Stop holding yourself back. #DIANEDIRECT | Diane Sanfilippo

Stop holding yourself back (a little tough love)

I’ve heard from many of you recently that you’re stopped in your tracks, afraid to share something you feel passionate about with the world. Or unsure of how to start. Or simply worried what people will say…

Don’t wait to serve the world with your gifts until you (or your work) appear in a way that some people deem acceptable.


Those people are never listening anyway. They are not your people. And the people who need you, they need you today and every day.

Never assume that someone who has the courage to stand before you or others in a position of service isn’t also struggling in their own way. In *our* own way. I’m speaking from personal experience here.

I don’t have it all figured out, and I have my own struggles and insecurities.


But I do this work anyway, because it’s not about me. The moment I make it about me is the moment I’d shrink down into a hole and stop doing it. It’s so much easier to not do the work.

If you’ve been paralyzed from starting to give and help others with the service of your own work, look outside of yourself. Your work needs to come from a place of deep caring and passion, but beyond that, it is not about you.

Every moment you waste not sharing it with others to help their lives become better is a moment wasted on your own ego.


Yes, I said that. Ego is what holds most people back from efforts to share their gifts and help others. I know you don’t have that in your heart or think your ego is the cause, but do some soul searching.

When it comes down to it, no one else’s measure of your contributions matters more than those who you serve. And, if you’re holding back because you’re afraid of judgement or criticism or it not being “good enough yet,” then you’re losing both for yourself and for others. Perfectionism is based in ego. Being detail oriented and wanting to make things great is not the same. Those are important qualities but perfectionism will squash your work before it sees daylight.

Go forth and serve whether you’re ready or not.

You’ll only become ready by starting.


What has been holding you back? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!


44 thoughts on “Stop holding yourself back (a little tough love)

  • Wow – just read your email. It’s like you know me personally! This is exactly the push I needed. Been waiting for the “right time” and “right thing” to be of a greater service. I have a great job but it is completely unfulfilling. I’m starting today – I don’t have to quit my job (yet!) to be a greater service to the people right in my backyard. I won’t be perfect, but I will start! Thank you!!

  • I know you have gotten this feedback 1000 times already, but I love this. This was never an issue for me in my corporate career where I quickly rose to VP level (and stayed there) for many years in many organizations/environments. But as a coach where I have to market and sell myself, this gets to the core of why I am not where I want to be with my business. I went out on my own almost 2 years ago. Learning a lot and making progress, but not as successful as I am used to being and I know from the feedback I get from my clients that I am very good at what I do and DO have a lot to offer. And I am passionate about helping people which is why I walked away from a high paying career in tech and consulting and went to IIN. Yet I am not putting myself out there the way I know I need to. I am at the point where I even know what I need to do, I just need need to get out of my own way.
    So thank you. What you have written gets to the heart of the matter for me and while I know you get a ridiculous amount of email and feedback on social media I just wanted to say thank you for this spot on perspective – it hit my heart.

    • Marcie-
      First off, each piece of feedback is unique and valued and appreciated – so never feel it’s not heard or worthwhile simply because there are others! 🙂
      Be proud of what you can do to help people and communicate that out to the world! OR, if it’s a better path for you to connect with a practitioner who can do that for/with you, then do that -like a naturopath, chiropractor, etc. Maybe being on the front-lines to market yourself isn’t a happy place for you? I hope to see you as a 21DSD coach soon and then running some groups in your community around that- I think you’ll soar there! xo.

  • Thanks Diane for this important message.
    I have been putting myself out there for a while and doing my best to help others who are struggling the way I was struggling. What’s holding me back is not getting much response from those I thought could benefit from my message. That makes me feel lonely at times and second guessing whether my work is valuable, and whether or not I’m relatable. At the same time, I know my message is needed. Maybe I’m presenting it the wrong way? Not sure.

