Are You Using Fear as an Excuse?

Written by on May 23, 2016 in Emotional Mastery, Self Awareness with 42 Comments

Using Fear as an Excuse

Naming and owning our fears is probably one of the most life-altering personal growth goals anyone can achieve. It’s also one of the most challenging, as we rarely acknowledge how often we use our fears as excuses to keep from taking risks or pursuing goals.

To be fair, most of us are probably not consciously aware of this behavior. For example, you may be taking steps toward achieving a goal and feel confident that you are pushing through your fears, but are you really?

The question, which only you can answer, is are the actions that you are taking significant enough to make real progress – to actually close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be – or are you holding back and doing just enough to feel good about yourself and still avoid discomfort? Or maybe you’re stuck in “preparation” mode because you always feel you need to do, be, or have more before you’ll have the courage to take the next step.

Allowing fear to hold you back results in a lack of experience, which in turn means lack of knowledge, which all too often creates even more fear. It’s a vicious cycle that requires self-awareness and a hefty dose of determination to break.

Beneath every excuse lies a fear. The fears we don't face become our limits. Click To Tweet

Some may try to convince you that it’s possible to banish fear forever, and certainly some fears can be overcome with knowledge and persistence, but fears of all shapes and sizes will always be with us. Fear is an emotion so you can’t just make it go away with any amount of logical thinking, so why not choose to do the work to release its power over you so it doesn’t end up defining who you are?

Free Yourself of Fear-Based Excuses

Understand the Nature of Fear

There are many different types of fear. If there is a very real threat of danger involved then there’s certainly a legitimate cause for concern. However, most fears are based primarily on lack of experience or knowledge. Public speaking is a source of fear for many people, but there’s no real danger, and it isn’t a legitimate excuse because with practice and determination you can learn to manage if not completely overcome your fear.

Public speaking used to really torment me. I first realized that I would have to face my fears when I was urged to become the public face of our new airline Virgin Atlantic. I was utterly terrified. But with practice and experience, it’s a lot less nerve-racking for me these days. ~Sir Richard Branson
Build Your Courage Muscles

Each time you face a fear your courage muscle becomes a little stronger. Sadly, the opposite is also true. Every time you avoid taking action as a result of fear, you’re giving that fear your power. While you may feel better at first, the next time a similar situation occurs you will find it much harder to not give into the fear. The courageous person feels fear but conquers it by taking action despite the fear.

Have a Powerful “Why” for Overcoming Your Fear

Only you can decide which is more important – achieving your dreams and goals or feeding your fears. Ironically, this may be where you need the biggest dose of self-awareness in the entire process because many people talk about how important their goals are, and how they long to achieve dreams, yet inevitably find excuses to keep from taking (meaningful) action.

If you find yourself repeatedly bumping into walls, it may be time to take a break and a closer look at the obstacles you’re encountering. Maybe your “why” for overcoming your fear simply isn’t important enough to you, or it could be you’ve unconsciously been using one excuse after another to keep from moving forward. Of course, it could also be the obstacles are completely legitimate and the real problem is that you need to rethink your plan, but you’ll never know unless you invest the time to become more aware of why you’re struggling to make progress.

Learn to Use Challenges to Your AdvantageMr. Bean

Life is all about attitude, and one of the best examples of resilience is learning to use our strengths and weaknesses to our advantage.

Rowan Atkinson, nicknamed “the man with the rubber face” is probably best known for his on-screen character Mr. Bean and has been named one of the funniest British comedians of all time. But life didn’t start out so funny for Atkins.

As a child, he had a severe stutter which resulted in a deep-seated fear of having to speak in public. He not only learned to overcome his fear and affliction through over-articulation, he later turned his experience into his own unique comic device.

Emulate Others

Read stories about people who have overcome similar fears and find your heroes. You may be surprised to learn how many famous people have faced their fears and gone on to achieve great success.

Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, and Tiger Woods have all overcome early struggles with stuttering to achieve their dreams and celebrity status. American preacher, televangelist, and author Joel Osteen has struggled for years to overcome Atelophobia – fear of not being good enough. Singer Donnie Osmond worked with a cognitive behavior psychologist to overcome panic attacks so severe they would send him to the corner of a room curled up in the fetal position.

Look for stories about people who have overcome their fears. Learn from and be inspired by their experiences and determination.

