How to overcome fear and take action

Boy afraid, how to overcome fear

We all know the importance of taking action. Yet, most of us regularly accept defeat without trying at all and we fail to take action when it’s crucial to do so. What stops people from taking action? There are several reasons for inaction and fear is one of the biggest. So today, we’ll look into how to overcome fear.

By MIH

Fear

It feels safer to hold on to the certainty of a dream than the possibility of failure.

MIH

People are paralyzed by fear all the time. Fear is generally a good thing because it keeps us safe, protected, and grounded. But sometimes, it becomes a hindrance that stops us from taking the necessary step towards what we want, even when we have nothing to lose if we take the step and everything to gain if we do.

Types of fear and how to overcome them

When fear is at play, it can manifest in different ways.

1. Fear of criticism

People are generally afraid of being criticized because criticism might lead to rejection. Being rejected would thwart the psychological need of relatedness and that, sometimes, is too much of a risk to take. 

What people fail to realize is that in most cases, if they push past the criticism—which will come anyway, regardless of what they do, or don’t do—and go ahead and make what they believe in reality, they’ll become much more appreciated and loved as they grow into becoming their more autonomous, competent, best self. 

How to overcome the fear of criticism

Psychology theories—including but not limited to Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration and the Self Determination Theory—emphasize the importance of turning deaf ears to criticism sometimes. The general advice is to learn from criticism instead of allowing the fear of criticism to become a hindrance.  

It is also very important to understand the difference between criticism and critique. (also read Critique vs. Criticism.) And to know how to react appropriately in either case.

2. Fear of failure

The paradox here is: the fear of failure doesn’t help you avoid failure, it makes sure you fail in a categorical way. Period.

How to overcome the fear of failure

When you realize you’re afraid of failing, remember you’re already failing by not taking action. And be afraid of that. Be afraid of how your life will be if you don’t take action. Be afraid of what you will lose if you don’t go after what you want. That’s what you should be afraid of. It’s all about perspective. 

Remember: if you don’t make yourself fail at what you can afford to fail at, life will make you fail at what you don’t want to fail at.

2. Fear of loss

A lot of people are afraid of taking action to get what they want because of the fear of losing it. If they never get it in the first place, they’ll never have to deal with losing it. Well, news break: you already have things you want that you’re going to inevitably lose. You’ve had things that you lost. And you’re going to have things in the future that you will end up losing. Life is a journey, not a destination. And change is the only constant. You will not be able to live a good life if you don’t want to face loss. 

How to overcome the fear of loss

Stop being possessive, think about things as borrowed, not owned. And make the best of whatever you have while you have it because you know that someday you’re going to have to replace it with something else or do without it.

Less is more.

Instead of being possessive, grow to become better than your best self. As Maslow stated in his hierarchy of needs, transcend your self (beyond self-actualization.) When you become more selfless, you will understand there’s no need to be possessive over anything and that’ll make your life more fulfilling as you will need considerably less in order to be satisfied in life.

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

Seneca

The rich is not the man who has more but the man who needs less to go by. Don’t be afraid of losing what you have, focus on apreciating and making the best of it while you have it.

3. Fear of change

The classic “openness to possibilities vs. close-minded.” It has been determined by researchers over and over again that openness is important to achieve success (the Big Five personality traits, among others.) Some people do fairly well without being overly open but to achieve extreme success, it’s vital to not only be open to change but to actively seek it.

How to overcome the fear of change

If change and uncertainty make you feel so uncomfortable that it prevents you from taking action, you’re also going to be very much affected by situations that you can’t control. Use the circle of influence and circle of control tool to focus on what you have control over and let the rest play out. Change what you can, when you have to, always with your North Star on sight.

4. Fear of progress

As crazy as it might sound, some people are afraid of progress, not only because it involves change. Some people are afraid of doing better because it’d make them feel less needy. Feeling needy is good to them because it makes them feel cared for and loved. Doing better would mean becoming more autonomous, and this might jeopardize the warm fuzzy feelings they get when someone reaches out to help them out.

What they fail to realize is that they can get the same warm fuzzy feelings if they were autonomous and capable. No one has to feel miserable to attract the attention of others. Doing so only determines the type of attention you attract. You want admiration, not pity. Being afraid of progress encourages self-sabotaging tendencies and this might lead to or result from identity bias.

How to overcome the fear of progress

Realize you and the people around you will feel better if you’re doing better. You can always get attention even when you’re autonomous. If you’re competent and you use the word “I need you” you’ll have many more people running to your aid. 

Conclusion

The best things in life are on the other side of your fear.

Will Smith

If you want the best things in life, you have to conquer your fear. Life is too short to not want the best things. Arete.

Don’t forget to always ask for help when you need help.

This article was written in collaboration with MIH.

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