Fear is perhaps the most debilitating of all human conditions. It is the one emotion that we live with day in and day out, and if allowed to go unchecked, it can quickly lead to us living smaller and smaller lives as we battle to feel safe and secure while going about our daily business.
But, what is fear really? Well, let’s be honest, it’s virtually manufactured delusion! You may have heard the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR) which, while a little trite, is actually rather accurate. You may find you're generalising and distorting things that have happened once, or that you've heard have happened to others, and have built a belief that the same thing is highly likely to happen again. Or, you might manufacture fantastically unrealistic scenarios in your mind, of the worst possible chain of events, and see one decision leading to the most unbearable outcome imaginable. As if, by setting off a chain reaction, you have no opportunity to correct course if things start to go a little awry.
For example, take the woman that chooses to stay in a relationship that makes her miserable, because she doesn’t think that any other man will want her, and doesn’t think she could manage the kids full time, and can’t imagine affording the bills by herself, and pictures herself and her children having to move in with her parents, and figuring that she'd never be able to get on the property ladder again, that her entire future would be ruined!
In reality, if that woman had taken a good hard look at her finances and outgoings, she would likely have found that there were ways to pay the bills herself. And, yes, it may have meant moving to a smaller house, but if she'd critically evaluated how happy her home makes her, versus how unhappy her relationship makes her, she may well have made a different decision. Alternatively, she might have found a way to increase her income, perhaps by finding a better job or creating an additional income stream on the side. In fact, by facing and overcoming such challenges, that woman might have developed incredible resilience, and grown into a far stronger person as a result. What’s more, the confidence that came, from having fought her way through, would likely have attracted those (including men), who were impressed by her strength of character and, in fact, she may well have gone on to say that, “feeling the fear, and doing it anyway”, was the best thing she ever did!
Whatever the situation, while a single decision can set off a chain of events, you can go on to make choices, every step of the way, to minimise any damage and continue to build a successful future; so, is doing nothing really an option? Often, it is, because so many live their lives in reaction, that they don't even realise how much fear is holding them prisoner.
So, what are the signs that you might be letting fear run your life?
1. You Spend Too Much Time In Other People’s Heads
A sure sign of fear, is spending a lot of time thinking about what is going through the minds of other people. Be it family members, associates, your boss, or even your partner, it’s not your job to be a mind-reader. If you ever hear yourself saying that “Such-and-such doesn’t like me”, “What’s-her-face is so arrogant”, “He never gives any thought to my feelings”, or anything else which implies that you are some kind of clairvoyant, then you might want to think again. Just because someone isn’t outwardly nice to you doesn’t mean that they don’t like you. It might mean that they’re intimidated by you, lack social skills, or just have other things on their mind. Likewise, someone who appears arrogant could be putting on a front of confidence, to cover up insecurities, and a man who tramples your feelings may simply be inept at deciphering your emotions (i.e. not psychic).
In fact, there are many hundreds (if not thousands) of reasons why people behave the way they do and, nine times out of ten, it will have more to do with what is going on in their lives (or has gone on in the past), than with you; even if they are, in fact, directing their behaviour at you. So, drop the narcissism – “It’s all about ME!” – and get out of their heads. If you have a problem with the way someone treats you, then let them know (in a calm, mature fashion) or let it go.
2. You Procrastinate A Lot
There are generally two possible causes of procrastination. The first, being that the pay-off for a task is too far off, when there are activities available that provide instant gratification (i.e. tidying your desk as opposed to getting on with a major project). And the second, that is pertinent here, is that you are afraid. Typically, fear will take over when the task at hand requires you to step outside of your comfort zone, for example making cold calls where you are likely to face a lot of rejection, attending events where you don’t know anyone and will need to engage in uncomfortable “small-talk”, or taking up a new hobby that you might not be very good at, and which could potentially end up exposing you as an amateur - DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNN!!! #dramaticsoundeffect
Actually, being not-so-perfect and learning to handle rejection, and other uncomfortable situations, is a great way to improve your fearlessness, so give procrastination the heave-ho and, as Brian Tracy would say, crack on and Eat That Frog (yup, the big, ugly one!)
3. You Can’t Say No (even when you want to)
If it’s so important to you to be nice, that you can’t bring yourself to say no to others’ requests, regardless of whether you are short on time, have other plans, or are overdue on your own priorities, then chances are you’re afraid to be branded as “Not Nice”. So, instead of letting other people down, you’re constantly letting yourself down, and living with the frustration of never getting to the things that are most important to you. So, why is it that being “nice” is more important to you than having the life you want? Well, if you go back to point number 1, you’ll see that it’s probably because you’re spending too much time in other people’s heads. Ask yourself, are you second guessing how people will react to you if you don’t succumb to their wishes, the way you always have in the past? Or perhaps you're imagining how terrible they’ll feel when you let them down. Actually, however they feel or react, it won’t be the end of the world, and you’ll be surprised just how quickly they get over it. More importantly, you’ll be amazed by how quickly you get over it, as you are flooded with relief from not having to take on yet another chore or unrealistic deadline.
So do it. Feel the fear and tell them “No” anyway. And, critically, you must stick to your guns. Don’t say no, then go ahead and deliver it. That will only undermine you, and you’ll find it even harder to say no in future.
Of course, these are just a few of the more common signs that fear is running your life. Do you recognise any (or all) of them in yourself? How else does fear manifest itself in your behaviour? And, what are you doing to overcome fear in your life?