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Hitting Your Upper Limit

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

How do you react when you experience success?

Where is your upper limit of the amount of success you are comfortable with?

This is the fascinating topic we discuss on the podcast today.

We think this is so important because often we sabotage our own success.

We have an amount of success we feel okay with or think we merit, but when we begin to experience the higher levels of this, we may react in ways that actually hinder our success to get us back to levels of comfort.

Both of us felt this recently with our book launch of The Beauty of Conflict for Couples.

The success of the book and the press that comes with it is wonderful and we are so thankful, but it does cause us to stop and say “woah” and get caught in our upper limits.

So today we are going to unpack the 4 beliefs you can bump into that keep your success range at a certain level. We are experiencing this now and think some of you may be as well.

We hope you enjoy this episode and that it opens your eyes to some beliefs you may have for yourself.

And as always, we’d love to hear from you, let us know if you have any of these 4 beliefs.

Learn More:

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Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Today's episode is about hitting your upper limit and what to do about that. The reason we decided to do this episode is that we're in the midst of something that's really great right now. We're launching our Beauty of Conflict for Couples book and we are getting so much great press. We were on Great Day Houston, NBC wrote an article about us, and then yesterday we were mentioned on The Today Show. They actually said our names and talked about one of the tools, the 555, and I just spun out. It was a bit too much success, and I'm still kind of reeling and trying to reground from that. How about you, Susan?

Susan: Well, similar. I mean we had no idea actually both days. On the first day of the book launch, a friend wrote to us and said, "I just saw you on NBC."

CrisMarie: That was the article, right?

Susan: That was the article. Then we hit the best selling new release.

CrisMarie: No, number one.

Susan: Number one hot new release. We were like, "Wow. This is so cool," and then this thing happened on The Today Show. Yes, it really was like wow.

CrisMarie: Well, what happened is we're just going along and Susan got a call from her sister. Well, we didn't pick it up. Then she called her back and she's like, "Oh my gosh, they're talking about you want The Today Show." Needless to say, the day changed completely.

Susan: Oh my gosh, I was so unproductive and ungrounded.

CrisMarie: There's nobody besides us two here to like digest that or celebrate. Even our PR person didn't even know that that was going to happen. It was a whirlwind of kerfuffle.

Susan: We went downtown. To help us ground, we went downtown and we got some hugs from good friends of ours and connected to people who know us and believe in us. Yet, still, we both recognized that we were hitting an upper limit, and we were heading up the limit that right now we actually want to find a way to ride through this.

CrisMarie: Now, let me just talk about an upper limit. An upper limit, we all have these unconscious beliefs that create a set point of the amount of success that we are comfortable having. What happens is when you hit an upper limit, a lot of times you can do something to sabotage that success, like get sick or hurt or create confusion. Like you're almost done with a project and then you're like, "Well, let me start a new one," so you never cross that finish line.

Susan: Can I mention that a lot of this came to us because a couple years back with a good friend of ours, Sherry, took Gay Hendricks, their program, Big Leap. He does a lot of this work in the Big Leap. I mean, we've sort of made our own modifications and changes related to how some of the things fit for us, but I do think that it's a resource for where we started. We did it together, and it was kind of a neat effort. Just wanted to mention that.

CrisMarie: You can buy the book. It's a great process, and it really does give you more of a consciousness shift. Like, wow, how do I keep sabotaging my success? Because a lot of times people can also run into the fraud. They're going to find out I'm an imposter.

Susan: Imposter syndrome. Yes. I can feel that coming on right now too. This could be like I'm trying to figure out, am I suffering from impostor syndrome, upper limit syndrome. Am I just fatally flawed, which we're going to talk about in a minute. I'm not seeming to believe that this is all just the right thing to be happening. I'm having all sorts of psychological questions, which I don't know is actually helping me create the best ride through this experience of launching the book.

