Adapted with Permission from the CoachVille Knowledge Base’s Top 10 List Collection
There are many things that can prevent us from working toward our dreams, our goals, or getting our needs and desires met in life. Fear is probably the biggest obstacle, which comes disguised in many “costumes.” It can prevent us from making decisions, taking action, asking for assistance, or even worse, realizing what we truly value, want, and need. The following are common areas where fear shows up:
1. Fear of Expressing Our True Feelings
Lack of clear and honest communication has hampered more than one relationship. We may fear “saying the wrong thing” or being judged. But if we are to be successful in our relationships, we must be able and willing to express our true and honest feelings to our families, friends, colleagues, and adversaries, not to mention to ourselves. If we do not know how we feel, we need to take time to discover that. If we need help, we need to ask for help. Honest, open communication, delivered in a non-abusive non- violent manner, is a learned skill.. Once learned, it is much easier to do. When practiced regularly, it does more to enrich and keep our lives in balance than nearly anything else we could do.
2. Fear of Being Judged
When we express our feelings or take action, others may choose to judge us. Based on their judgments, they may approve or disapprove of our opinions or behaviors. Yet, we grew up wanting the approval of our parents and peers. This desire can create problems if the fear of others’ potential judgment emotionally and/or physically “paralyzes” us. Sometimes, we must remember that other people may not have the same information or motivation we do. We must choose to trust our own judgment.
3. Fear of Embarrassment
Because of our fear of being judged as lacking skill, knowledge, or judgment, we often fear making “mistakes” around other people. As soon as we think we made a “mistake”, we become embarrassed — we allow ourselves to feel ashamed. But, we don’t know how others will react; our embarrassment is based on our assumption that we will be judged negatively. Instead of choosing to worry about others’ judgments, we could choose to be proud that we courageously shared our opinion or took action. We either achieve our goal or learn — a win-win, no lose, opportunity.
4. Fear of Rejection
Again, when we express our opinions or take action, we risk others’ judgment and their approval or disapproval. It is important to remember that disapproval, or “rejection,” does not mean we’re not worthy, talented, or otherwise desirable. It merely means a person has, or group of people have, different values, opinions, or perspectives than we do — we are all unique. Period.
5. Fear of Intimacy
While many think of intimacy as strictly having sexual connotations, it encompasses much more. Emotional intimacy can describe the acceptance and trust of ongoing non-judgmental reactions regarding the expression of our true feelings. We may fear intimacy because we risk being judged and “rejected” after investing our time, energy, and trust building that relationship, therefore potentially losing that “bond”. Unconditional acceptance is not easy for many to learn or master, but it is essential if one wants to learn to be a tolerant, non-judgmental person who respects the needs and the wants of the other people in their life.
6. Fear of Emotional Pain
Life is full of lessons. Within those lessons, people make some “mistakes and errors” then may experience a “let down” because things did not turn out as they hoped. However, that “let down” doesn’t have to turn into emotional pain nor suffering unless we give it the “green light” to do so.
7. Fear of Being Alone/Abandoned
For many, the fear of being alone keeps them in relationships, personal and professional, even though they are abused or miserable. Others fear speaking their true feelings for fear their friends, colleagues, or loved ones will turn away from them or abandon them. Realize that we are never truly alone. If people “reject” us or leave us because we are honest about our feelings or because of our personal growth, we are better off without those people in our life. There will always be new friends, new colleagues, and new projects we can become involved with that will keep us connected to others. So, we need not ever feel alone. As one builds a strong sense of their self worth and what they have to offer, the fear of being alone fades.
8. Fear of Failing
The fear of failing is traditionally one of the most common barriers and is based on old ideas that everything we do has to be successful, if not entirely so. However, does failure exist? Or, are these “failures” merely new and exciting learning opportunities? Each new challenge we face can help us grow as individuals.
9. Fear of Success
The fear of success is just as powerful as the fear of failure. Oftentimes, success could mean more responsibility, attention, risk, and pressure to continue succeeding. Many of us were taught to be prepared for failure and not for success, so we are therefore more afraid of it.
10. Fear of the “Unknown”
Life is full of unknowns. Probably the only thing we can do is to work toward identifying our values, needs, and then using that to determine what we are willing to spend our time and money on throughout our life. This includes some risks, but so does driving a car, crossing the street, or playing any sport. If we focus on the present moment, we will not allow the fears of our past to influence us. If we do not allow ourselves to worry too much about the future, rehashing all the “what if’s,” we will not allow ourselves to incorporate any speculative anxieties into our mind. The unknown can be exciting and vast in a very positive way, especially if we use our common sense, intuition, emotions, values and standards, as our “barometer,” to guide us from moment to moment, day to day, and project to project. More often than not, that which we fear MIGHT happen, never does. And even if it does occur, we are much more prepared for it than we imagined we would be when we were worrying.
An old English proverb that may be helpful to remember when facing fears is, “Fear knocked at the door, and faith answered, and no one was there.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally submitted to CoachVille by Dennis R. Tesdell, author of the e-newsletter Self Care Weekly plus numerous other articles concerning personal growth, self care, and life balance.