What Is Holding You Back?

Doll on Halloween pumpkinIf I were to ask you:

“What is one of the greatest motivators of behavior on the planet?”

What would you say?

Before you answer, let me add this:

All animals respond to it, including us, humans.

Every year, companies make billions of dollars because of it. People lose sleep over it. Others are driven to insanity because they can’t handle it. Some people use it for entertainment purposes.

The remarkable thing is this: Most of the time we don’t even know if it is based in reality. It doesn’t matter. Alfred Hitchcock knew that our imagination is way more powerful than anything he could ever put on celluloid. He famously said:

“There is no terror in the bang. Only in the anticipation of it.”


One of our greatest motivators is FEAR.

Around this time of year we are all reminded of our love-hate relationship with fear. We love scary movies. Terrifying videos games are worldwide bestsellers. The most dangerous amusement park rides have the longest lines.

Fear is fun!

Why else would people jump out of airplanes, swim with sharks, or scare each other on Halloween, dressed up like zombies?

Fear also explains why so many Americans love their guns, why we buy insurance, why healthy nurses are quarantined, and why some people believe in G-d.

At the heart of fear is our deep concern for getting hurt. People are willing to do a lot to avoid a little pain, but they’re willing to give up even more to play it safe.

How many friends have given up a dream because they were afraid it would become a disaster? How many sweet souls have never declared their love for fear of rejection? How many people never dared to step on stage and show their talent, because they didn’t want to embarrass themselves?

Fear can paralyze and suffocate. It prevents people from even trying. Fear is the spirit behind the inner voice that whispers:

“I’m not good enough”

“I don’t deserve this”

“I’m sure I will fail”

“People will laugh at me”


Of course I should stop for a moment to make the distinction between rational and irrational fear. Fear of heights, ferocious animals, and fear of evil men with loaded guns is usually a good thing. When the danger is real, fear is meant to protect us from harm.  

However, we often suffer needlessly because we’re afraid of things that may happen, but probably never will. In holding on to irrational beliefs, we deny ourselves a chance to find out what will really happen when we dare to take a risk.

Many, many years ago I decided I didn’t want the security of a corporate job with corporate hours, and corporate benefits. I defied the expectations of family and friends by becoming a freelancer. Why? Because something inside me knew that the opposite of fear was freedom. I needed to be free to do my own thing in my own way, and in my own time.

Looking back, I can’t say that my road was without bumps, and that my game was free of curveballs. There were times I wished I had a regular schedule, and a regular paycheck. And yet, I am so glad I didn’t listen to those who warned me it would never work. Those people are now jealous that I can set my own hours, my own rates, and that I work out of my own home.


If you wish to claim the rewards, you have to embrace the risk, defy your critics, and defeat your fears.

There will always be a million reasons that hold you back, but you only need one good reason to go for it.

What is yours?

Believe me, if you’re a self-starter and you run your own business, you will be asked to dig deep. People will test you, they will ridicule you, and they will desert you when you need them most. That’s scary, but not in a Halloween sort of way. In these times you will ask yourself:

“Why am I doing this? What is my motivation?”

Even though you and I may not know each other, I do know this:

There is something you are really good at. Maybe it has to be developed and refined. Perhaps it needs a few more years to mature. But you know the fire is burning, and you feel the yearning.

That talent and that fire is one of your many strengths. It is one of the reasons why you’re here. You owe it to yourself and to the rest of us to stand in your strength. That strength will help you turn your fear into faith. By faith I mean self-confidence. 


Faith will help you believe you can make it, even in the absence of proof. After all, how can you prove something that hasn’t happened yet? You have to believe it, before you can see it. 

I don’t know who Paul Sweeney is, but he said something powerful that has always stuck with me:

“True success is overcoming the fear of being unsuccessful.”

Perhaps you know the story of British singer Alice Fredenham. People first heard of her when she appeared on The Voice, a televised talent show in the UK. When she came on, this “beauty therapist” was all bubbly, upbeat, and full of confidence. Even though her performance of The Lady Is a Tramp was solid, she didn’t impress any of the judges, and she was sent home. Her greatest fear had become a reality. 

But Alice didn’t give up. Two months later, she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, but with a very different attitude. Take a look:

Of course I realize that these shows thrive on carefully crafted sentimentality. Alice was accused of faking her insecurity and her tears, but I wonder how confident I would have felt on that stage.

After being rejected in front of millions, she overcame her fear and insecurity, because the song inside of her was stronger. She eventually made it to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, and signed a record deal with Sony.


