Subscriber OnlyLife & Style

How to . . spot your Achilles’ heel

‘If you want to live a more fulfilling life, then try to work out what negative assumptions you have about yourself’

Few of us fulfil our absolute potential in life.

What can hold us back is a mistaken belief about our weaknesses, says Monica Haughey, psychotherapist and founder of the School of Conscious Living.

The phrase Achilles’ heel refers to a weakness in spite of overall strength, an attribute or quality that inevitably leads to downfall.

In Greek mythology, Achilles achieved greatness before being wounded in his one vulnerable part, but many of us overestimate our weakness. This can hold us back from even trying.


Work it out

If you find yourself shying away from or scuppering a promotion, a career change, a relationship or other opportunity in life, it’s time to probe why that is. To find your Achilles’ heel, look at the area of life which is holding you back the most, says Haughey.

“If you want to live a more fulfilling life, then try to work out what negative assumptions you have about yourself.

“Most of us have some kind of story we tell ourselves about why we are unable to do something,” says Haughey. “The end result of these false assumptions is to make people feel embarrassed about their talents and less able to use them.”

Free your mind

“Family, school, colleagues and even friends can sometimes label you in a way that serves the group but is restrictive for you,” says Haughey.

The teenager labelled ‘sensible’ or ‘caring’ might be steered towards one path over alternatives at which they would succeed.

“The more you can unravel these myths, the more options you will have,” says Haughey.

“Women in particular often have a negative dialogue about themselves about being loud or brash or pushy,” she says. “When you liberate yourself from these myths, the road will open up to a happier and more successful life.”


If you are good at something, or dream of trying something, don’t let embarrassment or being overly modest hold you back.

“As a child in a big family or a big class, you might have been told never to brag or think of yourself as special. But we all have talents and we can live a more satisfying life when we identify and use them. Ask yourself, what am I good at, what do I care about?” says Haughey.

Don’t myth out

We tell ourselves all sorts of stories, but not all of them are true.

“I will never be happy until I meet someone” is a story frequently heard from clients, says Haughey.

This story can limit our current happiness and the possibility of sustaining a relationship if it happens.

“The expectation that a partner will be a prince or a saviour can make them feel inadequate.”

Prepare to unsettle

Dismantling what’s holding you back and moving forward on a new path where you are exercising more of your potential can unsettle those around you. Be prepared. A complacent colleague or pass-remarkable relative may be irked or spooked by your trying something new.

“Given the choice between staying on old terms with Uncle Peter and becoming more of our empowered, true and talented selves, most of us will opt for the latter,” says Haughey.

“James Joyce, Edna O’Brien and John McGahern are examples of writers who decided not to conform to restrictive behavioural codes,” she says. “They could have avoided being banned if they toed the line, and then we might not have heard of them.”

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about homes and property, lifestyle, and personal finance