Fear often holds us back in various aspects of life, from our professions and all the way to our family, romantic and friendship relationships. Yet, as the saying goes, “fortune favors the bold.”
I’ve always had a fear of heights, and it took me years to accept and face this fear.
Just three days ago, I encountered it once more. My family invited me to join them at Seattle’s Space Needle. Inspired by my daughter, who also struggles with acrophobia, I braved my fear. As my 8-year-old son suggested, I just had to refraine from looking down.
We humans are born with only two inherent fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. These instinctive fears trigger a natural reaction, often manifested in crying in babies when they hear unexpected, loud sounds.
As we grow, however, we start developing irrational fears, or phobias, targeted towards specific objects, situations, or activities. Be it arachnophobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), or glossophobia (fear of public speaking), these irrational fears can impede our personal and professional development.
Dr. Albert Ellis, the progenitor of Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT), expanded upon these emotional fear responses by identifying 12 irrational beliefs in the early 1950s.
Interestingly, despite these inborn fears, babies exhibit remarkable bravery. They explore their new, noisy world and learn to walk and talk within their first three years. This thought sparked a self-reflection: What daunting new skill have I learned in the past three years? Sure, I started piano lessons, but the stern teacher was quite intimidating. It seems children truly outshine us in courage.
As we grow older, we cultivate three fundamental fears: Fear of Death, Fear of Abandonment, and Fear of Failure. While fear of death can be valid when facing immediate danger, it’s primarily the fear of abandonment and failure that immobilizes us. These fears create a paralysis analysis, where we overthink our decisions instead of taking action.
During our 20s and 30s, driven by peer pressure and youthful adrenaline, we tend to take more risks. However, as we reach our 40s and 50s, the fear factor intensifies, largely because we have more at stake. Familial obligations and professional commitments can make us risk-averse, hindering our growth and evolution.
In our ever-volatile, uncertain, ambiguous, and rapidly changing world, resilience is critical. And we build this resilience by confronting our fears head-on, not evading them. As my fencing instructor in London once advised, “There is no defense without attack.”
So, how can we maintain resilience and a ‘fighting spirit’ until retirement, despite worries about our family?
The answer lies in reframing our mindset and altering limiting beliefs regarding familial vulnerabilities.
Consider your family as your ‘sword’ of protection when things get tough, rather than a hindrance. Difficult times often bring families closer together, promoting honesty and building resilience. Similarly, obstacles and limitations in a team can stimulate innovation and resourcefulness, provided the leaders acknowledge the challenges and trust the team’s capabilities.
Contrary to popular belief, healthy families and successful teams are not always cozy and warm. Instead, they offer support when confronting our deepest fears, encouraging us to step out of our comfort zone and fostering personal growth.
In my coaching practice, I’ve noticed that breakthroughs often occur when a coachee is ready to explore areas in their life and career that they’ve previously avoided due to fear. Acknowledging and naming these fears help make them manageable.
Ask yourself, are there areas in your life that you’re hesitant to explore due to fear of the unknown?
If you aim to lead a fulfilling life without regrets, consider the following tips:
- Intercept your fear instead of facing it head-on.
- Tame your fear using compassion and humor.
- Cultivate confidence by assisting others with their fears.
- Surround yourself with people who care about you but aren’t overly protective.
- Incubate your ideas and share them with people you trust.
The path to a life of fulfilment often lies on the other side of fear. So, dare to be bold, for fortune indeed favors the bold.
‘Dare to dream and make it happen.’ – Steliana van de Rijt-Economu
Steliana Economu is the author of Mothers as Leaders and a leadership coach specialised in emotional and positive intelligence. If you liked this article and want to enjoy more of this type of resources do follow us on mothersasleaders.com