If you allow yourself to be motivated by fear, your focus is on what you don’t want. Take it from me, that’s not where your energy should be. Your energy should be on your strengths and your goals. Not on your weaknesses.

This week, do yourself a favor. Be like Alice Fredenham and do something uncomfortable. Do something you’re a bit afraid of; something that scares you. Don’t pick your greatest fear. Pick something small for starters. Big success is built on a series of small achievements.

Discover that what you were initially afraid of, wasn’t really a big deal after all. Perhaps what you expected to happen, didn’t. 

Next week, pick something else; something a bit bigger, and build on that experience. 

Use this trick, and turn it into a treat.

Make it worthwhile. Make it memorable. Make it meaningful.

That way, you get yourself ready for a moment when you can’t choose the challenge. The challenge chooses you. 

That’s when you’ll discover this simple fact:

Life doesn’t have to be a thriller, but it certainly can be thrilling.

Happy Halloween!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be Sweet. Please Retweet

photo credit: alain l’étranger via photopin cc

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs." goo.gl/ihVpMc

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career

21 Responses to What Is Holding You Back?

  1. Heidi Rew

    Awesome article, Paul! Thank you for posting it to the Voice Over Professionals LinkedIn page. So many great nuggets of encouragement in here. Hope you had a great Halloween!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you, guys. This year I spent Halloween with some good friends around a glowing fire pit, while the trick-or-treaters entertained us with their costumes. It was lovely!


  2. Pau Garner

    Good point, Paul and the major direction of your blog. Always keep it positive!


  3. Paul Ganer

    Thanks, Paul! I remember being told to think “what could you accomplish if you weren’t afraid of failure?” Fear is a good motivator, but how much better the possibility of success?
    Great blog, as usual, Paul!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s a tough question, Paul. I think Anthony Robbins came up with it at some point. I don’t like the “afraid of failure,” part because it forces the mind to come up with a negative. I’d rather think of the best outcome possible, rather than running away from my fears.


  4. Corie Brown

    brillint article Paul. I agree with every word. Experience has taught me that life really does begin at the edge of your comfort zone…


  5. Rick Lance Studio

    Oh my goodness! I’m still crying from watching the video.
    I’ll have to check on Alice’s update!

    Paul, I believe you just coined a new phrase… the summation line of your article here… “The opposite of Fear is Freedom”!

    Happy Halloween!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Happy Halloween to you, Rick. I had the same thing when I watched Alice’s audition. I think you can find a few of her songs on YouTube. I’m not sure she has released an album yet. Thanks for sharing this story with your Twitter followers, Rick!


  6. Ed (Ed-VO) Waldorph

    Another bang on post, Paul. Shades of FDR on December 7th. A very difficult column to write and avoid cliche confetti. Good advice, too.

    Opportunity does knock and you do have to be there to open it, but you also can’t let your fear of the unknown behind the door keep your hand off the latch. We often hear folks say, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Sometimes with a false bravado of, whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And useless against those who fear success as much as failure.

    That’s all still negative thinking. i prefer to ask, “What’s the best that can happen?”


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I couldn’t agree more, Ed. “What’s the worst that can happen,” is a terrible question because it puts the focus on what we don’t want.


  7. Rosemary Benson

    Wonderful post, Paul. If we can just get out of our own way, the possibilities are endless! I love all of the encouragement in your writing.


  8. Moe Rock

    Oh that made me cry!! Darn you Paul! 😉
    Really great article… really great!


  9. Alison Shore

    Inspiring! I shall be consciously attempting to step out of my comfort zone everyday now starting small with this post and a leek, stilton and walnut quiche tomorrow!


  10. Kitzie Stern

    This was really great Paul, thank you.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s great to see all these wonderful comments come in. I appreciate every single word!


  11. Matt Forrest

    True words, Paul. And a great quote from Paul Sweeney!


  12. Nicole Clouden

    I agree with Debbie Grattan..”.For anyone that needs a little kick”. Like me I need a good swift kick.:)Thanks for those words of wisdom


  13. Anibal Mansilla

    I think that this is the best advice I’ve read in my entire life. It can be applied to anybody in life. Fear stops us and never let us know how great we can be.


  14. Nancy McLemore

    It is terrifying to be rejected and alone-but for me the bottom line for me is KNOW YOU and BE YOU…..what other choice is there?


  15. Debbie Grattan

    Terrific words of advice here, for anyone needing a little kick. So universal for all of us. You never know what you can achieve until you try. But so many are stopped at the very first step and never realize their full potential.


  16. Conchita Congo

    That’s exactly why I’m up & working at 4AM.
    Thanks for the kick, Paul!


Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: