4 Fears That Are Stopping You From Achieving Your Best Life (And How To Overcome It)
Fear is a powerful force. It helps us stay alive and prevents us from doing stupid stuff. However, it’s also a very limiting mental blockade that can prevent you from achieving the life you want. Fear has the power to literally kill your ambitions, goals and dreams. Fear creates excuses that seem legitimate enough so that you’ll stop taking action and go back to your comfort zone.
The problem is that most of these fears are subconscious and therefore it isn’t always easy to identify what type of fears are holding you back. Without consciously being aware of it myself, fear had quite a strong grip on my life. Fear was the main reason I was procrastinating. It was the main reason why I wasn’t working on the highest value activities that would actually help me achieve my goals. Fear was sabotaging my success. But fortunately, I’ve learned to use fear as a compass for action — and it now helps me navigate what I should be doing and where I should be going with my life and business.
First, I’m going to discuss the 4 types of fears in detail so you can start thinking about which ones are limiting you. Then, at the end of this article, I’ll talk about how to overcome your fears in 7 steps, so you can start to tap into your full potential.
Fear #1: Fear of Rejection
The fear of rejection is probably the biggest fear out there. It’s where almost all of the other fears we’ll be discussing lead to. We’ve all been rejected in our lives. Whether it was the rejection from a university, job interview or by someone from the opposite sex. And rejection hurts. It makes us feel inadequate. It lowers our self-esteem and confidence. In some cases it can hurt so bad that people might even slip into depression.
As human beings, we are true social creatures. Even the biggest introvert on the planet needs other people in order to survive and thrive. Essentially almost all of us are dependent on other people for food, water, shelter and many of the positive emotions such as love and joy. Therefore, we’d do anything to be accepted by others, and we’ll avoid everything that could possibly mean rejection.
Think about it, even as little as hundreds of years ago, rejection equalled physical death. If you were rejected from your tribe, you wouldn’t survive for long. Nowadays, rejection equals psychological death.
One way people avoid all of this pain is by avoiding to stand out. In Australia, they call this the ‘tall-poppy’ syndrome. Famous Australian actress Margot Robbie explains this principle well by saying:
“There’s a thing in Australia called tall poppy syndrome. Have you heard of it? It’s a pretty prevalent thing — they even teach it in school. Poppies are tall flowers, but they don’t grow taller than the rest of the flowers, so there’s a mentality in Australia where people are really happy for you to do well; you just can’t do better than everyone else or they will cut you down to size.”
The poppies grow together and they’re supposed to be uniform. If one grows up too high, it means it’s got to be slashed and cut back down to size. Some people don’t like it if you succeed too much. It makes them feel bad. Therefore, they’ll start to lash out and maybe even reject you. Let them. It says a lot about their ambition and what they’ll achieve in life (not much).
Unfortunately, the fear of rejection causes many people to give up on their dreams and ambitions. They abandon self-development because their friends aren’t doing it. They won’t develop their talents because they don’t want to stand out. They don’t grab every opportunity that comes their way. They don’t start a business because they’re afraid they won’t get the support of their friends and family. They adopt the same bad habits as their friends do in order not to get rejected.
All in all, the drive to avoid the pain of rejection can make us do things that aren’t in line with our purpose and mission. Maybe you’re suffering from this type of fear. This is nothing to be ashamed about, it’s human nature. Only when you identify and accept your fears, you can start to overcome them.
Fear #2: Fear of Failure
The fear of failure is another big reason why many people don’t achieve their best life possible. In fact, the fear of failure can be so paralyzing that people simply decide to procrastinate over and over again, even though they continue talking about their goals.
The payoff for procrastinating is that we protect ourselves from ‘real’ failure. Because as long as you don’t put in the necessary effort for success, you’re at least not confronted by ‘real’ failure. You can still refer back to the excuse that you haven’t given it your all and that you potentially can do so much better. But make no mistake. Not taking action is a bigger failure than ‘failing’ at your goals.