    • KERSTEN – girl, I feel you. Remember that often people don’t want to respond publicly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t HEAR YOUR MESSAGE! Be consistent with sharing the truth and helping in a way you know people can relate to. Beyond that – work with people in real life – don’t rely on the internet! Start pounding that pavement! You got this! xo

      • Thanks Diane. I will take your advice and get in front of real people in real life, like you said. You said it already way back in your BBB podcast and have said it later in many other occasions so I’m taking action NOW. I just set the date and booked the location for my very first workshop. Largely thanks to you. <3

  • Oh Diane, this is so me. I have a son on the Autism Spectrum (high functioning) & I could be volunteering at an amazing autism nonprofit that he learns from & teaches at part time. Why don’t I? Because my self guilt is heightened when I am around #’s of people with autism. I took antidepressants when pregnant with him (assured that it was absolutely safe), prescribed because I kept experiencing “free fall” sensations ~ 50 times each night that prevented sleep. With ~ 2 hours sleep ea. pm for weeks, it was difficult to even sort socks. I was desperate, & told my husband if anything was wrong w/ this child I would never forgive myself (after starting prozac). True to form, I haven’t forgiven myself even 25 years later. Paleo & exercise are so beneficial to my mental state (& more). But, my perfectionism & sensitivity to criticism hold me back from doing more & helping others. Thank you for writing this; it really spoke to me.

    • GIRL! 25 years later – I don’t know that you can do this alone – have you looked into some talk therapy for this? I think parental guilt is present no matter what – like just by virtue of birthing a child then women have it! So, I don’t want you to spend more time assuming you either need to hold onto that further OR that it’s something only you can handle or deal with. Therapy is so helpful – and if the first person you find isn’t great, try another. I’ve seen this help SO many friends. You only have one life, be sure you’re loving yourself and those around you 100% AS YOU ALL ARE. If you can’t love yourself and forgive yourself now, what message does that send to your family? You’ve got this. xo

  • Eleanor Le Fevre says:

    Thank you Diane! I’ve been very scared about a lot of things lately. On my hour commute every day I think about what I want to do when X happens or when we have X amount of money. When I’ll be able to actually launch my business once I have everything else under control. Really there is no amount of X that will make me feel safe enough and fearless enough to get out there and see if I can launch my business and actually make a difference in my own life and others.
    Thank you for having the courage to dish out the tough love and not be worried about what other people will think. Like you said, those who need it will get it.

    • YES YES YES. There is NEVER enough money to do all the things we want to do- so you gotta do it anyway, however you can! I launched my first 21DSD ebook from a Starbucks where I wrote it on Microsoft WORD. Get it out there – you can’t help anyone with ideas trapped in your head. You’ve got this! xo

  • Thank you for that! I’m getting ready to launch myself as a Health Coach and have been hanging back out of fear! There! I said it! Thank you, thank you!!

  • Hello!!
    Diane you kick so much butt it’s inspiring. You may recognize my name as I am a long time listener.
    What was holding me back before was the unknown of the NTP program. Did that and fumbled a bit but crushed it! Was more proud of that than my college graduation. Now, what is holding me back is a bit of imposter syndrome and uncertainty of the correct field.
    What I want to do is become and occupational therapist who specializes in food aversions and feeding therapy for children with special needs. That way if they are only eating 2 food items a day, I can help calm their system down enough to try the right foods. OR
    Do I know enough to ‘stop my nutritional education’ at this level? Would an RD degree be better for the children in working with? I’m thinking I know enough, but I also know that as an NTP whose had a total of 3 clients in a year in a half sense graduation, I do not think I’m helping ‘my’ people yet. I know I’m not taken seriously in my current work as a special needs teachers assistant.
    The second thing thats holding me back is the money for school oh and a little thing called hpa axis dysfunction and hypothyroidism. Meeting with a functional doctor soon.
    Wish me the best of luck! There’s light at the end of the tunnel!

    • I think an OT requires specific schooling, but rather than be paralyzed with these questions, GO OUT AND TALK TO PEOPLE and find answers! Then find an opening for how you can help REAL PEOPLE RIGHT NOW. You’ll likely find you can help parents figure out how to feed their kids without being an OT – and they’ll appreciate that help so much. Don’t be paralyzed by the unknowns, chip away at them by connecting with people who can help make this a reality for you! I don’t think you need more money or more schooling to start helping people’s lives become easier, ya know? You just need to get out and talk to people doing this work and the parents – ask what will help them – then do that 🙂

    • Coming from a mom with a high-functioning kid with Autism who has MASSIVE food aversion issues, the need for people who “get” it is HUGE. I have tried everything that the “normal” pros have recommended, and it didn’t work. Having a person who comes from a real-food background with a focus on food anxiety would be a godsend for so many families like mine! Do NOT let fear stop you. Your voice, your gifts, they’re needed. Now.

