2 Ways To Face Your Fear


It immobilizes us.

It keeps us up at night.

And it can do more than keep us alive.

(For the sake of conversation, let’s divert our attention from fears that coincide with our survival instincts.  Let’s talk about being afraid of things that won’t kill us.)

5 Of The Top 10 Fears Boil Down To 1 Fear

Fear of Public Speaking

Fear of Intimacy

Fear of Failure

Fear of Rejection

Fear of Commitment/Making the Wrong Choice

What do these fears have in common? Five of the Top 10 Fears revolve around the Fear of Fitting In.

Fear Of Fitting In

Wait, but we’re creative, isn’t that how the majority of our lives have been?  People called us those, “Creative Weirdos,” or “Awkward Artist Types.”  And look where it got us – into an industry that awards us based on how creative or radical or weird our ideas are!

As advertising creatives we’ve found the place where we can fit in and we embrace not being the status quo.  And yet, how are you doing with the fears of public speaking, intimacy, failure, rejection and commitment?  Are you letting the Fear of Fitting In hold you back in any of those areas?

2 Ways To Face Your Fear

As in the post “When ‘Just Do It’ Doesn’t Work,” it’s important to acknowledge what is in your way, understand it and have compassion for it.  It’s OK to feel afraid; everyone does at times.  Understanding your fear may entail understanding what your fear is truly protecting you from.  With that, you have two options in facing your fear – using it as fuel or weakening it.

1. Use Fear As Your Fuel

Advertising creatives are competitive.  Why not use your competitive nature and compete against your fear?  Go head to head with the fear that’s holding you back.

Which will win – your creativity or your fear?

Which will persevere – your desire to be happy or your fear of what that may take?  

What if you could channel that anxious energy into overcoming what you’re afraid of?  Use your fear as your fuel.  How empowering would that be?  Afterward, you’d feel on top of the world!  You were the one who gave that killer presentation.  You were the one who pitched the best idea to your ECD.  You were the one who took the leap of faith and committed to that new job.

2. Weaken Your Fear

If going head to head with your fear isn’t your style or if the fear is too strong, then concentrate on reducing it.  Again, understand where the fear is coming from and acknowledge that it’s most likely trying to protect you.

My clients have gotten the best results by weakening their fears in the following 5 ways:

  1. Thinking of a time when they faced another fear and pulling from that experience (For example, how you embraced your creativity and found an industry that expects it.)
  2. Planning and preparing how to handle the fear – including different options
  3. Looking to role models who have battled their own fears and won
  4. Focusing on the motivation for overcoming the fear and the benefits that come with the victory
  5. Reprogramming their thoughts about the fear by creating positive intentions

According to an article in Psychology Today by Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., “Fear, like all other emotions, is basically information.  It offers us knowledge and understanding – if we choose to accept it – of our psychobiological status.”  Albrecht goes on to write “And the more clearly and calmly we can articulate the origins of the fear, the less our fears frighten us and control us.”

Fear Is An Opportunity

Fear holds us back.  Fear keeps us in the tiny box where we are, where we don’t realize we’re suffocating.

Being afraid of something signals an opportunity for personal development.  When you push outside of your comfort zone – especially to the point of feeling fear – that’s when the most growth happens.  You can break out of the box.

Life After Fear

Imagine what your life would be like once you conquer your fear.  Really.  Take a moment and imagine.  How would your life be different?  What could you accomplish?  Who would you become?  Would you be more satisfied?  Would you be happier?

I challenge you to either use your fear as fuel or to weaken your fear to the point where you can have that life after fear.  You can have all that you’ve imagined.

Share one fear that is holding you back (one that doesn’t challenge your mortality).  There’s no judgment here.  I’ll start in the comments section.  Share one fear and whether you are going to use it as fuel or weaken it.


  1. I’m afraid of spending time on a creative project only to be seen as “silly” and/or feeling like I’ve wasted my time when the project is completed.

    I will weaken this fear in order to conquer it.

