Are These 3 Fears Holding You Back?
I stood there, frozen in my tracks, for what seemed like an eternity. All I could do was stare at her. Hundreds of people sat in silence in the darkened gym, waiting for me to say something. The problem was that I had no words.
The year was 1990, and I was 16 years old. I was the lead in our high school production of Neil Simon’s Fools. Everything had gone well during the weeks of rehearsals. I had never memorized so much dialogue, but our drama teacher had faith that I could pull it off.
In one of the performance nights, we came to a scene in the middle of the play where I had a lot of dialogue with my love interest. She said one of her lines and my mind went completely blank. I stood there for probably only 10-15 seconds, but it felt much longer. Finally, my co-star saved the day when she improvised, “Kiss me, Leon!” and whispered the next line in my ear.
It’s been nearly 25 years since that happened, but it’s ingrained in my mind because of the incredible fear I experienced in that moment. I was so taken aback by that experience that I never tried out for a lead role again.
Unfortunately, we don’t leave fear behind once we graduate from high school. It’s a constant companion for anyone doing creative work. But learning to recognize our fear is half the battle.
There are three specific types of fear that can hold you back and keep you from rising to your potential:
1. Fear of the past
We are afraid to repeat the mistakes of the past. Perhaps we tried something and it failed. Or maybe we were criticized for our work and can’t bear the thought of going through that again.
When you fear the past, you tend to avoid any risks or changes that might cause the same negative consequences to occur.
A couple of years ago my family asked if we could get a dog. After much discussion, we decided to adopt an Australian shepherd named Madison. She had been abused by her former owner (a man) and was terribly skittish. It took her several months to feel comfortable around me. Even now, she still gets scared by loud noises and anyone who raises their voice.
Sometimes you and I are like Madison. We let our negative experiences from the past keep us from completely enjoying the life happening right in front of us.
2. Fear of the present
Sometimes we are afraid to make necessary changes and move forward because it will mean the loss of something. All change brings loss of some kind. But the whole reason for change is that it will bring a positive benefit that outweighs the negative loss.
This is the reason so many people stay in jobs, situations or relationships that are not good for them. They would rather stick with the misery they know than risk the changes they don’t know (but could bring positive results).
We are creatures of habit, and the loss of the familiar is a powerful motivation for avoiding change.
This is true for any type of change. It explains why so many people fail at getting healthier, or stopping any negative habit. They are afraid of losing the pleasure that comes from eating unhealthy food or indulging in any kind of activity that brings immediate gratification but has harmful long-term effects. (I can relate to this struggle!)
3. Fear of the future
Sometimes we are worried about the future and what it holds for us. We might lose a job, a relationship, or something else that’s important to us. The future is unknown, and we tend to stick with habits and attitudes that will help us avoid the risk of loss. So we play it safe and don’t make necessary changes.
But here’s the thing about the future: the future is not determined. It’s created. So many of us live as if we assume we won’t be successful, things won’t work in our favor, or our dreams won’t happen. We are defeated before we begin, and our lives become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Fear can be a crippling force in our lives. I dare say that many of the decisions we make on a daily basis is motivated by fear of some kind.
There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that you can never get rid of fear entirely. It’s part of your DNA. But fear is not necessarily a bad thing. When put in its place, it can help us achieve our goals and propel us forward.
The good news? You can take action to develop actions and a vision for your life and creative work that puts fear in its place. Your vision for the future must overshadow your fear of the present.