What we need to do is say, “What’s the smallest, tiniest thing that I can master and what’s the scariest thing I can do in front of the smallest number of people that can teach me how to dance with the fear?” Once we get good at that, we realize that we lived through it and it wasn’t fatal. And that idea is what’s so key — because then you can do it a little bit more. ~Seth Godin
Take the First Step

No question, the hardest part of overcoming fear is getting started. In the beginning, avoid getting bogged down with the details or getting stuck in “what if” scenarios. Just take the first step, and the next will reveal itself. There’s plenty of time for planning once you get some momentum going.

Fear is a state of mind and if you let it fear will turn into one excuse after another. Because no matter how much confidence you have right now, there will always be fears in your life that are just the right size. Not too big to completely stall you, yet big enough to hold you back … and each will take some effort to overcome.

One of the great jokes of self-discovery is that when people finally muster the courage to journey into the center of their fear, they find – nothing. All along the terror consisted of layers of fear piled upon fear, being afraid of what might be, of fear itself. ~Peter McWilliams

What’s Your Story? Have you ever overcome a fear that you’d be willing to share with us?

P.S. This article was originally published in October 2014 (back in the days when it was still pretty lonely around here) and has been updated and rebirthed. 🙂

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.


Thank you for sharing ...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponDigg thisPin on Pinterest

Tags: , , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn Connect on YouTube

42 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Marquita, what a great post to read coming off off 2 weeks of traveling in England and Wales with my sister. One of our ongoing topics of conversation was finding our purposes in life and how fear does play a part in that. I like your sentence about fear having power. Man, I hate that! Get thee gone, fear! ha!
    I have approached conquering fear by practice–like your Branson quote. Back when I was doing a lot of training, I practiced and practiced until I felt comfortable. I’d have to start all over again if faced with that task again, but now I know I can do it.
    I might be more afraid if I bothered to think through some of the things I do. Instead, if I want to do something: like spend a couple of days in London with sister, I plan it and dive in. I think I’ve realized you can always undo a thing like that, so what difference does it make?
    I used to be afraid of being a published writer and having to do interviews. Now I could care less about that part and simply fear never having a book published.
    And I can fix that.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I tend to take the same approach RoseMary, especially when I travel. I plan the big things and then make the rest up as I go. As far as publishing a book, I have confidence that if you want this bad enough you will definitely make it happen, just don’t get too hung up on the how and why of it all. Kind of like the way you planned your visit to London. 🙂

  2. Ramona McKean

    I have fought against then faced many a fear in my life. One of the very biggest was returning to a foreign country where, 3 1/2 years prior, I’d almost died in a fatal head-on collision. Another was writing and publishing, 8 years after the accident, a memoir that included that traumatic event. Both the returning and the writing involved guts I didn’t know I had. In addition, both actions helped me release emotional trauma that had pretty deep hooks in me.

    • Beautifully said Ramona, and since I’ve had the pleasure of reading your blog I am familiar (and impressed) with your story. It certainly took courage to choose this path in your journey, but obviously, it has helped you to continue growing and become ever stronger. Thanks so much for stopping by and contributing to the conversation.

  3. Thank you for the in depth post on combating fear, Marquita. Fear can so very debilitating and prevents us from enjoying life. Whenever I am faced with fear, the first thing i do is confront it – literally. If I am honest with myself, I get to the core of the problem after which it becomes easier to take action which in turn takes me forward towards completing my desired objective.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…You need to unblock spirituality to save your businessMy Profile

    • I tend to take the same approach when it comes to managing fear, Vatsala. I think it’s important for people to realize that sometimes fear can sneak in the backdoor and we don’t even realize it’s affecting our actions and decisions until it’s got a bit of a hold on us. It’s only when we begin experiencing discomfort when we start to do something or begin finding excuses to keep from taking certain actions that we have the opportunity to stop and look fear in the face. There’s no question it takes courage and we need to give ourselves credit for that. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Suzie Cheel

    Funny that thing called fear, I was asked just this morning what stopped me asking for the sale and I heard the word fear arise inside and I thought about the whys behind that. Very interesting and it came to well you have tried that before and it didn’t work ! Your idea to emulate others is great too. xxo
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…When You Be Love Your Life ChangesMy Profile

    • Oh my, an all too familiar dialogue Suzie! This is just one reason why I appreciate being a part of the Women of Facebook group because everyone is so generous when it comes to sharing their challenges as well as their triumphs. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Millen

    Thank you for such important topic and inspiring post, Marquita! When I look back at certain things that I’ve done in life (changing countries of residence, changing career, changing relationship, etc.) I have no idea where did I get the courage to go through such major transformations in life, yet I did it in spite of fears I had at that time. Now I have new challenges and fears (at a different level but still fears….) and have to constantly remind myself why I want to do or achieve something because this WHY helps me keep going even when I feel like giving up… small steps forward to keep the momentum until I regain the strength. 🙂 Thank you for another great occasion for self-reflection.
    Millen recently posted…Want to Build Wealth? Start a Business? PAUSE and Read This First!My Profile

    • You are spot on with your comment about keeping your WHY in mind Millen. No matter how strong we may be, it’s human nature to get tired and to occasionally think how much easier things would be to just give up, but if we have a big enough WHY that will sustain us. Thanks so much for sharing your story and contributing to the conversation.

