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The Hidden Barrier To Success – Understanding The Upper Limit Phenomenon

Written by: GiGi Diaz, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor GiGi Diaz

In the journey of personal and professional growth, we often encounter a peculiar hurdle known as the Upper Limit Phenomenon, a concept popularized by Gay Hendricks. It happens when people subconsciously sabotage their own success upon reaching a new height in their career, finances, or personal relationships. Let’s dive in!

Sad man sitting on the abandoned rusty bridge.

Understanding the upper limit phenomenon

The Upper Limit Phenomenon is the internal psychological barrier that we hit when we achieve a level of success beyond what we subconsciously believe we deserve. Gay Hendricks identified this issue as a significant factor that holds people back from realizing their full potential.

Understanding the Upper Limit Phenomenon is crucial for personal development. It highlights the subtle ways in which we might resist our own growth, illuminating the path to overcoming these internal obstacles.

What can cause it?

Professional Success

In the workplace, the Upper Limit Phenomenon might manifest as a reluctance to take on new challenges or a pattern of undermining one’s achievements.

Financial Windfall

A sudden increase in wealth can trigger the Upper Limit Phenomenon, leading individuals to make poor financial decisions that jeopardize their newfound prosperity.


In personal relationships, the Upper Limit Phenomenon may surface as unnecessary conflicts or distancing behaviors when things are going exceptionally well.

The psychology behind the upper limit phenomenon

While we often think we’re afraid of failure, I believe what we’re truly afraid of is success. The Upper Limit Phenomenon is often rooted in a fear of success, where individuals worry about the responsibilities and changes that come with higher achievement. Think about it this way: when we fail, nothing changes, we’re the same person in the same situation with which we’re familiar. But when we succeed expansion is required of us, we need to level up to the new circumstances. That can be more terrifying than staying the same. 

Another element that can be the root of the Upper Limit Phenomenon is a low sense of self-worth. This can cause us to believe we don't deserve success, driving the Upper Limit Phenomenon and leading to the self-sabotage that comes with it.

Here’s how to spot it

Self-Sabotage Signs

Recognizing self-sabotage, like procrastination or avoiding opportunities, is key to identifying the Upper Limit Phenomenon.

Emotional Signals

Feelings of unworthiness or anxiety when things are going well can be emotional indicators of the Upper Limit Phenomenon.

Behavioral Indicators

Changes in behavior, such as withdrawing from loved ones or engaging in self-destructive habits, may signal an Upper Limit Phenomenon.

Overcoming the upper limit phenomenon

Embracing Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, allowing them to recognize and address the Upper Limit Phenomenon.

Resetting Your Success Threshold

By consciously setting new, higher limits for success, individuals can gradually accept and embrace higher levels of achievement.

The Role of Support Systems

Seeking support from friends, family, or professionals can provide the encouragement and perspective needed to overcome the Upper Limit Phenomenon. This is one of the reasons I created the Seizing Happy Hybrid Community so that my circle of womenpreneurs could have a safe place to hold each other accountable, receive mentorship, and overcome obstacles in life and business like the Upper Limit Phenomenon. 

The Upper Limit Phenomenon is a significant barrier to growth and achievement. By understanding its manifestations and adopting strategies to overcome it, individuals can unlock their full potential and embrace success without reservation.


1. What is the Upper Limit Phenomenon?

The Upper Limit Phenomenon is a phenomenon where individuals subconsciously sabotage their success due to a belief that they don't deserve it.

2. How can I tell if I have the Upper Limit Phenomenon?

Signs include self-sabotage behaviors, emotional discomfort with success, and sudden negative changes in behavior when achieving new heights in personal or professional life.

3. What causes the Upper Limit Phenomenon?

It is often rooted in deep-seated beliefs about self-worth and fear of the unknown that accompany higher levels of success.

4. Can the Upper Limit Phenomenon affect relationships?

Yes, it can manifest in relationships through creating unnecessary conflicts or distancing oneself from partners when the relationship is thriving.

5. How can I overcome the Upper Limit Phenomenon?

Overcoming this problem involves practicing mindfulness to become aware of self-limiting thoughts and behaviors, resetting your success threshold to accept and welcome higher achievements, and leveraging support systems for encouragement and accountability.

The Upper Limit Phenomenon, as outlined by Gay Hendricks, serves as a reminder that often the most significant barriers to our success are the ones we place on ourselves. By recognizing and addressing these internal obstacles, we can pave the way for a life that fully embraces and celebrates our achievements and growth. Whether it's in our careers, financial status, relationships, or personal development, understanding the Upper Limit Phenomenon is the first step toward unlocking our full potential and moving beyond self-imposed limits.

Remember, the journey to overcoming the Upper Limit Phenomenon is not a solitary one. Engaging with a supportive community, seeking professional guidance, and continuously educating oneself about personal growth strategies can provide the strength and wisdom needed to navigate through these internal barriers. The path to surpassing our upper limits may be challenging, but the rewards of living a life unbounded by fear and self-doubt are immeasurable.

In essence, the Upper Limit Phenomenon does not have to be a permanent fixture in our lives. With the right tools and a committed mindset, we can identify, confront, and overcome the internal narratives that keep us from embracing the full spectrum of our capabilities and joys. Here's to breaking through our upper limits and soaring to new heights of success and fulfillment.

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GiGi Diaz Brainz Magazine

GiGi Diaz, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

GiGi Diaz is a Certified Mindset & Business Coach, media personality, host of the Chats with GiGi podcast, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. Simultaneous to her entrepreneurial path, she’s led a successful career in media being featured on and working with organizations like NBC6, Telemundo, Radio Disney, iHeartRadio and many others. She’s also the founder and CEO of Seizing Happy®; a coaching organization dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs achieve their business goals without burnout. GiGi’s philanthropic impact can be felt through The Seizing Happy Foundation™ (501c3) helping women of color achieve financial success through entrepreneurship via mentorship, workshops and specialized events. GiGi earned both, her Bachelor’s in Sociology and Anthropology and her Master’s Degree in Global Strategic Communications at Florida International University.



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