Is Fear Causing You to Lead a Smaller Life?

Written by on February 13, 2017 in Accountability, Emotional Mastery, Self-Awareness

Facing Your Fears
It begins as a small seed of uncertainty. But once it takes hold it slowly but surely blooms and multiplies, growing into an invisible obstacle course that stifles your willingness to risk or even try, creating doubt about your ability to achieve your dreams.

This is how fear causes us to lead smaller lives.

The specific type of fears may vary, but our reactions transcend labels – sweaty palms, dry mouth, and churning stomach — leaving us ready to do almost anything, make any sacrifice, just so the feeling will go away.

Anything that is, except stand up to the fear.

Certainly, there are times when fear serves to alert us to very real danger, but in most situations, fear is not based on reality, but rather negative assumptions about what we imagine could happen.

Just as the fear begins with you, you have the ability within you to do something about it. After all, you are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your own way.

By learning to manage your emotions and shifting your perspective toward a more positive direction, you can begin to move beyond those feelings and embrace new opportunities and experiences.

[bctt tweet=”You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your own way. ” username=”marquitaherald”]

Facing Your Fears One Step at a Time

Fear has a way of taking on a life of its own which can make a particular area of concern seem much larger and more menacing than it really is.

For example, fear of change represents a huge umbrella affecting nearly all areas of your life and attempting to push through it by following broad strategies such as trying to embrace uncertainty or think positive thoughts can help, but in themselves are unlikely to result in any sort of sustainable improvement.

So where do we begin then?

In just the same way that breaking goals into small, actionable steps can help you to achieve better results, tackling one specific fear at a time will help you to begin enjoying small, incremental successes that build momentum and confidence.

Identify a Fear-Based Trigger

We all have emotional triggers. It’s like that feeling you get when someone makes a comment that might not be a big deal to another person but totally demoralizes you.

If you have a fear of confrontations, instead of clearing the air right then and there you’re more likely to spend the next 24 hours playing mental reruns about how you should have responded.

Another common trigger is speaking in front of a group. Imagine you’re at a staff meeting and suddenly you’re called upon to give your thoughts about the latest sales projections.

You know the business, but because fear kicks in your mind goes blank. Maybe you manage to come up with something, or maybe you call in sick the next day because you’re so humiliated you start thinking about finding another job. Either way, now you’re on high alert and at the very least end up being a nervous wreck going into future meetings.

Both of these are good examples of why it makes sense to focus on triggers.

Triggers help us to pinpoint specific areas of concern, and the more focused you can get, the easier it will be to come up with a manageable plan to effectively take your power back.

Identify the Source and Rewrite the Story

To beat fear you need to name it and then redefine your view of it. For example, a former client of mine felt very insecure about not having a college degree. It didn’t matter that he had a wealth of experience and regularly received outstanding reviews; he avoided applying for advancement opportunities because he feared being humiliated.

Once he was able to acknowledge his fear the next step was to rewrite his story, so we began by outlining his accomplishments and awards, and then created a list of people who had achieved great success in their lives without the benefit of a college degree.

The next step he took to push through his fear was to volunteer to head a short-term project. That worked out so well that he began speaking up and tackling more challenges which led to a promotion to an upper management level position. Within a year and a half, he was managing the company’s west coast operation.

Continue to Build Momentum

Challenging your fear(s) one small step at a time will build confidence and resilience as you gradually overcome each new challenge, building a tool chest of emotional and psychological resources along the way that will help you overcome whatever fears or obstacles you may face in the future.

But as we all know, the first step is always the scariest. It’s also the most important because more often than not, by taking that first step we discover our fears were exaggerated or completely unfounded.

The quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do ~Author Unknown

Finally, I want to acknowledge that just because our lives seem to be filled with endless messages about hope, happiness and reaching for the stars, doesn’t mean that the positive thinking approach is the only way for you to create meaningful change.

Just as some people are more attracted to a positive, hopeful message, for others focusing on what their life will be like if they don’t overcome their fears will be far more motivating.

The point is to invest the time to get to know what motivates you to do and be your very best. Remember, this is about your life.

Additional reading:
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. 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!

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  1. Glad you found value in the post Joyce. You know it’s funny about fear. It seems like there can’t possibly be anything new written about the topic, and yet it continues to play such a significant role in our lives. I’ll definitely be exploring it more in the future. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Thank you for your kind words William, and especially for taking the time to share your thoughts on the post. Always appreciated. 🙂

  3. No doubt about it, being responsible for the lives of your children can place a whole new perspective on whatever issues one may be facing. Thanks for sharing Sue!

  4. I’ve been there myself Summer, so I know all too well how exhausting mental reruns can be. Well worth for time to work on that. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Glad you liked it Chery. 🙂

  6. I’m so glad you found value in the post Vatsala! That means a lot coming from someone with your professional background. 🙂

  7. So glad you found value in the post Suzie, and getting people thinking is what I’m here for!

  8. Thanks for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the post Sushmita!

  9. Joyce Hansen

    It’s amazing that besides the regular fears, there are new ones that spring up. Whether it’s world event or the election, I’ve noticed a number a people being more fearful about the future. Building an emotional and psychological tool chest is key and I hope you write more about this.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…How to plan for brain productivityMy Profile

  10. Edward Thorpe

    Hi Marquita,

    Liked how you compared the steps of conquering fear with setting goals. Your idea that we can’t beat an unknown, is dead eyed. We have to give fears a face so we can target it. BTW, love your blog. Thanks,
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…Is Global Warming A Serious Threat To Our PlanetMy Profile

  11. Sue Bride

    Having children helped me to confront and overcome many of the many fears I used to have. To do the best for them I pushed myself to do things I wouldn’t have done before. That ranged from advocating for them, joining committees, and speaking in front of a crowd, to being able to dispose of spiders!
    Sue Bride recently posted…11 Practical Methods to Increase Creativity For BloggersMy Profile

  12. Summer Price

    I am totally the one that goes over what happened a bazillion times and how I should have or shouldn’t have responded and play it over and over until I am satisfied with the outcome, even though it is over. Definitely, something I need to work on. It never really occurred to me that was because of fear. I think just knowing that helps me deal with it in a more productive way. Thank you. Plus I love your first Twitter quote, I am too smart to be the only thing standing in my way, I’m going to change that!
    Summer Price recently posted…Asian Noodle Bowl with Zucchini Noodles & Spicy Almond SauceMy Profile

  13. William Rusho

    Like the comment about taking it on one step at a time. Something that has been around with you for so long (if not your whole life), is not going away in one step. You need to chip away at it constantly.
    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! What a great share my friend, I just love all your advice here especially where you say to identify the source and then to rewrite the story. You sure do make it sound easy enough..

    Thanks for sharing
    Chery :))

  15. Vatsala Shukla

    It’s amazing how perfectly competent people can get paralyzed by fear, Marquita. I love the technique of re-writing the story and dealing with the fear factor one step at a time.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…How to exercise genuine power like a LeaderMy Profile

  16. Suzie Cheel

    To beat fear you need to name it and then redefine your view of it. Yes! When we see things from the positive rather than the negative we can I find dispel fear. In some ways we can leave it behind. Thanks for getting me thinking about some of my maybe hidden fears xxx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…10 Simple Ways To Love You DailyMy Profile

  17. Sushmita

    Loved the idea of ‘Identify the Source and Rewrite the Story’ I am working on my story 🙂
    Sushmita recently posted…Planning to start your Blog? Check Info you need to know!My Profile

  18. Fear of rejection is a tough one Rosary, but I think you’re making progress because you are right when you say it’s about focusing on your positive attributes. Once we learn to truly value ourselves we become less reliant on the approval of others. Keep at it, you are worth it! 🙂

  19. Good for you Jeri, and you brought up a very important point and that gets back to the importance of surrounding ourselves with the right people, people who will encourage and support you. It makes all the difference in the world! Thanks for sharing, and I’m going to be thinking about you out there dancing up a storm from now on. 🙂

  20. I think we would be surprised to learn how many of us experienced bullying in one form or another when we were growing up. Knowing all that you’ve accomplished in your life Jeannette, I’d say you showed them!

  21. Ha! Love the analogy about a rabbit on a hormone diet – so true!!!

  22. Good for you RoseMary! I wish you all the best with that, and I’m confident you’ll push right past those barriers. 🙂

  23. There’s no question that even under the best of circumstances the teen years can be challenging. Bullying has gotten a lot of attention in recent years but it isn’t new by a long shot, sadly the typical (lack of) response on the part of schools hasn’t changed either. That’s a great saying Phoenicia, my favorite comes from a wonderful book I read years ago – Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

  24. It is so true Lea, I think we tend to underestimate many of these fear-based triggers and their impact on our lives. It makes so much sense to tackle these issues one at a time rather than attempting to overcome a lifetime of insecurity and false stories. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us! 🙂

  25. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us Taiwao, I’m glad you found value in the post and advice. 🙂

  26. Rosary says:

    I’ve also experienced fear of confrontation and public speaking, which I’ve been working on for the past few years. But the one I’ve yet to confront is my fear of rejection, most often when it comes to romance. Just once I’d like to be able to tell the guy I like that I like him without the fear of rejection consuming me. I like what you said about identifying the source and rewriting the story, I think it’s important to focus on our positive attributes instead of what we lack. Maybe this will help me in the future, thanks for sharing!

