This article was last updated on March 14, 2022
The Relationship Between Fear and Success
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon.
Everyone is taught to be afraid of fear. When your heartbeat speeds up, your throat dries out and your hands get slimier than a fish, you’re supposed to disregard those feelings and go full speed ahead.
But you know what?
That’s not the best way to deal with being afraid.
See, fear is a natural human response. Fear is what kept your ancestors away from dangerous, man-eating beasts. Fear is what made your mother run after you when your toddler self-wandered out of the house unattended. Fear is also what makes you a moral, upstanding citizen, despite the many temptations to be otherwise.
In other words, fear per se isn’t bad.
Mishandled fear is, however. Fear can hold you back from achieving greatness in your life and reaching your goals. If you let fear take full control of the reins of your life, you won’t get anywhere. Don’t let it stress you out, but also don’t just ignore it completely, both can be a recipe for disaster. You can’t let fear get the better of you, but you can’t completely ignore it either. So how do you balance those two?
A Five Step Approach To Dealing With Your Fear
- Accept Your Fears
Despite what you’ve been taught, know this: Fear isn’t something to be ashamed of. Even celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lawrence, Adele and Chris Evans suffered from anxiety at some point in their lives. If these artists, who have to be in the limelight all the time, can acknowledge being afraid, why can’t ordinary people do the same?
The only difference between you and Oprah Winfrey or Adele is that they understand the relationship between fear and success.
Fear does not have to govern the actions you take. In fact, it can propel you toward accomplishing your every dream.
Granted, that’s easier said than done. When you’ve spent your whole life thinking that being afraid makes you vulnerable, it can take a long time to unlearn that belief. Still, recognizing fear for what it is and welcoming it with open arms instead of pushing it away is the first step to making it work in your favor.
- Pick Your Fears Apart
Every fear has its roots. Maybe you fell from a great height as a child, and you’ve been acrophobic ever since. Maybe you froze in front of your speech class for half an hour, and you still remember how everyone laughed at you. Maybe you’ve had one heartbreak too many, making you suspicious of anyone who claimed to be in love with you.
Yes, those are painful memories, and yes, there’s a chance that similar scenarios will play out in your life tomorrow — or even sometime after that.
But remember this -they’re the past and the future, respectively, and there’s nothing you can do about either of them.
You can do something about the present, though. You always have two options.
You can choose to assume that the worst-case scenario has a 100-percent chance of happening, and not take action. Or you can choose to treat your current situation as a whole new experience and make the most of it.
- Flip Your Fears Around
Once fear hits you, you’ll have thoughts like “I’m not good enough for this,” “I’m going to screw this up” or “Why me?” Before these thoughts spread from your brain to the rest of your body, stop them in their tracks.
Separate your feelings from what’s actually happening.
Instead of “I’m not good enough for this,” think “I’m thinking I’m not good enough for this.” Instead of “I’m going to screw this up,” think “I’ve been given this great opportunity, and I’m going to do my best.” Either way, what you think is what will be.
- Use Fear to Empower You
Fear doesn’t have to paralyze you into inaction. If you understand what it is you’re really afraid of, you can use it to guide you to where you should go, embracing it and becoming more confident than ever.
For example, let’s say you left the corporate world because you couldn’t stand the politics, the bureaucracy and all the other hazards that came with it. You can use those hazards to motivate you to become your own best boss, since you’ll have to go back to your dreary, soul-sucking office job otherwise.
Of course, positive reasons for making a major change in your life should outweigh the negative ones. Still, looking back at how worse off you were is a great motivator to stay on track in your current endeavor.
- Get Help
You don’t have to face your fears alone. If there’s someone you can talk to about them, it can lift a lot of the weight off your shoulders. Find someone who’ll tell you something like “I’m with you all the way,” instead of “Just deal with it, okay?”
Also, if your fears have gotten out of control, it’s possible you need to seek help from a professional. Luckily, therapies for phobias work well in general, so they’re worth a shot.
Next time you feel ashamed of your fear, remember this: Being afraid is a natural part of being human. You have every right to experience and acknowledge that emotion when it comes.
At the same time, though, you have the right to make a choice: Are you going to let your fear hold you back, or push you forward toward success?