Humans are complicated. We have physical fears, like being afraid of fire ants or going bungee jumping. We may over exaggerate these fears, but they’re based on a semilogical understanding of risks.
But there are also our emotional fears; this is where logic leaves the party. Emotional fears are usually based on subconscious beliefs created by past experiences that have absolutely no bearing on our present circumstances.
It’s our emotional fears that hold us back from accomplishing things, and enjoying life to the fullest.
Here are three common self-limiting fears, and suggestions for overcoming them:
Fear No. 1: There isn’t enough.
Fear of scarcity is common in people who grew up in big families, or whose parents were stingy with food or affection. Whether it’s time, money, opportunity or love, the belief that there isn’t enough will keep you trapped in the shadow of the green-eyed monster.
Better living strategy: It’s hard to be happy when another person gets something you want for yourself, but there’s an emotional and physical cost to jealousy.
It has been scientifically proven that the simple act of being kind boosts your immune system. Let the spirit of generosity be your guide. Praise someone publicly, help a friend in a pinch or send a congratulatory note to someone who got promoted — it will come back to you immediately in good feelings and eventually in good karma.
Fear No. 2: They won’t like me anymore.
We all have our own mental templates for what we believe is “likeable” behavior. For example, perhaps you were raised believing that it’s “not nice” to brag or bring attention to yourself. The old mental model can stifle you. The behavior that you’ve deemed unlikeable may be the very behavior you need to embrace. Grandiose bragging may be boring, but being proactive about describing your wins is essential to professional success. It also makes you happy. Success is in the nuance.
Better living strategy: Next time you’re afraid to go for it, ask yourself: What’s the worst-case scenario here? Do people really judge my behavior as harshly as I think they do? And what if they don’t like the real me? Will I keel over and die, or can I move on? The range of likeable behaviors isn’t as narrow as we think it is. Plus, most people are so wrapped up in their own insecurities that they aren’t spending a whole lot of time judging you.
Fear No. 3: I’ll be found out.
We all secretly believe that we’re just faking it in the grown-up world, and one day, people will realize that we’re an imposter.
I know many seemingly confident executives who look around the boardroom table wondering why or how they ended up in charge. I’ve written four books, and I still wonder when I’ll start believing I’m a “real” writer. Your inner five-year-old may fuel your creativity, but she or he needs to share your brain space with the grown you, who has skills and experiences.
Better living strategy: Next time somebody sends a compliment your way, document the evidence. Write it down, save the email, engrave it on your head if you have to — so that you can go back to it when you summon some confidence. I created a “Go Girl” folder on my desktop, to read whenever I need a boost.
Your fears and insecurity don’t exist outside of your own head. Banishing them from your brain isn’t easy, but it leaves space for something more fun and productive.
Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of several books, including “Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud.”