They Just Need to Put on Sunglasses

Did you know that you have a glass ceiling of joy? That most likely YOU are self-imposing? Several years ago I read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. I had so many aha-moments that I have re-read it several times since. (And highly recommend it to everyone.) 

In his book, Hendricks says that we have all created a limitation for how much joy we feel worthy of experiencing, and unless we intentionally overcome it, we will always self-sabotage to keep ourselves within our comfort zone. 

One of the main things holding us back from experiencing more joy in life and achieving greater success is linked to our hidden barriers. 

I had an experience with bullying in the 8th grade. Losing all my friends at age 14 went on to fundamentally change how I interacted in the world. 

The short version of the story was that I was class president and editor-in-chief of the yearbook staff while continuously making straight A’s and achieving perfect attendance. Whereas I believed that the more successful and smart I was, the more people would like me, the reality was it had the opposite effect. 

A group of girls decided to use rumors to take me down. It became “cool” to not like Sophia and people would pretend I was invisible. The turning point was when a girl told me,

“I’m actually really smart, but I don’t let people know because people like to feel good about themselves. So if they think they’re smarter than me, they will like me more.” 

In that very vulnerable moment of my youth, I took her words as gospel. I tested it out and it worked. I applied it in high school and beyond, and it worked.

“Don’t be too successful and you will make everyone around you feel more comfortable.” 

It was Hendrick’s book that helped me to realize how this experience created a “fear of outshining” in me, and why for the rest of my life I continued to stay at just above mediocrity so as to not make others feel uncomfortable in my presence. 


I would love to say that 4 years later I have overcome this fear, but the reality is, I have not. It’s happening at such a subconscious level in me that it truly takes intention to recognize it and a conscious effort to push past it. I am a work in progress and constantly trying to remind myself that I am worthy of success. My comfort zone has become second place, and I am still trying to push past my fears and lean into my potential. 

What is your glass ceiling? How are you holding yourself back from your greatest potential? In Hendrick’s book he spells out the four hidden barriers:

Hidden Barrier One: Feeling Fundamentally Flawed: You feel that something is wrong with you.

Hidden Barrier Two: Disloyalty and Abandonment: This is a belief that achieving success essentially means you have to leave your tribe.

Hidden Barrier Three: Believing that More Success Brings a Bigger Burden. This fear will immobilize you because you believe that the life you create will burden others and triggers the emotion of guilt.

Hidden Barrier Four: The Crime of Outshining: You believe that if you become too successful you will make others look bad.

In 2016 when I listened to this book on Audible, I started weeping as I drove down the road and learned about the “crime of outshining.” I had suppressed that 8th grade memory, but I immediately knew I had internalized it. Ever since, I have been working on giving myself permission to shine brightly. I often encourage myself by saying,

“If my light makes them feel uncomfortable, then they just need to put on sunglasses.” 

What barrier is holding you back? Do any of the four listed above resonate with you? What fears do you actively have to overcome? 


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