Fear, shame, vulnerability. It’s likely that these aren’t favorite words or topics of yours. As humans, we naturally want to succeed, look good in front of our peers, and avoid humiliation. Today, we’re discussing the main types of fear that everyone experiences in some shape of form, and how to overcome it.
The Fear Of Not Being “Enough”
Have you ever felt that you weren’t good enough to approach an attractive stranger? Or perhaps you’ve felt that you can’t start a business or ask for that raise because you’re not smart or skilled enough? These common feelings of not being “enough” leave many people immobilized, and result in missed opportunities that may have been essential for their personal growth.
“Things that scare us are often the things that are most important to our growth.By allowing our fear to control us, we are allowing our mind to protect us from failure in the moment, but this ultimately denies us greater happiness.”
If you don’t open yourself up to potential failure, you may never fully open the doors to success either. To counteract this fear, what you can do is work on building upon past successes.
Now, you already might be thinking to yourself “I don’t have any past successes…”. But this is simply not true! Think about what others have praised you on in the past. Are you good at a particular subject? Or maybe you make a mean mac n’ cheese? Perhaps you’ve gotten a promotion in the past or completed a workout challenge? These are all wonderful achievements that you should record for future reference. Jot them down in a notebook or type them up in a Google Doc. If anything you are praised for or accomplish is recorded, you’ll be surprised at how quickly that document fattens up!
Then what you can do is repeat positive affirmations to yourself, such as “I am successful.” or “I am confident.” You may feel like you’re lying to yourself at first, but soon these will roll off your tongue and you’ll start to truly believe them. Watch your life change as you begin to believe that you are enough.
The Fear Of Vulnerability
The biggest fear many of us have is being seen for who we are. Whether this is the fear of people finding out about past failures, or thinking poorly of who you are today, this leads many of us to hide parts of ourselves and avoid doing things that others disagree with; even if it’s what WE want to do.
We picture parents or relatives shaming us for certain behaviors, even if we are at peace with them personally. We worry that others will look down on us if we don’t have the newest Iphone model or a large home. Many of us attempt to “keep up with the Joneses” and present a good front in order to avoid shame. And, women and adolescents are actually at the highest risk for feelings of shame. On top of that, the more shame-prone we are, the more likely it is that we also have depression, anxiety, and/or low self-esteem.
One way to overcome this is to solidify your identity. This is because identity plays a large part in shame. Adolescents are more prone to feelings of shame because their identity is still forming and, even as adults, many of us are still not fully comfortable with who we want to be. By taking time to solidify our own identities, we can develop a stronger confidence in ourselves and tackle fear head on.
How To Cope With Fear
The interesting thing about fear is that the more we tackle it, the more it lessens and our confidence expands. A study in the Harvard Business Review conducted on people with snake phobias revealed that exposure to their fear through watching a snake through glass, then an open door, then watching another person touch the snake to finally touching the snake themselves increased their success and confidence in ALL areas of their life.
The process of experiencing these small successes one after another is called guided mastery, and it’s a powerful tool to lower anxiety and increase resilience in ourselves. Here’s what you can do:
1. Picture your biggest fear right now, and think about what it’s holding you back from.
2. Analyze what baby steps you can take to get there. Can you take even half a step towards it? You may find that taking a baby step frees you enough to make multiple steps at a time towards your goal.
For example, if you’re scared to speak to strangers in public, try smiling at a stranger first, then asking a quick question or thanking someone, then giving a compliment to a stranger, and finally having a short conversation with them. Each of these wins will build your confidence and show you that you are fully capable. Even if these attempts don’t go well, you still beat your fear and did them!