CrisMarie: We're energetic beings and we have a certain container for energy. We even have a certain set point for happiness. When that joy or good things start happening, it feels threatening to actually our, literally, our physical container. We get anxiety or jitteriness. Learning how to expand that container is an important part of this process as well. But let me back up and just tell you kind of the four beliefs that people bump into that keep your set point at a certain range. The first one is feeling fundamentally flawed. Like there's just something inherently wrong with you and you don't deserve this and you'll never have it.

Susan: I would say this is probably one of my number one things. I have struggled for a long time in my life with believing I was fatally flawed. I mean, some of that may come from being dyslexic and all sorts of other things. I think I've already mentioned on here my fear that the book was going to have a vast number of misspelled words even on the cover. We had a lot of editors, so that was an unnecessary fatal flaw. I may have had it, but the editors didn't.

But I also know, some of this also comes from experiences in my life. I'll tell you my fifth-grade story. It's one of those humbling, very humbling moments. When I was in fifth grade, a lot of pretty horrible things happened, but one of the worst was that I decided... You have to understand, I think I was probably... I was one of 10% white students in the school. I had been bused into an inner-city school, and I was fairly regularly getting harassed and bullied.

I decided in fifth grade that I was going to run for president of the student council on the platform of bullying to stop bullying. Did what you do back in those days. You have to kind of make a speech and do your thing. I had no signs that anyone was really going to vote for me, but I was committed to my cause. Then the day of the elections, they announced it over the PA system how many votes each person got. My name was said and I had one vote.

Now, I knew I had voted for myself, so I had the humbling moment of realizing I was the only one who voted for myself. I excused myself from class and went to the bathroom and was sitting there just in tears. Of course, I also happened to bump into the school's biggest bully as I was in there.

CrisMarie: What was her name? You remember your bully's name.

Susan: I know. I'll just say first name, Charlotte, if you're out there, you know who you are. She just tore into me. I was just so crushed. I know that in some respects that moment stops me from doing many things because I'm like, "Well, who am I to do this?" It can still come up for me even today, like who am I to write a book about this? We are supposed to be experts, and we are.

CrisMarie: We have a lot...

Susan: We have a lot of expertise in the area, but this flaw, it still comes up. I'm just owning it and acknowledging it. That's my story of the fatally flawed.

CrisMarie: One of the things that Susan's saying is that's part of working with it is bringing that old trauma, that old situation up and recognizing, hey, this is not happening right now. Breathing through that, looking at the beliefs that come up around that, that's always to work through it. It doesn't necessarily go away, but I can't imagine if you were really anchored in that, that we couldn't have even gotten the book out the door.

Susan: No. I'm sure you know that it has stalled me many times, but I've worked on it a lot too. I think it's actually one of those things that comes up for me even around the whole try to get people to help us get to number one in Amazon. I have to constantly recognize...

CrisMarie: You mean you don't want to do that?

Susan: I'm fearful of that. Like, oh, you know, the last time I really went out for the big vote, I got one.

CrisMarie: I'm not going to anybody.

Susan: No, exactly. I just sort of stay silent or work through my stuff on it, which is one of the reasons we wanted to do this episode because we believe in vulnerability and putting ourselves out there. We're just owning up to how it shows up for us.

CrisMarie: We do think actually processing through this and bringing in more conscious awareness as opposed to keeping it in the closet is a great way to work through your upper limit issues. The first belief, feeling fatally flawed, and Susan gave you an example of that.

The next one is disloyalty and abandonment. The belief is you're afraid you're going to be disloyal and abandon people and you'll wind up all alone. This comes up for me in relation to my family because I'm doing all this book launch and we're on TV and The Today Show. My siblings are both struggling. Well, one passed away with cancer and the other is struggling with cancer. I could feel like a real... Like I'm being incredibly disloyal because I thought, erroneously I thought if somebody I love is miserable, well, then I better not be happy.

