Boundaries refer to anything from putting your phone on Do Not Disturb after 10pm to declining an invitation to a party. They are a sacred way of nurturing your own energy so that you may employ it when you choose to do so, and not otherwise.

In a society oozing with FOMO and people pleasing, boundaries are often hard to come by. We grow up associating alone with lonely and No’s as negative.

But the truth is that No provides a freedom that Yes does not afford. The freedom of choice – of you being the ultimate creator of your life.

Too often we say yes to activities that aren’t really “for” us; situations and people that aren’t in alignment with our purpose or passion.

This takes a larger toll than many of us realize. It not only literally takes time away from activities that are actually in our best interest, but is also costly energetically. Partaking in something that doesn’t fuel our fire actively works to put it out.

Saying no is like putting up a buffer against the wind. Air is important in igniting and maintaining the flame, which is why it’s important to say Yes to the right things, but too much of a gust and the flame blows out.

Boundaries give the opportunity to cultivate energy and channel it toward potential. Lacking this allows energy to dissipate.

Practice saying No. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog