How to Overcome Bad Fear and Discover the Real You
“Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Today is the first Part of a two-part installment on Fear. I discuss the “bad type” of fear today — the fear of becoming who we are destined to be. Some call it “fear of success” or “fear of acceptance.” I care passionately about this subject and have spent much of my life developing ways to conquer this fear. Editor’s Update: You can now read Part II here!
I’m not afraid to admit that the fear of success has, at times in my life, left me frozen in my tracks. For a while, I thought it was just me. Everyone loves to put on a brave face in public. On the inside, we’re scared like hell of doing that great thing we imagine and dream of. We fear what we don’t understand — which usually involves the steps, the parts of the process, of what it will take to gain the prize at the end of our journey.
I acknowledge, I’ve never been afraid of desiring to stand in the winner’s circle, so to speak, because it’s in that moment that our journey — which often is not what we envisioned it would be — will make perfect sense. For years I was painfully afraid of writing for the public. It wasn’t so much the actual feedback that I would get — if negative at all — it was the anticipation of what it could be.
I didn’t know if I was experienced enough. A common fear for many. I also didn’t know enough about all the facets and aspects of being a writer. Writing isn’t just about writing. It’s about ideas, editing, marketing, promotion, reading, constant learning and accepting criticism and feedback from others.
Whatever your profession or passion is, if you want to be the best at what you do, you can’t just think you only need to do one thing. Want to run a lucrative auto body shop? Well you better have a great supply chain. You need to know how to negotiate, advertise, market, treat people fairly and act with honesty and integrity in all of your customer service transactions. Otherwise, your auto body shop may be replaced by a Wal-Mart.
The same can be said for whether you want to become a professional dancer, like Misty Copeland, or if you want to design the next app that goes viral and becomes the tech sensation everyone is talking about. It’s not just about knowing the code and having the idea. It takes vision, financial investment, time management, relationship-building and learning how to sell.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela
There are so many reasons to fear success. You must be persistent and self-improving with the venture you pursue because no true success is going to come over night. If you’re a writer, keep writing and finding ways to connect with fellow writers and readers. Replenish the ideas which are the lifeblood of your future articles and books.
If you’re a student, don’t fear doing so well on your exam that you won’t know what step to take next. Have a plan for success. It will be that much easier to follow.
It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, to represent your emotions, feelings and who you are in exactly the way that you imagine. There are countless ways for us to doubt ourselves: What will we say? How will we perform? What if the conditions aren’t what we expected? What if the competition is better than we thought?
I think back to when I was in sixth grade and I was sweating bullets, crippled by fear about what I might say to the girl that I wanted to ask out. I didn’t have any plan, all I knew was that I found her attractive. During the night of the college basketball national championship game, I mustered up the courage to finally call and ask her out. She said, “Yes.” The exhilaration was incredible.
But it was in that moment — literally, approximately 1.67 painstaking seconds that felt like an eternity — when I realized that I wasn’t afraid of whether the answer would be, “Yes” or “No.” I was only afraid of the anticipation — mustering up the courage to say the words and to act upon what I imagined. Not sure about you but that anticipation is what used to hold me back.
Every great achievement or feeling of self-satisfaction that I’ve ever experienced has come due to overcoming fear. Overcoming fear is about believing in yourself and not worrying over the outcome. Because you trust that your effort and decision is wise and justified.
How you Approach Everything Is a Mindset
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” — Marianne Williamson
Everything in life, whether it’s a 3-hour car trip, a sporting event, an exam, interview, presentation, EVERYTHING is about how we mentally visualize and approach things with an attitude of expectancy beforehand. From there, diligence, hard work and enthusiasm are required. We need to see our way through. Experience helps but visualization will carry you through many of your most difficult challenges in life.
We are influenced by emotions which can lead us to feel a particular way, just as our physical and spiritual conditions can. Ultimately, a significant part of the human experience is realizing just how much power we really have — not just over our destiny — but over each moment, through the power of decision and how we prepare to face our many situations.
We don’t respect ourselves or give ourselves enough credit when we doubt and live in fear about future outcomes. This is directly correlated to and rooted in a lack of faith. We can drive success and move mountains through the promotion of faith and the rejection of fear.
Fear is both our friend and our enemy. When we’re weak mentally and emotionally, fear is poison. Fear will destroy us. When we’re strong mentally and emotionally, and we feel capable and confident in our abilities, fear can be a catalyst that drives us to a potential that we may have previously thought was unachievable. I’ll discuss this more in tomorrow’s piece.
This is perhaps a discomforting thought for some, yet it’s become an empowering realization for me: we are vulnerable creatures. We’re driven by emotions. This is why a constantly improving mindset toward emotional intelligence is imperative.
