Fear was once considered the human voice of reason. It may be our primal survival mechanism, but when we can’t see fear or when we feel it’s out of control, it can hinder our wellbeing and hold us back from success. The good news? Many of the types of fears that plague us today do not directly threaten our lives as they once did hundreds of years ago. (Most of us don’t have to worry about getting eaten by a lion).
Yet we still feel fear, and in some cases, it can even lead to things like specific phobias or panic disorders that can severely limit our lives. More commonly, it infiltrates our thoughts in subtle ways, making us believe we do not have a right to our dreams, our confidence, our joy, and so much more.
In this article, I’ll dig into the most common types of fear: some that people are more willing to discuss, such as fear of snakes or public speaking, and those more subtle types of fear that run much deeper, such as fear of failure or fear of rejection. I call these emotional fears.
No matter what type of fear — physical or emotional — you experience, know that you are not alone. Because feeling fear is normal. It’s part of our day-to-day lives, but we all feel it, myself included. Over the years, I’ve felt a crippling fear of being judged, fear of failure, and a fear of not being good enough. The only way I was able to overcome these fears was by identifying and acknowledging what fears were holding me back, and then, discovering a solution that makes those fears evaporate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What Are the Most Common Phobias and Common Fears?
The word “phobia” comes from the Greek word “phobos,” which means fear. Phobias are named based on the Greek word that describes the fear along with the word “phobia.” This creates a long list of difficult-to-pronounce words that describe the specific types of fear that essentially every therapist calls a phobia.
For example, the term “glossophobia” is derived from the Greek word glōssa, meaning “tongue,” to classify a fear of public speaking. Extensive phobia lists are stored online, containing the names of hundreds of different types of phobias from the simple to the complex.
Like I said, we all experience fear in different ways, but there are many types of fears that come up over and over again. (Good news! By the end of this article, you’ll be able to distinguish between phobias and emotional fears.) Let’s start with some of the most common phobias:
- Fear of enclosed spaces: Claustrophobia
- Fear of open spaces: Agoraphobia
- Fear of flying: Aviophobia
- Fear of heights: Acrophobia
- Fear of social situations: Social phobia or social anxiety disorder
- Fear of public speaking: Glossophobia
- Fear of animals: Zoophobia
- Fear of birds: Ornithophobia
- Fear of snakes: Ophidiophobia
- Fear of spiders: Arachnophobia
- Fear of clowns: Coulrophobia
- Fear of blood: Hemophobia
- Fear of needles: Trypanophobia
- Fear of thunder: Astraphobia
- Fear of death: Thanatophobia
Holy beaners, right?
I mean, who wants to confess to their bestie that they are afraid to walk from their car to the front door because there’s a spider on the driveway (arachnophobia) and to make matters worse, it’s thundering outside (astrophobia)? Truth be told, many folks don’t like spiders, but they don’t have a phobia. Same thing with thunder. It’s scary, but it doesn’t make most people curl up in the bathtub.
This is the good news: You may have a reasonable fear of spiders, like Ron Weasley, or a fear of snakes, like Indiana Jones. These are valid and very real fears, but unless you’re an adventure-seeking archeologist, your fear of snakes likely isn’t holding you back from success at work or hindering your relationships.
But how do you tell what’s a fear and what’s a phobia?
And what about the fears people don’t want to discuss? The ones you may not even be able to identify? What I’ve seen over and over with my clients is that the most limiting fears are the ones we don’t recognize. And because when we can’t see them, we can do little about them. These are the ones keeping us from being truly happy.
10 Common Types of Fear
We’ve already discussed how fears can range in severity, simple annoyance to phobia. Yet, maybe you’re someone like my client, Samantha. What started as a common fear for her was on the way to be a phobia. She discovered that in specific situations, her anxiety could quickly escalate into a full-on panic attack. Left untreated, that could have become a disorder that might have plagued her for the rest of her life. (Don’t worry. We got her sorted!)
By the way, do you ever feel anxious? If you do, be sure to keep reading, because I’ve got something that will help. And in the meantime, since we’re talking about anxiety and phobias, let’s be sure you’re centered before you read on. Go ahead and take a nice deep breath to ground yourself.
Great work! Now, the good news…
Most of us don’t have phobias, let alone disorders, but we do have emotional fears that negatively impact our lives. They can cause us to be disappointed in ourselves, frustrated with our efforts, and even forfeit our dreams.
Sure, simple fears showing up like mild anxiety or worry once and a while can be managed on your own or with help from friends or family or even a good support group.
But if those simple fears are not so simple to let go of, a life coach may be your best bet to move you from surviving to thriving and as we say in Fearless Living, “live the life your soul intended™.” But if your fear does turn into a phobia, you may need to seek help from a health professional, like a therapist or psychologist.
Now, let’s get to the 10 common fears that are what I call “emotional fears.”
Why are emotional fears important?
Because when you have a fear of failure, let’s say, there is no spider to squash like in fear of spiders. Failure is a concept, a belief, something that you learned or took on from your past experiences, your family heritage, or even from your DNA (more about that later).
So when you say I’m afraid to fail, there is no THING like spiders or thunderstorms, the fear of failure is an emotional one. It could show up as palms sweating or rapid-fire negative self-talk. But it has no common THING to point to. Fear of failure may show up as avoiding anything that even whiffs of so-so success while for another, it may show up as aggression towards the thing it believes is stopping them from succeeding.
It’s why some people lash out when their emotional fears are triggered, while others hide out and deny what’s happening. We all process fear differently. (More on that later. Whew, we have a lot to cover! Don’t worry, it’ll fly by.)
Just like all of the 10 emotional fears I’m sharing with you today, these fears cut to the heart of our humanity. These fears must be faced, embraced, and integrated into our being. Otherwise, those emotional fears will cause us to make the decisions we do (or don’t) leading us further away from our destiny.
Okay, here goes…
1. Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is one of the most common fears that may keep you from believing you’re capable of achieving success at all. It was THE big one for my client, Kathy. Until she began facing her fear of failure, she avoided anything that wasn’t a guaranteed win and that meant taking little or no risks.