  27. Jeri

    One of the many fears I’ve faced the past couple of years has been going out and dancing. I just never did that with my ex, but the current guy loves to get his groove on. He encourages me to dance with others and just enjoy myself in general. The smallest bit of encouragement can go a long way in helping us overcome some of our fears. Fear is so irrational most of the time, but based in origins we can usually trace in some manner.
    Jeri recently posted…#LitChat: Eccentric Writing Habits of Famous Writers (Infographic)My Profile

  28. My greatest fear growing up was fear of rejection, as I was teased (today it would be called bullying) a lot. It took a lot to overcome that fear, and some times even now that fear will try to sneak up and overtake me. But I recognize it and move ahead. I think that’s the most important lesson to learn — that you’ve got to own up to the fear and figure out how to not let it dominate your life.

  29. Mark

    Thanks for sharing another extremely helpful post M!

    And big congrats BTW, on helping your former client, achieve some very impressive results!

    You pretty much nailed it M as per usual! Isn’t it amazing, how any form of fear, can and will, if left unchecked, quickly grow and multiply just like a rabbit farm on a hormone diet.LOL!

    And before we fully recognize and appreciate it, fear is definitely in control and calling all of the major shots.

    Thanks for addressing a truly evergreen subject, and offering some extremely viable alternatives.
    Mark recently posted…How This Major Email Marketing Mistake Is Potentially Costing You A Fortune!My Profile

  30. How’d we get in sync again, Marquita? I named two fears this week that had been dwelling in the recesses of my mind. They sure got smaller as soon as I wrote them down on paper! Now to tackle them and move on.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Old Town Alexandria, Virginia – Charming Even in DecemberMy Profile

  31. PhoeniciaO

    I have definitely felt fear in periods of my life and it has crippled me on occasions. As a child and teenager I was often fearful. I worried far too much for one so young and it consumed almost every part of me. I had a fear of people, what they thought of me and what they said to me. I was fearful of my peers who bullied me at secondary school (high school). Looking back, had I confronted them the worst that could have happened is me getting a good old kicking. In my mind they controlled me and I saw no escape. Truly awful time.

    Now I push forward in fear as I refuse to allow fear to hinder me from moving forward. As Joyce Meyer says “Do it scared”.
    PhoeniciaO recently posted…Are you easily intimidated?My Profile

  32. Lea Bullen

    Hi Marquita,
    The moment I read the title I instantly thought to myself yes. I think we’ve all been afraid to take it to the next level at some point in life. And when it comes to the bigger things your fear of it can almost match it’s size.
    The note about your client is uplifting. It’s crazy how you can think less of yourself even after the proof is right there in front of your face.
    Lea Bullen recently posted…4 Surprising Ways to Connect with Your KidsMy Profile

  33. Hi Marquita,
    You really expose the true nature of fear and how it can be outwitted in this post.
    When I was reading your post, I saw this, “….in most situations, fear is not based on reality, but rather negative assumptions about what we imagine could happen.” I had to pause a little to ponder on it. That statement is absolutely true.
    You mentioned identifying the trigger and rewriting the story as a way to tackle fear. I found that to be very effective and workable.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. More ink to your pen.

  34. I hear you Doreen, and I prefer the positive thinking approach to life myself. But there is another side to the glass half full analogy. For some, planning for the worst case scenario helps them to overcome stress because it makes them feel better prepared and more in control. There aren’t many studies on this side of the issue, but those I’ve read agree that pessimism isn’t all bad. In fact, one of my regular readers has this viewpoint and lives a full and happy life. I’ve learned a lot from him!

  35. Hi Marty. Don’t you find that negative thinkers seem to have the most fears? I can think of 2 people I know who are negative thinkers, always looking at the half empty vs the half full. And those same two people have many fears about “What will people think?” “Will someone steal my idea?” etc. I can’t imagine being like that.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…5 reasons to love Original Beans ChocolateMy Profile

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