“Let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are. Be imperfect and have compassion for yourself. Connection is the result of authenticity.”
~ Brene Brown

road_to_successIf you ask most people want they want for their career, business or life, often the word Success comes up at some point. Indeed, many of us want to be successful. So what stops some people from being successful but not others? A whole host of things. It is often said that success leaves footprints. I do believe that there are certain patterns that successful people follow — taking action, being focused, making bold but calculated risks, finding a support system, and staying positive to name a few. But there are also some serious saboteurs that often get in the way of success. They cause (and are often caused by) doubt, fear, lack of confidence, and negativity. They come disguised as 3 blocks that try to stop you from moving forward and being successful.

1. The Perfection Trap

The Perfection Trap is what causes you to second guess yourself at every turn. It is often disguised as a strength (“I have such high standards.”), but in reality can be a manifestation of procrastination, lack of confidence, or fear of failure or success. The Perfection Trap is in some ways the Great Western disease: “I’ll be happy when I …” (fill in the blank!). Many people wait until everything is “perfect” to move forward with their ideas, insights, strategies, interests and passions. Unfortunately, the waiting game goes on and on because the stars are never perfectly aligned. In the meantime, what happens? Life (and often success and happiness!) pass you by.

Win Borden said, “If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” Stop waiting until everything is perfect! Life your life now. Pursue your dreams, follow your passions, launch your business, apply for that promotion, ask that special someone out on date… whate ver it is. You probably have “enough” already under your belt to take a step in that direction. Remember, done is better than perfect. (For more on this topic, check out my article Done is Better Than Perfect at https://www.lisamontanaro.com/2012/03/16/done-is-better-than-perfect/).

2. The Comparison Trap

The Comparison Trap is often right there waiting to attack. It is the voice in your head that says, “I could never do that” as you look at others’ accomplishments, successes and happiness. It forces you to look outward for your definition of success. You look at others, measure yourself against them, and then think you are less than. When I work with a client, I implement a rule that he or she must follow: No negative self talk! You’d be surprised how difficult it is for many people to adhere to it. Words are powerful, and negative self talk always puts you in a losing position.

The world is filled with a sense of competition. Women tend to compare themselves to other women in so many areas: physical appearance, parenting, relationships, and business. Men tend to compare themselves based on material possessions, status, and money. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with everyone else! Use what others’ do as a model, sample or template, but, make it your own. Otherwise, you will just spin your wheels trying a little bit of everything, but mastering and enjoying nothing.

The problem with the Comparison Trap is that it is completely false. No one stands in your shoes. You are the only you. And the trouble with someone thinking they can get ahead of you is that you’re assuming that they can walk in your shoes. And this reminds me of something that the actress Judy Garland once said: “Be a first rate version of yourself, rather than be a second rate version of someone else.” An original is better than a copy every time.

3. The Impostor Syndrome

comparison_trapThe toughest critic will often be you. There’s a theory called the Impostor Syndrome that many successful people suffer from. It’s where you feel like a fake even if you have the education, training and experience to be successful at what you do.

Jodie Foster has talked about it freely in some of her interviews. She said that every time she would go on a movie set, whether as an actress or a director as her career progressed, she felt like an impostor and was worried that she’d be “found out.” And this is coming from an accomplished performer since she was a child, and a celebrity by most people’s standards. But it doesn’t matter. When she looked in the mirror, she didn’t see that celebrity. She didn’t value herself the way others valued her.

We so often judge ourselves harshly because in our own minds, we aren’t quite there yet. We tend to focus on what we have not accomplished yet, what remains to be done, what goals we have not yet reached. Try to remind yourself of what you have already accomplished, how much you have already grown and changed, and the goals you have met. It is often on the journey to becoming who we are that the true growth takes place. The term authenticity is often used these days (some may say over-used). I think being authentic means taking ownership of your true value, including all that you bring to the table, while humbling yourself enough to admit that you still have some steps to take on your journey. That doesn’t make you an impostor. It makes you human.

About Lisa Montanaro

Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and enjoy productive and profitable businesses. To receive her free Toolkit, Achieve Powerhouse Success with Purpose, Passion & Productivity, visit www.LisaMontanaro.com/toolkit. Lisa is the author of "The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life" published by Peter Pauper Press. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help you be purposeful, passionate and productive, contact Lisa at (530) 302-5306 or by e-mail at .

20 Responses to “Having a Confidence Crisis? The 3 Blocks to Success”

  1. Charlotte

    I love this blog title! And man do I want to be Cinderella but two sisters keep getting in the way! I’ve been doing some competitor research and it is hard to not constatnly think you aren’t nearly as good as what company XYZ is doing. But staying focused is key. I love your line, “judge ourselves harshly because in our own minds, we aren’t quite there yet.” We have to be kind to ourselves and go at our own pace as well.