The fear stopped her from writing the book that she “knew” she should and from switching companies as a realtor. But while she could manage her fear at work — she could sense when her clients were getting irritated with her perfectionism so she’d take a breath and let the flowers they picked up at the local grocery store be “good enough” — that same fear would stop any of her own dreams dead in their tracks.
People living with atychiphobia (that’s the fancy word that therapists made up for the emotional fear called Fear of Failure) see their failures as the result of deep, unfixable flaws within themselves, making it extremely difficult to take failures in stride and learn from mistakes. But Kathy discovered that when she was able to see her fear of failure for what it was, and know what to do about it, she could move beyond it.
Now, Kathy is writing the book that was in heart and seeing the beauty of flowers no matter what store they come from. (By the way, flowers at my local Ralph’s are gorgeous!)
2. Fear of Loss
Fear of loss is a rampant confidence killer because it can apply to many different areas of our lives. We can fear losing our income, our home, our friends, our kids, our intimate relationship, our identity, our health, our power, our youth, our creativity, our quick wit, our fancy car, and so much more.
When we move to another city, turn 50, or find ourselves in the hospital, loss lives in the fabric of those experiences. If we want to feel alive and engage in life, we cannot turn away from the richness of those transitions. Yet, this “emotional” fear may prevent us from seeking out new opportunities or tell us to fight against the inevitable or even the desirable because — it whispers — we could lose what we already have, what we already know, who we already are
Fear of loss can also lead us to what so many call self-sabotage. Fear convinces us that the person we love will leave us or our boss will fire us, so we start behaving like it’s inevitable, committing acts that will ultimately lead to our termination or the end of our relationship.
Fear of loss is more common than people realize, because loss is part of any change. And that loss is something most of us try to deny, ignore or avoid, especially if we’ve trained ourselves to be positive. Yet, loss is a path we must all walk. By moving through loss awake and aware, we can heal ourselves on a deeper and more profound level. This allows us to finally live in the present, release expectations, and make decisions that align with where we want to go and who we want to be. We know loss is part of that process.
A final note on fear of loss: I see the healing of our fear of loss as a spiritual calling, an experience we must accept or our aliveness will diminish. (It’s also a part of what’s called “the dark night of the soul.”) Therefore, loss must never be denied, but instead, embraced.
3. Fear of Change
Although change is constant, many of us fear it. There are a number of reasons why someone might fear change. For example, it could be because you lack confidence in yourself and your abilities, because you fear change may alienate you from your friends and family, or because you don’t trust yourself and your decisions. Regardless of what causes a fear of change, your first step is learning HOW to change. This is where most people get stuck.
People who are afraid of change “think” about change but they don’t know what actions to take or who to ask for help. They may even be aware that they must change to stop their marriage from failing or their kids from disowning them. But because they aren’t sure what steps to take to get from here to there, their mind swirls with “what-if’s” keeping them frozen in the same place.
Knowing versus doing are most evident in the fear of change because those who have it know a lot, but they do not take the risks necessary to make change happen. Their thinking gets them no further forward. In fact, it keeps them stuck in the heartbreaking place of knowing what they need to do but being unwilling to do it.
4. Fear of Intimacy
There are a few different aspects to a fear of intimacy. Yes, there are those of us living with an intense fear of being touched or a fear of sexual intimacy. But fear of intimacy is broader than physical connection. It refers to the fear of revealing our inner selves — our thoughts, feelings, fears, and vulnerabilities — to another human being, whether that’s to friends, family, or a romantic partner. Yet, intimacy is required for love to flourish and meets our need for connection and belonging.
Connection and belonging are embedded in our biology and are basic needs that must be met in order for us to thrive as human beings. Then, why do we push away the intimacy so many of us are dying for?
One reason may be we fear we’re unlovable so we avoid revealing ourselves, usually when we most desperately want to, or when love is standing right in front of us. Or we could be afraid of being hurt — that love won’t last, that we’ll be betrayed or abandoned, that love will turn into a negative, disempowering experience. Yet, the only way to experience true intimacy is to face that fear and do the very thing we are afraid to do — reveal ourselves.
5. Fear of Being Judged
When we feel judged, it feels like we’re unliked. I struggled with judgment for much of my life. I worried people judged me for my past, my education, my looks, and anything else you can imagine.
People who are afraid of judgment often hide who they really are to avoid being embarrassed or feeling foolish. Fear of being judged can lead people down an ugly rabbit hole, wondering what others think of them. It can also lead to unhealthy perfectionism in order to prevent judgment. But, no matter how hard you try to be perfect, there are people who may still judge you. The key is believing in yourself and understanding your own worth irrespective of what anyone else might think or say about you.
6. Fear of Success
We want to be successful in our love lives; we want to be successful at work; we want to be successful parents — the list goes on and on. Success feels good. The trouble is, whose idea of success are we trying to fulfill? Is it our parents’ idea of success? Our partner’s? Having a fear of success means we know we have what it takes to reach our goals, which is a beautiful thing.
But you’re not doing it. You’re living in a fantasy future. You’re obsessed with results, just like I have been. We can see our future, but our dream is so big that it’s actually holding us back from getting started. So, we self-sabotage, give up on our dream, and forget about forward movement.
And we secretly fear that if we do become successful, we won’t be able to keep it up. We think we’ll be that one-hit wonder who never is successful again. This is why one of the most telling signs of a fear of success is a lack of responsibility towards one’s dreams. We can be responsible to others but not to ourselves when it comes to something we’re doing just for us.
7. Fear of the Unknown: Xenophobia
“Xenophobia” comes from the Greek word “xenos” (foreigner or stranger.) It’s often used to describe a racist or bigoted attitude, as in, “Archie Bucker is a xenophobe.” However, few people realize that the term also has a larger context that applies to any time you step outside of your comfort zone. If you have an intense fear of new experiences and situations, you may suffer from xenophobia, though today, it’s more likely to be classified as fear of the unknown.
And we all have it. I haven’t met a person who doesn’t have some measure of anxiety or concern about the unknown. Why do you think so many people try to control their environments and their outcomes?
