Why We Dumb Down Our Desire

desire, dreams, happinessIf you’ve ever been disappointed by unrealized dreams, it can feel ultimately scary to declare what you really want. We’re conditioned to avoid the kind of pain that comes from hurt and disappointment. We mistakenly think if we want less, than it will hurt less when it doesn’t happen.

But in reality, downplaying our dreams, or dumbing down our desire is self-sabotage. I know because I’ve done it,…a LOT!

Recently, I was out for coffee with a friend and we were reviewing my “book in progress.” More about that toward the end of the post, so read on…Anyway, as my friend J. wrapped up her feedback, she leaned back in her chair and asked in her therapist-like voice, “Okay, now I want you to tell me what you really want in life.”

I could tell she was shooting straight to the heart and there would be no hedging or pretending on this one. I prefaced my answer with, “I’m probably going to cry.”

And she said, “That’s okay; It’ll probably be best if you do.”

So I braced myself to say the scariest thing…“I want to experience deep, loving, authentic, connection with another person.”

And yeah, I cried a little because saying it out loud brings up the vulnerable and fearful belief that it may never happen. The possibility that it might not happen, or that it isn’t happening, might also mean that there is something inherently wrong with me. This is the accompanying thought that hides, always afraid of being exposed.

To avoid expressing the fears that often run alongside our dreams, we dumb down our desire. We do it in a lot of ways, most of them unconscious. Here are a few I mastered and have worked hard to dispel. Maybe you’ve caught yourself in one of these before…

We Substitute

We find other things to fill in the gaps. We use this strategy to keep us going (while we wait), but when our day to day activity becomes a substitute for what we really want, it’s too easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re okay, as is. When we are busy with substitutes, we can easily convince ourselves that we don’t really want or need what our heart desires. You can ask yourself questions like what are my current activities leading me toward. Do I want more of the same in 10 years or even 20? Is anything missing? And what would make it even better?

We Qualify

We focus instead on what we think we have to do or be to have what we want. Maybe we need a higher paying job before we can find a partner who will accept us. Maybe we need to lose 17 pounds before we can audition for a role, or we need another degree before we can start our own business. We place a lot of conditions on who we need to be or what we need to have before our desires can unfold. What if you simply said NOW?

We Justify

We pretend it’s not for us. I understand how much disappointment can knock us out of the game. Our attachment to failure and the realities of time, space, and money can make our desire seem impossible. As a defense, we adopt beliefs that are very damaging to our soul…the worst of these being, “I guess it’s not for me.” Other similar thoughts, essentially saying the same thing like, “I’m too old now,” “that ship has sailed,” and “maybe other people can afford that,” all keep us at the bottom of the ladder of our dreams. The truth is you can believe anything you want to believe, and you will certainly experience whatever you choose to believe.

Sometimes I tell myself that I need to be more independently successful before I find a life partner…I don’t want anything to get in the way of me, being me 🙂 It’s such a silly thought, but it comes from years of selling out in relationships. I’m afraid I don’t know how to do it right or that I may repeat a painful past. My fears (if I let them) prevent me from admitting and declaring how much I desire and want that type of relationship in my life. I downplay it to avoid the fact it’s not happening NOW.

Awareness is the best remedy against the self-sabotaging behavior we use every day. I’ve pegged most of my defense strategy, so I can, in a lot of ways, check myself when it comes up.

Have you ever caught yourself downplaying something you want for fear you can’t have it? Or that you’re not good enough for it? Do you have a different strategy that you use to avoid admitting your true desire? Please tell me about it in the comments. I know, it’s scary, but remember, truth is a light we shine on fear to make it go away.

Do you know anyone who would love to hear this message? Please share – it only takes a second to help others.

As an aside…I mentioned earlier that I’m writing a book about my personal experience with self-sabotage titled, If I Were Good – it’s a memoir about my addiction to approval. It’s such an exciting project and I can’t wait for others to read it. Check out the link to the right…it’s now available on Amazon.

Thanks again for reading!


  1. We are loved by many people every day, in their own way of loving us. All we can do Is cherish what we get, reciprocate to the extent they will accept. THE more we love and are open to love, the closer it comes. But we have to be careful not to always be questioning, demanding proof, expecting miracles, for then we scare it away


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