What causes fear and why it’s a good thing

“Fear cuts deeper than swords” — Arya stark — Game of Thrones.
Photo by Carl Cerstrand on Unsplash

So there’s something important you’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Maybe it’s quitting your job to launch a new business, asking out that special person you’ve had a crush on for years, or even standing up to someone who has wronged you.

You know what you need to do, and you know it will help you to grow, but you can’t quite do it.

There’s a weight inside you that is stopping you from taking action, but what if this isn’t completely a bad thing?


Why do we feel fear?

Fear is a great teacher. She is only doing what she thinks best to protect you from ‘certain’ failure. In most cases she is an overbearing parent that you don’t need advice from.

Sometimes though, when you feel fear deep in your gut and it’s the type that actually makes you scared, you definitely want to listen.

Fear is a chemically induced state to help us proceed with caution, fight or flight.

Without it, we would make dumb, impulsive choices.

Many times fear is a learned response e.g. someone who grew up with parents who were nervous drivers would likely have learnt subconsciously, that driving should be met with extreme caution (whether right or wrong).

So now we know, that even though it doesn’t feel fun, fear is often an ally and is ultimately a good thing.

But our bodies aren’t perfect and we can have an irrational fear that holds us back.

I’m going to show you six ways to test and measure whether or not your fear is helpful and if it should be embraced or ignored.

1. Create a list of pros and cons

If you have a big decision to make that you’ve been holding back on, grab a piece of paper and draw up a list of pros and cons surrounding this decision. Score each one out of ten for how relevant a reason it is, use this as a rational weighing scale to make your choice. This way you’ll be in a much better position to make an informed decision that’s not based on fear.

2. Talk to close friends

You’re likely not the only going through this. Call a friend or meet them in person to discuss through this fear you’re feeling and have them share their perspective. They will understand because fear affects everyone, it’s hardwired into our DNA. But they also know you best, so they know when to call you out and when to support you.

3. Explore the absolute worst case scenario.

What would happen if your worst fear came to light? Ask yourself if you could live with it. What you’ll find is things won’t be half as scary as you first thought them to be. This is a stoic exercise created by Marcus Aurelius.

4. Find better answers

If you want to find better answers, you need to ask better questions. By asking positive questions we can reduce the amount of fear we feel and create a more accurate perspective from which to judge our choices. One of those questions is №3 above. Here are 20 other questions to ask yourself.

5. Get rid of other’s expectations of you

You need to make sure that this fear is not based on what other people think of you and that you’re not taking action because you fear that people will judge you if you fail or make the leap. The best way to deal with this is to meditate. Deep belly breaths and bringing yourself back to the present moment can give you real perspective, and help you to look within yourself. Ask yourself am I making this choice for me or other people?

6. Forgive yourself

We’re all on this journey together and none of us is perfect. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and good things will happen. Jim Carrey said this of playing life safe and not taking risks: “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”


Just by reading this you’ve taken steps to understanding the complicated love hate relationship we have with fear.

When trying to decide whether or not to take the plunge, I want you to challenge your fear right now and write down what it is in the comments.

By taking that small but significant micro commitment you will find your confidence will increase.

Often by writing down your fear you make it that much less scary, and can see it for what it really is, a guiding beacon that helps you make a decision in your favour.

Remember, it’s not about living without fear completely, it’s about making a long term commitment to it, and know that it will always be with you. Accepting this makes it far easier to embrace and use to its best effect.