Yet, fear of the unknown must be faced in order to live a life lived on purpose, with purpose, because being comfortable in the unknown is required to experience true personal and spiritual freedom.
8. Fear of Loneliness
Here’s the truth: Everyone gets lonely. It’s a fact of life. Fear of loneliness can really begin to obstruct our lives when we start making decisions based on that loneliness. I’m talking about getting involved in relationships with people who don’t share our values and probably don’t treat us very well. Ask yourself — do you feel extremely needy around others? Do you feel society has rejected you? Do you make long-term decisions based upon getting acceptance from others? Is social media standing in for real human connections in your life? If so, a fear of loneliness could be hindering your well-being.
9. Fear of Rejection
Fear of rejection involves being hyper-conscious of what people think about you, leading you to adapt your personality and opinions to fit the environment or social group you believe you’re interacting with. Someone living with a fear of rejection will be easily intimidated and uncomfortable being vulnerable with others for fear of being laughed at and ridiculed. Yet, most of the thoughts and beliefs causing the fear of rejection are based on illusions or unhealed past experiences that must be confronted in order to discern what’s truth versus a story we’re making up about a particular situation.
Someone turns away while you’re talking to them at a party. If you have a fear of rejection, you may interpret that as a rejection. But that person may be turning away based on their own uncomfortableness, or they may be lost in their own thoughts. Their act of turning away may have nothing to do with you personally but your fear of rejection stops you from speaking up and asking questions. Because fear of rejection has a tendency to halt a free flow of communication; it stifles even the most wanted relationship. It’s why fear of rejection can seriously hold you back in your career and with your friendships and romantic relationships.
10. Fear of Not Being Good Enough
This is a big one. I think of this fear as the one that all others lean on because it’s so pervasive and infects our whole lives. And it’s the one fear most people will cop to.
Have you ever wondered if you’re good enough? It could be you’re not pretty enough, young enough, strong enough, smart enough, and the list goes on and on. Everyone has an area of their lives where they feel like they’re not enough. I certainly do. And it’s easy to blame ourselves for whatever it is we feel like we’re missing.
The thing is, I actually believe the fear of not being good enough is one of our most common fears. And it can become our excuse and our validation of why we aren’t living our best lives.
It’s also the answer I get more frequently when I’m working one-on-one with a client as they are discovering their personalized Wheel of Fear. When we talk about fears, most people say some version of “I’m not good enough.” My answer to them is always the same. Fear of not being good enough is the generic version of your fear. But your fear is specific and particular to you. And that’s when their eyes get wide, our work gets deep and we discover their unique Wheel of Fear and Wheel of Freedom.
How To Overcome Your Fears
Fears are not constant, but no matter what type of fear you suffer from, there are techniques, strategies, and mindsets that can help you overcome your fears.
The good news is that most of the time, our fears haven’t developed into phobias. However, almost everyone has one of the emotional fears above, even if it’s to a mild degree. And, it still takes a lot of work not to let those fears run your life.
The good news is you don’t have to live with fear forever. But you do have to take the first step and that’s deciding you want to do something about it.
Have Compassion For Yourself and Others
Compassion is one of our highest values at Fearless Living, and we know it’s harder to give compassion to yourself than any other person. Yet, to move beyond fear, you must have compassion for yourself first. Yes, you need to be honest with yourself about the work in front of you. But without a compassionate lens, that honesty just feels mean. When you add in compassion, you’re able to be honest with yourself without judgment and be willing to hold yourself accountable for your own progress.
Everyone is on their own journey, which is why compassion is so important to the process. Forgive yourself for being a flawed human. It’s not your fault that these fears drive your life — you probably just didn’t know how to kick them out of the car. So be kind in your self-talk. When you feel yourself getting down on yourself for not making the progress you want to make, take a deep breath and say, “I am enough.”
Be compassionate to others as well. This will go a long way in helping you connect and communicate with, even if you think they’re judging you. This, in turn, will help you move beyond limiting fears like fear of judgment, loneliness, rejection, or forgiveness.
Another word to use to help you give yourself a big dose of compassion is gentle. It’s a word that makes most of my students throw up at first because gentle can feel like I’m asking you to be weak. But being gentle is anything but weak. In fact, it takes a heartful human being with a ton of grit to be gentle with themselves.
Working through your fears is draining. It challenges you to resist all of your core patterns and trust that you can find new ones. This emotional labor can burn you out if you aren’t careful. And if you get too tired, too frustrated, too impatient with your progress, you’re actually more vulnerable to your fears.
So take care of yourself. Eat when you’re hungry, take deep breaths or a walk when you’re angry, sleep when you’re tired, and talk to friends when you’re lonely. You need to take care of yourself — always. And this is the foundation for any other work with fear.
Learn To Identify Your Emotions, React Smarter, and Recover Your Core Self
Just like no one used to have a word for the color blue, many people only have a few words to describe their emotions, like the characters of “Inside Out”: Sadness, Anger, Joy, and Disgust are the only ones seen making emotional decisions.
Actually, we have hundreds of nuanced emotions — like dismay, longing, restlessness, and contentment. We just lack the vocabulary to describe them. But once we expand that vocabulary, practice using those words to identify our emotions, we start to see what’s driving those emotions and learn to regulate them. In fact, neuroscience has now identified your ability to name and claim all those nuanced emotions as the one of the keys to emotional health and self-mastery.
For instance, when I pause to identify my anxiety, I can see I’m feeling anxious that I won’t finish my work by 5 pm. If I pause for longer, I know it’s coming from my Wheel of Fear (my core fear is I’m afraid to be seen as a loser) and that fear’s not rooted in reality. No one is about to fire me or yell at me for not working hard enough. Then, I can choose not to continue working frantically. I can take a break and slow down.
That’s emotional mastery. That’s freedom.
