What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I am scared.
I have always been scared… that I will fail, that I will disappoint others, that I will ruin my life (whatever that might mean). For most of my life I let myself be guided by this fear and others’ expectations.

I did everything right. Checked all the boxes… A lawyer with a master in public policy, a husband, 2 kids and an “important” job with six figures salary. But something was not working.
It wasn’t till I found myself curled up in the corner of the couch snuggling my son’s teddy bear, while eating a cup of Ben n’ Jerry’s chocolate-chip-cookie dough and bingeing on Sex and the City reruns for the third time that week… that I finally admitted: something was off. I had to find a way to stop bagging my head against the wall and finally pose the big question: “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

I had to face my own fears and sabotaging thoughts and dive deep (to a place I hid so well trying to fit it and play by the rules). You see, as a young teenager I first declared that I wanted “to change the world and have true impact with my writing”. Naïve right? Well reality had other plans for me.

As a Russian-immigrant girl with a particularly technical mind, I was doing advanced science in school and college-level physics courses by the time I was sixteen years old. Honestly, I was good at it, and even did an extended computer science course just for the kick of it.

But here’s the real question: Did I like it? Did I want to do it? Did it not make me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork on a semi-regular basis? The answer would be, ahem: no way in hell.

And so with this newly found courage almost 20 years later, I decided it was time for me to start afresh. And create the career and life I truly want, without all those fears. This has been an amazing journey to self-rediscovery and it helped me outline some of the worst fear-gremlins that were holding me back.
Since making this grand discovery, I spoke to hundreds of people and it seems most of us don’t even realize that we shut down endless ideas, dreams, passions, and desires on a semi-conscious level, all because of fear. So how about taking a big magnifying glass and looking our fears in the eye?

I’ve outlined five of the most common fears that are holding us back, and how to overcome those.
other side of fear - holding you back
Breaking out of your comfort zone
There's a reason it’s called “comfort zone”… because it’s really comfy in there and why would you even want to get out? But you need to be aware that by not branching out of your Comfort Zone, you’re losing your potential opportunities, people or dreams, so be careful of what you’re willing to sacrifice to stay.
Here’s the exciting news: the Comfort Zone is like a muscle. You can work out, follow a regime, and – BOOM – it gets bigger, allowing you to try and dare more things. So you cans tart small, just change your routine a bit, take an afternoon off or drive home through a different route. Next step would be maybe taking a class or reaching out to somebody you’ve been meaning to speak to for ages… see? One small step at a time.
The fear of losing
The fear of failure often overshadows the hope of gaining, because, let’s face it, there are a lot more people willing to detail what could go wrong rather than what could go right. They call it being a realist…yet overcoming the Fear of Losing is a matter of managing your uncertainties and accepting what could come. Oprah Winfrey was once told she “wasn’t fit for television” and was fired from her position as a TV reporter; now she’s one of the most recognizable TV personalities in the entire world.

It’s important to manage these “losses” and look at the bigger picture; just because they said it, doesn’t mean it’s true. You might experience setbacks and some unfair judgements, but you can push through that – you can adapt. Ask yourself what is the worst case scenario, accept it, take a deep breath and give it your best effort.
“I’m a fraud” - aka the impostor syndrome
Yep this is a really bad one. I have to fight off this sabotaging fear almost on a daily basis. You’ve probably had this mental conversation before: “I completed this big project! How impressive! …Although I suppose it wasn’t that impressive. Anyone could have done it. Someone else could have done it better. It was just luck…” Or, should you have more confidence: “Okay, I did ok here, but I am totally going to blow it next time!” Know the feeling? I sure do. Incredibly successful women like Emma Watson, Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey, and Sonia Sotomayor have all admitted to feeling like they’ll be found out for the frauds they are. So if they can’t escape it, the rest of us don’t even stand a chance, right? Wrong. Here’s a simple thing you can do to overcome this notion: keep a success/compliments file. Really… not main-achievements-at-work kind of thing, but a simple diary where you note the compliments you’ve received, the thank you letter, the grateful testimonials and your own personal success records. When you’re feeling down just look at this file and read it out loud.
Self-doubts have cluttered your mind?
Try the Reinvent Yourself Quiz to see what path would be right for you
“What will my mom (or dad) think?”

