Why So Many Potentially Amazing People Give Up Before Truly Succeeding

A therapist shares seven common reasons people hold themselves back, often without realizing it.

Last updated on Jun 20, 2024

Anxious, self pitying woman waiting in therapist office. Dima Berlin | Canva

Many clients, whether they come for therapy or coaching, often say how long they've waited before finally making the call to schedule an appointment with a therapist or life coach. A surprising number of my psychotherapy clients tell me they worry that they won't have enough to talk about to fill the 45 minutes of our session. My coaching clients sometimes have concerns about how well they're using the time. 


They know support or help could make their lives better and help them reach their dreams, but a few things hold them back from getting it. These are some of the specific concerns I hear, and the reasons why they should not keep you from getting help. Do any of these ring a bell with you? 

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Here are 7 excuses people use to avoid asking for help or support 

1. My issues are boring

Starting therapy or coaching does not mean you are entering a contest for who has the most interesting, exotic, or unique life. Your difficulties are the stuff of therapy and coaching, be they holiday concerns, relationship problems, or problems with your sister, boss, or children. 


Yes, people all over the world are fighting for freedom and suffering injustice, but I'm there to guide you through your procrastination, insomnia, or panic — not to end world hunger. During your session, your issues are the most important thing in the world for both of us.

2. I might run out of things to say

Most people who worry about this never run out of things to say. If you have trouble with what to say, it may be because you're editing yourself — deciding you shouldn't talk about the thing on your mind. 

I advocate saying whatever comes up for you and allowing the professional to decide what's important. After all, this type of work is a two-person gig. Your therapist/coach gets to do part of the work too. They will guide you through your session by seeking clarification and asking powerful questions.


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3. I'm not funny, clever, etc.

Your job as a client is not to entertain. I like a good laugh as much as the next person, but I do not expect you to provide a Tina Fey-like routine for me. If you did, how could we possibly get any work done? As a client, your job is to show up and be yourself. If you want to be funnier, that would be a great coaching goal, but it's not a requirement for being a client.

4. I know what I need to do

Of course, you do, but clearly, something is holding you back or you'd just do it. Whether it's leaving a partner, a job, or returning to school, it may be difficult to accomplish for a variety of reasons. My job is to help you understand your reluctance to move forward, support you in doing it, and provide the requisite nudge.


5. I don't know what to do

Of course, you don't. If you did, you wouldn't need me to help you. This is another great reason to enter a helping relationship. Your problems may be difficult, but finding answers is at the heart of helping. Give me one psychologist and I'll guarantee you an almost infinite range of solutions for any problem.

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Double exposure of calm woman and sun she is not staying stuck sun ok via Shutterstock


6. I'm not sure I can change

A variation on this theme is being unsure you want to change. Both concerns are ubiquitous among therapy and coaching clients. We often think we want to do something, but we're also frightened of what might happen if we tried and failed, or if we succeeded. It's the professional's job to help you face your inner critic, fears, and insecurities.

7. Nothing happened this week

Really? Even when you talk about the small things that stick in your mind from the week, they usually tell the story of what's going on with you. You followed through on things we talked about last week, or you didn't. You thought about them more, or you blocked them out. Either way, your reflections on the week are useful and the springboard for exploring change.

Consider a gift to yourself and talk to someone who can help you move ahead in your life.


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Judith Tutin, Ph.D., ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. She shares more work on her website, where she brings more fun and wellness to your life.