During the Wheel of Fear process I teach in Fearless Living, I help you discover your core fear that drives you. That way, it can’t trick you any longer. Then, we focus on the parts that you’ve left behind while letting your fears drive — grace, playfulness, authenticity, etc. We’ve often jeopardized our most precious attributes in service of our fears. For example, maybe a fear of being judged made you take yourself too seriously, so you lost your playfulness.
Leaning on those will help you move ahead.
Rewire Your Neurobiology
It can be easy to get attached to your fears. They’ve been with you for a long time, and while you don’t like them, you feel comfortable with them. Fear exists to keep you alive, and emotional fears are built from learning to survive a past situation. And with this mentality, you always have the ability to not face your fears.
The only way to change this is to change your perspective and understand that you are most likely no longer threatened by the things, situations, abandonment, loss of control. If you’re not sure this is true, have an honest talk with yourself. If your partner leaves, will you be able to take care of your own needs and find other emotional connections? The answer is likely yes.
Unless you see your fears plainly and recognize they are built on our life stories, not objective truth, and that you are capable, accepted, loved, and skilled, it’s very difficult to overcome them and stop being a victim.
If you’re working with a therapist, they may assign you types of exposure therapies for handling phobias. In exposure therapy, you intentionally experience your phobia head-on. Well, we do a version of the same thing in coaching. We may not have you handle snakes — that’s a phobia that’s beyond our skill set, but we do have you practice. And practice is one of the common ways we “expose” you to growth.
For instance, if you have a fear of public speaking or being judged while speaking, you would try reading something aloud to a trusted family member. Once that began to feel comfortable, you’d add another trusted audience member and so-forth. And soon, who knows, you could be starting your own YouTube channel.
Note: If you have an anxiety or panic disorder, don’t attempt this on your own. You should seek out a health professional or a life coach who can guide you in your exposure therapy treatment. I also advise seeking the support of friends and family as it feels helpful during the process.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
A good life coach can help you identify and learn from your fears. They will guide you in your journey, giving you the tools and resources you need to finally face fear instead of allowing it to control your life. A coach will help you leave your limiting beliefs behind, freeing you from fear and empowering you to become your best self.
Get started with my Fearless Living Training Program, which helps people just like you overcome the hidden fears that rule our lives. Fear is keeping you from realizing your wild, fantastic, and out of this world dreams. It’s time to be brutally honest with yourself. What types of fear are guiding your decisions? What core negative feelings are holding your back? We’ll figure that out and get you on your way to overcoming fear.
Get Started With Fearless Living
Do you procrastinate? Not trust your decisions? Worry about the future? Fear failure? Remember: Fear wears many coats and could be sneakily disguised as negative thoughts feeling you’re undeserving, insecurity about your future, or lack of motivation. Fear is holding you back — and it’s dominating more of your life than you may realize.
It’s time to overcome your fear and break free from the hidden patterns that are holding you back. My 10-week Fearless Living program is based on decades of learning how to crack the secret code to fear. It will help you base your life on what you want, instead of avoiding what you’re afraid of. Stop the invisible patterns that are holding you back! Escape your inner critic! And shoot for the stars!
Every human being you have ever known has experienced fear more times than they can count. It’s our most PRIMAL survival mechanism. But what causes fear? And how do we respond to it? Is your first instinct fight or flight?
Fear is an evolutionary response to danger. If we weren’t afraid of getting injured, we wouldn’t jump out of the way of a train bearing down on us. Simply put, without fear, we would never have evolved, and none of us would be here to ask these questions.
While what causes fear has helped us survive, what happens when the circumstances that shaped them no longer exist? Yet the fear remains? To put it, we don’t need to fear starving if we live near a grocery store and have money. But once that fear response is instinctive, you’ll start becoming afraid every time you open your last gallon of milk. (Don’t worry — we’ll work on this later!)
And fears — both emotional and physical — hold us back. For me, this limiting fear was a fear of forgiving myself. It ran my life for 20 years.
Years after I lost my mother and father in a matter of seconds, I was terrified of forgiving myself. How could I when I blamed myself — couldn’t I have intervened and kept them alive? That fear of forgiveness defined me. I thought the guilt I felt reflected who I truly was — that I was a bad person. It controlled my actions, how I saw myself, how I interacted with others, and what I thought was possible — I became an alcoholic, got three DUIs, and even attempted to end my life three times. But after years of struggling with it, I got the courage to move forward.
I realized that my guilt and fear of forgiving myself was not going to bring back my mother, punish my father, or make me any better. Instead, I started remembering compliments I received, positive affirmations about myself, and I wrote them down. This was just the beginning.
In this post, I’m going to discuss what causes fear, what happens when we encounter fear, and the strategies we can use to overcome it. We’ll start with the science behind what causes fear, but you can skip to the good stuff if that’s not your thing.
Fear Is Natural, But Too Much Is Limiting
Feeling fear is natural, and it keeps us alive. If you’re afraid of bears, your body will give you cortisol that helps you run away faster and for longer than if you weren’t afraid. But the problem is if the bear isn’t only imaginary, but it also comes home with you. That keeps you drained, doubting, and unable to really enjoy life!
Maybe you’re afraid of being rejected in social situations because you felt isolated as a child. That fear once heightened your awareness so you could be more aware of others’ behaviors, choose your words carefully, etc. Great! But maybe now that you’ve grown up and learned how to smile and make small talk, a room of faces actually lights up when you walk in. Your fear no longer helps you. In fact, it drains your energy.
There are so many variations of this — I’ve worked with many clients who are haunted by a fear of failure, a fear of not being good enough, a fear of death — you name it! But when you’ve outgrown the situation those fears come from, they can keep you from applying for that job, having a healthy relationship, and, most importantly, trusting and having faith in yourself.
Often what causes fear — experiencing a simple failure like asking someone out on a date or asking a question at a meeting — doesn’t have to jumpstart our fight-or-flight response. Yet when we’re plagued by fear, small things can send us spiraling.
The Science Behind What Causes Fear
Okay, fair warning: I’m going to get into some science here. If your eyes glaze over at the thought of learning about the amygdala or hypothalamus, just jump ahead. (I won’t tell!)
