Does fear to hold you back?

Does fear to hold you back?

Two calls in two days. Two completely different people. Both wanting to get ‘unstuck’ in their careers. They both had one thing in common, despite being in very different industry sectors.

As we talked more, it became abundantly clear to me that neither of these women were unclear about what to do next. What was really going on was that both women were struck by fear. This was holding them back from doing what they knew intuitively was the next step.

Let’s explore more.

Firstly, fear is a perfectly natural human condition. Our minds are wired to keep us safe and keep us from harm. It’s not natural to stick your hand in a flame! We need to feel and understand fear to prevent us from danger.

Unfortunately, it can take over our minds. We can steadily and surely build a bigger and bigger comfort zone around everything we do. The older we get, it seems as though the less and less likely we are willing to change or head in a new direction.

A common and perhaps surprising fear is this:

The Fear of Success

This term first originated from Matina Horner back in 1968 to explain why women were not achieving their full potential. The term is still as relevant today as it was back then. So why on earth do women fear success and what does it mean?

The belief is not that women are afraid of achieving a particular career goal. Instead it is the fear of consequences of that achievement.  Those consequences are both inner as well as external factors.

For example, the inner tape playing over and over: What impact will this have on my health and well-being? Can I withstand the stress that this may cause? Is it worth the effort, the long hours, the battles?  What if I make a mistake? What if I can’t cope with the workload? And will I really get the meaning and fulfilment I am looking for?

External factors typically rotate about the big fear of other’s reactions. How will my husband / partner react if I achieve significant success?  What impact might this have on my children? How will other people in my life react? Will I be faced with cynicism or jealousy? What about my friends?

The Big Leap

I recently re-read the brilliant book ‘The Big Leap’ by Gaye Hendrix. In the book he shares his story of how he held himself back from ultimate fulfilment and success due to something he’s labelled ‘the Upper Limit Problem’. He describes in detail how our fear holds us back.

The first area of fear we have is Feeling Fundamentally Flawed.

This is based upon a fear that we are flawed in some way, so it’s safer to stay small. The big fear is that if we do step out and break the comfort zone, we will fail. And why would you risk failing when at least you know what’s expected of you today.

The second fear is Disloyalty and Abandonment.

This fear is that potential success, expanding future horizons, may end up with leaving the people behind from your past. You may end up alone. Who wants that? The guilt of success causes us to put our brakes on.

The third fear is that More Success = Bigger Burden.

This time it’s a focus on feeling or even hearing off the cuff comments from respected elders about how life was easier (before you). Or not being asked about your career or your success. Or eyes rolling when you do share an achievement.

The fourth fear is described as The Crime of Outshining.

As it states, here you feel safer flying below the radar than being perceived as better than other members of your family. Here you will be looking at the success of others and ensuring they shine more than you.

When any of these fears kick in, our reaction is typically to worry, withdraw, criticise and potentially lash out to others.

Handling Our Fears

If you recognise self-sabotage going on: procrastination; comfort eating; on-line distractions (Facebook, you tube, etc. etc.); then you need to take a look at what’s going on.

In a recent article by Jack Canfield he re-describes fear as Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real.

What a great definition! Here’s a couple of strategies for breaking through the barrier:

  • Ask yourself if this outcome has a distinct and real possibility of happening? How do you know?
  • Then decide what action you could take right now to create a positive outcome. Brainstorm some ideas and see what comes up.

Jack Canfield suggests another great idea:

  • Make a list of the things that you fear doing. (It’s the doing part that is most important to identify). E.g. fear leaving your role, fear applying for a promotion, fear asking for a pay rise
  • Then write down what is it about that doing part you are fearing.
  • Next turn it into a positive statement. E.g. Leaving this current role may provide a new challenge, applying for a new job is only a first step, brainstorming all the benefits of asking for a pay rise could help give me more confidence and credibility.
  • Write that statement down and start repeating it over and over your mind.

The magnificent thing is that once when we get them in the open we see how ridiculous this way of thinking is.

My final top tip would be to purchase this book: Susan Jeffers Book: ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’.




Leave a Reply

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