  • Such an important message (and reminder)! I very much ebb and flow with this feeling and am at the very beginning stages, as my nutrition business is not even a year old yet (although I’d say it was brewing in my mind for much longer than that). Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it was really nice receiving this email today!

  • Hi! I so appreciate your work. What’s holding me back?? Not sure if this qualifies, but the fact that I turned 50 and I actually feel pretty darn healthy. What? Yes, after my hubby and I raised our 3 girls and are empty nesters… I’ve taken time for myself. But.. the reflection in the mirror isn’t reflecting how I feel… so, sometimes I’m less likely to go where I bare my legs, or swim w my grandson. Ugh! I know it sounds vain.. I’m loved and I am grateful for the life I have. Why let this hold me back.!?

    • It doesn’t sound vain at all! But it does sound like you’re keeping yourSELF from your family in ways you truly wouldn’t want to do! Who is judging you?! Certainly not your grandson – all he knows is grandma won’t swim with him, ya know? GO LIVE YOUR LIFE AND LOVE ON THAT LITTLE BOY OUT LOUD! 🙂

  • Thank you for this, Diane! It’s like you are speaking directly to me. I struggle with putting myself out there for all the reasons you mentioned. Recently, I taught a class on writing (with my business partner) through a community ed program. It was definitely a stretch for me! About halfway through, we took a short break, and someone came up to ask me a couple questions. It made me feel so connected to other humans (which isn’t usually the case 😉 ) as I realized he had the same writing insecurities as me. It felt so good to be of service to him and give him advice, which I could tell he appreciated. By the end of the class, I felt like a new person, and now I can’t wait to help more people in upcoming classes this year. People came up to us after expressing gratitude for the information we provided. What they didn’t realize was how grateful I was for them, too!
    I’m still figuring it all out, but that’s ok. It was a good step forward. Thank you for always being an inspirational voice that helps push me forward in my career as a freelance writer, and that allows me to continue healing from chronic illness. Your podcast and posts are always spot on. I can’t wait to meet you when you come to Minneapolis! 🙂

    • YES YES YES! Getting out in REAL LIFE and connecting with people is what we ALL need! It’s a HUGE reason why I tour for my books! It’s a big effort but it’s SO important for me to make that connection with you guys! I can’t wait to meet you, too!!

  • Ok I’m now validated! Spent the better part of last night agonizing over an encounter with a doctor I hoped would preform my 3 month thyroid control. It was not the best encounter and she refused to order my compound meds because they are “not dependable”,she refused to not conduct a complete panel saying “the TSH 4 TSH3 is all we need to determine the right dose” and would not look at the scores “your scores are in the norm according to the medical levels” and adjust meds according to my previous doctors levels (a functional doctor”. Plus she was not aware of recent research for Hashimoto (which I have had for 5 years). I tried in vane to share and encourage a co-solution. I NEVER have written a review on any social media regarding doctors but I did and stepped out to help others in my situation to not choose her for this condition. I was so excited and hoped others searching would read it. But instead I got a call from the clinic HR and listened to him explain why I should change my statements. At the end all I said was, “I am not saying this doctor is bad, I am say she is not knowledgable and does not respect my knowledge or experience. I am an advocate for my own health and have a responsibility to others on the same path to help them locate a knowledgable doctor. No I will not change my review!” My lord I was so upset and then I said to myself, “NO people have to know what they are getting into and your are not only empowering them to find the right doctor but finally standing up for what you have learned from people like Isabelle Wentz, Dr Hyman, Suzy Cohn and Diane S. Stand firm”….I did!!!!!

