The Things That Get in the Way

You may have heard the statement, “You can be anything you want to be.” It suggests if we are motivated enough, committed enough, desperate enough, we can make it happen.

The reality is many things can get in the way of us becoming the person we want to be. There are common excuses

Not good enough
Not ambitious enough
Not disciplined enough
Not intelligent enough
Not attractive enough
Not forgiving enough

Sometimes our dreaming is self-delusional and self-indulgent. We want to be the best. We crave approval and adulation. We fixate on the rewards. We believe it our due.

We live in a complicated and anxious world, troubled by feelings of incompleteness. We feel dissatisfied with our life, succumbing to self-loathing and self-doubt.

Bestselling author Sir Ken Robinson says,

“One of the tragic ironies of modern life is that so many people feel isolated from each other by the very feelings they have in common, including a fear of failure and a sense of not being enough.”

In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” Dr Brenè Brown explores what it takes to live a joyful, connected and meaningful life.

People who are suicidal know their life is not what it should be. They are aware of their loss. It might be a loss of health, a broken relationship, a loss of job, home money, personal security, status or self-esteem. They feel on the outer, alone and abandoned. They find no cause for joy, feel separated from those they love, and fail to see a purpose to their unrelenting emotional pain

Dr Brene Brown discusses what wholeness looks like and the obstacles that get in the way. Her research shows that people who are fulfilled live a joyful, connected and meaningful life.


A joyful life is made up of joyful moments, embedded in the ordinary experiences of life. The spontaneity of a young child, the sounds of nature, the fragrance of blossom, and the refreshing droplets of rain is cause for joy.

Joy is dependent on gratitude. It is being grateful for what you have and being willing to share your gratitude with others.

When we lean into joy it allows us to build resilience and cultivate hope.

Having joy in our life allows us to navigate tragedy and loss.

“Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience,” Brown says. “And if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.”

We imagine something bad is going to happen when in reality nothing is wrong.


Brown defines connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

We are wired for connection. We need connection to thrive emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually.

Love and belonging are essential to the human experience. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. The absence of love, belonging, and connection always leads to suffering.

When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection.

Meaningful life:

A meaningful life reflects our willingness to be authentic. It is defined by courage, compassion, and accountability.

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real; the choice to be honest; the choice to let our true selves be seen.

Brown says,

“Without purpose, meaning, and perspective, it is easy to lose hope, numb our emotions, or become overwhelmed by our circumstances.”

Dr Brenè Brown shifts her focus to things that get in the way of a fulfilled life. She says,

“If we want to live a joyful, connected and meaningful life, we must talk about the things that get in the way.”

Brown identifies shame, fear, and ‘vulnerability’ as playing a pivotal role in holding us back and stifling our zest for life.

People who are suicidal encounter the destructive force of shame, fear, and ‘vulnerability’ over their lives.


Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and thus unworthy of love and belonging.

For shame to flourish it needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgment.

Shame speaks to who we are. It says, ‘I am bad.’

When shame rules in our lives we are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviours and to attack or shame others.


Fear is a powerful and complex emotion known to all. Fear is crippling, defeating, and demoralising. We fear success, failure, love, loss, pain, and grief. We fear being found out, exposed as a fraud, and shown to be inept.

Fear drives many of our behaviours. The fear of being perceived as unworthy is enough to force us to silence our stories.

Brown says,

“Story is about worthiness and embracing the imperfections that bring us courage, compassion and connection.”


Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the centre, of meaningful human experience. It is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Staying vulnerable is the risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.

Brown says,

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

For many of us, our first response to vulnerability and pain is not to lean into the discomfort and feel our way through but rather to make it go away. We take the edge off of the pain and vulnerability by numbing our emotions. This is achieved with alcohol, drugs, sex, work, gambling, shopping, the Internet…

We hide our vulnerability because it’s difficult to find people who are empathetic, who are able to share our discomfort.

People who are suicidal fail to recognise the value and strength in vulnerability. The truth – ‘Vulnerability is the path to greater clarity of purpose’ – eludes them.

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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