Nothing can hold you back from your full potential and achieving your goals quite like fear. Fear can limit your success, stunt your progress and keep all your talents, hopes and dreams so far from reach that you end up taking them to the grave. Whether it is the fear of public speaking, fear of going after something you want, fear of making a fool of yourself, or something else you are afraid of, it can be enough to attack you from all different angles and leave you completely paralyzed. Many of us walk around with fear as the main driver of our destinies! It can dominate every thought, action, and belief that you have at any given time.
The good news is that you don’t have to give in to fear and let it run your life. But in order to overcome it, you need to understand what it is, where it comes from and what it takes to face it. Read on to learn about the different types of fears that exist in our lives and how to never let them hold you back again.
The first type of fears are universal, innate fears. Everybody has them on some level because they are born into us – in fact, most of them serve some kind of survival purpose. Innate fears are often around avoiding physical pain or death. Humans are born with a fear of spiders and snakes because we are wired to avoid objects that can harm us, in these cases by biting us and injecting venom into our bodies. No one ever taught you not to fear these creatures. The same goes for being afraid of flying, heights, pitch black darkness or scary dogs. We are wired to understand that these things pose an inherent danger and aren’t safe. As we evolve as a species, some of the fears evolve with us, mostly to protect us from real danger.
However, we can also adapt to these fears and even ignore them if we choose. That’s why we’re able to climb mountains, fly planes and train dogs. And at the same time, these innate fears aren’t likely to keep you from success. You aren’t likely to cripple your career with your fear of spiders. So, instead of confronting these fears, you can continue adapting or avoiding, as most humans do.
The second set of fears have also developed with us as we have evolved. These are fears that have to do with your identity. Primarily, they manifest as fears of being judged by others. The fear of public speaking is a great example. At the root of it, you are worried you are going to mess up and embarrass yourself. Other people will see how incompetent you are and you will lose their respect. The fear of being wrong or being rejected stem from the same place. You are embarrassed when you make a mistake because your ego feels shame, which is hard for anyone to accept.
The fears around your identity aren’t about physical pain or death, like our innate fears. But you can certainly feel the physical effects of identity fears. Imagining that you will lose the respect of your peers can actually hurt. It can raise your blood pressure, make you feel hot and agitated, make you cry, etc. The emotional and psychological pain that identity fears cause is real – but it doesn’t actually put you in any grave danger.
What identity fears all have in common is that they pose a threat to our standing in the community. We live, survive and thrive in tribes. We want to have a firmly established place in our peer group and society because we need to depend on others for companionship, support, survival, etc. Identity fears come from the real danger that you could be ostracized from the tribe. In the past, no one could survive alone in the jungle – so these fears feel like they pose a real threat to our survival.
Love and Connection Fears
The final class of fears are those related to love and connection. Although they serve a different purpose, they are really a subset of identity fears. You might fear being alone, being abandoned, or being rejected. Trust issues show up in this category, too. You can fear commitment, which is often a way to protect yourself from ever having to experience rejection or feeling the pain of disappointment. You might also fear intimacy because you fear being hurt. The fears around identity and fears around love and connection can combine and become even more complex, like when a person doesn’t believe they are worthy of love.
Stop Fear From Holding You Back
The first step to stopping fear from holding you back is understanding what you are afraid of. Anything you fear falls into one of these categories. If you fear taking an action that you know you need to take, start by asking yourself what it is you really fear.
The fears around your identity and love are generally the ones that prevent you from succeeding and being happy.
You might say, “I don’t want to publish this blog post because it’s not ready.” But what is the actual fear behind that? You say, “Someone might not like it; it might not be good enough; it might be full of errors, etc.” And what if you’re right? What then? “Someone might share it with other people and point out my errors. They might judge my mistakes. They might think less of me.” They might. So what? Are those mistakes definitely going to keep you from succeeding? Absolutely not. What WILL absolutely keep you from succeeding is not ever publishing anything at all and letting your peers surpass you in your career.
Fear will hold you back from all significant accomplishments and victories. There is nothing worth doing that doesn’t strike a little bit of fear in your heart – and this applies to everything, including work, art, love, and simply being alive. There is nothing more satisfying in life than knowing that you tried your hardest and gave your all. Don’t let fear stop you from doing that.
Fear is your servant. It is here to prevent you from being harmed by real dangers. You cannot allow it to become your master and prevent you from taking the actions you need to take, lest it keeps you from success and happiness. Fear is the number one obstacle you will face in life. It is the most difficult challenge you will ever be put to and the most important one to overcome. Good thing you were born with everything it takes to do this.
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