Fear comes in all shapes and disguises: Spot yours and take back control

In today’s fast-paced and demanding society, most of us are so saturated with fear that it’s hard to recognise when the emotion has overwhelmed our lives. Fear in particular is sneaky- it hides behind multiple disguises.

The trick however, is to identify them, understand how they can influence your choices, and ultimately, take back control: 

DISGUISE #1 THE PROCRASTINATOR

Why do we procrastinate? It’s not because we’re lazy, or lack willpower, but because we have a difficulty with emotional regulation. Some tasks include big emotions such as anxiety and self-doubt and procrastination is a way of coping with them.

We are afraid that we will fail at the task, or that once it’s completed we will be open to criticism for it. We also struggle with the fear of not being good enough, so rather than face our fears head-on, we procrastinate to avoid them for as long as possible. 

What you fear: Fear of failure/ fear of not being good enough/ fear of being judged

How to overcome it: 

  • Shift your perceptions- change your inner voice from “I can’t” to “I can”
  • Be realistic and set goals
  • Lose the all-or-nothing mentality
  • Consciously lower your expectations
  • Avoid distractions- put your phone out of reach
  • Be kind to yourself

DISGUISE #2 THE EXCUSE MAKER

When we’re afraid, we avoid making the decisions that deep down we know we must make. Our intuition tells us it’s time to move on from that toxic relationship, quit that dead-end job or set boundaries with demanding friends. But we don’t because we fear what might happen if we do.

Uncertainty, self-doubt and fear are natural emotions when contemplating change, but for some, these feelings can stop them from getting started at all. 

What you fear: The fear of uncertainty

How to overcome it: 

  • Focus on controlling the things that you can control
  • Learn to better tolerate, even embrace, the inevitable uncertainty of life
  • Reduce your anxiety and stress levels by practising self-care
  • Don’t seek perfection
  • Don’t believe everything you think- thoughts are not always facts

DISGUISE #3 THE CONTROL FREAK

When we are afraid, we feel the need to micromanage everything. We convince ourselves we live in a hostile, callous world that’s out to get us unless we single-handedly grab the wheel with both hands.

Deep down, we are afraid of being vulnerable and believe we can only protect ourselves by staying in control of every aspect of our life, but this can lead to unhappiness and burn out. 

What you fear: The fear of getting hurt/ the fear of uncertainty

How to overcome it: 

  • Make a conscious effort to ask for help instead of taking all the burden
  • Start saying no to people and responsibilities 
  • Accept what’s out of your control
  • Embrace imperfection
  • Practice self-care to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Remind yourself not all change is bad

DISGUISE #4 THE PEOPLE-PLEASER

We all fear rejection, but those of us who are people-pleasers have likely had the experience of being rejected by our caregivers frequently enough that we’ve come to doubt the loyalty of the love we receive. We feel we must earn this love by behaving in both pleasing and helpful ways.

But when we start sacrificing ourselves for others, we risk not paying attention to our own needs, putting us at risk for emotional fatigue. 

What you fear: The fear of rejection/ the fear of loneliness/ the fear of getting hurt

How to overcome it:

  • Set boundaries
  • Practice self-compassion if feelings of guilt/shame arise
  • Consider whether you’re being manipulated
  • Don’t be afraid to say no
  • Practice mantras such as “it’s not my job to keep the peace”
  • Remember your needs are just as important as others

DISGUISE #5 THE SELF-DOUBTER

When we doubt ourselves it’s usually dominated by the fear of not being good enough. Those of us who self-doubt tend to feel insecure about our capabilities. We can sometimes find it difficult to put ourselves out there, worrying we might be judged, ultimately stopping us from embracing new opportunities.

Self-doubters tend to put forth a lot of effort to overcome a fear of not being good enough but this can be at the cost of their emotional and physical wellbeing.

What you fear: The fear of not being good enough/ the fear of being judged

How to overcome it: 

  • Try not to compare yourself to others
  • Stop overthinking the what-ifs
  • Practice self-compassion
  • Remember that you are your harshest critic so stop with the negative self-talk
  • Believe in yourself
  • Be willing to step outside your comfort zone

“There will always be fear; do it anyway. Let your courage inspire the world around you.”

-Steve Maraboli

Unfortunately it’s part of human nature and the world we live in that the idea of becoming fearless is simply not realistic. Rather, it’s about unmasking your fear, knowing why it exists, and practising ways to overcome it.

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