I'll reduce my energy to theirs so that we'll stay connected because otherwise they're going to be mad at me and they'll abandon me. I tried to do that even with one of my siblings who was sick. I contracted my life. I was in a lot of... It was a low couple of years before I realized, wait a minute, which is why we did the Big Leap, actually the class, because I recognized I was really contracting in order to not lose that relationship. I thought if I make myself small, then we'll still be connected. It doesn't work that way. Me doing that doesn't help my siblings. It doesn't help me.

Susan: I mean, I would say, CrisMarie, you pretty courageously with actually your sibling asking you to have sometime talked about this, the two of you together. Sure, when one person's life is going well and the other is not going so well, it's not like it's like, oh yes, I'm really... But you guys had some really good, honest conversations about that.

CrisMarie: Yeah.

Susan: I mean, having witnessed that, I was sort of touched by both of you because I knew that this is not an easy thing and that this loyalty issue will keep you from actually having those instead of talking about what actually needs to be talked about.

CrisMarie: I think I asked directly, do you want me to be happy? Because cause I was pretty willing to make myself miserable in order to stay connected.

Susan: Yeah.

CrisMarie: I got back, I want you to be happy, and I'm happy for you. That was a big relief.

Susan: Yeah, I'm just not happy for me, which would make complete sense sometimes when you're dealing with really... I mean, I think I've told you that before we do this. That's another one.

CrisMarie: The third one is believing that more success will either create a burden or more work, and so you hold yourself back from leaning in. I can imagine... I do not have this one, but I can imagine some people will be like, "Well, I don't want to make more money because then I'll have to manage it and I don't know how to deal with it. People will want my money and I'll have to have those conversations," and so they hold themselves back, or even when you get an opportunity to get a promotion and you're like, "Well, that's going to be too much responsibility. I'll just stay where I am." That could be a good choice as long as it's not an ill-informed like an unconscious belief system that's holding you back.

Susan: I imagine this too when it's rooted in even some things that happened in childhood and things like that. You might be a prodigy in something. You might be fantastic in something, but the amount of investment and work that that may also cost your family or other people in your family, you begin to feel like you're a burden. You can tell, this is not one that's directly familiar to either of us, but I do think it definitely shows up and can be a factor and stops people when they start to feel like they're either going to be a burden or it's going to be more work.

CrisMarie: Maybe even somebody wanting to go back to school if they're let's say the mom of the family and they're like, oh wow, somebody else is going to have to cook or do the jobs that they were doing, and they may say nevermind. Just be aware that's an upper limit, unconscious belief.

The last one that Gay Hendricks talks about at least is the crime about shining. This is also for me, it's very resonant with even the disloyalty and abandonment, but outshining other people. This happened even when I was rowing. I was in a relationship with my teammate, my girlfriend, best friend, and we were competing for the top spot. At least in my mind, we're competing for the stroke seat, which is the leader position in a rowing eight. I'm hoping everybody knows what rowing is. Have we talked about that?

Susan: We have a couple of times.

CrisMarie: Okay. We were training and then all of a sudden the coach came. This is March. It's about six months before the Olympics happened. He just said, "Hey, these are the names of the people that can continue to stay. If I don't read off your name, you're done." This was a shock to us. We didn't know this was going to happen, and he read off the names. He read off mine and I was like, yay, and then he didn't read off this person that I was competing against, my best friend. I was like, yay, I won for a millisecond in my head until I looked at her and saw the shock and devastation. I was like, oh my gosh, how could I be happy for her failure? Not good I'd be happy for my success and her failure. That relationship was severed pretty much then.

She didn't want anything to do with me, and I was so devastated. I just wanted to fix it and go back to normal. It was like the rubber band between us. It gotten stretched too tight. I wound up, this is in hindsight, sabotaging my own success because I decided then, in the middle of March before racing season, which is a really bad decision, to start powerlifting, which is a heavy form of weightlifting. I didn't talk to the coach. I went to a different gym, used a different trainer. Three weeks into that, I got hurt and so then I couldn't row for three months. That was definitely a self-sabotaging because I felt like I was shining too brightly in relationship to my friend who was cut from the team then.

