How to Identify the Fears that Hold You Back
How often do you take the time to recognize that your stress, busyness, anxiety or self-doubt come from the root of fear? By chipping away at our fears we will have a more powerful and more lasting source of relief for our tendency to be overachievers, workaholics, worriers and unconfident people. We get ourselves so spun up in our heads that we don’t even realize that we are spinning on a hamster wheel forcing ourselves to work harder and harder to keep the increasingly unsustainable pace.
“Worry is a prayer for chaos.” ~ Gabrielle Bernstein
All of this headspace is an avoidance technique so that we don’t have to address the inadequacies we feel and fear at the core of our being. Instead we focus on the symptoms (e.g. anxiety, lack of time, worry, self-doubt) rather than looking at the root cause (fears).
I love this quote from Ram Dass: “The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.” The more we avoid identifying and mitigating that which we fear the longer we commit ourselves to needless suffering.
Eckhart Tolle explains that “much suffering, much unhappiness arises when you take each thought that comes into your head for the truth.” Just because you think it doesn’t make it so! How much better would you feel if you just let each thought go by just like a car passing in the next lane?
Below are some common fears to help you identify which fear root is holding you back.
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN / LOSS
What’s around the corner can always be amazing. Or it could be shitty. But likely it falls somewhere in between. But worrying and fretting about it only robs us of our energy today. Surrendering to the unknown is one of the most difficult yet rewarding practices.
What surrender takes is faith – faith in God, Allah, the Universe, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever higher power you feel connected to – faith that things will happen as they should. Faith is the opposite emotion to fear – it’s a belief that all things will turn out well and one is not able or likely to be lost, hurt or harmed in any way.
Faith helps us to understand that “shitty” turns aren’t really shitty at all when you see that they are opportunities to grow and develop as a spiritual being. Plus, part of the beauty in life is not having all the answers, not know what is around every corner.
“No one ever knows what is going to happen next” Pema Chodron
Another beneficial practice is to get clear on that which you fear. We spend so much time in fear, but rarely get to the bottom of what it is that we fear. The simple act of identifying your fears will not only help you to get clear about what is holding you back, but will also help take your power back from your fears.
I find journaling to be a great tool to identify those unknown fears. So, when in doubt, write it out. I’m also a huge fan of asking questions, often to my husband’s annoyance 😉 If you keep asking yourself ‘why’ enough you’ll get to that root issue. You’ll find it’s not always what you come up with first.
FEAR OF REJECTION / UNWORTHINESS
Our society constantly reminds us to play small, to focus on inadequacies, to not believe that we are good enough. That we aren’t deserving of better or more. We are trained to focus on faults, problems, and shortcomings. But with practice, we can retrain our brains to focus on strengths, opportunities, and finally realize that we truly are enough. You are unique, beautiful, worthy. You are one of a kind for a reason and you are meant to shine and not to cower.
Someone’s ability to not see your worthiness is not a reflection of you. It’s fully a reflection of them, and likely from their own struggle with feeling worthy. Don’t own that. Don’t make that part of your story. You are enough. You will always be enough!
FEAR OF IMPERFECTION
Perfectionism is a shield we employ to avoid or minimize the pain associated with blame, judgment and shame. Further, it’s focusing on what others will think about us and allowing that fear of not being perfect to keep us from moving forward. “Perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life paralysis refers to all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect” Brene Brown
The reality is that there’s no such thing as perfect. And, it’s elusive at best and ultimately prevents us from truly living our lives. The path to beating perfectionism is to strengthen our self-compassion muscle. Just like any habit it gets stronger with practice and repetition. Brene Brown explains that self-compassion is made up of three elements: self-kindness (being kind to ourselves rather than self-criticizing), common humanity (recognizing and accepting that all humans experience feelings of inadequacy), and mindfulness (being in the present moment and not over-identifying with any particular thoughts or feelings).
FEAR OF FAILURE
Newsflash: everyone fails. Failing is such a part of life it’s crazy how we’ve gotten to the point that we let this be such a huge roadblock to our progress as human beings.
“It’s a little hard to tell what’s a failure and what’s just something that is shifting your life in a whole new direction” Pema Chodron
What if when we were babies we never took a step. Or once we took one step and fell we decided to never walk again. What if our parents didn’t cheer us on after that one disastrous step
Why can’t we cheer ourselves through failure? Why don’t we allow ourselves to take that first step with all the belief in ourselves, peppered with the logical reasoning that it might not work out perfect, but that’s totally okay??!?
Because after we take that step and fail, we can and should be our best cheerleader.
FEAR OF SUCCESS
One of my very favorite quotes of all time… I remember the very first time I read this and the profound impact Marianne’s words had in my life.
“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. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
So please, don’t fear success and don’t hold back. Because your light, your success, your happiness and joy will create a ripple effect of goodness around you. Don’t rob the world of your awesomeness in all its glory!
THE BOTTOM LINE
We all feel fear. Therefore, the only difference is whether we allow it to cripple us into inaction. What you desire, what you truly want is on the other side of fear. So why not push through it? The pain is temporary, and freedom is waiting.
In the next post in this series “How to Adopt a Fearless Attitude (Own Your Greatness)” we’ll talk about how to adopt a fearless attitude. I’ll challenge you to own your greatness and give you some tools to help you kick your fears to the curb.