Throughout life I’ve let go of goals and dreams simply out of fear, and believing I couldn’t accomplish something that I really wanted to. I can’t help, but feel sad that already at such a young age I felt like I wasn’t good enough, and I couldn’t achieve the things I wanted to or were important to me. Partly it was from a lack of self-confidence, but also the limiting beliefs of others around me heavily influenced the choices I made.
During the past few years I have been focusing on discovering who I am, what are my values, and what I want from life. A part of that has been embracing my inner urge to be creative after being heavily uninspired throughout high-school and university.
Yet, somehow staying motivated consistently even when doing the things I enjoy left me wondering, what is blocking the flow of motivation in me? The first word that popped into my mind was ‘fear’. Or more like “FEAR!!” accompanied by wailing sirens, flashing red lights, and a pounding heart.
As I dig deeper into what I am afraid of, it boils down to the following:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of judgement
- Fear of being misunderstood
- Fear of chasing what I actually want to do, because it might not be “conventional”
- Fear of the unknown – this is rooted in the fear of failure, because if the unknown outcome is something good, why should I be afraid of it?
These fears jump out at me every time I brainstorm ideas, sit down to write a chapter in my book, or whenever I post something online related to my creative ventures. However, after graduating from university, I made myself a promise that I would no longer run for the hills from fear and feeling uncomfortable by understanding the role of fear in my life. As a result, I have learned to greet fear face to face, and you can do the same!
So, what is fear exactly?
There are two types of fear we generally experience in life. The first type is a very primal sense of fear, such as the fear of starvation or the fear of being attacked by a lion. These primal fears have been designed to protect us from the natural environment and they are what kept our ancestors safe. However, or rather thankfully, rarely in modern times do we actually experience these dangers. Feeling this sense of primal fear today is uncommon unless, of course, in extreme and unfortunate situations.
The second category of fears stem from within us and our own limiting beliefs, as well as the limiting beliefs of others, which we have adopted subconsciously. These fears can be destructive and hold us back from going after our dreams, reaching our goals, or realising our potential. An example here, would be the fear of failure, or any of the ones I listed above. These are the fears we most commonly experience in our day to day lives.
How can I fear less?
We cannot completely rid ourselves from fear, because fear and distress are both hard-wired into our brains. They are essentially what make us human, and experiencing fear is necessary for our survival. So, if we cannot be fearless, how can we fear less?
The idea behind fearing less is about being able to recognise and identify your fear, learning to sit with it, and to build your tolerance for that fear. To make this process a little more clear, I will guide you through an example that helped me come to terms with my fear of judgement.
Step 1: Identify your fear
The first step is to name your fear – call it out – and examine its roots and when it shows up in your life. For example, I am afraid of judgement. More specifically, I am afraid of being judged negatively by others. This fear shows up whenever I am at the centre of attention, in large groups of people, around people who don’t know me well, or when I put myself or my work out there for others to see (e.g. photos, poems, blog posts (LOL), anything and everything). This fear could stem from feeling like I was never good enough growing up and my tendency to be a people-pleaser.
Step 2: Confront your fear
Face your fear by asking yourself targeted questions. It helps a lot to write down your answers, and also notice any follow up questions that pop into your mind, as this could help you get to the root of your fear. Some of the questions I asked myself were:
- Why am I so afraid of being judged (negatively) by others?
- What is the worst thing that could happen if someone did judge me?
- Will this directly impact my life and immediate surroundings?
- Can I really avoid being judged by others?
- How can I know if someone is judging me? Maybe it’s more in my head or stems from my insecurities?
- Where could someone’s need to judge me stem from? Could it be more of a reflection of that person and their own limiting beliefs and insecurities, because people tend to project themselves onto others?
- Do I recognize that I cannot possibly be everyone’s cup of tea?
- Am I able to reflect on the fact that I may not like or agree with every person I encounter, so I cannot possibly expect everyone to like or agree with me either – can I learn to accept this truth?
Step 3: Increase your tolerance
The third and final step is to break down your fear into manageable chunks, so that you can begin to increase your tolerance for that uncomfortable feeling when confronting your fear. The goal is to learn to sit with that fear, and still do what it is that you need or want to. Don’t try to run or hide from feeling uncomfortable. Instead observe your thoughts and the way you feel with curiosity and without self-judgement.
Self-judgement will only make your fear, distress, and anxiety worse by blowing it way out of proportion. Guide your thoughts to the present moment, sit with the feeling, and focus on taking deep breaths to calm your mind, so that you can think rationally once again.
Let’s grow and glow
The crucial thing to know is that you CAN change and you don’t need to be stuck in repeating the same patterns and habits over and over again. You can take the responsibility and action to free yourself from the fears and beliefs that are holding you back. Being a little uncomfortable is good, because that is when we push our boundaries. And that’s where we can begin to grow and glow! (too cheesy :D?).
Let me know what you are afraid of, and what can you do already today to start feeling more comfortable in that fear? I’d love to hear your take on this topic.