We care about what others think of us. Sometimes, we care way too much about the opinion of others. This is precisely — even if subconsciously — what shut me down and stultified major progress for years of my life. Perhaps, this is the most sobering thing I’ve ever admitted to myself. I almost let fear crush me from becoming who I now know that I really am.
When we overcome the fear of success and acceptance, we grow more confident. We become more persistent, resolute and hungry for our goals. Some people may perceive this as cockiness or arrogance. That’s their problem.
The Fuel that Powers Us
When you are true to your values, you don’t have to worry — or fear — whether people doubt your noble intentions. You simply do what you know how to do and perform at your best.
Every profession is different. Every relationship is unique. All of us want different things in life, which are the perks and benefits of achieving our goals — becoming successful. As I’ve written about previously, I want to share my writing with as many people as I possibly can, because I genuinely care about helping other people. That is the genesis of all the work I do and the relationships I seek to build and foster.
I know I add value to people’s lives through leadership development, coaching, writing and relationship-building. I know because I get delightful feedback like this:
“Your writing inspires me to be better every day.”
I may be verbose — at times! — but I literally can’t put into words how much this means as a writer to see this type of feedback. I’m not afraid to admit it. This matters. Recognition and respect matter. We must never be afraid of humbly accepting praise and kindnesses from others. That is part of what helps keep us going on our journey of conquering fear.
These things serve as the high-octane fuel that power our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical engines — the components that comprise our identity. This is what Keep Going is all about.
I look at many of my fellow millennials, peers, business professionals and even mentors, and it’s very rare when I don’t spot fear in things they say or what they do. I can sense it immediately. I know because for far too long, this was my experience. This was my way of life.
Identifying and Remedying Fear
I used to be afraid of sharing what I really wanted to do with friends and loved ones — so imagine how much harder it was to do so with perfect strangers. I think most people feel this way. Emotionally-driven fear of revealing our true selves to the world is a disease. Most people won’t label it as such, but that is exactly what it is. This is what fear of acceptance and success looks like:
- Fear of posting your writing, designs, creations or your feelings toward someone on social media
- Fear of telling someone how much you care about them — that you love them. That they mean something to you
- Fear of putting yourself out there, naked and exposed to the world, leaving yourself open to criticism
- Fear of giving someone a compliment or looking to build a personal or professional relationship because you don’t know if you’ll be acknowledged
I’ve developed five ways for your to counteract this negative fear and to build up your approach — in attitude and effort — to always feel fulfilled. I put these into practice in the methodology I use to make key decisions:
- Do what is in your heart — that which is pure and derived from how you truly feel. Then, fine-tune this in synchronization with what is in your mind
- Ask yourself these two questions: What is the cost of living in fear? And inversely, what is the cost of not saying or acting upon something because of the silly fear of what someone or others may think? I think you’ll find that cost is far steeper and much greater than you may think. When you don’t say what you want or when you don’t take action, you stay right where you are, indecisive and scared
- What you speak over your life will become your reality. IF, and this is a big IF, you dedicate yourself to backing up your words through actions. This requires planning, concentration, commitment and hard work. Reflect and meditate deeply on the thoughts of your conscious and subconscious mind each day. Write these things down. Then, view each one of them in isolation, when you’re in solitude, alone and free from emotion. By doing this, you will be best positioned to analyze your thoughts clearly and objectively. The answer on whether you should dismiss your fears and act with courage will be plain for you to see
- This quote has become one of my favorites:
“When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits gets crushed. It’s a tightrope, shame resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality-check the criticism and cynicism.” — Brene Brown
If you endeavor to live your life by not caring what other people think of you, then you will live a very poor, disconnected life. There is an enormous difference between caring and caving in to fear by being too conscientious about what others think of us. We have to care. It’s the only way to live. We need a support-system — family, friends, loved ones, mentors — that lift up our spirits and encourage us to keep moving forward.
We need to care but we must not let others deter us from making progress.
5. People that discourage us are often acting in response to their own fears — their own personal shortcomings. You’re unique. That’s how you were created. Your dreams and goals may seem foreign or strange to others. That’s because your dreams are uniquely crafted and designed only for you. People may be envious of you and what you desire to achieve. Forget them.
NEVER let the envy of others cast doubt in your mind. The moment you let this happen, you are destroyed.
There’s so much that we are afraid of, which means there is so much to overcome in order to gain clarity, to realize that most fear is a waste of time. The fear of success — fear of what others may think of us — prevents us from living the life we want. The quicker you confront this, the sooner you will begin to take control of a life that was always yours in the first place.
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