We hear a lot about spotting and escaping toxic bosses. Bosses who behave in ways that cripple trust, bog down progress, and hold people back from achieving their best work.

You want to run away from these people.

But what about the toxic boss in your own head? Are you willing to recognize the ways you hold yourself back?

You want to grow in your effectiveness as a leader. Begin with how you lead yourself.

Teach yourself to spot the subtle ways you allow toxicity to take root, breed, and undermine your own self-confidence.

Such as when you:


Overthinking can disguise itself as diligent planning. Yes, you need to dot your 'i' and cross your 't.'

And - yet. Might you - unintentionally, unconsciously - be holding on to and reworking not out of true necessity, but fear?

Trust your gut.

Give yourself permission to experiment.

Plant the imperfect and nourish it now.

You've got one precious opportunity to make a real difference. Claim it.


You say yes when you know you should say no. Or, not right now. You ignore your own needs. Soon, the time and energy you've promised outstrip what's actually available.

An honest intention to serve others winds up derailing your ability to serve anyone - including yourself.

We all do this.

Here's the thing about unrealistic expectations. They set you up for disappointment and let down. They destroy your self-trust. When you're over-extended and depleted, you can't rely on your own instincts and decisions.

If you're good at what you do, many people will take from you more than you should offer. It's easy to slip into over giving. No one can serve as gatekeeper to your time, focus, and energy. Not an assistant. Not a spouse. Not a child.

Only you can safeguard your most intimate assets.

Question your own instincts

Do you find yourself second-guessing your intuition?

That little voice in your head is the spokesperson for your highest intentions and deepest truth. It's the channel through which you connect with who you truly are, as a person. It's direct access to your wisdom.

Your instincts are a trustworthy resource. Tune into them. Trust them.

Make self-limiting assumptions

Where are you sizing yourself up as not good enough?


I don't need to give you stories about people who don't limit themselves. There's plenty of those right here on Inc.

Open up your self-limiting assumptions. Sit with them. Study them. Do they hold water? Or do they simply hold you back?

People who dream big and deliver don't go it alone. You don't have to, either.

Consider the support you need. Is it perspective? Lessons learned from the trenches? Who might you tap into? Make a list of 2-3 people. Right now. Commit to call or email.

I've supported industry-leading CEOs for 25 years. The biggest mistake they all make?  Not getting support earlier.

Beat yourself up

It's good to take stock of and learn from mistakes. It's critical, to lessen your chances of repeating them and to leverage gains and lessons.

Brilliant pathways unfold from mistakes.

But, then what do you do with them? Do you let your mistakes go - or allow them to squat, freeloading valuable real estate in your head?

There's nothing to be gained by beating yourself up.

Focusing on your shortcomings undermines what you do have. What you can do. What you have already accomplished. Don't undermine your capability. Give yourself permission to be human.

Acknowledge to yourself how your errors in judgment have contributed to your growth.

Block possibilities

You're overwhelmed. You're faced with the unknown. At times like this, your capacity for trust in yourself and others may shrink.

You may find yourself jumping to conclusions. Engaging in all or nothing thinking. Dropping people and situations into one of two buckets:

Good. Bad.

Right. Wrong.

Success. Failure.

Trustworthy. Untrustworthy.

Black-and-white thinking blocks possibility. It slams doors. Alternative viewpoints, ideas, and solutions can't get in.

Ease open that rigid thinking. Peel it back. Tap into your curiosity.

Take stock of what can be salvaged and learned.

Give away your power

Do you speak your truth? Or have you given that power away to others?

For 25 years, I've run my own business. When I started, my field of trust didn't even exist. I know firsthand how hard it is to be out ahead - the icebreaker.

Challenging the status quo. Sharing what's not popular. Carrying the torch for ideas whose time has not quite come.

Yet, what happens when you share only what you perceive will be accepted by others? When you stuff your truth?

You risk losing it.

When was the last time you checked in with your truth? Stay current with your own thinking.

Hold on to your power.