People who waste their potential usually justify it with these 12 excuses

I wish that potential corresponded to success and fulfillment, but it’s far from the case. 

In fact, I have numerous friends and people close to me who have enormous potential and massive gifts and talents but haven’t gotten near to making them felt in the real world. 

Many of these folks have had difficult experiences and traumas, it’s true, but many also have a self-defeating mentality.

They have many excuses why they haven’t been able to make it. And the more they cling to these excuses, the more their disempowerment gets reinforced. 

I want to take a look at these top excuses, because they’re the most important mindset traps to avoid if you want to have a fulfilling and successful life that uses your potential. 

1) Bad luck

The first and most common excuse of those who don’t dedicate themselves to their own potential is to talk about the bad luck they’ve had. 

I’m not saying it’s untrue, either. 

I know people who’ve had loved ones die with no warning, relationships break up for no apparent reason and health problems completely derail their plans. 

That said, admitting that bad luck is real doesn’t mean we have to worship it as our god. 

In fact, allowing bad luck to define our life and what we do with it is a recipe for misery. 

2) Lack of support 

Not everybody receives the same level of support in life. 

From the earliest age, some are born and raised in loving homes while others have to claw for attention whenever they can receive it. 

In other words, everyone’s not born equal in terms of the support they get. 

But when people use this as an excuse not to pursue their potential it ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and feeds into a downward spiral. 

Closely tied to a lack of support is the following excuse:

3) Not enough appreciation

We all like a pat on the back or a round of applause. At least many of us do. 

But for somebody who didn’t grow up with much validation or still feels largely overlooked, a lack of appreciation can make them drop out of life. 

“Nobody cares about what I do, so why bother?” they think. 

The sad thing is that even if many people did care a lot, centering one’s actions and life on what others do or don’t think is disempowering and leads in a disappointing direction. 

4) Childhood trauma

Childhood trauma is another area where people often make excuses about not living up to their potential. 

The trauma may have been devastating. It may have been much more than most.

But when people talk about how their childhood mistreatment means they can’t follow their dreams now, they do themselves a disservice. 

They block a potential avenue of translating and channeling some of that trauma into their profession and life. 

5) Being misunderstood

I completely get this issue and it’s a big one: 

Many folks waste their potential because they just don’t feel understood and seen. 

They feel like a foreign diplomat without a translator trying to speak to somebody who doesn’t speak their language. 

How can they get their message across?

Why even start if people aren’t going to get it?

6) Fear of being judged 

This ties into the previous point about being misunderstood.

Many of those I know who are not taking advantage of their potential are afraid of being judged. They fear the disapproving looks and words of people. 

But what “people,” exactly?

This is exactly the issue, is that all too often talented individuals let their potential go to waste out of a bogeyman they have created in their heads.

Sure, while many people may not understand what somebody does or dislike it, some other folks will likely get it and appreciate it. 

Even if being negatively judged doesn’t happen, they worry that they just don’t get enough positive feedback. 

7) Financial necessity

Money isn’t everything, but it’s definitely not nothing either. 

Many people will talk about how financial necessity is the reason they can’t pursue their dreams or develop their potential:

They have to keep their crappy job at the supermarket or keep pumping gas. They have to drop out of college and go on government assistance. 


Because the money is just too tight. 

I’m not saying it’s a lie, and sometimes it’s absolutely true. But financial necessity should never be more than a temporary reason for not going after one’s goals. 

Eventually people need to find a way to let their potential shine even if it’s not yet very profitable. 

8) A tough job market

On a related note to financial necessity we get to a tough job market in general. 

Many folks let their potential go to waste because they just don’t see a place for their skills in the market. 

“Well yeah I’d start my craft store, but I don’t really see where it would fit in. Plus, with the cost of leases right now…”

The fact is that even when alternatives are suggested (splitting that leased space, renting away from downtown?) the person tends to dismiss these suggestions. 

The job market just isn’t set for them to succeed, at least according to this person. 

This relates to the next point as well… 

9) Too much competition 

Whether it’s professionally or personally, people who waste their potential often focus on the obstacles in front of them instead of on their own power. 

They see the competition and people ranged against them and feel overwhelmed

“There’s so much competition out there! What place is there for me? I mean, be realistic,” they may say.

At the end of the day it may be true that there’s a ton of competition out there. 

But those who let the competition have the final word and don’t give it their all will never truly know victory or defeat, since they won’t have truly, fully attempted to succeed at their dream.

10) ‘I don’t belong there’

Imposter syndrome is another big reason why many talented people waste their potential. 

Their inner critic keeps telling them that they’re just not good enough and that any success they’ve had is ultimately undeserved. 

No matter how well they do, this person feels that they’re not truly good enough. 

The self-doubt then begins to increase to the point that they become stagnant and stop growing or even actively undercut their ability to get promotions, have healthy relationships and move forward in life. 

As career coach and author Marty Nemko, Ph.D. puts it

“Deep down many people, especially those who suffer from imposter syndrome, do little to improve.”

11) Needing more preparation 

Many people who don’t tap into their potential spend all their time getting prepared. 

They say they’ll send the application to their dream program once they save up more money…

They say they’ll be committed to a relationship once they work on their own issues in therapy for a few more years first…

And so on. 

The bottom line? 

They need more time to prepare. They’re not quite ready to play their cards. When you ask later they still aren’t ready! It seems like endless stalling… 

And that’s ultimately what this endless need for more prep time is: self-sabotage.

12) ‘There’s no way I’d get that far’

This is something I’ve heard from many people who doubt their dreams. 

They have talents, they have passions, but they are also wracked by serious self-doubt

Deep down, they don’t really believe in themselves. 

In some cases, they do believe in themselves, but they know that if they got that far, they’d no longer have any excuses and they’d be forced to reckon with the truth:

They have much more ability and greatness in them than their inner critic and doubts would ever have admitted. 

No more excuses 

If you can relate to the signs above, it’s time to leave the excuses to the side and forget about them completely. 

If you find that you’re also saying “there’s no way I’d get that far,” as in point 12, talk back to that inner critic! 

There is a way you’d get that far, and in fact you probably will if you commit strongly enough. 

We all have excuses. 

Some are better than others, but none of them merit wasting your potential. 

Whatever talents and dreams you have, now is the time to put them into action and pursue your goals at all costs. 

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