I've boiled many of my own fears down to their root causes, ranging from the fear of failure, criticism, rejection, success and of the unknown. The underlying reason behind each fear has been the fear of potential harm. Harm can be uncomfortable or possibly even fatal, and it's natural to shy away from something that you imagine to feel uncomfortable.
When I became aware of my fears and how they were holding me back, I took some time to examine why I kept putting things off and how those things could possibly result in harm. Sometimes it was obvious, sometimes it wasn’t.
Following The Trail of Harm
When I examined the “trail of harm” with my fear of criticism. I realised that throughout my life I've been conditioned by the people around me, my family, friends, teachers, the media and employers to think and act in a certain way. From my perspective, the act of nonconformity (or going against the crowd) always seemed to be met with ridicule. From an early age, this cemented the limiting belief that acting differently to those around me will also be met with ridicule.
The Fear of Criticism and The Unknown
I remember being faced with a big dose of "the fear of criticism" when setting up this website and making my body transformation public. Both of these goals were unlike anything that anybody around me was doing. Also, for those of you that have read my story, you'll know I went through depression and had a very low self-esteem. So making my body transformation public came with a double-whammy of fear. It was hard not to imagine that all those old feelings I had about myself would come flurrying back with a few ill-conceived comments – which is really the big problem with fear! A small dose of fear is healthy and can stop you from making clearly foolish decisions. However, when fear infects the imagination, it enlarges the potential consequences far beyond what they're actually likely to be.
Intellectually, I knew that creating a website was unlikely cause me harm. However, I had an uneasy vague feeling about what may go wrong. It's this vague gut feeling (the fear of the unknown) that stopped me from taking action. Unconsciously, I was trying to keep myself safe because the unknown brings with it the potential for harm, even though I was unsure on the specifics of HOW I could come to harm.
The What If's
I remember talking myself out of many of my original goals because of the “what ifs”. “What if it goes wrong, I'll look like a fool”, “what if I don't do this perfectly first-time, I may never get another shot”, “what if I'm just deluding myself and this turns out to be a huge failure”. I remember putting many of my goals on the “someday backburner”. Everything stayed as something the “future me” would get around to doing. At the time, I was content just to believe that I had the potential to achieve my goals If I really wanted to.
On occasion, my desire to achieve a goal would be so great that I plucked up the courage and went ahead anyway, but because I hadn't really confronted my fears they weighed me down like an anchor. As a result, I progressed at a snail's pace because I second-guessed every step I made for fear of making mistakes. I suppose it was psychologically comforting to half-ass my efforts as well, since I could always fall back on “well I didn't really try 100%, but I could have done it if I really tried”.
It's strange, but even releasing articles on this website used to be a fear of mine. For the longest time, I unconsciously sabotaged my efforts to publish articles by rewriting and deleting them. I procrastinated simply because I feared the unknown consequences and the possibility of criticism. I guess I didn't want to lose credibility by releasing something inadequate and then having a blemish associated with my name. I wanted to do everything perfectly and I was living in my own potential future, a future I was afraid to start creating.
In this article series, I'm going to discuss some of the changes I've made in order to overcome my own fears. Which for the most part, have been the fear of criticism, the fear of failure, the fear of success and the fear of the unknown. All of these fears are closely related, however, I've overcome each of them with what I'm going to share in the following articles.
Failure Is A Word, Not A Person
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These things you’ve touched upon must effect everyone at some point in their life.
“When fear infects the imagination, it enlarges the potential consequences far beyond what they’re actually likely to be.” This is so true to me in my daily life as my imagination runs away with me. I must start studying your posts more closely! Hopefully they’ll help me overcome my own fears 🙂
Your article was eelxclent and erudite.