Our biological drive to survive is what causes fear. When human beings are confronted by stressful or potentially dangerous situations, our eyes and ears send the information to the amygdala, the area of our brain that helps us process emotions. If the amygdala perceives danger within this information, it immediately sends a distress call to the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus acts as our command center. It’s the area of the brain that communicates with the rest of our body via our autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary, automatic bodily functions such as our breathing and heartbeat. The system has two mechanisms: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The former triggers the fight-or-flight response in our bodies, whereas the latter calms our body down after the perceived threat has passed.
If you find all that jargon interesting, you can read more about the science behind what causes fear from Harvard Medical School.
What causes fear and how deeply we experience it is different from person to person. Fear begins as rational. For example, a fear of heights makes sense — the higher up you are, the more likely a fall will kill you. But fear of heights is enough to make some people completely avoid any elevators, escalators, or even ladders.
Some of the most common fears are:
- Fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) or open spaces (agoraphobia)
- Fear of heights (acrophobia)
- Fear of public speaking (glossophobia)
- Fear of social situations (social phobia or social anxiety disorder)
- Emotional fears:
- Fear of failure (atychiphobia)
- Fear of change (metathesiophobia)
- Fear of not being good enough (atelophobia)
Some of these are physical fears, and some are emotional. And while the physical ones might seem more unusual, guess which ones are the most common? The emotional. These are ones that we carry with us everywhere, like a fear of not being good enough or a fear of change. If we let them, these fears can take control of our lives. These are the ones we really need to dig into. (Luckily, they’re also the ones we work through at Fearless Living. 😉 )
Fear Responses: Emotional Limitations
Emotional fears — rather than physical fears — are probably the ones that will eat you from the inside out like some nightmare hamster.
They’re not as simple as a fear of snakes or a fear of heights. They’re deeply rooted in how we feel, how we act, how we treat others, and how we treat ourselves. This means they affect us the most and they’re the most difficult to crack.
Emotional fears can affect every aspect of your life, just as they did mine. They’re sneaky and sinister. Emotional fears tell us we’re not good enough, that we can’t do it, and that failure is inevitable. They tell us not to bother and that there’s no point in trying.
Fear of failure, loss, change, intimacy, judgement, success, the unknown, loneliness, rejection, forgiveness, and not being good enough are all real, ingrained fears that can severely limit our quality of life.
Emotional fears can cause:
- A hesitation to start or try new things
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Staying in abusive relationships
- Trouble letting go
- Avoiding social situations
- Telling yourself you’re not good enough
- Telling yourself you can’t do it
- Telling yourself nobody likes you
- Putting yourself down in front of other people
- Ending a relationship before it’s even begun because “it could never work”
- Resorting to violence
- Alcohol and narcotics dependencies
I’ll say it again — these fears probably once kept us alive. But as we outgrow our circumstances, they work against us. For example, a fear of intimacy makes sense if you felt the caregivers who were supposed to love and attend to you were detached as floating glaciers. But once you’re an adult, the fear doesn’t apply — and it keeps you from experiencing the love, support, and connection that comes with a healthy relationship.
Note: If you want to learn more about this, I wrote in detail about the 10 different types of emotional fears people experience, including how to identify your fears and how to overcome them.
Fear Responses: Physical Symptoms
When we feel fear, stress hormones are triggered in our bodies through our nervous system. You’ve probably heard of the fight, freeze, or flight responses before and likely already understand how you respond to perceived threats and dangerous situations — the tingling in your limbs before you react, or feeling like it’s too dangerous to move. Do you stand and fight the threat, flee to safety, or remain frozen, hoping the discomfort just ends? Either way, our body is primed for action.
Again, this stress response is extremely helpful when confronted with genuinely dangerous situations. However, since many of us (hopefully!) no longer need to hunt, gather, and flee predators in the wild, our fight-or-flight response can hold us back in typical, day-to-day situations like giving a presentation at work.
People living with fear frequently have their fight, freeze, or flight responses triggered even when there’s nothing to actually be afraid of. This can lead to a range of responses, from anxiety disorders and panic attacks to biting your nails, berating yourself, and just worrying each night if you said and did the right thing during the day. To sum up, fear is an iron weight that can hold you down. And if those moments pop up all the time, they can wear on you.
Physical symptoms of fear can include:
- Dilated pupils
- Dry mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling or shaking
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Irregular heart rate
- Heart attack
Fear Responses: Psychological Symptoms
During moments of extreme fear, we can feel disconnected from our surroundings and out of control of our own bodies and minds. That detachment can feel as if you’re watching your life through fogged glass. And, we feel powerless to stop what’s happening or escape the overwhelming emotions.
Over time, the persistence of these feelings can lead to further feelings of helplessness and anxiety, leading to panic disorders, depression, and even addiction. Yeah, not a fun place to be in, to say the least.
Keep in mind that most people won’t find themselves in these particular valleys. Rather, you’ll more commonly experience everyday confusion, overwhelm, procrastination, doubt…darknesses we tend to accept as part of everyday life even if they don’t have to be.
But if you get to that place — and many people do — remember to ask for help. From a friend, from a mentor, from a therapist, from a random help article 😉 — just talk to someone. There’s a way out.
How To React To Fear in a Healthier Way
Now that’s A LOT about what causes fear…but what can you do about it?
Even though we all experience fear differently, fear is universal. You are not alone in how you feel. Actually, every single person feels fear. It affects more people than the common cold! And that’s because it’s a human experience. But, there are many ways to overcome even the worst of fears so they don’t prevent you from enjoying life..
After better understanding what causes fear in yourself, you can begin implementing strategies to manage it. Working to overcome fear takes time and consistency, but the more you work at it, the better you can meet your potential and truly enjoy life.
Don’t Let Negative Thoughts Decide Your Life
Negative thoughts are some of the most common ways fears show up. We might believe negative thoughts (“You can do better!” “Why aren’t you keeping your eye on the prize?” “You look like an idiot.”) are accurate portrayals of who we are or how we motivate ourselves to be better. But actually, this is just fear of failure, fear of not being good enough to receive love, fear we won’t be accepted unless we check so many boxes. But the fears aren’t true, and neither are the negative thoughts.
