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When You Feel Stuck

Are you feeling stuck?

Are you the type of person who gently tests the pool water and very slowly, very gently enters? Or are you the type of person who just jumps in and goes for the gusto? The first sounds safer, less risky. The second sounds like more fun but could be cold.

Sometimes we find it hard to move forward or make meaningful changes in our lives. We may feel consumed with ups and downs, steps forward and backward, or just cemented in place. Although it is a common experience, it does not feel good when it happens. As a result of feeling stuck, we may experience stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem.

Let’s Examine 7 Conditions That can Lead to Paralyzing Emotional States:

  1. Fear of Failure
    When we are afraid of making mistakes or facing possible rejection, we tend to retreat to our comfort zones. This however, prevents personal growth and change.
  2. Lack of Clarity
    When we feel uncertain about our goals, values or direction in life, we can feel stuck. Without a clear sense of purpose, it may feel like we are just drifting through life.
  3. Negative Self-Image
    If we have low self-esteem and a negative self-image, the result may lead to feeling stuck. By not believing in our abilities and potentials, we may feel reluctant to take forward steps and thereby perpetuate a negative cycle.
  4. Overwhelm
    Today’s current life style tends to be inundated with technology, increased responsibilities, multiple choices, and at times, too much information. This in turn can paralyze us when there are decisions to be made and action to be taken.
  5. Past trauma
    When people have endured trauma, there can be emotional scars that interfere with personal growth. It can be challenging to move forward due to lingering psychological wounds.
  6. Perfectionism
    Perfectionism is an interesting dynamic. On the one hand, striving for excellence is admirable. On the other hand, it can create impossibly high standards to achieve. That is when we can be apprehensive to try something new or different.
  7. Lack of support
    When we feel unsupported or isolated, we may struggle to overcome challenges. Without social and emotional support, we may find ourselves feeling stuck.

How can we Break Free From Stagnation?

  1. Self-acceptance
    Learn to accept your process, whether fast or slow. You are okay.
  2. Introspection
    It is important to identify fears and doubts in order to gain clarity and motivation for change.
  3. Self-Image
    Believe in yourself. Your potential may feel locked inside but it is there. With some creativity, you can discover what you are truly capable of.
  4. Realistic Steps
    When you feel overwhelmed, it is important to first take a step back and recognize what is causing the emotional overload. In the Harvard Business Review article Nervous About Taking a Risk? Write a List of Pros and Cons, the authors point out that when we feel ambivalent “…generating pros and cons makes the prospect of failing…less threatening.” It can be very beneficial to list all the action steps and then prioritize them. Remember, nothing needs to be done all at once. Take a deep breath and check off each step upon completion.
  5. Resilience
    Through coping strategies, understanding and self-compassion, you can overcome obstacles and traumas that have hindered your growth.
  6. Imperfection
    Mistakes are not crimes. Perhaps you are carrying childhood baggage that tells you mistakes are not okay. I believe we learn most from our mistakes. When I declared I could play piano “with” mistakes, it lightened my enjoyment.
  7. Support
    I must highlight the critical impact of support to combat stagnation. Discussing your feelings and concerns with someone you trust and value can reveal new perspectives and insights. I highly recommend seeking support and guidance from trusted and valued sources including family members, friends and/or a therapist.

Remember: Change is possible, and personal growth begins with the decision to take the first step toward a brighter, more dynamic future.

Reich, T., Fulmer, A., and Dhar, R. (2022). Nervous about taking a risk? Write a list of pros and cons. Health and Behavioral Science, Harvard Business Review, 23 Feb. 2022.