Do You Hold Yourself Back From Success?

Do You Hold Yourself Back From Success? 150 150 Laura Sicola

Do you hold yourself back from success?

“Whenever I’m in a meeting and I think of a question or comment, I end up debating with myself about whether or not to say it… then a few minutes later someone else says what I’m thinking, and it leads to a great discussion. I could kick myself when that happens!”

This is a challenge described by many of my clients, both men and women alike, and it stems from a lack of confidence on a variety of levels. But regardless of the origin, the outcome is the same: you hold yourself back from being recognized for your insights, expertise and overall value to the team.

So what causes this behavior, and what can you do about it?

The late, great sales guru, Zig Ziglar, had a powerful expression that has stuck with me from the first time I heard it many years ago. He said that you have to ask yourself, “Is your fear of failure greater than your desire to succeed?”

The short answer is that, for people who typically hold back as described above, their default answer, often subconsciously, is a resounding “YES.” That’s why they hold back.

What is most powerful to me is the thought process you inevitably go through if you actually ask yourself that question when you find yourself holding back That’s because it actually leads to three deeper and more concrete questions that will help you regain confidence and hopefully compel you to take action:

The first is, how would you define “failure” in that situation, and what’s the worst thing that could happen if you did “fail”? Maybe it means you could make a mistake, share wrong information or demonstrate ignorance. And what would be the repercussions of one of those situations? I highly doubt that you could lose your job, take a major hit to your reputation, or die of embarrassment. The worst that would happen is that you might get corrected in public. You’ve heard others make contributions that were not received with open arms; what happened to them? Most likely, nothing

The second key question is, how would you define “success” in that context? Success could be simply a matter of knowing you made a valuable contribution to the discussion. Maybe your idea provides a critical piece that will help the group to problem-solve more efficiently. One way or another, you will show yourself to be a valuable, proactive member of a team, and it might put you on someone’s radar, for all the right reasons.

A third question that gets overlooked is, “What is the effect of silence on my part?” Remember, holding back judiciously from time to time is probably appreciated by most people. But when your reputation in those meetings becomes one of someone who is non-participatory, playing it “safe” and hiding in self-defense mode unless forced to speak, does that really project leadership?

And just in case you were thinking about playing the “introvert” card, stop right there. That excuse won’t work. Introversion is not about fear of public speaking, confidence or general shyness. It’s about how you get energized, and what takes energy from you. Don’t mistake being an introvert with being hesitant to ask a question or offer a comment in a team meeting.

So the next time you recognize that you are holding back, do two things: First, decide what you want your leadership reputation to be. Then ask yourself: “Is my fear of failure greater than my desire to succeed?”


Do you have questions or comments about the issues in today’s post? If so, contact me at or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss them with me personally!