  • When you were on Snapchat, you once said something about people having issues with money and paying for things and it was their issue, not yours. It was like a dagger in my heart because it made me realize that I was projecting my own money blocks that were preventing me from putting myself out in the world.
    Then in the Balanced Bites Masterclass, Module 2, where it talks about how we came to form our beliefs, that’s when it clicked for me that I was coming from a place of scarcity. And this made sense because I grew up on a tiny island where we did not have access to things that other people take for granted so I was raised with the mindset to conserve so that we did not “run out” of something. I had no idea how it affected my thinking in how I approach other areas of my life. That connection is what finally made me start to get out of my own way. It’s a long process but posts like this remind me to keep pressing forward.

  • I started following you, Diane, because I happened to stumble across your podcast several years go when I was trying to make healthy changes to my diet. But, honestly, I have CONTINUED to follow you for your message of “to each their own” (or atleast that’s how I’ve perceived it). I admire you so much. You put your best foot forward in all you do with a confidence I pray I can acquire one day. I enjoy your food posts, love your fur baby posts, envy your San Fran posts, but most of all, I LOVE your lifestyle posts. Thank you for sharing your journey and your positive message for those of us that have a passion – even if it might not be something you agree with 100%. I started a blog and an Instagram account separate from my personal one because I have a deep passion for decreasing the stigma around mental health and while I’ve received positive input from people in my life I find myself hesitant to really work hard on it because I’m afraid of what people will think. Thank you for the reminder that I need to do what I want and feel passionate about.

    • I am SO so glad to hear all of this, Katie. Did you know that my first ever blog was called “mindful health”? 🙂 We have that in common. And I’m super proud of you for going for it!! You can help people, but only if you get to doing it!! xo

  • Damn – when I opened your email, I did NOT expect to read something which would strike such a chord with me. I’m enrolled in a health coaching program (National Society of Health Coaches) and have been procrastinating in taking my certification exam, because I’m scared. What if I flunk? And… what if I pass? Then I’ll still be scared, because what then? I’m scared to leave my perfectly good job as an operating room nurse and jump into the void. I’m hoping my hospital will hire me as a health coach and/or employee wellness coordinator, but that involves convincing them by selling myself, which is terrifying. And if they decided to hire me, I’d have to build and create this new position I’ve been fantasizing about – yikes! I feel a bit paralyzed because of all this fear and uncertainty. Yet I feel so passionate about the information I’ve learned in the 8 or 9 years I’ve been obsessed with nutrition and health, and I feel that I have so much to share. I know I could make a difference if I had the opportunity. Thank you for writing this – it just might be the push I need.

    • No need to be afraid! You can do hard things, and, if somehow this vision you have of how you want to help people doesn’t pan out exactly as expected, I PROMISE YOU that you will 1) live, 2) thrive, and 3) find another way. And, chances are, if that doesn’t go perfectly to plan, things will work out differently for a very good reason. I made a lot of plans when I finished nutrition school, but I kept saying yes to opportunities and working my tail off, and those plans fell by the wayside to make room for bigger things I could never have imagined at that time.

  • Jennifer Kilian says:

    Thank you for this message and your constant positivity and encouragement from you and Liz. I’ve been a dedicated listener for a while and thanks to your general outlook and empowerment I have taken the leap and as of Friday will be taking a new journey- working from home (in my same field) and joined the Beautycounter family! I’ve been thinking of doing this for a long time but have always been afraid to leave the ‘rat race’ of corporate America. I finally looked at my husband and said my sanity and happiness is so much more important than the paycheck and we both realized the sacrifices would be well worth our ability to breathe again. I have to also thank you for introducing me to Gretchen Rubins work as well- the 4 tendencies were a great insight into how I could finally make this transition. Haven’t been this excited about change in a long time! Thanks for all you do!

  • We cannot simultaneously set a boundary and take care of another person’s feelings.” – Melody Beattie
    When it comes down to it, no one else’s measure of your contributions matters more than those who you serve”.-Diane Sanfilippo
    I’m legitimately asking here, not trying to be a contrarian, I don’t understand how these two quotes don’t contradict themselves.
    Most of the above comments resonated with the content of this piece, as do I, but it was the header quote that sticks out above the rest for my personal experience. I’m reading, care for yourself, be aware of and/or set boundaries but the answer to self care is service to others……help me gain clarity from your viewpoint. Please.

