Overcoming Fear

IMG_7674 - CopyOn our journey to lead a happy and fulfilling life, fear is a major obstacle that keeps on coming up again and again. I am not talking about fear of real, physical danger here. I am talking about our internal fears: Fear of not being liked, fear of not being accepted, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of making mistakes, fear of not being understood…the list goes on.

Why are we so afraid? Fear is there to keep us from getting hurt. It is trying to guard us against any negative feeling that would confirm our worst fear – that we are not good enough.  If there is any danger at all that we might not be accepted, approved of or understood, fear will jump in and try to make sure that we don’t take any action that will expose us and potentially hurt us. So we are afraid and hesitate to change our job, start that new business, call to ask for a date, reveal our true feelings in a relationship.

Fear keeps us in our comfort zone, where it’s nice and safe. But it also keeps us from pursuing our dreams and experiencing joy and success. Because what if the new job was better, the new business was successful, the person said “yes” to the date and revealing our true feelings deepened a relationship? We will never know until we take the risk and try.

Fear also makes us deny our essential nature and suppress who we truly are. What would people say if they knew that I thought this way? Would she still respect me if she knew all my quirks?  So we hold back, censor ourselves, and only show certain parts of who we are. Of course, sometimes we need to edit ourselves in certain environments. But if we continuously disguise and hide ourselves, it’s really difficult to accept ourselves.

So there we are, being held hostage by fear. We may hope and wait for a guarantee that if we risk, nothing bad will happen. But there is never a guarantee, so we may be stuck in inaction for a long time.

How do we get out of this “stuckness”?

One way is by being ourselves, acting and speaking authentically as often as we can. We can start by taking small steps, maybe with certain people or while in certain environments. For example, I have found my dance classes to be a very open and inviting environment to be myself. What groups of people encourage you to be yourself? What places make you feel most at home? How can you express a little bit more of yourself in these environments?

Another way is to practice being uncomfortable.  Taking small risks and trying out new things you don’t know how to do yet helps you with taking bigger risks in the future. When I first started my coaching practice, I realized that I would need to go out there and talk to people and face possible rejection. So I started practicing by taking acting classes (something I had never done before) and going out to auditions (which I was terrified of).  While it was still hard to hear “no” multiple times, I finally got a “yes” to be in the ensemble of a musical. What could you try that feels a little risky? Trying out a new sport, going to an art class, playing an instrument, joining an improv group, learning a new language…

The key is to get into action. As Norman Vincent Peale said: “Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.”

What action will you take this week?

Manuela is helping smart and creative women be happier with themselves, their careers, and their lives! Visit Manuela’s Website for Professional Life Coaching.

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