Ah yes, parental disapproval. It doesn’t really have to be parental though… maybe your best friend, your former boss… just somebody who’s opinion you cherish. That can be the worst, especially if your parent happens to be super ambitious and a perfectionist to boot. In such a case, obtaining their approval and living up to their expectations is all but impossible; though, if you’re like me, it won’t stop you from trying anyways. Remembers the math-physic school experience from above? Boy did it make my parents proud… it made others think well of me, and it brought the approval I sought after. That was a mistake! It’s not disloyalty and it’s not disrespect to acknowledge that parents aren’t perfect. Take a second and look at a child; can you tell them, without error, without bias, exactly how to live every aspect of their life? Remember, no errors, and it has to be custom built to them. Unless you’re an all-knowing divine entity (and if so, what are you doing reading this? And do you by any chance know the lottery numbers for this week?), you’re going to give it your best shot but be wrong in some ways. Your parents do the same. They mean well, but they are NOT you.
“Everybody knows that…” – aka my uncle’s best friend advice
Many people have a defined idea of success. They call it “conventional wisdom” or “common sense,” and most value it as the ultimate truth. Nine times out of ten, this conventional wisdom is their fear. They’re projecting their concerns onto you. This is where my uncle’s best friend analogy comes into play. Common’ we all have this person in our lives that seems to know all the answers and has a story about every topic to give you the best… hmm the worst… advice ever. So perhaps this uncle’s-best-friend could never live in a studio apartment, or work those long hours, or make money from writing, or experience the instability... Even if you’re fine with those challenges, the know-it-all person has his doubts. Well, once again it’s his fears and needs and preferences that are keeping him from pursuing that passion, making them naturally assume it’ll stop you as well. Don’t be held back for years. Hold your ground and place value in your own decisions. It’s your life and you should live it as you want to. Try actually saying out loud “This is what I want to do.” The people who deserve to be in your life will respect the boundary; maybe they won’t change their minds, but they’ll respect the decision…
Fear essentially is a healthy thing. It’s a natural instinct to keep us safe and it prevents you from doing triple backflips off bridges because you want to be twenty bucks richer. However, fears can also keep us stagnant and stop us from ever pushing onto newer, greater and more exciting things. Don’t spend the next 20 years living out of fear and limiting beliefs. Take a moment to evaluate what do you really wand and go get it!
And while you're at check out this planner to help you set your actionabel roadmap, fear free.

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  • Annemarie LeBlanc

    I am bookmarking this page to take the quiz later. Although I am pretty much satisfied with the way my life is going, I have to admit there are still some aspects of “me” that need to be changed.

  • It’s sometimes hard to put aside fears to do things especially if you have had them for a while. I have numerous fears and feel they do hold me back from achieving quite a bit. Not always easy to come across though.

  • Yes, fears can really hold us back. When I began having kids is when I stopped letting fear win. I wanted to show my kids that nothing could stop me or them from achieving what we want to do. Great post with encouragement and advice.

  • Elizabeth O

    This was a really lovely post full of great information. I like where you said fear is a healthy thing and it is a natural instinct.

  • I agree with you. Fear can protect or hinder us. however, it depends on how you perceive it and use it to achieve your goals in life

  • Geraline Batarra

    It is okay for me to feel fear at the same while doing my craft because it means that I am doing the right thing. Although, it sometimes gives you an uncomfortable feeling that can be a big hindrance into your performance.

  • It’s so true! Fear is always a big part in the middle of our way to most things in life! It’s hard to overcome it but I believe its necessary to achieve great things!

  • Dana

    Your message Definitely needed this today. These past few weeks I have been struggling with depression. The reason why? I am overthinking that I might lose someone in my life.goes here (max 500 chars)

  • That is so true. I feared about a lot of things when I was younger. And I dunno…I am 43 now. I wonder if it’s already too late. Been wanting to work abroad. But now that I am older and with two young kids, seems like it’s not gonna happen any time soon.

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