The Leadership Blog

How Fear Holds You Back

career goals fear growth leadership overcoming positive solutions problem solving professional growth Jul 29, 2023

Let’s be honest with each other for a few minutes.  Everyone is afraid of something and likely several things.  Fear is one of the most powerful forces on Earth.  It affects the decisions you make, the actions you take and the outcomes you achieve.  I’m not suggesting we should never be afraid but we need to recognize how fear can hold us back and learn how to fight through our fears, if we want greater success.

Helen Keller said, “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold."

Fear is big business these days.  Fear sells magazines, gets lots of social media response and gets ratings, but we don’t have to accept living in fear. A lot of people pretend that they’re not afraid and can’t see how it’s affecting their lives. Here are six signs from Psychology Today that fear is holding you back.

1. Fear sees only the downside.  Almost every decision has an up and downside.  We need to take the time to consider both and determine which one is better for us in that situation.  I get it, the negatives seem to be easier to come up with when you’re making a list.  However, the positives can lead to breakthroughs and innovation that has the power to change your situation for the better.

2. Fear doesn’t let you stop to think it through.  This is the hardest one sometimes for me.  Fear is often LOUDER and prevents you from being able to see any possible positive outcome.  I think the most common one that happens is if I try “THIS” I might lose my job.  The fear of losing our livelihoods is really extraordinarily powerful.  The flipside is it could also earn you the promotion.

3. Fear tells us to avoid anything new or unknown.  My husband and I have always had a fear of skydiving.  We don’t understand why anyone would voluntarily jump out of a perfectly good plane.  That’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about when it comes to our careers.  It seems to grab us by the neck anytime we stick our toe anywhere outside of our comfort zones.  Life may feel safe in our boxes but it’s holding us back from our destiny.  My mentor and friend New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell says “life begins at the end of our comfort zone.”

4. Fear constricts rather than expands who we are.  Fear makes us want to shrink and hide under the bed instead of forcing ourselves to grow into a better version of ourselves.

5. Fear obscures your intuition.  The best decision makers often share how they trust their gut instincts.  When we allow fear to consume us there’s no room for that still small voice of wisdom to be heard.

6. Fear often keeps us from making any decision at all. Do you have “decidophobia,” the fear of making decisions?  For some, fear can cause us to freeze and avoid any decision.  That’s not the most common thing to happen.  It’s more likely you just keep second guessing your decisions, thus preventing your greatest success.

Fear holds you back.  It prevents you from:

  • Trying new things
  • Taking on new challenges
  • Exposing yourself to new experiences

However, once you realize what you’re truly afraid of, weigh the options, focus on fact based and data driven decision making, you’re on your way to kicking that fear to the curb.  And when you do, I predict the best is yet to come for you my friend.