    • If you simply give, give, give of yourself, but never truly connect with your own needs (like putting your own mask on first in event of an airplane emergency, so to speak), you truly will not be able to serve others WELL. Think of the mother who burns out by only giving to her children for 18+ years, then sits back when they leave and feels empty because she never stopped to fill her own cup for all that time? We only have one shot at this thing…
      The feelings aspect — this doesn’t mean to not have any sensitivity or awareness that your own boundary/saying no may upset someone in a moment, but does not upsetting someone in a moment serve you? SMALL example: recently, my parents began spending winters in Florida instead of NJ. I was touring in NJ this winter, and normally would have stayed at their house (my childhood home) versus spend money on a hotel. Well, mom and dad weren’t going to be there this winter, and the house was “closed up” for all intents and purposes. So, when I asked my mother if I could stay at the house while in NJ, she said “no.” Now, in the past, my mother would have literally bent over backwards to help me make it work, given me long lists of how to “open” the house up then “close” it back down, and worn herself out to give to me in that moment. But, I’ve actually had the boundaries conversation with her recently about many other people in her life. And, this time, when I asked for something that would be an imposition to her (and that truly I didn’t *need* – you see the distinction here?), she set the boundary and allowed me to be a bit disappointed for a moment, but then we all moved on. AND, my respecting that boundary, and not pushing it to say “oh come on Mom, it’s no big deal,” (which I easily could have – I could have pushed just to “get my way”) is how we all move forward with a healthy relationship. And she is HAPPIER for having set this boundary.
      Does this make sense? This is a SMALL example, as noted, but it was super poignant to me as my mother has almost NEVER said no in her life to myself or my sister. But it is SO important that these small boundaries be set, respected, and then can continue to be maintained over time despite whether or not they upset me or anyone else in the moment. For my mom’s happiness.
      I appreciate the discussion!

  • I SOOOOO needed to hear this today! I’ve had a lot going on recently, on top of wanting a career change. I feel like this is a sign that I’ve been asking for! I just need to do it! I’m so glad I read this today. ❤️❤️

  • Damn – when I opened your email, I did NOT expect to read something which would strike such a chord with me. I’m enrolled in a health coaching program (National Society of Health Coaches) and have been procrastinating in taking my certification exam, because I’m scared. What if I flunk? And… what if I pass? Then I’ll still be scared, because what then? I’m scared to leave my perfectly good job as an operating room nurse and jump into the void. I’m hoping my hospital will hire me as a health coach and/or employee wellness coordinator, but that involves convincing them by selling myself, which is terrifying. And if they decided to hire me, I’d have to create and build this new position I’ve been fantasizing about – yikes! I feel a bit paralyzed because of all this fear and uncertainty. Yet I feel so passionate about the information I’ve learned in the 8 or 9 years I’ve been obsessed with nutrition and health, and I feel that I have so much to share. I know I could make a difference if I had the opportunity. Thank you for writing this, Diane – it just might be the push I need.

  • Thank you for this^^
    As a young painter I am constantly holding myself, my creativity, and my true desires back in the content of my work. It is either because I’m afraid of judgment, the reaction of family members, how it might effect my income or the criticism of viewers. I started working with concepts dealing with mental health issues (primarily eating disorders), because of my own past, and family members lost to it. But in recent commission work and offers to show in galleries i constantly find myself trying to please others by creating work that is trendy or visually pleasant even though I know thats not what I was put on this earth to do and puts a pit in my stomach. Doing so has even broadened my publicity and my income making it hard for me not to. Your email reminded me of the real reason that I started painting, to show the world what goes on in the minds and lives of those effected by mental health issues in order to create a conversation and an awareness within the public eye. Thank you so much and it is very motivating to remember that we do is not always about us, but about helping others IN what we do. You are a gem, have a blessed day.

  • Patti Foster says:

    Hi Diane- this blog is excellent. I “retired “ after 20 years of church secretary work- and my drive and passion have fizzled as well. I found this blog in my email as I was trying to clean it out (make the red button number disappear from my phone). Thank you for your words of wisdom and I will do my best to get my focus back where it belongs.

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