The Art of Being Imperfectly Fearless

Written by on December 29, 2014 in Breaking Barriers, Emotional Mastery, Self-Awareness

The Art of Being Imperfectly FearlessWhat does the term “fearless” mean to you? Living without fear? Someone who’s courageous, heroic or brave beyond reason?

It’s not that people who behave in ways we consider to be “fearless” don’t experience fear, it’s that they have chosen not to let fear define them and accept that the price for claiming what they want from life will sometimes mean putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward even when they are terrified.

So what exactly does being “imperfectly fearless” actually mean? The term is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that fearlessness is neither absolute nor a genetic trait.

Becoming fearless really isn’t the point.  It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it. ~Veronica Roth

Fearlessness is, in fact, a capacity, which means that anyone can develop greater courage over time. But fearlessness is also an attitude born of commitment and determination that motivates an individual to gradually increase their capacity for overcoming fear. And the payoffs are substantial, including increased confidence, emotional resilience, and overall life satisfaction, not to mention the opportunity to reach your full potential.

6 Steps to Cultivate Fearlessness

The following steps are intended to gradually change your belief system about your fear, which is an often overlooked, but critical part of the process of creating any meaningful change. Your beliefs are like unspoken rules and commands that tell you what is or isn’t possible and they shape virtually everything you think and do. You can create the best plan in the world to change a behavior, but if your belief system is still stuck on the same old page you’ve already sabotage yourself before you even begin.

Name Your Fear

The first step to overcoming fear is to give it a name and get it out into the open and confront it.  Some fears will be easier to identify than others; such things as fear of public speaking are relatively easy to identify while others require a little digging. Anything that makes you uncomfortable at the very thought of tackling it is a good candidate to explore further for hidden fears and limiting beliefs.

Expose Your Fear

Once you identify a fear take some time to try and understand how this fear became a part of you in the first place. Here’s a simple yet surprisingly effective psychological exercise you might try for this process.

Start by writing a statement about a fear, for example, you might say, “I am afraid of failing.” Now on the next line of the page ask “Why?” Let’s say your first response is “Because I don’t want to appear foolish.” And to that response on the next line again ask yourself “Why?” and keep asking yourself why for each response.

The first few responses will be fairly obvious and you’ll be tempted to quit, but the magic of sticking with this exercise is the deeper you force yourself to dig for a response, the closer you will come to the honest truth about the basis for your fear.

What is Your Fear Costing You?

It can become remarkably easy to accommodate our fears simply by avoiding circumstances that require us to face them – but at what cost?

To provide the fuel to motivate change you must be honest with yourself about all the ways in which you have accommodated your fear up to now; what opportunities or experiences have you missed? How much richer and more fulfilling might your life be if you were finally free of this fear?

Challenge Your Fear

Once you expose a fear and become clear about what hanging on to it has cost you, it’s going to be much easier to challenge the basis for that fear and overcome it.

Sticking with the fear of failure since that’s a biggie for many people, let’s say that your fear stems from blowing an important assignment at a job several years ago that resulted in your being fired, and ever since then you’ve gone out of your way to avoid unfamiliar situations or testing yourself in any way to keep from experiencing another humiliating failure.

In the case of any fear based on a past failure or mistake, the most important first step is to face up to the mistake and own it. It happened, but just because you made a mistake or failed at something does not make you a failure. And to give this belief some legs next do a little research to find stories about highly successful people who have experienced spectacular failures in their lives. A perfect example would be Steve Jobs who was very publicly fired from Apple.

Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. ~Steve Jobs

Now I can imagine you thinking, “Ha, well I’m no Steve Jobs!” But here’s the thing, nobody else is you either. You have your own unique talents and abilities; you just have to learn to recognize and value them, which brings us to the next step in challenging your fears – listing your own accomplishments.

This will probably take you some time because chances are you have gotten pretty good at downplaying your achievements. Keep working at this and use it as a foundation from which to build, because now you’re going to use this list to help you work on shrinking your fears.

Shrink Your Fear

It’s time to begin taking your power back by intentionally challenging yourself to take small steps to progressively shrink your fear. This step begins with learning to redefine your fear as an opportunity for growth, and to see how that might look let’s go with another common fear, public speaking.

A nearly painless way to begin shrinking this fear would be to start speaking up in meetings or any type of small gathering where you typically remain in the background. The next step could be taking a public speaking class where you’re surrounded by other people who are also learning to speak in public. Then I’d recommend joining a local Toastmaster’s group. These groups are normally small, consisting of people in your own community, and the Toastmaster system is specifically designed to help members gradually become comfortable speaking in public at a pace that is suitable for all levels of experience.

This is precisely the strategy I followed several years ago to go from feeling sheer terror at the thought of speaking in front of a group to actually making my living in a job that included public speaking all over the world. You may never learn to enjoy public speaking as I did, but then that’s not the point. The point is to reclaim your power from whatever your fear is and put you firmly in the driver’s seat of your life. Whatever your fear, you can gradually shrink it by pushing through the fear a little bit at a time.