First comes the trigger. Then the anxiety. And then worrying about when the situation will end. Then doubting ourselves (“How could I be so weak as to still be affected by this??). Then recovery. Then worrying about when the next fear will come. Cheezus — it never stops! And here’s the other thing — all this might be happening without realizing the root of fear behind it. That’s why awareness is the most important step — more on this later.
I am no exception. I’ve been battling negative thoughts and crippling fear for years. But trust me — eventually, I stopped listening to my negative thoughts. And over time, they got softer and softer until they were gone! I remember when this happened — as I was talking to myself, the voice that would usually come in and say its negative whatever was gone. I looked around, and there was only silence.
However, this takes time. Until then, know that the cycle of experiencing negative thoughts and fears will continue. But your biggest ally is awareness — the second is action. When I see this is happening, I check in with myself. I have to remind myself that I am good enough. I am more than good enough. I am strong. I am capable. I am doing the best I can. And how I talk to myself matters.
You are much more than good enough, too. And you need to start telling yourself you are. We all have different negative feelings that justify our fear responses. It’s important for us to honor those feelings since all feelings are valid, but we can’t let these negativities lead us toward an unhealthy amount of fear.
Basically, you don’t want to suppress your fears — that just leads to pent up pressure that gets released in a San Francisco-style earthquake! No, you want to stop letting them sit in the driver’s seat. Recognize, but remember, your fear probably isn’t as rational as it once was.
This starts with identifying your fears. In Fearless Living, I help you discover your core fear. The one that truly drives you so that you can gain control and jump back in the driver’s seat of your life.
Have Self-Care and Self-Compassion
If we build a positive relationship with ourselves and give ourselves a break — especially if we’re often feeling that stress response and trying to rewire our brains — this journey will be more sustainable, more productive, and feel tons better.
One way to practice self-care (there are many) is to breathe deeply. Our breath is one of the best tools we have to control our physical and emotional responses when we experience fear. It put us in tune with our bodies and it gives our brain the oxygen it desperately needs.
Sure, we’re always breathing without thinking about it, but when was the last time you took a real big breath? I don’t mean a gasp. I’m talking about an intentional, deep, focused, long-lasting breath.
Now is the perfect time to try it. No more waiting. Take a few deep and focused breaths before reading further.
Practicing mindful breathing even when you aren’t scared. Make it a habit, so you’re more prepared whenever fear begins to set in. Simple breathing exercises, such as box breathing, will help clear your mind and focus your energy. Repeat these exercises on a daily basis and whenever you begin to feel fear creeping in.
Also, it’s easy to beat yourself up when you let yourself listen to fear. But doing so is only human. So forgive yourself — otherwise, you’re only damaging your self-esteem, which makes it harder to have the strength to do the work. And make what Fearless Living calls “acknowledgments.” Acknowledge your progress, and acknowledge yourself for your attempts that didn’t go the way you wanted. Maybe you spoke your mind at work, even though you’re usually too afraid no one will believe you. And maybe they didn’t like your opinion — acknowledge that you spoke up.
Asking for Help Is a Beautiful Step Forward
Asking for help is a beautiful step, and it’s one you will never regret taking.
You are not alone in how you feel. Many others felt the exact same fears you’re experiencing. Opening up about your fears will help you identify them so that fear no longer controls you.
Fearless Living helps you overcome the hidden fears that are holding you back. I’ve helped thousands of people just like you break free from the fears that drag us all down. I’m not talking about spiders here. I mean those deeply rooted fears, like a fear of forgiveness or a fear of not being good enough, that are holding you back and keeping you from being your best self.
Learn more about the 10-week Fearless Living Training Program that cracks the secret code to fear. I’ll help you overcome your fears so you can finally break free from the hidden patterns that are holding you back.
Have you ever feel lonely?
Do you find yourself isolating because it seems easier?
Is hugging, flirting, connecting, or confronting difficult for you?
Wish you could just get over it already? Whatever “it” is?
Me too. For decades.
The worry, doubt and guilt was killing me.
I thought if I just tried harder things would change. (They didn’t.)
I thought if the RIGHT person loved me I would feel loved. (Nope. That didn’t erase the lack of love I had for myself.)
I thought if I was more successful than I would definitely feel loved and accepted. (Actually being successful just brought up how empty I felt inside.)
I thought I was doing everything I was SUPPOSED TO DO…
I was reading books on opening my heart to love and going to therapy to discover why I never believed anyone REALLY loved me. (Thanks a lot Dad!)
Don’t get me wrong, those books and therapy were awesomely wonderful. I learned some great tools but deep down inside, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be loved or that I had any right to love myself.
Words like selfish. Worthless. Not good enough. Kept popping up in my brain. And I had plenty of proof that it was true! My screw-ups. My heartbreaks. My failures.
Then one day as I was reading another self-help book, these words leapt from the page: “When you get down to it, there’s only two emotions: Fear or Love.”
That’s when the penny dropped.
Fear or Love.
Yes. That’s it. FEAR!!!
I was afraid to be loved. What if they found out how damaged I really am? I was afraid to speak up. What if they don’t want to listen? I was afraid to be as successful as I dared dream. Who will like me then?
Everything. Always. Was about everyone else.
How will THEY feel if I don’t attend Christmas dinner? What if THEY leave me because we disagree? I don’t want to hurt THEIR feelings. THEY won’t like me if I don’t do what THEY want so I won’t make waves.
Always. Everyone else. And I thought I was doing it all in the name of love.
That whole time I thought I was being kind and considerate. I thought I was being thoughtful!
I had the right idea but was going about it all wrong because I didn’t understand how fear really worked.
And to be fair, once I admitted that maybe I did have fears it felt overwhelming to even think about because there was just so many! (That’s a lie by the way. You only have one Core Fear. More on that in a bit.)
Fear of getting hurt. Fear of being dumped. Fear of being ignored, rejected, disposed of. Fear of feeling vulnerable. Of looking stupid, and selfish, and secretly worried that I was not good enough anyway.
