The 9 Fears That Are Holding You Back in Life

E.B. Johnson

by: E.B. Johnson (Image via

We all experience fear at some point in this life, but the true definition of success is how we confront it. There are a number of common fears that can keep us stuck, scared or looking for more in this life in a number of damaging ways. If we are truly looking to manifest an existence that is both joyful and fulfilling, we have to learn how to face up to those things which scare us; and begin building a better tomorrow for ourselves.

The common fears that are holding you back in life.

There are so many fears in this life that can manifest in a number of different ways. You might be scared of change, or you might be scared of loneliness. While these fears are all different, the results are the same. Left unaddressed, these fears can become complexes, issues and insecurities that prevent us from creating a life we can value and enjoy.


Uncertainty is an uncomfortable place to be, and it happens all the time. When we’re uncertain about something, it means that we can’t clearly see the full spread of outcomes that might result from that situation or circumstance. It’s being forced to a decision without having all the facts, and that is enough to force many people right into analysis paralysis. Fear of uncertainty is common, but crippling, and something which can only be resolved by direct action.


Ending up alone is one of the greatest fear many of us carry, and it can lead to some truly toxic behaviors and decisions that leave us stuck, scared and settling for less than we deserve. Those who suffer from a great fear of loneliness will often find themselves sticking around in abusive or toxic relationships, or they mind find themselves scrolling obsessively through social media and dating sites. When you’re super-fixated on finding “the one” it can often cause you to miss out on important face-to-face connections.


No matter who you are, you’ve experienced failure at some point in your life. We can experience failure in our expectations, our goals, and even our romantic lives. It’s a permeating sort of defeat that runs deep and strong, and it can happen to anyone at any point or stage of their lives or careers (Passer, 1983). For this reason, millions of people around the globe suffer from a crippling and paralyzing fear of failure, and fear of letting both themselves and their loved ones down.


Rejection is a painful thing to experience, and it can haunt you for years and years to come. When we fear being told “no” it can cause us to avoid relationships and other important opportunities that might otherwise provide some fulfillment and joy in our lives. It can also permeate into other facets of our lives, however, and impact the way we express our needs and ask those around us for love or respect.


As humans, change looms as one of our greatest fears. Yet it is constant and inevitable, and we exist entirely within a state of change. We are creatures of routine, and we are creatures who like to feel as though we have some manner of control over our own personal universes. When that feeling of control is tested, we resist — and can be thrown into a negative spiral of lost opportunities and missed happiness.

Getting judged

We all want to be liked, but that desire to be liked can extend all the way into a fear of being judged. Pushing ourselves to the edge of becoming someone else, or dampening our true selves entirely, is one of the worst side effects of a fear of being judged gone too far. We have to trust ourselves, and we have to learn to live authentically in our own skin…no matter what anyone else might say or think about it.

Being inadequate

Feeling as though you are incapable of measuring up is one of the first signs that you’re dealing with fears of inadequacy. Developing the idea that we are incapable of being “good enough can lead to a dramatic overcompensation, or it can lead to becoming a totally underwhelming underachiever. Whether you’re a perfectionist or totally burned out, you’ll never find true success in your life until you let go of your ideas of “worthiness” and start living authentically in line with your own happiness.


No one likes to be uncomfortable, and that extends into both the physical realms and the mental and emotional realms. As humans, we like to be comfortable, and we work hard to keep ourselves comfortable — no matter the cost. If you’ve experienced a lot of pain in your past (either in childhood or more recent history) it can cause you to become walled up and protective, shutting out new opportunities and experiences, as well as potential new relationships.

Loss of freedom

The fear of loss of freedom is a self-fulfilling prophecy and one that can be extraordinarily toxic if perpetuated in the wrong manner. While there is no reason to keep yourself tied to people, careers and circumstances which don’t suit you, refusing responsibility for anything in your life can lead to unsteady income, relationships and even emotions. Life is all about compromise, and though we might lose certain freedoms, we generally do so in exchange for new opportunities and benefits which make such a trade worthwhile.

How to conquer your fears to create the life you want.

You can overcome your fears, but it takes self-reflection, and it takes a brutally honest look at who you are and what you value. Our fears are real and visceral. They can keep us stuck and chained to beliefs, behaviors and lifestyles that don’t serve who we truly are or what we truly want. Setting ourselves free takes work and a commitment to accepting discomfort on behalf of finding freedom. It’s a trade that’s hard to make, but one that can transform our lives when we put in the effort and make the leap.

1. Confront them immediately

Fears become toxic and life-destroying when we allow them to become entrenched in our psyche and entrenched in our lifestyles. Think of fear like a malignant tumor. The longer it goes untreated, the more it grows and metastasizes, until it’s eating away at every aspect of our lives and our happiness. If you’re truly looking to free yourself from fear, you have to learn to confront those uncertainties or insecurities immediately. Something that takes guts, gumption, and the knowledge that the only way out is through.

Start small. Find one unpleasant or uncomfortable situation each day and face it head-on. Don’t put it on the back burner and don’t make excuses for why you’ll “do it later”. Rather than allowing it to fester, deal with it then and there. Resolve the situation fast, before it has the opportunity to ruin your day or take control of your emotions.