I did come back and make the team, but I made it a lot harder for myself.

Susan: I mean, this is a big one I would say. I don't know. I think this would fit into the same category, at least for me, sort of the part of me that... It's almost like survivor's guilt. I know for me I sometimes feel like I don't like to talk about my experience with cancer, any of that, because I survived and other people didn't. I could sound like I'm saying, "Hey, I made it. They didn't," type of thing. It's very difficult to talk about that because it's not even something I believe, but I think it is something that stops me from even talking about what I do believe.

CrisMarie: I agree because I think you have so much you could offer people that are struggling with cancer. You're just starting to do that, but I think you have really held yourself back. Hope you don't mind me saying this, but held yourself back because, "Well, I don't know. I don't want to say what worked for me. It may not work for them," just because of all the angst you have around surviving what other people did.

Susan: Yeah. I don't know if living a full life is shining, but it sure feels like sometimes I am living and somebody else that didn't. There's a huge angst that comes with that. How do you move on, you know? These are the ones that he mentions.

CrisMarie: There's also a great way to stop you in your tracks, so bumping up into your upper limit, is actually to compare yourself to other people and then go into despair. This is a Martha Beck term, compare and despair. She's one of my mentors. When you do that, there's always, always, always, always going to be somebody that's more successful than you. If you compare yourself to the next... Which this is something I can do.

Susan: You do do it. It's not something you can do.

CrisMarie: I mean, all of a sudden I started looking at this woman that I worked with and I'm like, oh my gosh, we don't have as many people as her. What that does is it just makes me want to give up, which is not very helpful because the people that are successful aren't the ones that did it right out of the gate. They're the ones that have failed and gotten up, and failed and gotten up, and failed and gotten up. That's kind of what the process I'm in right now. Watch out if you compare and despair or if you're blaming somebody else. This is another one. If you're blaming somebody else, it's a way for you to stop that positive energy. You're trying to find some way to discharge this feel good success energy.

Susan: It might be helpful to say a few things about ways to work with this. You could see one, one is this concept we talk about a lot, be vulnerable, share it, talk about it, be curious about what's going on for you instead of just believing whatever crazy thing you have going on in your head. Talk to someone about it and be willing to risk getting feedback or sharing something that you're really uncomfortable sharing because that's going to help you.

CrisMarie: Also, be willing to feel your feelings. I was thinking about how often getting sick or getting hurt can come up as a way to interrupt what's happening. It's not like we don't get germs from other people, but sometimes you around the same germs and we don't get sick. I think we can use that as a mind-body connection to interrupt what's happening. A great way, and this is one I've been working with during this whole launch process, is actually sinking in and feeling the fear, feeling even anger when things don't happen the way I want them to, like, "Oh my gosh, everybody should already have this book. Why aren't people buying this book," to let myself feel those feelings. How much do we have to market? This is crazy.

Whatever is going on, allow that to be there. Find ways to express your anger, express your sadness, express your fear because then they don't like kind of squirt out in unproductive ways.

Susan: As CrisMarie was talking about that, I mean, even simply doing, especially during this really high pressurized week, 20 minutes of breathing, 15 minutes of breathing. We have a lot of different ways we do that. Sometimes it's just laying there breathing, kind of like your body ocean and deep breath in, deep breath out. Other times it's the notion of swamp what you learned in Mama Gena's, which CrisMarie wants to talk about that, so go ahead.

CrisMarie: I studied with Mama Gena. The idea that we are so uncomfortable with our feelings, but they are natural parts of us. To actually put on music where you're like angry and stomping around, so that's like two to three minutes. Then you put on a song where you're like grieving and letting yourself feel those feelings, breathing and crying, and then actually put on a song that makes you feel good and sexy and alive and get into your pleasure and joy. That whole arc, allowing all of that to be there, there's more songs you can do, but the idea of using music to help you move through your emotional palette and then it feels like you've gotten some cleansing and you can go about your day.