I felt stuck.
I desperately wanted to be more loving. But without a framework, I didn’t know HOW to love another without losing myself.
I yearned to be a better person. But without a system, I didn’t know HOW to say no and still feel connected and kind.
I was told to be like Mother Theresa so I devoted myself to being there for others. But without guidance, I didn’t know HOW to take care of myself when everyone else needed to be taken care of.
So I just kept doing what I did best.
Ignoring. Avoiding. Pretending.
ALL. THE. TIME.
Until the pain got so great.
The resentment so high.
The disconnection so evident.
THAT I COULD NOT DENY IT ANYMORE…
That moment was the moment I devoted myself to fear.
Understanding it. Learning how it worked. Mastering it.
Mastering fear has allowed me to…
Stay open hearted and say no. Give from the overflow so I never get depleted. Speak with kind words and stand for myself at the same time. Be successful without feeling so much guilt and shame about it.
And so much more…
IT FELT LIKE A MIRACLE.
That’s when I learned – without a shadow of a doubt – that there’s Only ONE Thing Standing Between You and More Love in Your Life, More Success, More Joy…
That One Thing is…. Fear!
I wasn’t the first one to have the penny drop.
If you read the great books or listen to any of the ancient or modern sages, you hear them all repeat one mantra, one declaration, over and over again: Fear or Love. That’s it. Fear or Love.
The problem was I couldn’t find any book or class or workshop on how to master fear that had a framework, a system. Instead, all I found was a bunch of cliches that were nice to repeat but not very helpful when facing a decision and I riddled with doubt.
I could find nothing that explained how fear worked for me in MY LIFE and I needed that. Without a personalized system I didn’t trust that if I did the work, it would give me results. Guaranteed.
Neuroscience is great but knowing fear is part of my neurobiology never stopped me from eating a donut. I needed real skills and real tools.
That’s why none of this fear stuff is your fault because the REAL PROBLEM is...No one ever tells you how to get beyond your Fears!
Because I was so desperate (by this time I had three failed suicide attempts), I was determined to figure this out.
It took me years but slowly, day by day, exercise by exercise, tool by tool… I was changing. And the fears that cut me off from love were no longer holding me back.
I no longer felt guilty when I said no. I could accept compliments. I was no longer afraid of speaking up or walking into a room full of strangers.
I found myself knowing exactly what to do when I had doubt. My fear of rejection and failure practically evaporated. I could see the lies of my negative thinking and instead, I embraced the powerful, empowering, loving, authentic me.
And here’s the big one: I wasn’t ashamed of my past anymore.
That’s a true miracle.
You know what mastering fear has given me? If I had to sum it all up in one word?
FREEDOM. I am truly free.
Free of the shame and blame and guilt. Free of the punishment and debt. Free of the abuse and betrayal. Free from it all.
The day I devoted myself to mastering fear EVERYTHING CHANGED.
By the way, you don’t have to get all buddy-buddy with fear. (Not yet anyway!)
But you do have to make a decision. You do have to decide to do something about your fear thing.
Here’s the good news: I’ve done it!
You don’t have to wait decades for relief. All I need is 10 weeks of your time.
Because when you see how YOUR insidious, sneaky fear really works, everything changes.
Once you have a system and the guidance from someone who’s been there you will no longer be held back by fear….
Imagine. You’ll be able to go anywhere, do anything, and meet anyone.
You’ll be FREE!
Then, I’ve got great news!
The course I created to save my own life is called the Fearless Living Training Program (FLTP). (I’m not into cute and clever names. Let’s just call it was it is. A training program.)
By the way if you’re looking for fluff, move on. This is not for you.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, this is not for you.
Don’t misunderstand me. You will have immediate changes but they won’t be fixes, they will much, much more than that.
When my life sucked, I tried all that quick fix stuff. It was nice, for a while. But soon enough, I had the same problems pop up and had no real solutions.
So yes, I’m not into temporary fixes. I needed a permanent solution. One that would work when the next crisis hit.
You’ve probably guessed that the Fearless Living Training Program is deep and it’s going to ask something from you.
You’re right about that. It will ask something from you. And so will I. (I rarely teach the FLTP live but I’m doing it starting October 4th.)
And yes, it will give you your life back. In fact, after ten weeks with my coaching and guidance you will get a BETTER LIFE BACK!
I love you. I believe in you. Now it’s time you take a risk and believe in yourself. I will be right by your side giving you the guidance you need to truly transform and transcend whatever fear is holding you back….but you have to pull the lever and say YES.
A funny thing happens when you’re confronting fears you’ve kept buried for so long – your entire life starts to change.
Even beliefs you were convinced were written in stone start to erode and crumble.
When Linda attended the Fearless Foundation Workshop she realized her core fear was of being INCOMPETENT.
Applying the tools and techniques she mastered during the workshop resulted in a raise, a better work schedule and a whole new outlook on her career.
Then, with her newfound confidence, she began questioning other feelings, beliefs and behaviors she had clung to for as long as she could remember.
She’d always figured they were just character flaws that she was born with….
But now that she felt so much better about herself – thanks to the Fearless Foundation Workshop – she started wondering if fear might not be at the bottom of those issues as well.
For several years she and her husband Joe had dreamed of owning a place of their own. But it always seemed just that – a nice dream, but out of reach financially.
But as she started asking whether her fear of being incompetent might not be holding her back there too, she realized money wasn’t really the big issue. It was the voices that kept whispering in her head….
You can’t handle all this responsibility…
You’re gonna let Joe down…
Home ownership is for grownups…
It didn’t help that Joe had his own fears around money and security. So between them, even the thought of buying their own home was out of the question.
Fortunately, one of the things she learned at the workshop was to challenge her beliefs by asking one simple question:
Are you making this up or is it a fact?
So she asked herself, “Is this a fact? Can I really not handle responsibility?”
She reviewed the evidence….
She was so good at taking on responsibility at work that her boss wanted to give her more.
She did a great job of taking responsibility for her and Joe’s finances.
And she’d always taken good care of herself.