Grow Larger Than Your Fear

Once you’ve exposed and begun to shrink your fears, it’s important to not stop, but rather keep growing and challenging yourself which will, in turn, increase your capacity for fearlessness.

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. ~Nelson Mandela

One of the greatest benefits of learning to master your response to fear is the added confidence and resilience you’ll gain, and should you ever find yourself confronted with unexpected change or a crisis, you’ll be far better able to minimize any potential adverse effects and bounce back stronger than ever.

How about you? Do you consider yourself to be imperfectly fearless? Have you ever successfully overcome a fear? If so, what strategies worked for you?

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


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  1. Hi Marquita,
    Very interesting and motivational post. We all are having fear of some or the other thing in life. Which prevent us to do any new thing in the life ,
    We usually do those things which are in our comfort zone.
    This comfort zone lead us to fear and we can not see the other side of life.
    Thanks for sharing steps to over come our fear.
    Pritam Nagrale recently posted…Start a Local Restaurant / Food Delivery ServiceMy Profile

  2. Lynne

    Great post that is very inspiring and encouraging to live your life and not letting fear get in the way of your success. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!
    Lynne recently posted…The Difference Between Wealth Coaches and Financial AdvisersMy Profile

  3. martyherald says:

    Welcome back Deborah and thank you for taking time to share your insightful thoughts – always appreciated! 🙂

  4. This is so interesting Marty. Fear seems to be a big topic at this time of year. But, I can understand why. The holidays take us back to times past… this can either be good or painful. This can bring about past fears as well.

    Or maybe people experience more fear at this time of year because they feel they have no control over the new year that’s coming. Or, maybe they feel tax time coming right up! Regardless, fear is a part of life.

    My favorite part of your post is: “It’s time to begin taking your power back by intentionally challenging yourself to take small steps to progressively shrink your fear. This step begins with learning to redefine your fear as an opportunity for growth.” Our mindset is so important, isn’t it? I really like your suggestion to redefine the fear and look at it as a growth opportunity! That’s is the key! Instead of fearing and running, we need to confront, shrink, and conquer it.

    Great post Marty! I look forward to reading more from you!

    Happy New Year, many blessings for 2015!

    Deborah A. Ten Brink recently posted…How To Avoid The Paralyzing Fear Of FailureMy Profile

  5. donna merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    I love the way you have written this post about the art of being fearless.

    We first do have to identify our fear. That is where I think most people get stuck. They can deny the fear, or worse, use it as something to obtain things from others.

    But once we can identify it, and realize how it is holding us back, that first step is so important.

    What to do about it is so important to know and you have given such great advice!

    donna merrill recently posted…Taking Time OutMy Profile

  6. Susan Cooper

    Great post and advice Marquita. Fear can definitely be a stumbling block and hold us back from being all that we can be and accomplishing all we were meant to do. I saw Cameron Diaz on a talk show over the holidays mentioning how she overcame her fear of singing for her role in the new “Annie” movie. She said her method for overcoming fear was to run straight towards it, instead of away from fear. Reminds me a lot of what you are saying. No more letting fears stop us in our tracks. 🙂

  7. Fear can stop us from reaching our goals. In fact when we embrace fear and overcome we can definitely do more, be more and become our true selves.
    amanda mcmahon recently posted…What your doctor doesn’t know about breastfeedingMy Profile

  8. Beth Niebuhr

    What a useful article! Everyone experiences fear and often we have no idea how to tackle it and overcome it. Your steps are very helpful and it’s good that the first one is to name and acknowledge what scares us. Then we can move on to conquering it.
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…When to Say No to an OfferMy Profile

  9. Ajay

    Such an inspirational post. I already feel so fearless after reading this. I would definitely work on the steps you have mentioned.
    Happy New Year!
    Ajay recently posted…Is android lollipop really full of bugs?My Profile

  10. Dave

    I love the term imperfectly fearless. To expect ourselves to stand as tall as humanly possible in the presence of every single fear we face is impractical. But, when we embrace the process of cultivating fearlessness, the stepping stones are laid that allow us to put one foot in front of the other and follow this well-laid plan.

    Although it is probably pretty obvious, there is one other trait for me that goes hand in hand with cultivating fearlessness – that would be honesty. If we ask ourselves “Why?” only to answer with superficial responses, we will never reach the root of our fear. It’s tough sometimes to be honest with ourselves – I have trouble with this all the time – but, it’s only in cultivating honesty and fearlessness together that we are able to challenge, shrink, and grow larger than our fear.

    This is the perfect article to consume as we conclude another year and look forward to the next. It’s been a great year, but there is always another goal to accomplish, another relationship to develop, another fear to surmount. You have provided us all with a wonderful pathway towards those ends, Marty – thank you!

