The worst form of fear isn’t one that keeps you awake at night staring at the ceiling. It’s not the pounding of your heart against your chest when you run away from danger. It’s the helplessness you feel when you realise you’ll never achieve your goals.
After all, if you repeatedly doubt your abilities, it’s impossible to muster the courage needed to take what you want in life. You resign yourself to fate. You accept the many bad hands the world deals you, and you’re powerless to stop the downward spiral that cuts your ambition short and holds you back forever.
Perhaps no one is more familiar with this debilitating form of fear than Leonard Kim. Now an acclaimed personal branding expert and well-respected marketing authority, he didn’t always enjoy such bright prospects.
In his TEDx Talk Kim details how at 28 years old his life took a turn for the worse. The businesses he worked on fell apart, his savings evaporated, and the once clear vision he had for the future began to fade away.
But these dark times came with a surprising revelation. Fear – and the path it illuminates – lies at the centre of self-discovery and personal growth.
Below are 3 ways fear will hold you back permanently:
1. You’re forced to compromise on your goals
We can never move forward in life if we’re constantly running from our fears. Even though most of us know what we want to achieve (the dream home, the nice car, the perfect job), we’re too afraid of rejection, judgement, and failure to go out and do the things necessary to accomplish them.
But fear doesn’t just lock us in place. The compromises and unfavourable circumstances it forces us to accept can actually cause us to lose what precious little we do have in the first place. Kim recalls the time he hit rock bottom and the series of events that drove him there:
“Because I was afraid to do the work my businesses required in order to be successful, everything I worked on just seemed to fall apart. I lost all of my savings and debt kept piling up. I couldn’t afford my electricity bill and the lights in my home shut off.
When I was hungry I had to walk down to buy a burrito from the 7 Eleven, unplug my microwave, and drag it into my apartment building’s hallway. I’d heat up my food in front of the neighbouring tenants doorways, and then go back inside to eat it in the dark.”
Kim’s lesson was brutal. Every time you walk away from a challenge, or attempt something half-heartedly, you take a step further away from your goals. Sometimes those decisions have unforeseen consequences, many of which culminate in an inescapable downwards spiral that makes it impossible to pursue your goals at all.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer
2. Your relationships will disintegrate
Persistent fear causes anxiety – a constant state of worry making you focus too much on your own concerns and problems, and too little on the problems of those around you.
In fact, psychological research suggests that fear can make you selfish to the point that your relationships begin to deteriorate. Jealousy, suspicion, and insecurity manifest themselves in damaging ways, and before too long you’ll isolate yourself from people altogether.
Kim encountered the devastating impact of anxiety first hand. “I started getting panic attacks. I made excuses to my friends about why I couldn’t go out, and I had no self-confidence to even consider dating anyone.”
He learned the fear that stops you from applying yourself in business or your career will eventually destroy your social life, and without meaningful relationships you’ll have nobody to support you through difficult times or to reaffirm your value.
3. You’ll always live with regret
Some conversations are tough to have. But it’s often the conversations we have with ourselves that are most difficult of all.
“I want to change careers, but I’m scared of what my friends will say. I want to grow my business, but I’m afraid I’m going to fail.” We second-guess ourselves at every junction, and falter at every major decision. We imagine a thousand ways we could fail, and as a result we’re too unmotivated to even begin. But before you resign yourself to this trepidation, examine what your future will be like as a result of your inaction.
Kim says, “I pictured myself at my funeral and I realised that nobody was going to be there. All the chairs were empty and the reason was because I chased away everybody that cared about me, nobody trusted me, and I was a complete and utter failure.”
The life you’ll lead in the future is entirely determined by the decisions you make today. If you let fear make those decisions for you, the only legacy you’ll leave behind is one of regret and wasted potential.
“Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone or an obituary in a newspaper.” – Billy Sunday
What’s the solution?
Breaking the hold fear has over you is scary – but it’s not impossible. Here are three steps you can follow to gradually overcome your fear:
- Step 1: Recognise it – Figure out what it is that you’re afraid of. By identifying the source of your fear (and the reasons behind it) you’ll be better equipped to tackle it head-on.
- Step 2: Face it – To overcome fear, you need to do things that scare you. You’ll never get comfortable with rejection, judgement, or failure if you never leave your comfort zone.
- Step 3: Do something about it – By continually and repeatedly stepping out of your comfort zone, things that seemed scary in the fast will have a greatly diminished effect on you. Before too long you’ll cease to be afraid of them at all.
Are you letting fear control you or are you using it to your advantage? Let us know by commenting below!
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