  6. Love the idea of finding stories of other people who have overcome fears. Especially if they mirror our fear. I also believe a lot of our fears are unconscious and it is key to allow them to come to the surface, so we can transform them.
    If I look at myself, I know I’ve overcome a lot of my fears from when I was younger. I was “afraid” to talk to people and instead of being seen as shy, I was perceived as being aloof. The people who meet me now would probably never imagine that I had issues talking to people, as I’ve worked at becoming a “Conversational Sparkplug’, developing a keen interest in others.
    One other current “fear” I suppose, is in doing more social things by myself. It seems I am more comfortable entering into unknown situations knowing at least one other person. It probably holds me back from some events I’d love to experience, so like you suggest, I am taking small steps, one event at a time, to find my comfort with going out on my own. Thanks for the wonderful post, as always, Marquita! Moving through are fears is such a freeing experience…
    Beverley Golden recently posted…A Story is a Living BeingMy Profile

    • Many people feel the way you do Beverley. When I first made the shift into international sales many of my friends asked me how I could travel all over the world alone and not be terrified. Maybe it was my independent spirit or my Introvert side, but I never had a problem with traveling on my own. In fact, after doing that for a couple of years and then going on vacation with friends I realized I actually preferred solo travel. I think your approach of taking small steps is the right one, and once you can move beyond focusing on your own discomfort to enjoying the experience you’re comfort level will begin to increase.

  7. Diane Topkis says:

    Obvious fears I recognize. I never realized that a hidden fear is probably holding me back from painting. I start and stop taking watercolor classes. Your post makes me think that maybe it’s a fear of not being creative enough. And that’s why I’ve started taking some simple painting and drawing classes that are purely about creativity and exploration. I just never realized why I was attracted to them. And they’re playful and fun! Then I’ll get back to watercolor.
    Diane Topkis recently posted…Make your introductions personalMy Profile

    • Good for you Diane! I can relate to your experience personally because I gave up art many years ago and have been thinking about getting back into it but there’s a part of me that’s afraid whatever talent I had is completely gone. I think I need to take your approach and just start out by having some fun with it. Thanks!

  8. There are a couple of small things that I am working on. I have to remember to continue to push myself. As long as I do that I will be okay.
    Jason Butler recently posted…Where I’ve Been, Where I Am, Where I Want to GoMy Profile

    • Good for you Jason. I think it helps to keep in mind that the key to fear is it’s about learning to manage it because fear is a part of life, it will always be there in some way, shape, or form, but we don’t have to let it rule us. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Erica says:

    Marquita, this article speaks to where I am in my life right now. Two big challenges for myself in my business is doing daily Periscopes and doing my first webinar. I’ve really become aware of how fear gets in my way and I’m really pushing myself to get to the other side. For me, knowing your “why” as you say is so important. Because they why is they only way I can get myself to the other side of fear. I remind myself that I won’t ever moving forward if I don’t take uncomfortable risks.
    Erica recently posted…Be your own life and health advocateMy Profile

    • Congratulations Erica, for your efforts to grow and for challenging your fears! I love what you’re doing with your blog so there’s no question in my mind that your new venture will be successful. I look forward to following along. 🙂

  10. Dave

    Fear is definitely a four letter word, isn’t it? 🙂 But, what you say is so right, Marty, and you can never really fully appreciate it until you experience the effects of pushing fear to the back burner and facing it head on and taking little actionable steps toward overcoming it.

    I especially like the comment you make near the beginning of the article. It’s somewhat sobering, but sadly true – for me too at certain times in my life. You say you are facing your fears when in reality you are doing just enough to get by and convince yourself that you’re giving it your best go before slipping back into the comfort of allowing your fears to control you.

    I think I’ve probably brought it up before, but I read a book by Susan Jeffers several years back titled, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Because it’s not about getting read of fear. It’s about acknowledging that it’s there and then standing up to it in order to overcome it and reach your objectives.

