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What Are You Afraid Of?

For many years I have seen and read about how if I haven't done or accomplished something, it must mean I have a secret, niggling fear that is holding me back.

Many such 'common' fears have been quoted in self-help texts and personal development programs, and some I can easily get my head around. The fear of rejection applying to someone who is new to - or stagnant in - a sales position, or attempting to find a mate, for instance, is something I can understand.

Some of the deeper, more nebulous issues, however, eluded me for a long time simply because they were so vague. This may apply to you, too, and knowing how to really dig in and figure this out is a really useful and effective skill. Once you can get past theories and really apply information in your own, specific situations, you can accelerate your progress and truly answer your own questions.

It is easy to hide our feelings behind vague clich├ęs which are ever-prevalent in the marketplace, such as:

  • Fear of Success
  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Abandonment
  • Fear of Making More Money Than Our Parents
  • Fear of the Opinions of Our Peers
  • Fear of the Unknown

When we come across lists such as these, we may give lip-service to the fact that we are stopped by some of them, but we really don't do the digging and very personal introspection required to get past them. Perhaps a personal example will serve to demonstrate.

For many years, I struggled with money and never seemed to have enough. I moved from job to job, never quite knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and never saving or investing any money. Had I stayed at any of the jobs, I would have seen great success. I was in a relationship in which there were significant problems and experienced difficulty in working them out. I spent years trying everything in order to 'fix' this relationship, because I believed - and still do - that I am at least half responsible for anything that occurs in my life, particularly in my personal relationships. During these years, I discovered the personal development field and I strove to improve my personality, resources and skills by learning and growing as much as I could. I thought if I could just improve enough, then my relationship would improve for the better. Of course, now I can see that there are fundamental flaws in this viewpoint, and I am no longer in that relationship, happily. Perhaps I could have grown to the point where I could 'take' anything he could dish out, but thankfully I learned that I wanted more; more contributed from the other side of the fence; more in common with my partner; more respect and mutual growth and learning.

I give this background to show how completely focused I was on the self development cycle and improving the so-called flaws in myself and my relationship. The really important point here is that for years, these concerns hid from me (I hid from myself) a couple of fundamental fears. Had I acknowledged these fears directly, I could have saved myself plenty of heartache by realizing that they had nothing to do with my relationship. As with most things, they stemmed from ME - and me alone. With the clarity of hindsight, I can now tell you these simple fears were:

  • Fear of Abandonment/Being Alone: I was always struggling with money, and I see now that I could have easily learned about finances and managed my money better. I actually made pretty good money in my twenties and had nothing to show for it. Had I begun investing intelligently and using my money wisely 15 years ago, I would be way ahead on the road to financial independence. But I was afraid of independence, because that meant being ALONE. If I straightened out my financial life and became financially wise, there would be no reason to stay in my unhealthy relatinship. I would get up the self-c0nfidence to leave and obviously, being alone terrified me. It wasn't obvious to me at the time, but it is now. It made more sense to envelop myself in a cocoon of ignorance and not be able to leave because I knew could not support myself. I could 'try' and work on my relationship problems, feeling inside that I could never really make it on my own. Besides, what would my friends and family think (see fear of peer and family opinions)? This is weakness which comes from fear, and it would have been better - and healthier - if directly confronted. There is also a martyr factor here: 'I am the one who is doing all this work and I should be rewarded. Poor me.'

  • Fear of Success/Doing Better Than my Father: Wow, this is a big one, now that I look back at it. I am being very honest here so that you can see what kind of personal honesty it takes to really look at and move past your fears. My Father was a successful businessman for most of my life, and then because of corporate treachery was put into a position of struggling to survive. This affected every aspect of his life, and mine as well. He has a brilliant mind, and his self-esteem was compromised by what occurred; he lost faith in the system and in his abilities, and it was difficult to watch. I can see now that part of keeping myself 'down' financially was so that I could commiserate and not put my Father in a position where his child was doing better than he was. Of course, he would have been happy and relieved if I was doing well, but that knowledge didn't affect my subconscious behavior. Even at the time, I was peripherally aware that my struggles added stress to his life. He not only had to worry about providing for himself and my Mom, he also had to worry about my future. Somehow, though, my subconcious mind would not allow me to be successful while he was down. How could I drive around in a nice car and live in a gorgeous house while he could not? It would not have seemed right.

  • I may not have completely dissected this fear yet. My Father is now doing well again, as I knew he would, and so of course I feel comfortable following my own dreams. I must divorce myself from my feelings about my family - or anyone else - and separate finances from emotions. What will happen when I consistenly make more money than my Dad, and when I have all my mansions and fancy cars? I already travel regularly, which is part of my ideal life, and there is an element of guilt in leaving him to his job, even though he loves it.
As you can see, when you take a 'generic' fear and really look at how it applies in your own life, you may see some ugly things. Only by doing this can you really face the fear and see how it holds you back. Most often, our minds allow us to focus on surface issues which cover up the real, underlying fears, usually because it is easier on our egos than to admit what is really going on. Even though these surface issues can be painful, they still hide deeper, more fundamental issues which need to be dealt with.

It is extremely freeing to do this work; as soon as you uncover and purge a true fear you have been living, you will find that the same old patterns cease to repeat themselves. You are free to move on and create in new, healthier ways. So, when you notice you are living in a loop of behavior which never seems to change, or when struggling with money, job or relationship issues, ask yourself: What am I afraid of?...

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