There is no passion so contagious as that of fear. ~ Michel de Montaigne Click To Tweet
Often, both in our business and personal lives, humans have a tendency to settle. While often restless when younger, most of us, sooner rather than later, end up finding a place that feels safe and get comfortable there, only moving or changing things up when we really have to.
This is a completely natural behaviour. We’ve been operating this way for time out of mind — it’s how the hunter-gatherers lived in prehistoric times and it’s how we operate now.
However, just like how the hunter-gatherers also moved when times beckoned for a change, it’s important that we keep ourselves and our life situations flexible and ‘relaxed but ready’ enough that we don’t end up missing or talking ourselves out of genuine opportunity when it comes knocking — and when it does, that we are able to maintain balance and integrity as we move forward into the unknown.
Easier said than done, of course.
Even beginning that movement can be very tough. For some, laziness is a reason, and for others, fear. Often one is connected to the other.
It’s unfortunate how the fear of change, failure, or the fear of feeling miserable or sad can restrict people from succeeding, achieving and simply living fully, unafraid to be themselves by utilizing the innate higher aspects of cooperation, compassion, levity and nonchalance they (and each one of us) possess. As they say: “People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute.”
And one of the main reasons for that? The fear of negative feelings.
How can fear keep us from getting ahead and affect our decisions? Here are a few possible ways:
- Saying YES, when you really want to say NO.
There are times when many of us don’t like to disappoint people, and essentially end up becoming a ‘pleaser’ – someone who worries far too much what others think of them, falling into the trap of deriving their sense of self-worth from external approval from any and all others — rather than confront the fear of feeling rejected.
- Saying NO, when you really want to say YES.
When you have a bad fear of the unknown, you ultimately refrain from taking risks. Even calculated ones. You want to involve yourself in a start-up, or do music full-time, travel the world or even just renovate your home – but you don’t do it, simply because of the fear of failing.
- Blinding yourself with alcohol, drugs, sex, TV, or extreme business.
Fear stirs up a lot of negative emotions in us, including depression, anxiety, impatience, helplessness, frustration, isolation and exhaustion. Being addicted to external stimulations takes our minds off the core problem, while the additives increase temporary pleasure but unfortunately, also, ever-degenerating cycles of long term pain.
Again, the fear of failure, uncertainty or criticism makes you want to remain in your comfort zone. You want to make excuses or busy yourself with other minor things other than tackling the major thing — the thing you know you need to do — head on.
- Paralyzing yourself.
Our gut feelings are that sense of knowing, just knowing, before any intellectual thought or other form of stimulus comes online, providing a direct line to a far deeper, emotional and resonant form of cognition all of us have experienced, but have been trained into doubting by the larger world we live in. Thus, many of us won’t listen to these extremely clear messages once the mind gets in there, because of the fear of making wrong decisions.
As they say, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, and there are far too few adventurers in our world. We know we should quit that horrible job or end that terrible relationship, check ourselves into rehab or speak up about issues at work, but we won’t do it for the fear of uncertainty.
- Turning yourself into a control freak.
It’s the fear of living in a hostile environment; you want to micromanage and take control of every single thing in your life. You are afraid of failure, and are not very trusting of others.
Regardless of what negative emotion it is, it ultimately boils down to fear. It is fear that makes people too comfortable to take risks, to start businesses, to look for love.
There are countless other negative emotions, but what’s more important here is to learn how to deal with them. When it comes down to it, people always tend to have these two kinds of fear:
You’ll be surprised to know there are many people who are afraid of success! They fear disappointing people with their success, or think up all the ways they would mess it up, feel they wouldn’t be able to handle it like the pros do, etc. In the end, it’s really a fear what comes after success — in other words, pressure, responsibility, possible persecution, etc.
Again, fear of failure isn’t really about the failure, but also about what comes after, when one has failed. Criticism, judgement, humiliation, being “exposed” as the fraud we’ve felt like all along. The list goes on.
How to Overcome Fear and Start Living Fully?
It is important to understand and always remember that negative emotions are part of life; stress, when accepted and handled proactively can actually be quite good for you, and failure is always a useful experience. It’s these two things that success and living fully actually consist of.
Yet fear won’t go by itself. There are some steps you can take to overcome it. Since your biggest critic will almost always be you, there is no point in talking about ‘Don’t care about what others think of you’ here. The point is moot, since there’s nothing you’ll ever be able to do about it. People will criticize, regardless of your many successes or failures; the only opinion that really matters, in the end, is your own. It’s only you that knows whether or not you’ve followed your heart, and how well.
Knowing this makes overcoming our fear a bit of a simpler task. Mark Twain once said “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
So how can you achieve it?
1) Concentrate on what you appreciate.
Focusing on the things in your life that have moved you, or made you feel loved and protected, will immediately move your attention towards gratitude. Take a moment to remember what they are and feel those good memories again; watch your fears disappear!
2) Question your Fears.
Do your fears hold any truth? When you discover the difference between what is real and what are (often erroneous) thoughts, fear will begin to loosen its grip on you immediately.
3) Trust your world.
When you incessantly question all the people and situations around you, it’s natural to feel anxiety and fear. But when you learn to trust your world and let go, allowing it to guide you, you realize you don’t really have to so worry so much.
4) Be surrounded with people that inspire you.
Yes, it’s hard to live life on your own as it is, but when you find people that are not afraid to live their lives, they have the power to encourage and inspire you to move ahead. Besides, you won’t be afraid to be yourself with them as well!
Successful people have fears too, but they don’t hide behind their fears, and the reason you see them as successful is that they faced those fears, time and again, and overcame them!
When you’re afraid of doing something, ask yourself, how often do you do it? The fact is that when we do the things we are afraid to do, over and over again, it actually gives us a thicker skin, reminding us that we are indeed capable of surviving ‘not being enough’ and building up our confidence.
If you’re not good at something, you are afraid to do it. This is natural. When it’s not something you’re interested in doing or have to do, who cares, right? Let it go! But when it’s a strong desire of yours, well, this presents a bit of a conundrum. Often, when we are young, the tendency is to put it off and occupy ourselves with other ‘less important’ things while we have ‘time’. This is bad habit to develop, however. “Waiting until you’re ready” is an idea that could find you on your death bed having accomplished very little.
When you simply go ahead anyway, that’s courage, that’s intent, that’s nonchalance. These are the emotions to harness and train, little by little, in order to slowly master fear and lead you into an ever-brightening, encouraging life!