Once you’ve gotten used to facing up to the small things, work your way up to the big stuff. If you’re having a hard time with a friend or someone you work with, decide to get it resolved rather than allowing it to lag on. Likewise, spending some time working through other aspects of your unresolved business can help you to let go of the many fears that are plaguing your happiness. Use this practice to cultivate more courage in your life, and build up a practice of facing your fears up front, instead of allowing them to slowly take over.

2. Use visualization

Visualization is a highly powerful tool, and it doesn’t matter if you’re looking to become more successful or you’re just looking to manifest more joy in your life. It works. Whether you’re a professional athlete or a SAHM, the act of visually mapping out what you want to do can help you to achieve it, and it can do the same when it comes to banishing your fears.

Visualize yourself performing with confidence and visualize yourself overcoming the things you fear. Use a journal if you need to, and write down the things you fear, then write out the things that might happen if you were to face up to those fears.

Often, just by visualizing the potential fallouts and successes of the decisions we have to make, we can put better perspective on our fears and insecurities. Visualization improves our self-image and helps us to relax in the face of adversity or uncertain possibilities that might otherwise leave us feeling shaky. Feed your mind positive pictures too and imagine what your success or overcoming would look and feel like. By tapping into these emotions, we can tap into the power to let go of that which we fear.

3. See fear as a call to action

Our fear is a natural instinct (whether we like to admit that or not) and its purpose is to protect us from discomfort, heartache and worse. Fear is not to be reviled, but we should see it as a call to action. Rather than allowing it to paralyze us — as our fear often dictates — we have to learn to see it as the final horn and battle call into our destinies. Something that takes courage and perseverance to do.

Take a step back and take some time by yourself to sit down and really think about the things you fear. What’s outside your control? Really think about the things contained within your fear that you have no say-so over. Write down a clear and specific plan of what steps you know you can take if the worst were to happen. Then, have the courage to put your plan down and forget about it.

Now consider the things that are inside your control. Right down a full and actionable list of steps you could take that you know could have a major impact on your life or where you want to go. Why haven’t you done these things? Look at each item and brutally ask yourself for the truth. If there are things you can do right now…do them. And stop waiting for life to sort things out for you.

4. Focus on the long-term

Though there is a special power in being present, it’s also important that we focus on the long-term and the bigger picture we’re trying to paint. When we look at the bigger picture, we put our fears into a more realistic perspective and in that way, empower ourselves to take action where once there was only apprehension or uncertainty.

Isolate each one of your fears and then take a step back, considering them against the long-term objectives of your life or its trajectory. Will this fear look the same in three months? How about three years? If it’s not something that will make any difference to your life when you’re 80 — why is it such a big deal to you now?

Consider these answers and consider them honestly. Some fears are short term, and we realize that we empower ourselves to move through them rather than past them. When you know there’s an expiration date on the discomfort, you might be exposed to, mentally empowering yourself to let go of that fear becomes that much easier. Looking at the bigger picture helps us to think objectively, and that’s one of the best things we can do when seeking to let go of the things that scare us.

5. Get your proportions right

Fear has a funny way of swallowing up our view until it’s the only thing we can see or perceive. When you’re scared of loneliness or failure, those seem to be the only things you can imagine for yourself. When you have a fear of pain or being judged, you’ll become obsessed with the idea of avoiding both at all costs. All of our fears become bigger than they actually are, the longer they go unaddressed. That’s why it’s so important that we shift our perspectives and make sure we put them into right and realistic proportions.

Break down your fears one-by-one and consider them in their fullness. Map out all the good outcomes of that fear, then spend some time mapping all the potentially catastrophic outcomes. Imagine yourself in the wake of both. Is the fear something that will literally kill you? Or, perhaps, is the fear a little less damaging than you imagined?

When we spend some time getting up-close-to our fears, we often discover that they aren’t nearly as horrifying or nightmare-inducing as we first imagined. Shift your perspective and get real about the things that are holding you back. If you never find “The One” what will really happen? Will your life cease to be? Or will you fill that space with friendship, family, travel, pets and more? There is so much to this life outside our fears. Discovering that requires shifting how we see ourselves and the world around us, though.

Putting it all together…

We all carry fears that go a long way in informing who we become and the decisions we make in this life. Whether you fear ending up alone, or you’re afraid that you’ll never be good enough, getting past the common fears that hold us back takes confronting them head-on. If you’re looking to create a life that is truly your own, you have to banish fear to the sidelines…something we can accomplish only by digging deep within.

Confront your fears immediately. When leave our fears unaddressed for too long — no matter what they might be — we give them power over our lives. Use visualization to confront your fears head-on and beat them before they beat you. By acting in line with your fear, you will only create more fear. That’s why it’s important to see your insecurities as a call to action, rather than a call to react. Focus on the long-term and make sure you’ve got all your proportions right by putting everything in the right place and perspective before letting it create an atmosphere of fear. Be grateful for what you have and stay positive. When you learn to value courage over security, your life will transform. A fear of something does not guarantee that thing as a reality. Manifest the life you want by getting proactive about creating it.

  • Passer, M. (1983). Fear of Failure, Fear of Evaluation, Perceived Competence, and Self-esteem In Competitive-Trait-Anxious Children. Journal Of Sport Psychology, 5(2), 172–188. doi: 10.1123/jsp.5.2.172

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