    • I’ve never had a real phobia that I’ve been aware of, but then again I don’t lead a phcalysliy adventurous life. And while certain activities make me nervous – I’m not crazy about flying, and my clumsiness makes certain stuff like hiking and snorkeling a little more exciting than they are for normal people – I’ve never had anything that approaches phobia.Until I started riding my bike on the Braes Bayou trails here in Houston, near my home. Miles and miles of wonderful and neatly landscaped asphalt trails that border Braes Bayou. Most of the trail is at street level – but when you hit Kirby Drive, the trail descends down to the level of the bayou – it’s a big wide concrete sided stream a good bit below street level.I see old people, young people, fat people, people clearly less experienced at bike riding than myself, whiz down the trail to the bayou level every day – it’s a wide trail, and the trail that runs along the water is very wide too – the descent is gentle and the trail at water level is completely flat and there are no obstructions. But I cannot do it. As soon as I approach the point where the trail begins its descent, I start o tremble and hyperventilate. All I can think, all I can see in my mind’s eye, is going headfirst over my handlebars and into the bayou. I can’t even walk my bike down the descent and then proceed to ride along the flat trail – I can walk it, but I can’t ride my bike. The shaking and trembling make it impossible.I’ve never experienced a physical phobia like that. It’s not life-interrupting, of course, because I don’t really need to do it, but it’s given me a new sympathy for people who do suffer phobias that make their lives more difficult to conduct normally.Of course, the fact that I once fell out of the attic – by way of the unsupported insulation, through the ceiling and straight down to the kitchen floor below – is a good reminder that maybe my fear isn’t a phobia so much as a realistic fear of spazzing out and really hurting myself.

  2. Oh goodness, I am afraid of SO many things. While this is not entirely work related (also life related), I figured I would share it with you. **deep breath…here it goes** I am deeply afraid of “settling”. I am afraid of settling in one place for fear of “there may be somewhere else better out there to live”. I fear settling on a project because “I can always do better”. I fear settling on personal and work goals because I feel I can always adjust them to make them bigger, better and more exciting. I fear settling on my daily tasks because I feel I can always find a better way to manage them. Maybe it’s a form of ADD, but I cannot sit still with the idea of “settling” (even when I order food at a restaurant, I always think, “hmm maybe I could have ordered something better”). And, while this is also a psychological issue that I may need to over come (ha ha ha), I still feel that it is something I am terribly afraid of. I’m not sure I can imagine myself staying in an apartment for…oh geez, over a year! Maybe, just maybe, I should make that my next challenge.

    • Jenny, thank you for sharing. It’s very brave of you to share this internal struggle.

      What if you challenged yourself TO settle in certain areas knowing you’ve decided on a few areas where you won’t settle? For instance, what if you allow yourself to settle for what food you order at a restaurant or staying in an apartment for 13+ months knowing you will never settle when it comes to your goals. It’s about balance.

      • Public speaking is the #1 pibhoa listed by people in the US— I think it’s partly due to the fact that humans are very social creatures, so the chance of disapprobation creates a feedback loop in many people. Whatever it is, though, if you’re phobic about publis speaking you’re not alone.I don’t have ny pibhoas that I know of but one of the more interesting things I’ve done in my life that helps guard against a common fear— going beyond your abilities— was improv comedy in a good group. I never actually got cast in a performance but in three years I went from somebody who was very prosaic when it came to improv to somebody who could be wacky with the best of them. The side effects of my time weren’t evident for years, but right now, for example, I’m usually the one who is totally calm and collected when things blow up at work and everybody’s panicking. The network’s down? Let’s see what we can do with a chip reader. We need to do a major fix on three hundred files in an hour? Sure, let’s see if we can get the sucker completely automated. We’re on-site and the power’s gone out? Heck, there’s a Radio Shack down the street…Good improv isn’t about the funny; it’s about the adaptability. And training in being adaptable is a really good way to feel on top of out-of-control situations. Not too different from that old psychological adaptation trick where you think through every horrible situation and plan out what you would do if the SHTF. Just a little more on the fly.

    • Early in life I had a fear of heights. I got a job on a farm as a teaenger. I was small. I had to climb to the top of the barn and crawl out across a series of 6 inch wide boards on which I balanced while throwing bales of hay from a motorized steel conveyor. The conveyor would regularly catch on the bales and toss me more than I tossed the bales. By the end of the summer I could run across those boards without fear. Heights no longer bother me.But, high bridges do if I’m in a car or on a bicycle. I’m fine on foot. I used to live in Minneapolis. I was driving onto the I35W bridge in 1989 when I observed a 13 car pileup on a cold, icy day. That added to the fear. It became worse over the years. I always thought it was irrational – until the day that same bridge fell down. Now my fear is deeply reinforced. The anxiety starts several miles before I’m at a bridge that I know is high. Fears can be erased through experience. They can just as easily be cemented in us.Timmie Joe Bob

  3. Great insight. Thanks.
    Fear is such a controlling factor in our lives and choices. I love how you showed that so many “different” fears all have the same root.

    I fear failure, and I know that I hesitate in taking on risks, big projects, or investing in myself/business because I’m afraid of putting “too much” in and then blowing it.

