In the personal development world, “mindset” and “inner work” has become some buzzwords du jour. Many talk about “fears” – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being liked, fear of not good enough.
These terms are also being thrown around in the business coaching arena. People talk about the challenges they encounter in their businesses, and often throw in a few of these fears as the reasons why they were unable to make progress.
Knowing what is holding us back is the first step to overcoming it so cultivating the awareness is important.
However, some get stuck in the place of just realizing the fear, calling it out but not doing much about it: “Oh, it’s my fear of failure holding me back from [doing xyz]”
Instead of finding a way to get over the fear to achieve xyz, they use their fears as convenient excuses for not having to dig deep, sit in the fire, and do the hard work.
They have adopted the victim mentality. They blame the fears and call it a day.
Identifying the fears without doing the work to release them has become a guilt-free way of hiding out. We even pat ourselves on the back for having the courage to admit the fears.
We can blame the fear… that’s just human nature, right? No reason to beat ourselves up for being human, right? Permission slip granted.
There are ways to work through fears all over the self-growth space so we are not going to belabor it here. Some of them are more effective than the others, to each his own. But…
The question is: are you willing to work through your fears?
If we know our fears are holding us back, why the heck are we still holding onto them after so many trainings, journaling and rehashing?
What, really, is making us hold onto our fears like a stinky security blanket?
For those who have gone through our share of “personal development” programs and books and seminars, we get so good at “articulating” our fears that we can conveniently hide behind them.
Most of us have done programs in which we were told to journal till we turned blue about our “fears”, get a few “aha” moments, checked this “assignment” off the list and then went back to holding onto the fears like a security blanket – because the familiar felt good (even if it doesn’t serve our best interest) and the unknown was scary.
“Fears” can become a handy excuse.
Without “fears” to explain away our inaction, we have to assume total personal responsibility because there is nothing else to blame (but of course, since we are totally responsible for our outcome, there is freedom and choice – but then, this wide open field can be scary too!)
Letting go of fears can be scarier than having them because we don’t have anything to hide behind.
If you release your fears and remove your excuses, what is left?
Our fears hold together an identity that has probably been defining part of who we are. Without it, we can feel naked, exposed. We may lose a sense of belonging.
Losing part of this identity can scare the crap out of the ego and rattle how we define ourselves in the world. Without something to hold onto, it can feel like free-falling into a void.
Losing the outer layers of fear can mean we have to face the deeper, more primal fears of rejection, losing connection, nothingness etc. This can be worse than the superficial fears we can verbalize and rationalize.
Realizing this deeper layer of fears can help us finally step up to do the work to release the superficial fears.
Letting go of our deeper fears requires courage: The courage to dive into the unknown; The courage to let go of part of how you identify yourself; The courage to step up and do something different; The courage to face the void and embrace that the “free fall” can be liberating; The courage to look for the “how to sew a parachute” manual after we jump off the cliff; The courage to trust.
To fully trust, we have to let go of “control” (or the illusion that we have control!) – because when we let go of the fears and go into “free fall”, there is nothing to control and that can be scary and unsettling.
To ground this idea, you can ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly:
- What is the worst that can happen when I “lose control” of this situation?
- What if is no longer important to me? What would I do, who would I be?
- Can I live with ?
Then, comes Trust.
Trust – oh, another catchphrase. It makes us feel “good” to tell ourselves that someone/something will be there to catch us. But if you are depending on “something” to have your back, you can be adopting a victim mentality.
Trust is not an intellectual exercise like a word we just toss around and call it a day. We can *think* about trusting till we turn blue. We can recite positive affirmations and think happy thoughts till the cows come home, but if we don’t embody the Trust, we are still playing the yo-yo diet of “roses and unicorns” then “pain and fear.”
Sometimes, trusting is about going at it even if we can’t see the full picture. Trusting can just mean “do what is in front of you” – put one foot in front of another even if you are dragging along in the mud only knowing you are heading the right way for you.
Think about athletes – when they are in the field, they run, swim, bike, hit the ball… or do whatever they do to get to the finish line. They don’t stop every 5 minutes and analyze if they are going the right direction. They know the finish line is there. It is about having gumption, it is about “Turning Pro.”
Most of us, sadly, are Over-Thinking Trust and Under-Feeling it.
Where does Trust live in your body? In a safe place, with a calm mind, ask your body and listen… where is it when you Trust completely with your heart and guts?
This is the place to tap into when you have let go of the tethers and need an anchor. This is your internal GPS that shows you where you need to go.
Trust is a Truth so stop treating it as a fact.
We can think and analyze and categorize and intellectualize facts. We can only know Truth.
My Truth doesn’t have to be your Truth, so it’s time to stop looking around and Trust that you have it in you. If you are rubbernecking, you are not looking at where you are going.
Your turn: have you been using “fear” as an excuse? What actions would you take, and what would you achieve, if you no longer hide behind it?