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How to not let fear hold you back from following your dreams

Have you ever held yourself back from following your dreams because you were scared? Maybe you were scared that you weren't capable of achieving your dream or maybe you were scared of the unknown. When it comes to fear, you may commonly hear that you need to push through it and take action anyway. While I'm not going to argue that this works, I'm going to show you another way to address fear so that it doesn't hold you back from following your dreams any longer. In fact, it can even help you get clearer on what you really want.

Not too long ago, I went to a retreat for creatives. I didn’t know anyone there. I honestly didn’t even know why I was there because I decided to go only 24 hours before. The backstory is that my friend called me on Monday morning asking if I wanted to take her spot (she broke her foot and couldn't go anymore) and within 24 hours I decided to go and was on a plane. I had a feeling that I needed to be at this specific camp, so I went. I was taking a leap of faith.

On the first night, we were led through a creative exercise where we were told to write a letter to ourselves from our fear to help us identify what might be holding us back from creating. This exercise helped me to slow down and give my fear a voice. Rather than just push through it, I listened and tried to understand it and the surprising result is that I learned some new things about myself I hadn't known before and this knowledge helped me make better decisions moving forward.

What is fear?

Fear is a normal part of being human. It can be physical or psychological, meaning, that when there is a physical danger, like a bear chasing you, that fear is helpful because it helps you to survive by telling you to run.

But sometimes fear can be psychological where we are scared of something new or unknown or we are scared of feeling negative emotions, so it tries to protect us even though we aren't going to die if we feel a negative emotion.

Because our fear is designed to protect us, whenever we go after our dreams or do something new, our fear tries to come in and stop us from doing it because if doesn’t want us to fail and be disappointed. It’s a total psychological fear because while it’s not fun to not get what you want, you’re also not going to die.

When you take the time to slow down and hear your fear out, it becomes a lot easier to see whether your fear is physical or psychological. Knowing this helps you see your fear for what it really is so you can make your decisions based on what you really want.

What's on the other side of your fear?

Your psychological fears have another use as well. They can help you reveal what is important to you–what you most desire. Anything that we really want will be met with fear because, again, you wouldn't be scared of failing or feeling disappointed if you didn't care.

When I was at my creative retreat, the fears that came out in my first letter were:

  • That there were other women saying what I was saying but they're saying it better.

  • The successful women at this retreat were going to see right through me and figure out that I don't belong here.

  • I should stay in my comfort zone where I know what I'm doing. Doing something new is scary and I will be out of my league if I step out of it.

  • I don't offer anything valuable.

  • I'm going to fail and it's going to hurt.

  • If I succeed in my dreams, I'll be surrounded by women like this and I don't belong there. I don't fit in.

So what are the desires on the other side of my fears?

  • I want to share my experiences and make an impact.

  • I want to share my most authentic self with others.

  • I'm ready to grow into a higher level of myself. To expand my horizons and grow. I don't want to limit myself.

  • I know that I have valuable things to offer others. I want to help them in their journey. I want to serve and help.

  • I see these incredible, amazing, successful women who are doing what I want to be doing and I want to be where they are.

When I saw what was really buried underneath my fear, it gave me a new perspective. Rather than taking the fear at face value, I could see what it was really keeping me from. When I could see it all there in front of me on paper, I had a choice to make. Was I going to let fear hold me back from my dreams or would I take a step forward towards my desires? Would I be willing to experience some negative emotion if it meant that I could succeed in creating these desires in my life?

This is a question that you will also need to ask yourself. Will you let your fear hold you back from what you really want or will you choose to follow your dreams?

How to use your fear to follow your dreams

When you resist your fear, it grows bigger. But when you are open to it, allow yourself to feel it and try to understand it, it can help move you forward on your journey. Being open to it doesn't mean accepting what it's saying, but letting it be there and allowing it to speak so that you can see it for what it is (as well as see your true desires).

You can do this by running through the same fear exercise that I did at the retreat:

1. Write yourself a letter from the perspective of your fear

Tap into your fear by writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of your fear. Write "Dear {Insert Your Name}..." and just start writing. Don't filter it or edit it as you go. You could give yourself a time limit and then write whatever comes to mind until the time is up.

2. Identify your fears

Go through and read your letter and summarize all the main fears into a list.

3. Identify the desires behind your fears

Read through your fear list and identify the desire behind your fear. What is your fear trying to stop you from doing?

4. Make your choice

Once you see your desires, intentionally choose your desires over your fear.

5. Write a letter back to your fear

Once you've made the choice to follow your dreams and desires, write a letter back to your fear telling it whatever you need to tell it in order to feel empowered.

Fear is normal

As you follow your dreams, fear is going to come up a lot. When you feel that fear, just know that it’s normal. Having that awareness that it’s not physical danger can help you understand it and get curious about it. You’ll be able to dig deeper into it.

Fear can show you what you most desire. Once you process the fear, you'll feel empowered. By letting fear speak, you will be able to recognize it for what it is, see what you really desire, decide what you want, and then let go of the things that would hold you back from having what you want. The fear will no longer have power over you and you'll be on your way to living your dreams.

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