Recommitting & Taking Action to Change Your Life, Part 4: Letting Go of Fears and Criticisms

As “National Recommitment Month” comes to a close, I wanted to take some space to acknowledge that recommitting to our goals and making changes in our lives isn’t always easy.  Most of us will experience some bumps in the road! Some of those are external obstacles (finances, time, family or work responsibilities, etc.) that we can’t always control or drastically change in the short term, but there are two common obstacles that we can control:  fear of others’ opinions and our own fears.   

Much of our resistance to taking charge of our lives comes from forces within ourselves. Fear, insecurity, doubt and overwhelm can really keep us rooted in place. Unfortunately, what others think and say can also have a big role in holding you back. Some people don’t like change. The people around you may prefer you stay exactly as you are for fear of rocking the boat. They might be afraid you’ll move on without them. Perhaps your success is intimidating to them. Whatever the case, you can’t change them. You can only keep moving forward and focusing on your own happiness. Follow these tips to help you avoid letting the opinions of others keep you from crafting the life of your dreams.

Know Yourself.  One of the most effective ways to combat worry over what others think is to truly take time to get to know yourself. Consider your values, priorities, interests and desires. When you know what really matters to you, it’s much easier to care less about the opinions of anyone else.

Set Boundaries.  Setting boundaries can be tough. It means actively choosing to put your needs first and not allow others to impose their will upon you. When you realize it’s okay to say no and to put yourself ahead of others’ comfort, you’ll find a freedom to pursue your own objectives. Developing the ability to set boundaries can take practice, but it’s an invaluable skill.  

Forget Embarrassment.  Embarrassment is definitely something that can hold you back from going after what you want. It’s easy to worry that others might criticize you or laugh at you. One way to combat this issue is to ask yourself if it really matters. Adding perspective to the matter can truly help you to move past embarrassment. Most of the time, what others think of us doesn’t have any real effect on our lives at all. In addition, they’re probably not paying nearly as much attention to you as you fear they might be, anyway.  (And they may even be preoccupied with their fears or self-consciousness about what other people think about them!)

Don’t Compare.  Comparison can be insidious. Feeling like you should be living up to what others are doing or achieving can definitely keep us from pursuing what we really want in life. Try not to compare your life to anyone else’s. Remember your priorities and what matters most to you. Then live your life around those things, not what anyone else is doing or what they think you should be doing.

These are just some of the ways you can begin to stop worrying about what others think and start living life on your own terms. Taking charge of your life requires a firm understanding of what you want, with less concern for the opinions of others.  But what about something that can be an even bigger roadblock than fear of others’ opinions–our own fears?  Fear is one of the biggest detractors to living your best life.

In coaching, there’s a dimension of this fear that we call our “inner critic”: that voice in our heads that sometimes whispers to us that we aren’t smart enough, strong enough, disciplined enough, etc; that we’re an imposter and everyone around us is going to realize it; that we don’t belong somewhere; or that something big and bold that we want in our life “isn’t for people like us.”  We all have an inner critic, and it can be hard to ignore that nagging voice! Often that inner critic gets its power and its fuel from our own fears. 

Being afraid holds you back from trying new things, having unique experiences, taking advantage of opportunities and leaving your comfort zone in any significant way.  I struggle with this myself, too.  One of my biggest fears is fear of failure, and there have definitely been times in my past when this fear got in the way of me reaching for my dreams and pursuing my goals.  I had to learn that not only should I not let this fear of failure hold me back, but that sometimes failure isn’t even a bad thing; it’s how we learn and grow, and it’s a part of life.  I’ve experienced first-hand that real progress only happens when you do the things you’re afraid of. Here are some reasons to move past the fear today.

Fear Is Limiting.  Fear will limit so much in your life, if you let it. Fear limits your experiences, your fun, your relationships and your potential. It can cause great distress and unhappiness, along with regret. Fear prevents growth and progress. It keeps you stuck in a rut. Basically, fear takes away your power. You put this negative emotion in charge of your decisions, rather than taking the actions you most desire in your heart.

Fear Wastes Your Energy.  Being afraid to live your life fully is a waste of both your emotional and physical energy. While it is possible for fear to give you a rush of adrenaline to push toward action, this isn’t usually the case. We tend to let our fears build up. Rather than using them as a catalyst for change, we allow our fears to stagnate and fester. Giving into the fear is mentally exhausting because it causes a battle of emotions between desire and denial. You want to step out of your comfort zone, but you fight fear to see which ends up winning. It can also be physically tiring to engage in such a battle of wills on a regular basis.

Fear Can’t Be Eliminated.  Let’s face facts, fear can’t be eliminated completely. You’ll probably always fight a battle with this powerful emotion. However, that doesn’t mean fear has to win. You absolutely can learn to manage your fears. You’re more powerful than what scares you. Think of the worst-case scenario. It’s rare that what you’re afraid of can actually physically hurt you. Therefore, it makes sense to find ways to push past the fears and go for the opportunity that awaits. If you let fear win, chances are good that you’ll only satisfy it briefly. You’ll have to deal with that fear or a related one later. Why not try to conquer it now?

Taking charge of your life requires you to also take charge of your fears. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is possible. It’s also worth it.