"Work hard! Take risks! Get out of your comfort zone! Go big or go home! Network, network, network!"
When you don’t think very highly of yourself, traditional career advice sounds a lot like white noise. If nothing else, it can make you feel increasingly worse due to your self-proclaimed inability to follow the advice.
There is one important step to success that many career advice givers skip over, and it is possibly the most challenging step to take: loving and believing in yourself. If you lack a substantial amount of self-love and self-belief, trying to follow your dreams is the equivalent of trying to drive a car without fuel. Every effort you make or want to make will feel like a frustrating uphill battle, and you may wonder what is wrong with you for not getting anywhere.
Forget everything you’ve heard about how to accomplish external goals for a moment and turn your attention inward. If you’re struggling to reach a certain level of success and have been beating yourself up because of it, one or all of the following obstacles could be in your way:
Fear is one of the main contributors to a lack of success. It keeps a lot of people standing in one place, unsure and afraid of where they want to go next. If this sounds like you, take a moment to ask yourself what exactly you’re afraid of. When you can identify the source of your fear, taking the next step in your dream career won’t seem so scary. The trick is to take baby steps out of your comfort zone instead of taking a giant leap. You do not have to expect yourself to blaze through fear like a pro. We all have fears, and a lot of those fears take time and a considerable amount of effort to overcome. Identify the source of your fear and then take small steps towards overcoming it. Remember that fear is all in your head.
The comparison game is a nasty and soul-crushing game to play. Nothing will put out your inner fire faster than thinking someone else is better than you. The bad news is that there’s no magical cure for stamping comparison out of your life. Most people do it, no matter how many times they tell themselves not to. It’s almost a subconscious thing. But the good news is that you can work on becoming more aware of when you’re doing it and ridding yourself of the things that make you do it. If your Facebook feed is making you do it, take a break from Facebook or delete your Facebook page altogether. If a certain blog is making you do it, stop reading that blog. If your successful and wealthy acquaintance is making you do it, stop hanging out with him or her so much. The less you expose yourself to the things that make you compare and compete, the more you’ll be able to focus on your own life. You have a unique path to walk and a unique life to live. Don’t spend it focusing on the success of other people.
Feelings of inadequacy
"I’m not good enough for that." This kind of self-talk will stop success in its tracks. In order to accomplish something, you have to truly believe that you have what it takes to accomplish it. If you don’t, you will only stand in your own way. Overcoming "not good enough" syndrome is a tedious process that involves a lot of self-exploration and self-compassion, but you can start by getting to the root of your feelings of inadequacy. What caused you to feel this way? Was it your critical mother? Was it your cruel peers in middle school? Did a figure of authority insinuate that you will always be ordinary? Feeling good enough starts with relieving yourself of emotional baggage that has led you to believe that you’re nothing special.
If you constantly struggle to find motivation, this can be another major roadblock to success. Apathy usually derives from feeling overwhelmed or daunted by the amount of work required to reach a goal, lacking passion and enthusiasm for the work you’re doing, or suffering from a state of paralysis due to a multitude of negative feelings and beliefs about yourself. Feeling apathetic towards your work does not mean you are lazy. Labeling yourself as that is self-abuse and will not get you anywhere. Your struggle to find motivation runs a lot deeper than just being "lazy." Maybe you don’t really like your job after all. Maybe you need a different and more invigorating approach. Maybe you think you’re not good enough and shouldn’t bother trying. Maybe you’re suffering from depression. Before you can get your motor running, you have to figure out what is wrong with it.
Lastly, depression (whether clinical or otherwise) will make chasing your goals feel like slogging through wet cement. You may have days where you don’t even feel like getting out of bed, much less accomplishing goals. You may have days where you wonder what the point is and why you should even pit yourself against challenges in the first place. You may have days where you hate yourself too much to muster the inner fuel needed to keep yourself going. If you are struggling with depression, there is help and hope available. Tell someone you trust how you’re feeling or reach out to a mental health professional, and you will already be well on your way to a healthier, happier, and more productive life—which will undoubtedly lead to a healthier, happier, and more productive career.
We have access to invaluable resources and information about how to get to where we want to be in our professional lives. However, if you identify with any or all of the above struggles, those resources will likely go over your head. You must work on yourself before you can work on your career. At the end of the day, building your dream life and your dream career is essentially an internal job.