  2. Lisa Montanaro


    Thanks for your comment! Glad you liked the article (and loved the title!). Keep working on those ugly step sisters. Show them who goes to the ball and gets the prince in the end! Competition can be healthy if we let it motivate and inspire us. Just try not to let it take over and cause a defeatist attitude. No matter what someone else is doing, they are not YOU, and that is what will set you apart. Believe in your Unique Selling Proposition and let that shine through. Now go get ’em Cinderella! 🙂

  3. Nadine Nicholson

    Lisa, three great points business owners in particular need to embrace! I totally understand the imposter syndrome. It’s so important to look at what we have accomplished and spend less to worrying about what we haven’t done yet. It’s too easy to focus on the goals we haven’t reached instead of celebrating our wins!

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Nadine – Thanks for your comment! And yes, it is so important to reflect on what we have done, and not get too caught up in the not-yet-done category. I know you have written a lot about that concept too on your blog. Such an important reminder!

  4. Margo DeGange

    Oh Boy Lisa, you nailed it! You really nailed it here!

    These three, perfection, comparing self to others, and feeling like you’re an impostor come up all the time when I consult people, and it does not matter the industry they are in. I’ve seen these three horrible plaques trouble even the most skilled and seasoned business owners. I am SO GLAD you are addressing them here.

    One more I often see is the flip-side of the Imposter Syndrome, and that is trying to be someone you’re not. My motto in business is “Be you and be it full throttle”! For a service professional or for any brand, having your own voice is your greatest leverage and competitive advantage.

    Excellent post Lisa, really so very needed.



  5. Lisa Montanaro


    Thanks so much for your awesome comment! Sounds like you see this as often as I do with clients, colleagues and business owners in general. And you brought up a great point about how the flip side of the Imposter Syndrome is trying to follow and be like another. You hit the nail on the head. Be yourself… and original is better than a copy any time. 🙂

    Thank you – Lisa

  6. Seana Turner

    So true, Lisa. In my area, I see people struggle with #2 all the time. And it isn’t just in business, just in life. Comparing ourselves to others is exhausting, and we are typically comparing our inside life to their outside life, which is unrealistic.

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Seana – Oh so true!! People THINK they are comparing themselves to others, but they are comparing themselves to their perception of another person. You nailed it!

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Hi Hazel – Thank you… interesting thought. Yes, I suppose we could say these are all forms of mental clutter. They definitely clutter up the mind. I think they go deeper than that, unfortunately, for many. But the first step to overcoming them is awareness so if someone notices that they have these types of “mental clutter” taking up space in their head, that is better than not noticing it. 🙂

  7. Sarah Soboleski

    These stumbling blocks are spot-on! I frequently have to remind clients of what they accomplished in a session and not focus on what’s left to do. Such a good reminder to celebrate the small successes!

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Sarah – Great point that you often need to remind a client of what has been accomplished so that they focus on the abundance and not the scarcity portion!

  8. Jill Robson

    Great post Lisa, I used to be in the comparison group, still am sometimes. when I find myself leaning that way I remind myself of all I have accomplished in the last 3 years, and I let it go.

  9. Autumn Leopold

    This is a wonderful post that applies to everyone everywhere! I have been doing some serious reflecting on these very topis and even started a blog post about this LAST NIGHT! So when I saw this today I was amazed that some of these are my exact thoughts! I’m personally reflecting and brainstorming on all of my personal barriers that are holding me back from living a healthier lifestyle, and putting myself first. Thanks for the excellent food for thought!

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Autumn – Bravo to you for putting yourself first and reflecting on the barriers that are holding you back from a healthier lifestyle. And I am thrilled that the timing of this post was perfect for you. Isn’t it cool how that happens often in life when we see the exact message we are supposed to? 🙂

  10. Kim

    This is a great post!! We often are our own worst enemy. Fear of failure, fear of being judged and/or fear of success can really hold us back and usually the fear is way worse than what actually happens. I find it hard to put myself out there but it gets easier the more you do it. Thanks Lisa

    • Lisa Montanaro

      Kim – So true that the fears are often worse than the reality. I am happy to hear that you are putting yourself out there more and more… it does get easier the more you do it!!

  11. Janet Barclay

    After 13 years in business, I’ve faced all of these blocks at one time or another. Thank you for the great confidence boosters – I’ll pin this to refer to when I need a kick in the butt!


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