Is fear stopping you make the changes you want to make?
Updated: Feb 6
Face your fears
Fear is a very powerful and complex emotion and is a natural response to a threat that is real or imagined. Fear is meant to protect us from danger, but our nervous system doesn’t recognize the difference between a high level threat and a low level one.
So, fear can be good or bad! Some types of fear are useful and help us to avoid dangerous situations. But fear that occurs when we are facing non life-threatening events can be paralysing. Some of these very common fears include fear of public speaking; fear of exams; fear of starting a new job, all of which can prevent us from doing the things that we really want to do.
Fear is a huge and complicated topic. There has been a lot written about fear and I have been doing some reading recently, as I try to work through my own fears. I will share with you some of the advice of the ‘experts’. But this is just a short summary and my interpretation.
What are some of the most common types of fear, (and one of them may surprise you!)
1.Fear of failure
This is probably the most common fear. Fear of failure is normal and very real for lots, if not most people. Fear of failure protects you from, yes, you’ve guessed it, failure. Nobody likes to fail and if you don’t take some risks you won’t fail. But at the same time, fear of failure can also stop us doing things that can move us forward towards achieving our goals.
In everything we do, there is always a chance of failure but there are also strategies we can use to assess the risk of failure and reduce it. There are some things that could help to minimise the risk. You could (and in most cases should) research and analyse all options, have a Plan B in case things don’t go as planned and most importantly consider the worst-case scenario – if that really would be disastrous then it would be unwise to proceed.
If we change out mindset around failure and see it an opportunity to learn something, we are moving forward not backwards. If we don’t take risks and we don’t fail, we stay in the same place. As Tony Robbins says, “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow your progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.”
2.Fear of change
There is no doubt that change is stressful, even when the change results in a better situation. Fear of change is a very real fear based on the unknown. You don’t know what the outcome of the change will be, so you feel afraid. The change could improve your current situation, or it could make it worse. Perhaps you don’t have enough information about the expected outcome, or the change is being forced on you and you feel powerless. What we think we are afraid of may not always be the real fear, so dig a little deeper and ask yourself ‘what is underneath this?’ You may find an answer you didn’t expect.
Our fear of change could be based on stories we tell ourselves. These stories may be real, based on past events or imagined. Either way we reinforce these fears with our thoughts. Our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviour. So, if we change our thoughts, we can change our feelings and behaviour. So how can you change your thoughts?
Think about times when you have navigated change in your life – there will be many of them. Then write down 10 changes that have positively changed your life. How many of these changes turned out much more positively than you expected? Understanding this may make you think about change differently.
Another quote from Tony Robbins suggests if you want something enough you will make it happen.
“Change is never a matter of ability, it's always a matter of motivation or drive. If you have a strong enough reason, you could work out how to make it happen"
3.Fear of success
This is a strange one because it is not a fear we would usually consider. But subconsciously we may be afraid that if we change (something) and become successful we will lose something else, e.g. our relationship, friends, current lifestyle. We may be worried that they will become a victim of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, an Australian cultural term that refers to people who stand out for their abilities and success. But standing out, in this case, isn’t viewed positively. It is phenomenon which certainly exists in Australia and possibly other countries too.
At the bottom of the fear of success, there may also be an element of ‘I can’t handle it’,’ I am not good enough’. If I apply for and get this job, I won’t be able to handle it and they (my future colleagues) will realise I am useless.
What can you do about your fears?
In her book ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ Susan Jeffers urges you to do just that – face the fear! She says that facing your fears will result in improved self esteem as you realise you can do whatever you were fearful of, and this will diminish the power of the fear.
She also suggests that if you are stuck you make a list of the pay offs of remaining stuck. What don’t you have to face or do by remaining stuck in your comfort zone?
Tony Robbins in his well-known book ‘Unleash the power within’ identifies 5 steps to overcome fear:
1. Determine if your goal is a MUST or is it essential to your success
2. Recognise your excuses
3. Adopt a growth mindset and change the message you tell yourself
4. Learn from the painful moments
5. Accept that you’ll fail
In ‘The Big Leap’ Gay Hendricks tells us to acknowledge and feel our fears and move on.
Remember that no outcome is 100% certain. Everyone fails and that is how we learn. If you recognise how your fear is holding back and change your mindset around fear, you will make it easier to move forward.
Is fear holding you back? Leave a comment below or get in touch if you’d like some help. Scroll down to sign up for my Newsletter or go here to get a Power Coaching session about your fears