Every day is a day of decision-making. From the smallest decision of what to wear, to more important decisions at work, and, on some occasions, some really big decisions, we try to weigh alternatives and make the best one. We decide on college majors; we buy cars and homes; we make huge decisions about career choices and relationships.
But what happens when we cannot make decisions or we make poor choices because we are afraid. While the reasons for our fear may differ, one thing psychologists tell us is true. Fear can become so debilitating that we are just stuck – we can’t act at all. And that of itself is actually a decision – a decision to do nothing. And those decisions to do nothing heavily affect our lives. Here are 4 of the most common fears and their impact.
Fear of Failure
You have been very comfortable in your job and you do it well. All of a sudden an opportunity comes up for quite a promotion, and your boss thinks you are the perfect candidate. You are flattered, but then the fear grips you. This new position means supervising lots of people; there are more responsibilities and new things to learn; you will be blamed if things go wrong. Now you have the weekend to make a decision, and you are thrown into anxiety and panic attacks. Monday morning comes, and you turn down the promotion, feeling a great sense of relief.
Fear of failure can impact all aspects of our lives, and it keeps us from taking up new challenges that mean personal and professional growth.
Fear of Criticism or Disapproval
This fear is a direct result of low self-esteem, because it means that we fail to make decisions based upon our own desires and goals. We worry instead about what others may say or think. You are in college and studying pre-med. You come from a family of doctors, and it is just a “given” that this will be your career choice too. You have been “groomed” for this for years. But now, you really hate pre-med and you have begun a “love affair” with computer science, taking as many elective courses in the field as possible. You want to change your major but you know how your parents and relatives will react, and you do not want to disappoint them. So, you stick it out and ultimately enter a field for which you do not have real passion. You then lead a life of wondering if you might have been the next Bill Gates of Steve Jobs.
Fear of Change/Risk
We all have our comfort zones, and they are nice secure places. We really want to stay in them, but often life tries to push us out of those zones and into new unchartered territory. You have a comfortable job with an adequate income. You are truly talented in web design and have done an outstanding job creating the websites for some friends. A colleague approaches you and thinks that two of you could start your own web design business and make a killing. He already has several clients lined up and just needs you as the creative arm of the business. Suddenly you are faced with making a huge change – a change that will really pull you out of your comfort zone. You have a mortgage and maybe a car payment. You might have to go into your savings for a while. You just cannot do it, and you have to tell your colleague “no.” Several years later, that colleague and his partner are highly successful, setting their own schedules and having fun in their work. You are still in your 9-5 comfort zone, trying to tell yourself that you made the right choices while looking upon them with envy.
Fear of Success
Yes, that’s right. This is a mindset that says, “Once I reach the goals that I have told everyone about, what do I do next? Can I move to the next level without failing?” Fear of success is really fear of failure, and what it does is keep us from achieving the current goals we have set. It’s just so much easier to keep saying we are working on them and never actually get there. Others will admire us – they will applaud our perseverance. And we’ll gladly take all of that praise, and keep plugging along. And, we never have to make the next life decision – where do we go next?
Fear stunts our growth. Whether it is the fear of moving into a new relationships, the fear of a new job, the fear of taking risks to follow our dreams, or the fear of dis-pleasing others, we end up living, as Thoreau used to call them, “lives of quiet desperation,” always wondering what could have been had we not be afraid. So, if you have fears that are holding you back, identify them and face them head on. Then get some help with them. Overcoming fear is a process, but it can be done.