Imagine what your life would be like if you could move beyond limiting beliefs and behaviors, and fully become the person you were born to be. What if you could “live boldly”—reclaim your magnificence, liberate your authentic self, and activate your potential to create the personal and professional life you desire?
When we’re born, each of us is a whole human being with unique potential. We have innate personality traits, certain strengths and abilities, and a healthy and intact self-esteem. We have no inhibitions, so we have the ability to feel and express all our feelings in a very spontaneous and natural way. Then our life conditioning begins. The family, environment, circumstances, and experiences we grow up with play an enormous role in determining whether our innate wholeness remains intact, or whether our authentic self becomes buried beneath patterns of insecurity, unworthiness, anger, avoidance, people-pleasing, fear, or other self-defeating patterns.
In my years of working with individuals and groups, I’ve learned that one of the most common barriers to living boldly is fear. If you’re living from a place of fear, you’re not free to take risks or pursue your passions. If your energy is expended in avoiding failure, rejection, or criticism by withdrawing from the people and situations that trigger your fears, then that energy is tied up in staying safe instead of in achieving your goals.
To override fear, you first have to understand it, as well as the fight-or-flight response that’s been with us from our earliest beginnings. Through evolution, we’re hardwired to respond to fear with intensity. For our evolutionary precursors out in the wild, the fight-or-flight response was a valuable survival mechanism. However, it’s not as useful when triggered by most modern-day fears.
Most of the fears that keep us playing small are not even based on our current reality. They’re the product of imagined fears conjured up in our minds. I refer to FEAR as “Fantasized Events As Real,” because that’s precisely the process that takes place. Of course, if you’re walking alone to your car in a dark parking lot at 2:00 am, you may have every reason to experience fear. That fear is going to propel you to your car, key at the ready, as fast you can move. However, the other kind of fear—the fear that has no basis in reality—is one of the biggest things that keeps people from pursuing and creating the lives they desire.
Fear rears its head when people attempt to move beyond their comfort zones. Staying within your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happy there. It’s just what you’re used to. Your willingness to expand your comfort zone allows you greater experiences and freedom. Whether you dream of starting your own business, moving to a new city, or making a career change, in order to move outside your comfort zone, you have to be able to manage fear. Here are four steps you can take to override fear, and take action to create the life experiences and circumstances to which you aspire.
- Instead of resisting it, acknowledge your fear—for example, “I’m afraid I will fail” or “I’m afraid I’ll be rejected” or “I’m afraid I won’t make enough money.”
- Identify the “gloom and doom” movie you’re running in your mind. Ask yourself, What am I imagining will happen?
- Do a reality check. Figure out if your fears have any real basis in fact. Be as methodical as you need to be.
- Replace the gloom-and-doom movie with one that supports your goals—focus on the movie that’s about where you want to be.
Begin to break your gridlock by becoming more aware of the self-defeating behaviors that keep you playing small. Perhaps you procrastinate, or you repeatedly tell yourself all the reasons why something won’t work out. Maybe you surround yourself with people who are critical and unsupportive. Whatever you’re currently doing that keeps you from living boldly, identify it and take the opposite action—one that will help you to override the old pattern, liberate your potential, and bring your goals to reality.
Lauren Mackler is a psychotherapist and the author of the international bestseller Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness and Transform Your Life. Join her at Kripalu.