Susan: Yes. These are just a few ideas, and I think some of why we're talking to you about it is we want to reinforce and help ourselves continue to take this journey in a healthy way. Who knows? By the time you're listening to this, we actually don't know when it will air, so it may be that we may be in a different place. We may be actually facing a different upper limit because this happens in your life all the time. Pay attention to when you might actually be in an upper limit situation.

CrisMarie: Look for signs and signals of yourself getting sick or you're blaming, you're comparing/despairing, or somehow self-sabotaging something that's right there in front of you and realizing, hey, I don't have to do this again because what happens is I get in, it feels like... I think it's... I forget Ephesus or some Greek God that rolls a rock up the hill and then it falls back down. Somebody's going to tell me which is the right one, but I felt like my life was a series of, okay, I'm going to push this rock up and I'm going to self-sabotage and it'll fall back down. I only felt comfortable if I was working hard and in the fight and the battle versus enjoying the success at the top of the mountain.

Susan: You can tell the difference between an an Olympian and myself because she has the rolling the rock up the Hill. Mine is it's a speed bump and sometimes it's hard to get the car, but very different amount of efforts, but it is the same story. You know? You went to the hardest one, which is the rock up the hill. Of course. It can feel like that. That's true.

CrisMarie: What we can do, we can even put in the show notes, there's a breathing experience that I listen to. Actually Susan recorded it. I've recorded one. It's just like a 10 minute long breathing that helps you get in touch with you. One, when you're doing conscious breathing the way we talk about it with open mouth and really letting in more air, it expands your inner container, your inner capacity to hold for more energy. It also connects you to your feelings. So often we're trying to ride over those feelings. Breathing is a way to connect into your body, which is where your feelings live, and allow that energy to move. When it's moving, that's health. When it's not, that's when there's a problem.

Susan: We hope that you have enjoyed this, and of course, we'd love to hear from you if you can relate to this and have your own upper limit issues because this is... It does relate to conflict because there is a conflict inside of you about whether to keep going or not. That's actually why we think it does fit into this whole...

CrisMarie: Oh, it totally fits in. Even the last one with my teammate, that was totally an inner conflict. Like how do I hold for my success and her failure and the distance between us. That was really...

Susan: How often does that happen either at home, within your couple? Like one person makes more money or one person gets some... Yeah. This happens between us all the time. If you have more clients than me, you get worried that I'm going to get upset. If I have some success that... Like if I'm shining, at the Haven leading or something and you're like, "You're taking up too much space," we go through this all the time. The key is how to make room for the person, but also not hold ourselves back from shining, from being who we really are. It happens in the workplace.

CrisMarie: If you get a promotion and your friend doesn't and now you're the boss, that's a big issue to handle. We just don't want you to contract because that's really unhealthy. To become more aware of where you're bumping into your upper limit and then actively doing something to process that, whether it's talking about it, breathing, feeling, all those sorts of things will help.

Thank you for listening to The Beauty of Conflict podcast. And if you're interested in The Beauty of Conflict for Couples book, you can pick one up at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books or Indie Bound, and the benefit is it's a simple book with practical tools that you can apply right away with stories about couples who I'm going to guess you're going to relate to. And if you've enjoyed the show, please tell a few friends and if you're willing, give us a five star review on iTunes.

Susan: Your review helps new listeners discover this program and more people listening to this show means less friction and arguing and suffering out in the world. So that's a great thing for everyone. Also visit our website,, to read our articles, join our newsletter, buy our other books and learn more about the services that we offer.

CrisMarie: Thanks again for listening. We hope you have a peaceful, productive, and beautiful day. Take good care of yourself and we hope you'll enjoy us again for another episode.

Susan: Okay, thank you.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

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