    I will say that I hesitated for the longest time about writing a piece of fiction. I’d blogged for about two years in the realm of non-fiction, but never felt like I’d be good enough or taken seriously if I wrote a make believe story. It was my son attending summer camp that flipped the switch for me. In one of the first stories I ever penned on paper, I emailed each part of a story to him on consecutive days at camp so that he had something to read from me every morning. It was our way of remaining connected while we were away.

    It was the first time that he was away from home for more than a day or two at a time, and I think it was as difficult on me and his mom as it was on him! But, it was being able to construct that first story in a safe way and share it with him that I was able to overcome that fear and work my way to writing more fiction, more short stories, a novella, and am now working on a manuscript for a full-length novel.

    It’s poof that your fears are nothing more than opportunities to grow, and grow I certainly continue to do! Thank you, Marty, as always – this is a great reminder that both inspires and motivates!
    Dave recently posted…SophisticationMy Profile

    • Well, I for one am very grateful you managed to work through your lack of self-belief to begin writing fiction, Dave! It’s been so inspiring watching you continue to grow as a writer over the few years that we’ve known each other virtually, and there’s no doubt in my mind this is only the beginning for you. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and sharing, I always value your thoughtful contribution.

  11. William Rusho

    Beneath every challenge, lies an obstacle that was overcome. Fear to me is nothing more than one more obstacle. If we view it as such, then it becomes an achievement when we do master it.

  12. Donna Janke

    I love the quote “One of the great jokes of self-discovery is that when people finally muster the courage to journey into the center of their fear, they find – nothing.” Yet it can be hard to break through our fears – baby steps are good.

  13. Jeri

    I’m currently overcoming my fear of dancing by taking lessons. I figure it’s a great way to become more comfortable in my own skin, though the frustration and learning curve has kept me from diving in for far too long. Yet, know that I’ve started the process of learning, I know I’m not one to give up. Fears really do provide us with all kinds of excuses, and I’m getting better at realizing when that is the case.
    Jeri recently posted…#AuthorInterview: Melissa Tomlinson RomoMy Profile

    • Good for you Jeri! I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who had a fear of dancing, but it’s probably not something most would easily admit. Taking lessons is a great way to work through this because you are not alone. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your dancing!

  14. lenie

    In my last job I had to do a lot of public speaking and it truly did terrify me. It lessened as time went on and people actually listened to what I had to say. But a feeling of ease never did come. When my brother in law died my sister in law asked me to say a few words and I told her that I would turn that over to one of my sons who is a master at public speaking. He did make the speech, it was wonderful and after all that time, I was still greatly relieved that I didn’t have to do it. We can overcome fears because we have to – whether or not we ever completely banish them is something else.
    lenie recently posted…Best Father’s Day Gifts -Unique AND UsefulMy Profile

  15. Sabrina Quairoli

    I love this post! I love watching and reading about others who succeeded after struggling. It inspires me to take on the risk and concur the fear. I still feel scared trying new things but I tell myself that it’s ok to fail and It puts aside my fears so I can get down to business. 🙂

    • I’m so glad you found value in the post Sabring. It really does help to learn other people’s stories because we all have our own struggles and you just never know from looking at someone on the outside. Hang in there, and just take it one step at a time and a few months from now you’ll be amazed!

  16. Marquita — my story is not about fear of success in business, but a personal fear of dogs. I was bitten by two vicious dogs when I was a child living across the street from the owners of these animals (they eventually had to be put down). Well into my 30s I was so afraid of dogs if I saw one coming I would cross the street to avoid it. Then my best friend bought a dog. It was a toy dog, a little ball of fur really. I was still terrified. But she convinced me hold him and over time, I overcame my fears. Now I love dogs and enjoy playing with the dogs my friends own. You can let your fears take over your life if you let them. I think that sharing your fears with a friend and getting realistic feedback is one step on the road to recovery.

    • Oh I am so sorry to hear about your experience when you were a child, that must have been awful Jeannette! I’m so glad your friend helped you get over your fear because most dogs are simply awesome! You are so right about how fear can consume you if you let it. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. 🙂

    • Interesting you should mention the fear of dogs, Jeannette. I was recently on a press trip where one in the group was terrified of dogs. We were in a tropical country where there were dogs everywhere. I think that young lady should get some therapy for her fear, as she is likely in her late 30’s and has a lot of good years to live without running to hide every time a dog comes near.

