People frequently wonder what motivates them to do the things they do. Most of us desire our actions to be influenced by compassion, wisdom, confidence, fairness and love. However, many would be surprised to know that much of their behavior is influenced by nothing more than the great impostor – fear.
Fear wears many masks. Some of these masks include procrastination, avoidance, perfectionism, anger, passivity and impatience. These behaviors and emotions often reflect fears of failure, rejection, abandonment, loss of security, looking foolish and being taken advantage of. The negative attitudes and actions we possess will only change when we begin challenging our fears.
Understand your true worth.
Your value as a human being is not based on the opinions people have of you or what you accomplish or achieve. Therefore, the experiences of rejection, failure, criticism and abandonment, although painful, can never diminish your true worth because it is inherent!
“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” Karl Menninger
Take positive action.
In other words, be willing to risk. Inaction or avoidance only breeds fear. Start off with small, relatively safe risks and then work your way towards the actions you determine to be more frightening. Each subsequent risk you take will become less threatening as your confidence grows.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” Helen Keller
Learn to relax.
Your physical and emotional response to a perceived threat gives way to fearful thoughts. Your fearful thought, in turn, produces more anxious feelings – and round and round the vicious cycle of fear goes. Mastering breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises can help interrupt this painful cycle.
Challenge your fears.
Remember that a third meaning of FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. This means that what you fear is irrational even though it “feels” like it’s not. Don’t pay attention to what you feel, but rather to what you know. Practice telling yourself the truth about your fears and they will begin to disappear.
“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Swedish Proverb
If you find yourself in a cycle of perfectionism, procrastination or any of the masks that are cover-ups for fear, you can take control by recognizing it for what it is and using the tips above to challenge and overcome it!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.