Are you still afraid of things that scared you as a child? Are you frightened by situations you feared 3, 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ago? If so, they probably no longer serve you. That means you’ve outgrown those fears.
On some level, you know it’s time to let those fears go. After all, they don’t align with who you are now or who you want to be.
Yet, feeling afraid becomes habitual. You fear things without thinking if you need to or not.
But if those fears don’t serve you and are no longer relevant, it’s time to move past them. It’s time to create new habits.
As You Grow, Your Fears Change
Typically, as we grow and change, so do our fears. However, sometimes, we remain afraid of things long past when we are terrified of them.
For example, I used to believe I was afraid of heights. My mother was scared of heights and instilled that fear in me. As an adult, I completed a ropes course that required me to confront that fear in various ways. As a result, I realized I wasn’t afraid of heights at all.
Here’s another example: I never feared tearing my anterior cruciate ligament. Then I tore it twice! After the second surgery and rehab, I worried about tearing the ligament again. Twenty-five years later, that thought rarely enters my mind.
But there are some instances where I maintain habitual fear reactions. For instance, I used to have a story about how men get angry at and then leave me. I still have the habit of pulling away if my partner gets angry. I automatically feel the need to protect myself.
Have I outgrown that fear? Yes. I don’t interpret my past or current relationships that way any longer. But I haven’t broken my habitual reaction in those circumstances yet. Knowing it’s an outdated fear now will make it easier to do so.
Fears are Habitual Reactions
Indeed, fears often are habitual reactions to people, places, or things. For instance, if you were bitten by a dog when you were 20, you may still pull back when you see a dog…even though 20 years have passed and you have since learned that not all dogs are mean.
Or you might have a habit—conscious or unconscious—of not sharing openly and honestly with friends because your bestie in high school shared a secret you told her—with the whole school. The other students laughed at you, and, as a result, you felt embarrassed. Whenever you enter a new friendship, you automatically hold back and don’t share too much.
Do you still need to do so? Not likely. But your habit keeps you doing so.
Would the Person You Are or Want to Be have those fears?
Think of a conscious fear—one you are aware you have. Maybe you are afraid of spiders, speaking in public, disappointing your parents, or sharing your art.
Then, ask yourself, “Would the person I am today have that fear?”
If the answer is “no,” you are hanging onto a misaligned fear out of habit. It’s time to change that habit!
You can do so quickly by committing to being someone who deals with that courageously. Or…be who you are now. That person has no need for that fear, right?
And if the fear arises again, acknowledge that you no longer need to fear that. You’ve outgrown it. And focus on something else—or take bold action in the face of that fear.
Do these things a few times, and the fear will go away.
Let Go of Fears that No Longer Align with Your Identity
Fears that hang around beyond their expiration date keep you in an old identity—the one that had that fear. So, be careful when you answer the question above. Your old identity may say, “Yes. That’s still who I am. Therefore, I’m still afraid of that.”
But you know better. You know you’ve changed and grown.
That fact begs another question: Why do you still want that fear?
Consider the benefits you get from having a specific fear, even though they are misaligned with who you are currently. For example, a fear of speaking might help you avoid the possibility of criticism or playing big. But if you are now an author with a mission to transform many people’s lives, that fear is misaligned. It stops you from achieving your goal. In fact, the moment you committed to your mission and published your book, you outgrew that fear.
Granted, you might get nervous before taking the stage to speak to a large audience. But nervousness is different than fear. In fact, it’s often been said that fear and excitement feel the same in the body. So you can decide to feel excited instead of afraid.
Here’s an exercise that will help you discern which fears you’ve outgrown:
First, make a list of the things you fear. Then check off the ones that align with your current identity or who you are now. Be honest. (I know someone who would read this post no longer needs any of those fears.)
Second, do the same for your future identity—who you want to be. Which fears align with that person? (I bet you won’t have more than one checkmark. Why? Because fear is never in alignment with who you want to become.)
Move Out of Your Safety Zone
None of your current fears serve you any longer. You hang onto them out of habit, and that habit makes you feel safe.
Why wouldn’t it? After all, fear is all about keeping yourself safe. It’s the brain’s way of ensuring you don’t get eaten by a lion or run over by a truck.
But most of your fears are mental fears. They are your thoughts about things that might happen in the future—events you want to avoid for whatever reason.
And as long as you remain afraid, you stay in your safety zone. But from a place of fear and safety, you won’t ever become the person you want to be or do the things you want to do. You only can do that from a place of courage.
Admit it. You’ve grown and changed and outgrown many of your fears. They have become habitual reactions.
It’s time to replace them with courageous habits that align with who you are now and with your future self, is it not?
Have you outgrown your fears? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with a friend or on social media.
Photo courtesy of Yurii Seleznyov.