What’s holding women back?

After my business burnt to the ground I reached the lowest point in my life – physically, emotionally and mentally. I believed that I led a healthy life but my body was in a constant state of stress and as a result, it rebelled. My journey to find true holistic health and happiness is what led me to create Uppy, and write my book, Unfaked.

I started to realise that everywhere I looked people around me, particularly women, were suffering from similar issues to varying degrees. It was like I could physically see all of the invisible restraints holding them back, but ironically it was themselves holding the reigns. As a result I’ve identified the six key factors that I feel are holding women back from realising their true potential:

Fear of failure

Results from the many interviews I conducted during my market research for Uppy revealed that 90% of the driven, ambitious women considered fear of failure to be a major cause of stress in their lives. Fears can take hold of and even take over our thoughts, and the impact is devastating. This fear pushes women to work harder for longer, put extra pressure on themselves and display ‘all or nothing’ behaviours – which can create real lasting damage to their health, relationships, effectiveness and happiness.

It’s important to remember that the root of fears such as these is usually the subconscious need to prove yourself, because you want to avoid being rejected (we all do). And ultimately the root of this is your primeval drive to survive. So to help overcome this fear, it’s important to constantly communicate to your brain that you’re safe, so you can get out of fight or flight mode and operate from your logical brain, rather than your emotional one, and remain focused on doing the task at hand to the best of your ability – which is literally all you can do.

A great place to start with this is to focus only on the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t. You cannot, for example, control what people think about you, or indeed what will happen in the future – but you can control how you behave and what action you take in the moment.


Self-sabotage can be defined as anything that creates a problem or interferes with a long-term goal. How it takes form depends on the woman. It might be over-eating, over-working, procrastinating, drinking too much, seeking out the wrong romantic relationships…the list goes on. We tend to use self-sabotage as a way to distract ourselves from a deeper issue, and often it can be a way of switching off or filling a void. To overcome it you need to uncover the real cause and find an alternative behaviour for dealing with that feeling or situation.

The easiest way to break the cycle is to remove yourself, either physically or mentally; walking away or forcing your logical brain to work by giving it a practical problem to solve (like the square root of 480) gives you perspective so you can identify what the real issue is and tackle it in a proactive way.

Unrealistic standards and perfectionism

Most of the women I work with have Type A personalities with a perfectionist mindset. This also happens to describe me, so I completely relate to the way this mindset can control your life. We set ourselves a series of rules and expectations (many of which are subconscious) for situations and if we don’t adhere to them perfectly, we consider it a fail. Often however, these standards are unrealistic so we’re setting ourselves up for inevitable disappointment, because they’re generally not actually achievable, and further encourage us to work harder and longer in a bid to reach this non-existent goal of “perfection”.

If you find this is happening to you, allow yourself to take a step back and check in with what’s fundamentally important to you (e.g. your health, relationships, happiness, security) and what you ultimately want, in all areas of your life. This will help to bring you back up to the bigger picture, so you can understand where to focus your time and energy, and stop sweating the small insignificant stuff.

Inaccurate beliefs

Beliefs are things that you believe or accept as the truth – the way you interpret the world is determined by your beliefs. We start to construct our beliefs right from early childhood, based on what we see and experience around us – and we don’t think to question them, because as far as we’re concerned that’s just the way it is. A large proportion of our beliefs are incredibly helpful, because they allow us to live and function effectively within our society – for example, we believe we should regularly wash ourselves and wear clothes in public!

Sometimes however, these beliefs can work against us and ultimately impact the quality of our lives, and indeed the lives of those around us. Common examples of such beliefs, particularly in women, are “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not worthy”. These are self-made beliefs with no basis in reality or truth, but for the person with that belief, they are 100% accurate and they help dictate the way they think and behave in all aspects of life.

So in order to truly be free to be who you really are and do what you really want, it’s critical to unpack these beliefs and change them. Start by observing your thoughts and writing them down, so you can identify patterns and themes, and therefore get a greater insight into what the underlying belief is.

Ask yourself questions like: “What’s the reason I felt like that?” “What caused me to do that?” “What’s the reason I responded in that way?” This will allow you to get deeper and get to the real thoughts – for example, you may think you feel anxious because you’ve got too much to do, but when you dig down you’ll probably find it’s because you’re worried you won’t get everything done, and therefore worried that people will think you’re incompetent or can’t cope, and therefore worried they will lose respect for you and potentially reject you…which you knew would happen all along anyway because you’re not worthy of their respect (or so you subconsciously think).

Lack of boundaries

With this insatiable drive to be the best and technology now allowing us to be connected 24/7, it’s extremely difficult to have boundaries – how many of you check your phone while sat on the toilet?! What all this does is keep our minds permanently ticking and in a consistent state of fight or flight mode, which wreaks havoc not only in our bodies but also our minds, and encourages unhelpful behaviours in a bid to ‘switch off’ and relax. This also shows up in the amount of things we always have to do – we take on too much and then work ourselves into the ground and push ourselves to the bottom of the priority list.

Again, check in with what’s fundamentally important to you and what you really want in all areas of your life, and re-prioritise your entire to-do list according to that, ensuring you incorporate some simple things that make you feel good at your core (e.g. quality time with family, listening to music, watching YouTube videos of puppies!). Remind yourself that you are indeed good enough just the way you are, and you don’t need to prove yourself in order to be respected and loved, and you’re always doing your best and taking proactive action in the moment towards what really matters.

If you do nothing else but what I’ve mentioned in this last paragraph, you’ll be well on your way to releasing all those invisible restraints that have been holding you back, and propelling yourself towards the life you really want – and having a bloody good time in the process!

If you feel like you’re being held back and you’d like to chat about it, get in touch here

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