      Great post, Marty.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…why I love GrenadaMy Profile

  17. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    Oh yea….I had a fear that crippled me. Once I was an agoraphobic. It lasted a few months. But i couldn’t take being a shut in. I had to find a way out. I took baby steps to overcome this. The first day I opened the door and walked down the few steps to the sidewalk. I choked, and went into a panic attack. But that didn’t stop me. I had planned to walk 6 blocks to my office.

    The next day I walked passed the first house….little by little after about 6 or 8 weeks I made it. Baby steps and determination helped. Also tons of self talk. Now, I’m as good as new. But it did take a very long time for me to do things alone.

    I did so much reading about others that have had this problem and how they overcame it.

    Fear is something we can decide to feed or fight.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…10 Ways To Make Your Blog SocialMy Profile

    • Good for you for pushing through that period Donna, that took a lot of patience and courage! My aunt suffered from agoraphobia but it went on for years. She used to sit in the window of their second story flat in Yonkers looking out the window and diagnosing people walking by from her collection of medical books. Sometimes I have to really wonder if my sister was right and I was adopted. Anyway, Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story!

  18. Mark

    So very well said as usual M!

    I really like your advice under the “Take the first step” paragraph.Trying to find the courage to start anything meaningful, is challenging enough.

    But when the fear element itself is trying to be overcome, this (as you well know), can be a tall order indeed!

    But I like your advice of gradually easing into developing the courage to confront our fears, by exercising and building our fear muscle.

    I love that! An also, what’s rarely pointed out, is the flip side you pointed out as well. That being, each time we fail to confront our fears, it quietly grows in stature!

    This is such an empowering post M! Thanks! And a subject I’m sure definitely needs to be addressed far more frequently!
    Mark recently posted…How Extremely Savvy Entrepreneurs Fuel Their Long Term Business Growth Giving Away Free Stuff!Part ThreeMy Profile

    • Glad you found value in the post Mark, and good point you picked up on about how our fears grow each time we feed them. This is so true and something most people don’t give much thought to. I know a lot has been written about fear, but it is still a chronic problem for many people. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation my friend!

  19. Ken Dowell

    Fear snowballs. Everytime you give in or back off because of a fear it gets larger and harder to overcome. Because of that I think it is important for a person to challenge and overcome small fears rather than let them slide be as unimportant. Overcoming fear might just become habit forming.
    Ken Dowell recently posted…Art FlorentineMy Profile

    • Excellent analogy with the snowball Ken! I agree that it makes a big difference if we work on those little fears because as you clear them away you whittle away at the bigger ones as well. This is one of the unspoken elements of parking oneself firmly behind a comfort zone because the longer we avoid those issues the bigger they get. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. 🙂

  20. maxwell ivey

    Hi Marquita; this is a ongoing issue for a lot of people out there. everyone has something or someone that brings out their fear reflex. I was recently reminded of this in my own life when i let fear of what others would think keep me from submitting my ebook to an editor so it could be completed uploaded and offered for sale. all i did by delaying was delay my growth and rob some people of the opportunity to read my book and be helped by it. i finally heard from a good friend who put it in just the right way to convince me to press the send button. Now i still have to wait two weeks or so for it to be edited and then there is uploading and promotion. I hope I have overcome this, but we’ll see. I am a good writer. People are always commenting on my ability as a writer and my honesty as a person; but that didn’t stop me from being afraid. well thanks again for sharing this post my friend, max
    maxwell ivey recently posted…What I learned about myself from my first ebookMy Profile

  21. martyherald says:

    Oh Diane I LOVE that you’ve named your inner voice! That is simply brilliant and I am definitely going to have to come up with a name for my little darling. Thank you so much for contributing to the conversation!

  22. Sebastian Aiden Daniels

    I needed this post. I am undergoing overcoming some of my fears right now. I have mentioned it in previous comments. It refers to the fears surrounding directing. It prevents me from taking action because of a fear that I will not be good enough and that others will judge me. I know logically that once I start taking action then I will learn more and grow as I overcome struggles. It is just difficult to start. I really like the emulating other people’s success and reading their stories. It seems most people go through the struggles of dealing with fear before accomplishing something.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels recently posted…7 Inspiring Sports StoriesMy Profile

  23. Sue Bride

    I agree that when fears have built on fears, plunging right in is often impossible but taking baby steps helps and you can build up to your ultimate goal gradually.

    I’m pleased I became an ERL insider, thank for the opportunity, Marquita.
    Sue Bride recently posted…Marketing Tips That Don’t WorkMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge