This week, Systemic Coach Zita Tulyahikayo and barrister and NLP Master Practitioner James Pereira QC discuss how to recognise fear and overcome it.
What is fear?
In both our professional and personal lives fear has the ability to leave us incapacitated. Fear is a natural, universal phenomenon that affects everyone, men and women equally, and those in senior positions too. In fact most of the books written on rising to the top and staying there are centred on addressing fears and overcoming them.
The difficulty with fear starts to surface when people try to hide or stifle their fears. This approach is useless and self-defeating. The law of fear states that fear will run amok the more it is ignored. The havoc fear creates can present as some highly unproductive and dysfunctional behaviour.
Unrecognized and unacknowledged core fear is nearly always at the root of professional distress and unfulfilled potential. This is not to say that fear is bad. Fear can positively act as a driving force for the change required to overcome a fear that limits our experience of life or stifles our potential. Many people are afraid of going to talk to a professional to overcome their fears, because they don’t actually know what they are afraid of.
On the other hand every day female and male leaders emerge from the doldrums because they are willing to overcome the fears that limit them. This willingness to take a long hard look at your fears, glean an understanding of where they are coming from and channel them productively can be one of the most empowering and liberating experiences of your life.
In many cases outside help from a friend, a coach, a therapist or a family member can be highly beneficial for those who can overcome the fear that life will indeed be better once they overcome their fear of fear itself. Developing self – awareness is a powerful life skill to posses and most certainly puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. This is a far better way to live than sitting in the back seat and experiencing your life through the rear – view mirror, whilst a frightened stranger has control of the steering wheel and a foot on the gas pedal going at 90 miles per hour. What could possibly be more frightening than that?
Here are some of the fears that can present in certain personality types according to the Enneagram Personality Model, which has been widely used in the business and individual context.
Fear of not being good enough
The people who carry this fear tend to be very insecure, they tend to focus more on their image and constantly seek to prove their worth. The price these people often pay is not seeming to be authentic, their capacity for experiencing joy in life is limited. Furthermore because their core motivation is centred on how others perceive them they are more inclined to be creative with facts.
Fear of being victimized or taken advantage of
Those people who suffer from this fear are very concerned with not appearing weak. They have the need to win every battle and can present as being domineering and controlling. They seek to push for justice and truth.
Fear of missing out
This drives individuals to constantly seek new opportunities and experiences. The downside? It can scatter their attention and cloud their decision making process. As they pursue multiple ventures simultaneously, they leave their teams frustrated and confused. The core fear of people who display these behaviours is the fear of being alone; they struggle to find a meaningful sense of belonging, anywhere.
Fear of being wrong
The people who have this fear are very focused on rules, standards, ethics, and ‘right’ v ‘wrong’. They are deeply afraid of making a choice that will later prove to be ‘objectively’ wrong. These people tend to be the perfectionists who put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves and their co-workers.
What can be done to overcome fear?
You can exhaust a great deal of energy to protect yourself from the imagined consequences of your fears, some of the energy spent will be worth it, you will work harder and possibly achieve great things. Or, you will work harder and limit your professional and personal growth as it is obscured by your fear.
Here are some simple steps you can take to overcome some core fears yourself. It requires some rigorous self – reflection. If you are not comfortable with demanding situations you might want to look away now.
Acknowledge the fear
The first and most important step is to acknowledge you have a fear. Understand it and admit to it. Granted this is not easy, but neither is learning to read and you can do that, right? Whilst you are on the step of acknowledging your fear it can be useful to take a close look at the choices you have made and why you have made them.
Cross–examine the fear
To better overcome your fear it is essential to understand it. It can be useful to ask, “If my fear came true what is the worst that can happen?” Then you can go a step further and ask, “Am I really willing to pay the price that this fear is asking me to pay?” Personal autonomy, disrupted relationships, health and so on are just some of the real life costs.
The road less travelled
This is about deciding what to do next and committing to it. When working with a coach or a friend contracting in to new agreements is the key to reinforcing new behaviours and beliefs, these are based on what really matters to you.
If honesty is important to you, then ask yourself if your fear is in accordance with you being honest. If relationships with colleagues are important, does your need to impress mean that you are less trustworthy as a partner. An accountability check-in confirms that we are honouring the terms and conditions of a new contract where our values and behaviours are more closely aligned.
Here are some further questions you might want to consider.
- As I objectively evaluate my actions and behaviour, what would the evidence suggest that I am committed to?
- How does this differ from what I say I want?
- In practical terms, if my desires and actions are not fully aligned, what does that indicate?
Act on that choice
When our core values and behaviours are drawn into alignment it can be said that we are living in congruence. To live in congruence is to live as a fully functioning person. When we take the trouble to conduct rigorous self-examination, small yet profound changes have the potential to significantly alter the course of our life. Challenge yourself to do what you would not normally do. Take a deep breath and lean into the uncertainty of life. It is in the unknown and the unknowable that the gold is found by those who dare to reach.
None of us can get rid of fear completely, we are all born with the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling, all other fears are learnt, which means we can unlearn them, particularly the ones that have a debilitating effect on our well being. If so desired we can overcome them to become a self-actualised person. When people are able to access their fears, and share them, they become more accessible, relatable, and approachable. They become the people who can truly lead others, and ultimately they will create the kinds of work environments that allow an organisation and the individuals within it to be successful and strong.
The authors welcome feedback from anyone concerned with the issues raised in their writing, and are also interested in hearing from anyone with suggestions for future articles. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @LifeTherapyZita and at james.pereiraQC@ftbchambers.co.uk and on Twitter @JamesPereiraQC.
The full Loving Legal Life series can be found here.