“I’m scared,” said my two year old. “Scared of what darling?” I asked.
Although he is quite a daredevil who likes to challenge himself physically, I noticed that my son has started to develop fears. Besides the vacuum, he fears that he will go down the drain with the bathwater, and he is starting to get fearful of the dark.
It may seem silly at first, but I realized at this age, his fears are still primal – something in him is triggered and he literally fears for his life. Having fear is a natural survival mechanism and serves an important role in our self-protection. Fear is the emotion that comes up when your mind feels your physical safety is threatened.
At two, my son doesn’t know that a vacuum or a bath drain can’t possibly suck him up! So I started thinking of my fears, and the fears of my clients and although it comes in many shapes and sizes, most of our fears are not really life-threatening.
The fear within us
Most of the time we fear things like:
- public speaking
- asserting ourselves
- making decisions
- being vulnerable
- changing jobs
- being alone
- making mistakes
- being rejected
- failure (there are those that also fear success!)
As real as it may seem, these types of fear exist mostly in our mind. We are not actually physically threatened, we are emotionally threatened. These fears come about when we are expecting a negative outcome, not necessarily that we have had a negative outcome. That’s why the fear feels the same whether the danger is real or imagined. Fear really feeds on itself – the more you think of something you are afraid of, the greater your fear becomes.
Why confront your fears
Although fear is about self-protection, if you don’t rise above your fears, they will be a huge factor in limiting your success, undermining your confidence and diminishing your quality of life. Confronting your fears also helps with:
- Procrastination and Indecision – these are rooted in fear. They consume huge amounts of energy, lead to self-criticism and low self-esteem. Moving forward with the things you’ve been putting off gives you a renewed energy and results that give you confidence.
- Achieving your goals faster – the more risks you take, the further and faster you’ll get ahead. Learning to take calculated risks will be key to accelerating your journey to success.
- Trying something new – when you’re afraid of being out of your comfort zone, you never really grow. Trying something new can be challenging, but it also expands your knowledge, skills and outlook so that you can look forward to bigger and better things.
Even if you end up less successful than you would like, pursuing your dreams enables you to live life with no regrets! As Walt Disney says, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
A note about courage…many people believe that courage is the absence of fear. On the contrary, courage is about taking action in the face of fear. Think of the most powerful and respected men and women in history. At one point or another, they have all demonstrated great courage – it’s human to feel fear, we all do. Yet these people have chosen to take action anyway and with their courage they grew stronger, inspired others and changed the world.
How to resolve your fears
1. Know Your Fears
Before you can deal with your fears, you need to recognize it. Many people avoid putting themselves in fearful situations – without knowing it – and then wonder why their lives feel stuck or stagnant.
- What are your fears? (In your Career? Relationships? Money?)
- Where are you afraid of failing?
2. Examine Your Fears
Most of our fears are irrational. Examine them closely and separate realistic fears from those that are unfounded. Getting specific about the answers will reduce your fear.
- “What if…?” What’s the worse case scenario of your fear?
- Would it be so bad? Can you handle it?
3. Confront Your Fears
Fear will always be a part of our lives, so don’t stop what you are doing as soon as you encounter fear. Instead, why not think of it as a companion on your exciting adventures? Fear is a part of growth, it’s not something to avoid, so why not acknowledge its presence and move forward in spite of it.
- What’s my motivation? (is there a compelling reason you want to bust through your fear?)
- What’s it costing me to be so fearful?
- What are the benefits of moving through this fear?
4. Take Action
Make a decision as to what action will serve you best and just do it! The sooner you get going, the sooner your fear will recede. In reality, our fears are never as bad as we think they are.
- What’s a small step you can take that will reduce your risk and fear?
- Is there a commitment you can make, so that you have to follow through? This gets your mind concentrating on making things work rather than worrying about what will happen if things don’t go as planned.
- Can someone help you with advice or support to move through what you are fearing?
5. Make Mistakes and Move On
I wish I could say to you that you’ll get things right the first time. Chances are you will make a mistake or even fail! Sometimes, good things can come from perceived failures. The Post-it note, which every office has in its supply cabinet, was supposed to be a new glue compound until they discovered it didn’t stick permanently. Instead, it could re-stick a number of times without any residue. The rest, as they say, is history.
- Are you holding back from fear of making mistakes?
- Is there a way to learn from mistakes in the past?
Confronting your fears will be an ongoing exercise your whole life. Remember that your goal is not to eliminate it – it’s normal and natural to have them. Your goal is to be able to admit, assess and acknowledge your fears so that you can move forward in a way that serves your goals and life.
As Eleanor Roosevelt says, “do one thing you fear every day.” You might actually look forward to challenging your fears.
*Elena’s Note: This article first appeared in my Working Mom magazine column
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies.
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