When you really fail at your goal, despite taking action, you’d still learn valuable lessons and therefore grow. But if you simply procrastinate, you won’t learn. You’ll only waste your time. Remember, on your journey to success it’s necessary for you to fail and make mistakes. It’s an essential part of the process. At those moments, you’ll learn new valuable lessons that’ll help you get closer to your endgoal.
For example, when I started my first business, GetGo Investing (a financial education business), I made a ton of mistakes. I spend so many hours working on content that would never see daylight. I made products no one really wanted. I’ve switched from strategy to strategy, all without the results I hoped for. For 1.5 years, I didn’t earn a single dollar in revenue… And yes, it was painful and embarrassing. But I learned so many valuable lessons that would eventually help me earn a full-time income online and grow my other businesses (Elevation and Personal Growth Lab) much faster and more profitable than before. It was during that process where I realized that every failure brought me closer to success and that every mistake serves a purpose — which is to learn and to grow.
One last thing that I want to say about the fear of failure is that you should let go of perfectionism. When you believe that things should be done perfectly, the result is that nothing gets done at all. When faced with a task, you become overwhelmed and frustrated by impossible standards. 80% is good enough. When you continue to aim for ‘perfect’, you won’t get a lot done — and the fear of failure creeps in time and time again. When perfect is your standard, anything below that is considered failure. Don’t forget that perfectionism is usually just a form of insecurity and procrastination that has managed to dress up in a seemingly positive character trait.
Fear #3: Fear of Success
The fear of success is a type of fear that most people don’t expect to see on this list. Probably, as a Personal Growth Lab member, you’re all about creating a successful life and you’re already putting in the effort to make this happen. Yet, subconsciously, it’s possible to fear the success you are actually striving for.
Because success is scary. Fulfilling your true potential is scary. Why? Because it’s unknown territory. And we’re practically hardwired to label anything unknown as scary. Like those who procrastinate because they fear failure, you can keep yourself safe from facing your true limits by avoiding opportunities and putting things off.
Maybe you’re afraid of success because you fear your friends or family will reject you if you have a totally different lifestyle compared to them.
Maybe you fear success because you know you’ll have to drop some old behaviours and habits, which can lead to rejection by certain people in your social circle.
Maybe you fear success because you’re afraid of getting more responsibilities and expectations.
Maybe you fear success because you don’t actually feel worthy or capable of handling success.
Once again, you don’t have to feel ashamed if you can relate to any of these type of fears. The important thing is that you identify and accept them. Because only then you’ll be able to overcome them.
Fear #4: Fear of Ridicule
This is a more subtle form of the fear of rejection, but it’s still a massive limiting factor for many people around the world.
Maybe you want to start a YouTube channel or record a course, but you’re afraid of how you’ll look in front of the camera. Maybe you want to start a business that some of your friends or family don’t understand. Or maybe you have certain interests that some of the people around you make fun of. In many cases, we fear that the things we do, say or like will be ridiculed and made fun of by other people. This fear will be even bigger if it concerns the opinions of our friends and family.
The fear of ridicule has certainly been a massive subconscious fear for me. When I just started making content about self-development, I didn’t have that many followers on YouTube or Instagram. Some of my videos only had 2 views.. That’s some embarrassing stuff. I feared that some of my friends and family members would see it and that they would think I looked like a fool. When you have a YouTube channel with 37 subscribers and a bunch of videos that aren’t that good, it’s hard to stay motivated and not let the fear of ridicule kick in. Especially when some of your friends don’t give you any positive feedback at all.
But (as I learned from books like The 10X Rule and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) if you want to achieve great things in life, you have to be willing to look stupid for a while. You have to embrace the fact that you aren’t yet at the level you want to be. Only with this acceptance, you can come up with the consistency and authenticity to grow and improve until you eventually don’t ‘look stupid’ anymore.
Everyone who’s ever made it in life or business looked like a fool in the opinion of some people. Those who stand out because they are willing to take the initiative, try out new ideas, follow unexplored paths or create a better life for themselves, will always be ridiculed by some. Your ambition confronts them with their own lack of ambition — and in order to protect their own ego, they’ll lash out by trying to ridicule you. Realizing this will make it 10x easier to overcome and bash through the fear of ridicule.