    Wishing you the happiest and most successful year yet in 2015! 🙂
    Dave recently posted…HopeMy Profile

  11. Chu Bo says:

    What a really useful steps Marquita!
    indeed, life there are always things that we fear, be sure anyone has ever experienced fear, but the important thing, we do not let fear prevent us from towards the better, towards our goals.

    Chu Bo recently posted…Comment on How To Be Happy In Life by margeryminorMy Profile

  12. andleeb

    This post is really amazing. We all have fear of many things at different points. The way you have described to identify and overcome fear can benefit many. If we can identify our fear then we can for sure try to control or overcome it. I am not fearless. But at certain times I have grown myself larger than fear. I feel that fear totally change our state of mind and suppress our abilities to grow.
    Happy New Year and thanks for a wonderful post.
    andleeb recently posted…Fear of Math.My Profile

  13. martyherald says:

    Good point Tim, I think the only thing tougher for most people is admitting that we have a fear – but personal freedom is the reward for self awareness. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to share and contribute to the conversation.

  14. martyherald says:

    Thanks for stopping by Donna! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and appreciate you taking time to contribute to the conversation. 🙂

  15. martyherald says:

    Thank you Lenie, especially for taking time out of your holiday break to stop by. I’m really happy you enjoyed the article, and I’m glad you’re going to work on that issue about being alone – you’ll feel so much better when you can find a bit more balance. Happy New Year!

  16. martyherald says:

    Thank you for your kind words Jacqueline, I’m so glad you found value in the article! I can SO relate to your point about pushing through things and then surprising yourself with how far you’ve gone. Been there a time or two myself, awesome feeling! 🙂

  17. martyherald says:

    Glad you liked the article Lynn, thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation!

  18. martyherald says:

    So glad you enjoyed the article Chery, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts – always appreciated. 🙂

  19. martyherald says:

    Glad you found value in the article Mark, and thank you for your very kind words. As always, value your thoughtful insights and contribution. 🙂

  20. Tim

    Identifying your fear has to be the most difficult but also the foundation for addressing all the others. The guidelines to managing fear are important and love the fact that you shared this with us.
    Tim recently posted…Population OneMy Profile

  21. Donna Janke

    I like the idea of shrinking your fear. It seems less overwhelming than trying to conquer a fear in one swoop. I think it would be important to give oneself a pat on the back for each small step made as well, so as not to feel bad about the fear that still remains.
    Donna Janke recently posted…2014 Year In ReviewMy Profile

  22. Lenie

    Happy New Year Marquita. This is a fantastic post and something I can really use. Do you know that in 70 years I have not once spent an overnight alone and so now the thought that this may happen sometime in the future does scare me. Silly yes, real yes. I am going to print off this post and work my way through it to overcome a fear before it becomes a reality. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Lenie recently posted…Car Emergency Kit – NOT in the Trunk, Please.My Profile

  23. Awesome post! I guess we all experience fear of something sometime. I’ve always been called fearless, but mostly it’s because I didn’t know any better! LOL I have habitually walked into what some might call fearful situations, but unwittingly. I get scared later…almost like, “I can’t believe I did that!”. Maybe in some cases ignorance is bliss! But these are truly great steps to confront and conquer. Because I find myself getting more fearful with time and these may help:)
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Resolutions… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  24. lynne says:

    Hi , i love your post ! Fear is always within us but we have the power to manage it and bounce back to a challenging life ahead. Thanks for sharing. Great post!
    lynne recently posted…Like Karaoke? You’ll Love ThisMy Profile

  25. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! What a great exercise to help us overcome those fears! I do think the first step is always the hardest. To Name that Fear! Sometimes we just don’t want to fess up to the point (So to say) That we indeed do have a fear!

    We have all had to overcome some fear in our lifetimes and Yes we do have to realize this and take these as learning lessons vs the opposite!

    Life is all about growing and and challenging ourselves Right?

    Thanks for sharing and do have a Wonderful New Year My Friend!
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…The Conclusion “Developing A Success Mindset”My Profile

  26. Mark

    What a totally awesome post Marquita!

    I just can’t help but marvel at your seemingly endless insights and entertainingly fresh perspectives on your chosen subjects!

    First of all, I really love your explanation in the second paragraph about it not being that certain people don’t actually experience fear just like the rest of us!

    Instead, they’ve learned over time how to harness it’s potential negative affects and not let it take control over them the way the rest of us have!

    And it therefore doesn’t prevent them from accomplishing their goals, the way it may it typically does for most of us!

    And I also love the dynamic quote by Veronica Roth too!

    Your six steps, which I prefer to think of in terms of stages, really offer some concrete pro-active steps to take in order to help diffuse the often debilitating affects of fear!

    Your fabulous insights on this subject M truly are empowering and incredibly thought provoking as always!

    This truly was a great and highly informative read! Thank you!
    Mark recently posted…So How Does An Insecure Seventh Grader Help You Define Successful?My Profile

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