Has your biggest fear ever held you back from doing something that you wanted to do before? For anyone that is trying to be a better person in life, the answer is yes.
Most people bundle their biggest fears into one big scary package of nerves, anxiety and inaction. But what if I told that there wasn’t just one biggest fear, but lots of them? And that each of them can be broken down and solved, with a little bit of practice?
It is likely that fear is the number one thing holding you back from living your best possible life. This article will highlight the most common fears that people have that hold them back and how to overcome them.
1. Fear of Failure
The fear of failure is one of the most common biggest fear that hold people back from living their best life. In a world that puts successful people on a podium, there can be shame on those who fall short or even worse, try in the first place.
In the wise words of Anthony de Mello:
“When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him.”
Get rid of your fear of failure, your tensions about succeeding, and you will be yourself. You will be relaxed and at your most able. You wouldn’t drive with your brakes on, and the same goes for life.
2. Fear of Success
One of the lesser-known but very common fears that might be holding you back is the fear of success. How can anyone fear success you might ask? Well, success has its own set of problems and fears.
Success can come out of nowhere, and change everything when you aren’t ready. Once you have success and get comfortable with it, it can vanish in an instant. People hold back not just because they are afraid of success, but because they are afraid of getting it and losing it.
The solution is similar to that of the biggest fear of failure – you just have to live your own life and see what comes your way. Both success and failure are inevitable in any worthwhile endeavour, so relax and embrace both of them.
3. Fear of Loss
Fear of loss is most likely one of the most prominent and powerful fears that is holding you back. The biggest fear of loss often stimulates negative emotions like anger that stop you from being the person you can be.
Think of the last time you were angry and search for the fear behind it. What were you afraid of losing? What were you afraid would be taken from you? That’s where the anger comes from. Think of an angry person, maybe someone you’re afraid of. Can you see how frightened he or she is?
In order to get over this fear, you have to confront the fear of losing things so that you can actually enjoy everything that you love. You have to leave your attachment behind, so you can live with the joy of what you have.
4. Fear of Being Judged
This biggest fear is one that is known for keeping people in their shell, in their place and away from everything that they could achieve.
You might have heard the fable of The Man, the Boy and the Donkey. They were walking alongside their donkey to the market when a man scoffs at them and says that the donkey is a wasted creature if no-one is riding it. So, the man helps his son onto the donkey and before long they are interrupted by a woman, who can’t believe that a youngster with fresh legs would make his old man walk. Then, the man jumps on the donkey, and the boy steps off. They continue on, before a passer-by calls the man a lazy lout for making his young son walk.
Try and please everyone, and you will please no-one. You are going to be judged no matter what you do, so you may as well live your life as you want.
5. Fear of Losing Our ‘Identity’
Your identity might be something that you cling on to as if it were one of your most prized possessions – often without even realizing it. As humans, we weave these stories in our heads about who we are, what we want and what people like us do.
These stories are easy to create but very difficult to escape once set in stone.
Abstract and mostly made-up concepts like careers and identities come into conflict all the time, and often blend into one as a sort of compromise.
The same is true in other situations. How could you ever just walk up to a pretty girl and start a conversation? You are the type of guy who is shy and keeps themselves to themselves. How could you ever take a day off when you are tired? You are a productivity machine that can never take a day off.
Having an identity can be reassuring for a short while, but it doesn’t take long for it shut every single door to change. If you are unhappy with where you are right now, it’s likely that there is a part of your identity that you are fighting fiercely to protect.
6. Fear of Losing Control
The biggest fear of losing control is another big fear that holds many of us back from living our best life. Many people substitute improvement and happiness with control and comfort, and that is where you can go wrong.
In order to be truly happy, truly free and live the life that you want, you have to be willing to surrender control. For anyone that wants to progress, playing the same video game level over and over eventually gets boring. At some stage, you have to take a leap into the next level and surrender the control and confidence that you had over the lower level.
A lot of people are falling short of their potential but they don’t mind because they are in control. In order to get over this fear, you need to accept that you never have total control anyway. Our plans are at the mercy of the weather. Our Friday nights are at the mercy of what our friends want to do and our lifespan is at the mercy of something outside of ourselves.
When you realise that you don’t have as much control as you thought to begin with, it makes it a bit easier to overcome the fear of losing a bit more control when the time is right.
7. Fear of Time
Fear of time is an entirely modern phenomenon that according to Psychology Today, only originated around 10,000 years ago. More specifically, it is the fear of not having enough time.
Whether you worry about not having enough hours in the day or worry about how fast life is going by, these are forms of something called ‘time anxiety’.
Time anxiety can lead you into habits and behaviors that leave you far short of living your best possible life. It makes you rush things that you should be relaxing and enjoying. It makes you agitated rather than content. Although it can make you more productive, you often act out of compulsion rather than freedom – and no-one wants that.
The best way to get over the fear of time moving too fast is to firstly, define what ‘time well spent’ means to you. Secondly, make more space for these moments and activities. Finally, cut out time-consuming distractions that take over your precious moments when you don’t want them too.
8. Fear of Who You Really Are
According to a research paper on the subject, it is estimated that 70 percent of people will experience something that is known as ‘impostor syndrome’ in their lives. This is the condition where you don’t feel worthy or deserving of the success that you are receiving.
One of the main reasons impostor syndrome is so prominent is because no-one knows us better than ourselves. You know what your guilty pleasures are, you know what you secretly hate and secretly love. You know where you come short where others might think you excel and you know where you are better than what others give you credit for.
The good news for you is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone has dark sides that they aren’t proud of, actions that they regret and shortcomings that they wish weren’t there. The difference between those things holding you back and you reaching your goals comes down to forgiveness and acceptance that who you are is more than enough. Broken pieces and all.
9. Fear of the Loss of the Known
Many people think that when we are scared of the dark, scared of the shadows or scared of making a big change in our life, it is because we are scared of the unknown.
It’s not that your biggest fear is fear of the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known.
This response is perfectly natural. Back in our hunter-gatherer days, any loss of the known was almost always the path to certain death. Whether we found ourselves outside of our tribe, eating food we had never tried or anything else outside of the known, we were often in trouble. It is hard-wired into your brain to keep the known close at all times.
But you are no longer a hunter in the savannah. Your primitive mind doesn’t realize it but your higher, intellectual mind does. Your primitive mind sees any loss of the known as a threat, whereas your higher mind sees it as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Whichever mind is louder in your head is likely to guide your actions – so feed the intellectual mind as much as possible.
10. Fear of What’s Next
Nobody knows what comes after this life, and all of the fears on this list can be whittled down to the biggest fear of dying and whatever is next.
It is common to purposely drown out your attention in the politics, stresses, worries and plans of daily life in order to avoid thinking about the bigger question. However, it is only when we come to accept our own mortality and stare it in the face that the fear of it starts to disappear.
While some people fear that thinking about this bigger truth will liberate them from all responsibility, that nothing they do actually matters and that they’ll live a life of apathy, the reality is that it forces action the other way – it scares them into responsibility.
It means that there’s no reason to not love ourselves and one another. That there’s no reason to not treat ourselves and our planet with respect. That there’s no reason to not live every moment of our lives as though it were to be lived in eternal recurrence.
It’s a big responsibility to be here, but life is too short and too precious to fear anything other than a life unlived.
Overcome Your Biggest Fear
Although there are biggest fear that can arise in your own personal path to greatness, each of them can be solved in their own unique ways. Ironically, your biggest fear is not something to be feared. Fear is a natural part of life and all fears have a source that can be discovered and overcome, one step at a time.
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