How To Overcome Your Fears In 7 Steps
Step 1: Realize Everyone Has Fears
It’s human nature. Many people are afraid of something, but they simply don’t show it (and therefore you don’t know about). Realize you are not alone.
Step 2: Identify and Write Down Your Fears
Write down exactly everything you are afraid of. Be as specific as possible. Also, label to which of the 4 categories your fear belongs. Sometimes, a fear can also belong to multiple categories. For example:
I’m afraid that my friends will think my new YouTube channel is stupid — Fear of Ridicule
I’m afraid that my business idea won’t work out and I have to go back to my 9–5 job — Fear of Failure and Fear of Ridicule
I’m afraid to share my new insights about spirituality with my spouse, because I’m afraid he/she won’t agree or understand and therefore reject me (even if it’s just a minor rejection) — Fear of Rejection
Step 3: Identify and Write Down The (Realistic) Worst Case Scenario
Whenever we feel fear, our mind will greatly overestimate the worst case scenario. Therefore, we need to identify our realistic worst-case scenario beforehand, and write it down. This way, we can refer back to rationality in moments of irrationality. You’ll very likely see that the rational, realistic worst case scenario is not as bad as your mind has made it in moments of irrationality.
Step 4: Identify Your Fears In The Moment And Focus On Gratitude
Whenever you feel fearful, become truly aware of what type of fear it is. Identify if it’s a familiar fear and place it in one of the 4 categories we talked about. This awareness alone will disarm fear to such a degree that it will no longer have such a strong grip on you.
Furthermore, try to replace your fear with gratefulness. This is a trick I learned from Tony Robbins, who says that ‘fear disappears whenever you are grateful’. You can’t feel fearful and grateful at the same time. It’s always one or the other.
So, let’s say that you’re afraid of starting a new business. Instead of focussing on the fear, focus on being grateful for the fact that you have this awesome idea in the first place. Or focus on being grateful for your entrepreneurial mindset. This way, fear will disappear a lot quicker!
Step 5: Do The Rocking Chair Test
This is another technique I learned from Tony Robbins, and it’s highly effective in order to put certain decisions into perspective. See yourself at the age of 80 or 90, sitting in a rocking chair. How would you feel at that moment if you know you didn’t do certain things you wanted to do, because you let fear control you? How would you feel if you let short-term fear lead to long-term regret? Use this feeling as fuel to bash through your fears and do it anyway.
Becoming fearless is not about fearing nothing — it’s about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Step 6: Make A ‘Screw You, Fear’ Affirmation
Write down an affirmation of a few sentences that combines steps 2, 3 and 5. Read this whenever you feel your fears coming up. You can also read this daily as part of your morning routine in order to start your day fearless (fearing less).
I’m afraid that my friends will think my new YouTube channel is stupid and that they’ll ridicule me for it. But I know this says more about them than about me. I know this YouTube channel is going to be important for the success of my business. With the right consistency and practice I’ll get better — which leads to more viewers and subscribers.
In the worst case scenario, my YouTube channel won’t get off the ground. But even then I would have learned a great deal. I’d learn to be more comfortable in front of the camera and do better public speaking for example.
Also, I know I would regret it later on in my life if I didn’t try for (at least 6 months) to grow my YouTube channel. I won’t let this short-term fear lead to long-term regret.
If you’d read a text like this every single day, I guarantee you’ll overcome your fears a lot faster and easier. And imagine what’s possible when you become more and more fearless. When there are little to no mental blockades on your path of success..
Step 7: Take Massive Action
Action kills fear. Inaction and procrastination feed fear. Take massive action and your mental blockades will start to become weaker.
Now Do It
Nowadays I view fear as a compass for action. Direct, massive action. It helps me navigate what I actually should be doing and where I should be going with my life and business. That whatever I fear is most likely what I should be doing.
So, as an action point for this article, identify 1–3 fears that you’d like to get out of the way and follow the 7 steps as described above.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab