Fear is undoubtedly a powerful instinct that can be difficult to override.
In plenty of instances, it’s our friend. After all, it’s designed to keep you safe and sound.
The flip side of that is in the process it can hold us back from living our lives to the fullest.
When fear is in the driving seat, it will limit your potential, stop you from taking necessary risks, and hinder your personal growth.
If you find yourself recognizing plenty of the following signs, fear is most likely dictating your life.
1) You tend to fixate on what could go wrong
Don’t get me wrong, it’s smart to consider all angles.
When we decide on something significant, we should consider the potential pitfalls and downfalls.
We’ve all heard the saying that only fools rush in.
Pausing to ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” can help to prepare you.
But if that’s all you can see, then fear is taking over.
Your mind instantly jumps to the worst-case scenario and lingers there. So much so that you aren’t looking at what you stand to gain.
When you focus on the negatives of any situation, you will quickly lose all motivation.
The risk is then blown totally out of proportion, so you are less likely to make any changes.
Not only that but even if you do, your fixation on the negative makes success less likely.
It’s an unfortunate truth that when we expect bad things to happen, we inadvertently create them. Because a negative mindset ultimately impacts our behavior as well as our thoughts.
2) You get confused between fear and your gut reactions
It can be tricky to tell the difference between the two.
Something within instantly screams at you “No way!”
So you decide that it’s your instincts telling you it’s a bad idea. But unfortunately fear can masquerade as intuition.
Especially as the quiet voice of instinct is easily drowned out by the overwhelm of fear.
I remember once I was offered the chance to try out for a TV role presenting.
Straight away a voice popped into my head justifying all the reasons why it’s a bad idea.
I told myself that I’d never really wanted to be on TV. It’s not for me, I very quickly concluded.
But eventually, I forced myself to go ahead with the screen test, and here’s why:
I realized that at least part of my hesitation was the nerves.
Here lies the problem with our initial reactions to certain things.
So how can we tell fear and intuition apart?
Well, one is a calm and quiet knowing, while the other brings discomfort.
If it’s intuition:
- It’s unemotional and neutral
- It feels light
- It focuses on the now (not the future or past)
- It’s based on something instinctive that you can’t always explain
- It’s clear and feels like a confirmation of something you already know
If it’s fear:
- It’s emotionally charged (making you feel anxious, sad, physically unwell, etc.)
- It feels heavy
- It tells negative stories and makes negative judgments
- It’s more concerned about the past and future than the present
- It feels confused, uncertain, and scattered
3) You are constantly worried about something or other
All worry is worthless. I know it doesn’t always feel like that, but it is.
The fact is that if you can do something about an issue, then there is no need to worry. But equally, if you can’t, then worry will make zero difference anyway.
Of course, that’s the logical theory. But I also realize that putting it into practice isn’t easy.
Worry exists outside of the problem itself. That’s why most big worriers will always find something to stress about.
I know this all too well. My mom is a huge worrier and always has been.
Not long ago when we spoke on the phone I asked how she was.
She quickly began to explain how she hadn’t slept a wink for several nights. Life was a total nightmare at the moment and she’s been super stressed out.
The cause of all this strain?
Her current phone had reacted the limit on its data storage.
That’s it. That was the extent of the problem in a life many people would consider a very charmed one.
But to her mind, that worry was 100% real.
When fear takes control of your life it turns into hypervigilance that often manifests as constant worry.
It makes no difference whether it’s something worth worrying about or not. This worry consumes your thoughts and prevents you from fully enjoying the present moment.
Your brain is always searching for a potential threat.
4) You’re scared about making the wrong decision, so you put it off
What people don’t often understand about procrastination is that it’s got nothing to do with being lazy, and everything to do with your emotions.
For years I lived a life I wasn’t happy living because I wasn’t sure what else to do.
I was in a job I didn’t enjoy and in so many ways I’d reached my potential where I was. But the thought of ‘now what?’ kept me frozen.
So unsure of the next best move, I did absolutely nothing instead. I guess I was waiting for clarity to magically hit me. Of course, it never did.
But I wasn’t acknowledging to myself that making no decision is a decision in itself.
The thing about clarity is that we find it through taking action. Trial and error is an unavoidable part of many life paths we take.
Any lack of confidence in your decision-making usually comes back to fear. Because fear leads to doubt, causing you to second-guess yourself and become indecisive.
Instead of trusting your instincts and taking risks, you avoid making choices altogether.
Or perhaps you’re always seeking outside approval and trying to get everyone else’s opinion on how to live your life.
That’s a sign that you don’t really trust yourself, which brings me on to our next point…
5) You constantly question yourself and your abilities
Living under a cloud of fear eventually impacts our self-esteem and confidence. So you begin to doubt your capabilities at every turn.
This then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle where your lack of confidence prevents you from pursuing your goals and dreams.
As much as you want to go after them, you always question whether you are capable of achieving them.
A classic example of this that many of us experience is imposter syndrome.
It’s so common that estimates suggest as many as 70% of us have the secret worry we’re not good enough and will be found out.
This can play into a limiting mindset, where you feel like certain things are impossible or out of reach.
Before you know it, you’re settling. Even when it leaves you feeling discontented and frustrated.
6) You accept less than what you want because you think that is the best you can get
If you’re totally honest, it’s also far less than you deserve. But you hold onto it anyway, in case there is nothing better out there for you.
We can all fall into this from time to time.
Have you ever stayed in a dead-end relationship because you were worried you wouldn’t meet anyone else?
It’s not love that makes us want to stay, we’re just scared it’s the best we can do.
Settling is a very common side effect of fear calling the shots.
Life can feel like one big game of blackjack. It’s hard to know whether to stick or twist.
But fear prompts us to stick because we’re too afraid to go for broke and end up losing it all.
7) You can’t remember the last time you took a chance on something
Life has felt the same for a long time. One day seamlessly rolls into the next, and years go by in the blink of an eye.
Your routine feels pretty humdrum and deep down you crave more. But you seem to stay stuck exactly where you are.
The problem with fear is that it tends to limit our personal growth and exploration. So your potential becomes stunted.
Fear keeps you within the boundaries of what is familiar and comfortable, hindering your ability to expand your horizons and embrace new experiences.
You become risk-averse and resistant to stepping outside of your comfort zone.
For example, you’re hesitant to try out any new activities or you avoid putting yourself in new social situations because it feels awkward.
If you find yourself consistently avoiding challenges or opportunities, fear is likely to be the underlying factor.
Over time, this can lead to stagnation and an unfulfilled life.
Fear isn’t going anywhere, but we can learn how to deal with it
I won’t bullshit you, becoming fearless isn’t really an option.
But neither should we want it to be either, because a so-called fearless person could also be seen as a reckless one.
Yet we do need to balance this innate desire for safety with the undeniable growth that comes from facing our fears and moving past them.
We can start to release the grip fear has in certain areas of our lives by identifying and understanding the ways it is holding us back.
That allows us to actively challenge harmful thoughts and consciously take small action steps that push us in the right direction.
There’s not getting around it:
Facing our fears is the only way we become braver.
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