So obviously, she wasn’t incompetent at all when it came to responsibility.
Not a fact she concluded.
What about letting Joe down if they made this move? She decided to simply ask him….
“Absolutely not,” Joe replied. “Whatever happens with this move, I know you would never let me down.”
And what about her not being a grownup? Was that a fact?
Fortunately, she was able to disprove that one just by reaching in her wallet and getting her driver’s license.
“It says right here I’m 42 years old,” she said out loud. “Definitely a grownup!”
Then Linda remembered what I’d told everyone at the workshop. “If you’re going to make things up about yourself, make it up good.”
So instead of letting her fear of being incompetent keep her on edge and keep her focusing on what she wasn’t doing well, she started keeping track of all the ways she was competent.
And before long, she and Joe had purchased a townhouse in a place they had long dreamed of living.
Once that happened, the dominos started to fall. And Linda was now ready to confront one of her most rigid beliefs: she never wanted kids.
She had always told herself that motherhood just wasn’t something she was interested in. It was fine for others, just not for her.
But now, looking more closely, she realized that this, too, grew out of her fear of INCOMPETENT.
Linda had always had a very difficult relationship with her mother. So Linda was convinced that if she had children of her own, her relationship with them would end up being the same as the one she had with her own mother. In other words, she took it as a fact that she’d be an awful (incompetent) mother.
Applying the same principles of Fearless Living, she soon realized that “fact” was also made up. And that if she didn’t let fear run her life, that deep down what she really wanted was a family.
She was pretty nervous though, about how Joe would react to this about face….
But when he heard her change of heart, he was ecstatic. He desperately wanted a family of his own as well.
And that’s what they decided to do….
So why have I told Linda’s story? Why do I want you to know about all the changes she was able to make in her life once she overcame her fear?
Well, it’s probably pretty obvious by now….
I want to convince you to attend the Fearless Foundation Workshop, and experience for yourself the transformation that comes when you can finally separate yourself from your fear.
And why do I want that…?
The truth is this:
It breaks my heart when people don’t trust the dreams that are trying to be realized through them – and don’t trust the decisions that will help them become the people they were born to be.
Linda’s is just one of countless stories about people I’ve worked with whose lives have become their own because they fulfilled their right to be fearless.
And now it’s time for you to live your own story of transformation.
Catch up on Linda’s story here:
Linda Part One
Linda Part Two
Linda Part Three
Linda Part Four
Linda sat on a bench in the locker room of the Pilates studio where she worked. She had just finished her last class of the day, and now she was furiously going through her notebook.
She wanted to review all the tools she had learned in the Fearless Foundation Workshop before going in to talk to her boss…
Then she wrote down her intention for the meeting:
- Get a regular work schedule
- Make more money
Then she took a deep breath and headed to her boss’ office.
“Hey, Terry,” Linda said as she sat down facing the desk. “Thanks for agreeing to meet with me.”
“No problem,” replied Terry with a smile. “And thanks for filling in for Marge the other day. It’s great knowing I can always count on you in a pinch.”
This was the exact thing that in the past would have made Linda cave in and forget about her request. But this time she used one of the proactive behaviors she had listed in her notebook.
She looked out the window for a second, then turned back and said, “Well, that’s what I’d like to talk to you about. I love helping people feel alive and healthy. And just like my clients, I need a regular schedule to be at my best. So would you be willing to support me by setting the same hours for me each week?”
Terry looked a bit taken aback at Linda’s request. “Well, we’re a small operation, as you know. So I need everyone to be flexible, because people get sick and things happen.”
Linda was prepared for this because of what she learned at the workshop about handling difficult people. So she stayed focused.
“Yes, I understand. I get how that would make things easier. But what works best for me is a set schedule. Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays would be my preference.”
In the past, Linda would have just kept talking to justify her request. But now she knew that was what her fear wanted her to do. So this time, she went quiet, allowing her boss to reply when she was ready.
“Well, it sounds like you’re not backing down. So fine – I’ll adjust your schedule. I guess I don’t have any choice.”
Linda ignored the not very subtle dig – she knew that was just her boss’s own fear trying to get her to back down.
She wasn’t sure if she should push her luck. But she had promised herself that she’d practice being fearless.
“That’s great – thanks. And there is one more thing.”
“Yes, Linda…?” Terry didn’t try to hide the irritation in her voice.
“I’d like to talk about compensation. On average, I teach 22 students per class. And a lot of times there’s a waiting list just to get in.
“I know you pay senior instructors per student rather than per hour. I’d like to be compensated in the same way.”
“Geez Linda, I just agreed to give you set hours. Now you want more money as well?
Getting no response from Linda, Terry went on. “You know memberships are down. This just isn’t a good time to be handing out raises.”
At the workshop, Linda had learned how to set boundaries with clarity and compassion by validating the other person first and then restating your request. It was time to practice…
“I understand your point,” Linda answered. “And based on the last four weeks of students coming into my class, I’m in the top tier of your instructors. I would like my compensation to be equal to the others.”
From that point on the conversation didn’t last much longer. Terry grumbled a bit but in the end, Linda got exactly what she wanted.
As she walked out of Terry’s office, Linda took two steps before breaking out into a huge smile. She’d won!
And that night, she took her husband out to celebrate – her treat.
Linda’s experience was not at all unusual for people attending the Fearless Foundation Workshop.
Participants are often astonished at how their lives change once they identify their core fear, understand how it has controlled so much of their lives, and then put the abundance of tools and principles they learn at the event into practice…
Oh, and as for Linda….
Once she found the courage to ask for what she wanted, she experienced a 180-degree shift. She no longer had to drag herself to work.
She loosened up her approach and began leading her classes in a fun, goofy way that was much closer to her real personality.
As a result, her classes grew even more, and her income along with it. And she had more time (and money) to devote to her husband and personal life.
But then something else happened – something completely unexpected that changed Linda’s life in ways she never imagined.
I’ll tell you all about it in my next post….
Read the other posts about Linda’s story here:
Linda Part One
Linda Part Two
Linda Part Three
Linda Part Four