    I’m going to use this fear as fuel — kind of like a bet with myself – will I let fear rule me and undermine what I know are the best choices? No way. I’m not going to fail at life. So take that, fear.

    • Annie, thank you for your kind words and especially for sharing your fear of failure here.

      Use your competitive spirit to win the bet! You can beat the fear.

      I wonder if you can pull from an experience where you took a risk or invested in yourself and didn’t blow it? If you can think of a time when that happened – when you had that type of success – create a more empowering belief for yourself from it. Build that belief up to where it is stronger than the fear.

      Also, I’m a firm believer that investing in yourself pays the best interest. :)

    • “….There’s an old joke-definition of a psychiatrist which fits me eacxtly: A Jewish doctor who’s afraid of blood…”I don’t get what’s funny here. I don’t have a problem with Jewish jokes, just don’t understand what the punchline is.Mine:Suffocating. My breathing stopping at night and dying in the night. I have taken medication which I needed to take at night and sometimes it would stuff up my nose, so I have woken up because I couldn’t breathe, so it isn’t out of the question. I have a fear of being kidnapped and having my nose stuff up because I am crying or have pollen allergies (which I do), and they put duct tape over my mouth although I beg them not to, and I suffocate.I did not have asthma as a child, but I did have surgery at 5 yrs, and I was very panicky when they put the mask on my face, for about 10 sec. until I went out.Drowning. I will not learn to scuba, I will not snorkel. (But I love being in the ocean and bodysurfing.) Opening my eyes underwater. Been that way always.

    • I don’t know it’s kind of dangerous aicvde. I was always afraid of public speaking. In fact, I was profoundly shy and aloof as a child. So, without even any psychological counseling or anything, I figure out that I just need to jump in. “Screw it up beyond all recognition if you have to but you have to actually do SOMETHING!” That’s what I would tell myself. And it worked! I got to the point that as a math geek I really wanted to conquer any geekery or people skills issue I might have. And, I pursued it with a dogged relentless determination. And, now that I work in a real social business environment, having conquered any possible fear of social inadequacy I may have ever felt I had, you know what I have found? I should have stayed in my shell — social skills are way over-rated and being outside your shell is largely a nuisance that takes far too much work all just to shed what little privacy a person has these days.

  4. Dualdiagnosis,Anxiety is a symptom of a phboia–that is, you are anxious in response to what you are afraid of. Social Phobia, otherwise called Social Anxiety Disorder is a marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur. If one is exposed to the social or performance situation, there is an almost immediate anxiety response such as a panic attack.You are right in the sense that a social phboia can be lifelong but the disorder waxes and wanes depending on life stressors and demands in adults. The key question is what is the serverity of one’s functioning? The name of the book I linked to is “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” not “Feel the fear and it will go away”. The problems may be lifelong and may come and go throughout life. Although I think it is important to conquer fears that are holding one back, it is also important to weigh the consequences of your fear to your health. If you have to drink to “take the edge off” that sounds pretty bad. Sometimes, our bodies tell us with anxiety etc. that something is wrong. I used to get physically sick during graduate school every time I went to class. I forced myself through it until I got my PHD and did my post-doc. Was it worth it? No. Would I do it again? No. My body was trying to tell me that I had chosen the wrong field for my temperament. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen. I think it is important to feel the fear at times and do things anyway if it very important and the right thing for you to do, but I also think you want to listen to your body at times and really think about whether what you are stressing about is really worth it. If the answer is yes, perserverance, some therapy, meds and relaxation may be in order, if not, a change in lifestyle may be the answer.

  5. Jane, thank you for sharing.

    I can understand that fear – especially since I was in a traumatic car accident on the interstate near my home years ago. This fear, yours and mine, strongly ties into our survival instincts.

    When I was in Hawaii for a couple months, I learned how to use 4-wheel-drive and went on a handful of 4WD excursions by myself. Even though I felt the fear and anxiety during the first couple drives, I always felt empowered afterwards. It helped to build my confidence to do it more.

    What do you think driving up that interstate into the mountains will do for you?

    Knowing that fear all too well, I would also ask, “Is it worth it?” Instead of the usual Pro & Con List, I’d recommend creating a Risk & Reward List and decide from there. For example, one of the rewards would be to go skiing with your friends.

    Also, check out my “When ‘Just Do It’ Doesn’t Work” blog post. Along with your survival instinct, the reason you may not be able to “feel the fear and do it any” is because it’s serving you as a protective mechanism.

    Thank you again for posting a comment, and please let me know how you do with this issue (here in the comments or via e-mail angela@definingsuccesscoaching.com).

    All the best,


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