Essays · Lifestyle · Mental Health

Life-Paralysis: What Holds Us Back?

Life-Paralysis is (Brene Brown’s definition): “all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out into the world that could be imperfect; all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others.”


What Life-Paralysis looks like:


When we are paralysed, we don’t make decisions well. Either we run from decision-making altogether, or we have too many options and feel that decision-paralysis, or we let people decide for us.

When we are afraid, we can choose the wrong things for us. We self-sabotage or we’re so afraid that our judgement becomes clouded by the fear.



Of course, with indecision and fear and overwhelming options and opinions from others and society’s expectations, we become anxious. We’re high-strung and confused and lost. We’re afraid to misstep or fall and what it could all mean.



Feeling lost, confused, dizzy, tired, frustrated, angry, jealous, disappointed, dissatisfied, sad, lonely, or afraid of the future. If you feel this way, it may be due to life paralysis. You’re afraid to take a step, and so it manifests as other emotions.



Much like indecision, we don’t act when paralysed. We sit back and let things happen, or we refuse to take action out of fear. We often blame other things or give excuses.



Just letting things happen with no awareness or intention or control or active action-taking.


What paralyses us?

Fear of Failure

The fear of failure isn’t really about failure (see my post), it’s about the things listed below. We fear what failure many bring; the uncomfortable feelings that may result from failure, not the failure itself.

So, if you have a fear of failure, you need to address what it really means. What are you really afraid of? And are you willing to let that lead to life paralysis and disappointment?



Perfectionism leads to inaction. People think that being a perfectionist is a good thing. Something to be proud of. It is not.

Perfectionism isn’t about striving to produce your very best work or be your best self. Perfectionists seek to be perfect, which doesn’t exist, and so they are chasing something that’s impossible to reach thus never getting anywhere or completing anything.

You see, this is how being a perfectionist can lead to life paralysis. You never release your book because you keep striving for perfection. You never start that website or business or podcast or YouTube channel because your work or yourself is “not perfect yet.”

Keep on waiting for perfection and you’ll be waiting forever.


Fear of Disappointing People

Most of us have parents or parental figures who we want to impress. We want to do well in life so that they are proud of us. Or maybe it’s your peers or followers or whatever else, you don’t want to disappoint them.

Worrying too much about the result or how people will perceive what you do will likely result in life paralysis and holding yourself back from what you want to do.


Fear of Judgement

The same goes with judgement. Fearing judgement or avoiding it means we will hardly ever (if at all) put ourselves out there. We’ll hide and shrink and avoid until there’s nothing left to see.


Fear of Criticism

Judgement is “you are this and that” Whereas criticism is more “I can’t believe you did that like that, you should have done it like this.”

Both don’t feel great. Both make us feel shame or bring up insecurities in us. Avoiding either, though, is impossible if you want to live a full, abundant life. If we want creative lives, in particular, we simply can never ever avoid criticism or judgement, so trying to do so will only dim your light and lead to holding yourself back due to paralysis.


How to avoid life-paralysis:

Embrace Vulnerability

This is where the gold is. If you want to be someone who doesn’t get caught in life paralysis, then you must embrace vulnerability. Being vulnerable may mean feeling uncomfortable and afraid, but it is also the path to great things. Vulnerability can be your strength.

If we can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, or at least not run from it, then we will be able to get through the icky parts of life and come out at the other end, where success and wholehearted living can be found.


Expect and Learn from Failure

In life, it’s not a case of if you will fail, it’s when and how! Unless you live a limited life without ever leaving your house, you are likely to fail at some point. In the pursuit of greatness and things that the average person doesn’t do, you will definitely face failure over and over again.

But we gain strength and avoid paralysis by learning from failures. By knowing that they come to teach us things or redirect us, not knock us down altogether. So, ask yourself “what do I need to learn here?” and then adjust accordingly.

“Fail, fail again, fail better!”



As long as we’re living authentically, we can’t go wrong. When we live authentically, we don’t shrink or puff up. We don’t hide or shame ourselves. We don’t seek outside validation or worth, we give it to ourselves. We have an inner strength to pushes us to be who we are and do what we want to do regardless of external factors.

This is empowering and never leads to life paralysis.


Intentional, Mindful Living

And lastly, if you are being intentional and mindful in life, you are prepped to make the right decisions for the right reasons. You are aware enough to know what you want and why and then make it so with actionable plans and authentic reasons behind them.

With intention and mindfulness, we don’t live for others or listen to the noise very much. Instead, we know our own intentions when we act or speak, and we’re mindful of ourselves and our lives enough to take inventory often and ensure we have a life that we chose, not one chosen for us.


I think Life Paralysis is an easy trap to fall into these days, when we feel so pressured to fit in a box made by society, norms, and comparisons. It can be scary to go against the grain. It can be scary to admit to wanting more from life and then going after it.

But with my advice, I hope that fewer people give into it. Don’t fall into the trap. If you do, you’re not stuck forever, though; just reach up and climb the ladder back out of the pit.


If you need any help in bettering your mental health, or better coping with anxiety, depression, and stress, then my book “You’re As Mad As I Am” may be for you. Check it out here, and download a free sample to see what it’s all about.

If you want to hire me to write about mental health (or other), then don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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