The core idea behind the common acronyms for fear is that the basis of fear is not real.
Not that we don’t sometimes have a real reason to experience a fear response, but that the reason behind the fear is more often imagined.
In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned against then President Herbert Hoover for the Presidency of the United States. Soon-to-be President Roosevelt said as little as possible about what he would do if elected and allowed the downward spiraling economy speak for itself.
On the heels of his election came the Great Depression. During his first inaugural speech, President Roosevelt said something that impacted generations to come.
“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . “
BUT that is only a few of the words from the actual quote which reads:
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
~President Franklin D. Roosevelt
March 4, 1933
In those final words of that sentence, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Roosevelt speaks volumes about the kind of fear that we should be afraid of.
There are specific physical obstacles that should generate a fear response. Being attacked by a bear, falling off a cliff or facing a gunman all SHOULD evoke fear. But, what we more often face are fears that are not based in reality.
Is It Real?
Truthfully, much of what we are afraid of never comes to pass.
Does this mean that fear is not real? And, if it isn’t, then 2ho wants to spend time, energy and money dealing with fears that are not real?
Fear is real. But, the thing you fear may not be.
The feeling of fear is powerful, real and sometimes debilitating. But, the thing you fear probably doesn’t exist. Left unchecked, fear can deflate your confidence and destroy your dreams.
The reality is that fear is a vital response to physical or emotional danger. If we don’t feel fear then we can’t protect ourselves from very real threats to our body and mind. Fear is designed to protect us from life-and-death situations. When you feel fear or threatened, your body releases a hormone called epinephrine, or the fight-or-flight hormone.
However, too often fear is triggered by situations that are significantly less dangerous. These situations may trigger an emotional response based on a past trauma or it may be triggered by an imagined potential response to a situation. It’s the last one that really creates problems in people’s lives.
This is not the same fear that floods our body with hormones when we watch thrillers and spooky movies. In this instance, many will seek out these experiences to feel the rush of fear from a haunted house or scary movie. Some psychologists believe it’s because our lives have become so routine that we enjoy a bit of excitement.
These movies activate the release of neurotransmitters like epinephrine, including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. They influence our brain to trigger the fight-or-flight response we described earlier. However, in this case because we also know that we’re safe, this state of arousal is interpreted by the brain as positive.
Conquering your fear of zombie land or jumping out of plane will also increase your self-confidence and feelings of competence and success.
Common Limiting Beliefs
Common limiting beliefs are usually triggered by one of the internal fears – a fear of a response to a particular situation – mentioned above. While they are not identical, they are close cousins.
These limiting beliefs restrain us. We don’t believe the good things about ourselves because we choose to believe the bad.
There is a quote from the movie “Pretty Woman” which speaks to this directly:
Edward: “I think you are a very bright, very special woman.”
Vivian: “The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?”
In one sentence Vivian sums up the vast expanse of psychological evaluations and treatment – the bad stuff is just easier to believe. . . .
Some of the more common beliefs that we hold which keep us from reaching our full potential are:
I am not good enough. I will get hurt.
I might fail. I’m too old.
I might get rejected.
These limiting beliefs are usually tied to some type of fear.
In the late Middle Ages, between the 15th and 17th centuries, a psychiatric disorder moved through Europe. It was called the “Glass Delusion” because people believed that they were made of glass and could shatter to pieces. The most famous of those afflicted was King Charles VI of France. He didn’t allow anyone to touch him and even wore reinforced clothing for protection.
Today, it seems weird for people to believe this about their physical body. And yet, we have no problem believing that if we face our fear we could mentally and emotionally shatter, just as if we were made of glass.
Fear of Failure
Before we move into how to reduce or eliminate those limiting beliefs in your life, let’s take a little deeper look at the fear of failure.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, said “It is fine to celebrate success, but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Because, while success brings with it feelings of joy, accomplishment and excitement, we achieve that success so much faster when we learn lessons from the things we fail to achieve.
And that’s when we feel fear.
Fear is a vague and scary word that can have different meanings for different people. But, underneath it all, most of us have a fear of failing.
How many times have you put off something because you weren’t sure how it would turn out?
Do you avoid trying new things in front of people?
How many times have you put off something that you know is good for you without having a good reason?
Did you answer yes to even one of these questions? Then you have operated from a fear of failure in the past. This doesn’t mean that you are controlled by fear of failing, but that somewhere, niggling in the back of your mind, is this very human idea that you could fail at what you think you might like to try.
Most of the time we aren’t afraid at failing at something we have months or years of practice doing. We usually have a fear of failing doing something for the first time.
It is like we expect ourselves to pick up a basketball and play as well as any NBA player just because we’ve watched basketball for 10 years on television. You can’t expect to do something well the first time; and yet, that’s exactly what we expect!
Interestingly, this is the concept that’s been drummed into our brains since we were in elementary school. You got it right the first time or got an “F” on your report card.
In the business world there is an expression – “Fail fast and often” – which means it’s important to fail fast, learn from those mistakes, get up and do it again – BETTER. But by the time we graduate from high school, we’ve learned that you get it right the first time or you have FAILED.
In other words, our school systems gradually teach all of us the undercurrent of fear of failure that runs through our lives.
Does this mean that because this fear has been ingrained for near 12 years we are hopeless? Of course not! If you look around at people who successful in relationships, business, finance and entrepreneurs you’ll notice that at some point they “unlearned” this learned behavior.
Psychologically, there is an emotional toll when you try something new and it doesn’t work out. But that has more to do with our own personal fear than any measurable loss. Something that doesn’t end up working out the way you planned is just a step in the process of success.
Innumerable successful people have that same understanding of fear. The loss we experience when something is not a success is only measured in how much we learn.
But, instead, we often measure it in ways that are more personal. “If I try and don’t succeed, then everyone will think I’m ________”
Fill in that blank with your own personal fear. Do you think people will believe you are stupid, unworthy, unable, weak, poorly prepared or shouldn’t have tried in the first place. Is there something else you would put in that blank?
Will the fear go away? Probably not. BUT, you will learn to discount the fear that stems from unrealistic expectations.
It is important to remember that courage is the act of doing something IN SPITE of fear and not in the absence of fear.
There are specific strategies you can use to reduce the fear you experience and live with each day. Whether you think there is fear in your life or not, these strategies can make the difference between experiencing success or failure.
Stay tuned . . . part two will be released Thursday!