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Do you want to meet the best version of yourself? Start by learning how to be brave.
Taking steps to live courageously and get out of your comfort zone is the quickest path to reaching your full potential.
The problem is, many of us let our fears get in the way. We don’t go for a job because we’re afraid we’re not qualified enough. Or we don’t make a positive change in our life because we’re afraid of the unknown.
Sound familiar? That’s because we all experience fear. It’s a natural human emotion. But always living in fear of the "what-if" can hold us back in our professional and personal lives.
To overcome our fears requires a little acting. Let’s explore how to be brave and courageous using nine powerful tips.
Is fear holding you back from making life-changing decisions?
Fear can be paralyzing.
The fear of what might happen or making the wrong decision can cause nothing to happen in your life. Instead of moving forward, you retreat to a safe and warm comfort zone and avoid making any major life decisions.
However, getting too attached to your comfort zone can be dangerous. It can hold you back from any kind of personal, professional, and emotional growth.
Each of us is on our own unique journey of personal growth. It’s a continuous process that spans our entire life. Personal growth can mean many things:
- Setting and achieving goals
- Building your self-esteem
- Finding your purpose
- Reaching your full potential
Our biggest growth comes from overcoming problems and situations that challenge us.
And that’s when fear sets in. Fear of failing, fear of the unknown — you name it.
When you let fear become a roadblock that gets in the way of your own life, your personal growth gets temporarily stunted. Instead of developing our mental fitness and growing, we retreat into our shells. We also avoid new experiences to avoid uncomfortable feelings.
Eventually, we start to feel unfulfilled because we’re not living an authentic life. Instead of moving forward, we stay in a safe place that we’ve long outgrown.
Fear can also affect different aspects of your professional growth. According to performance strategist Laura Garnett, one of the things that hold you back from being successful is fear of failure.
Imagine you’re currently in an unfulfilling role. You know that you need to make a career change, but the thought of failing is keeping you from making a decision. So you stay where you are for another year, or two, or three.
This is just one example of how the fear of failure affects your professional growth. Instead of advancing in your career, developing new skills, and being in a role that aligns with your true potential, you choose to feel safe.
Fear of failure is also tied in with fear of not being good enough. This is another common obstacle in your professional growth that manifests itself as imposter syndrome.
In this scenario, you may be reluctant to take on a leadership role because you don’t believe you’re good enough.
When you let fear run the show in your professional life, it will always keep you from making decisions that drive you forward.
Avoiding situations that take you out of your comfort zone because you’re afraid affects your emotional growth. You miss out on developing strong emotional skills that you need to succeed in your personal and professional life. These include:
- Building resilience
- Developing emotional regulation
- Improving emotional intelligence
- Expanding your self-awareness
Failing to develop on an emotional level can leave you extremely vulnerable to unexpected or stressful situations. This type of chronic and acute stress is known as “bad stress”- the opposite of the good kind of stress that leads to growth.
A lack of resilience, for example, will make you perceive challenges at work as threats instead of opportunities. This affects your job performance and ability to adapt to this new environment.
If you constantly dodge opportunities for emotional growth, you’ll find yourself unable to deal with challenging situations in your personal and professional life.
Is fear always a bad thing?
Fear isn’t always an inherently bad thing. After all, fear is and has been a normal and healthy response to threatening situations since the dawn of time. It triggers our fight-or-flight instincts and keeps us safe from potential dangers.
Today, we don’t feel true fear as often as our cave-dwelling ancestors did. Yet, there are situations when it can manifest as a gut feeling or a sudden instinct.
Imagine you’re walking down the street at night. Your senses pick up subtle signals you may be unsafe, and fear sets in. In these instances, listening to your body’s intuition can save your life.
Fear is also a very powerful human emotion. It can guide you towards the part of you that needs the most work. As psychiatrist Carl Jung put it, “Find out what a person fears most, and that is where he will develop next.”
In other words, doing whatever you’re afraid of most leads to your biggest growth as a human being.
For example, If you’re afraid of public speaking, give a presentation in front of dozens of people. It can be extremely empowering and help you develop into a more confident person. Improving and mastering public speaking skills is essential if you want to stay competitive in today’s job market.
On the other hand, when fear consistently holds you back from living your life to the fullest, it becomes a problem.
Often, this fear manifests as anxiety. Anxiety is a consistent response you have to things that may not pose an actual threat to you. And they’re not even immediate threats, but things you anticipate that may or may not happen.
Some examples of this could be:
- Worrying about being negatively judged and ridiculed by others in social settings
- Not trying something new because you fear failure and rejection
- Fearing change and uncertainty
- Not going after what you want because you fear you’re inadequate
This kind of fear keeps you stuck in your comfort zone and robs you of opportunities and experiences that can enhance your life.
Overcoming these common fears doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s certainly achievable.
Can you be brave when you’re afraid?
The words brave and courage are often used interchangeably, but by definition, they’re not the same. Bravery comes with a lack of fear. In contrast, being courageous doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means doing something even though it scares you.
In Nelson Mandela’s own words: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
Learning how to be courageous in the face of fear takes practice and persistence. Think of it as learning a new skill. Once you’ve mastered it, it can be extremely liberating. Similarly, being brave when the situation calls for it can also be cultivated.
How to be courageous: 9 ways to become fearless
It’s never too late to become fearless and step out of your comfort zone. Here are 10 ways to become a more courageous version of yourself:
1. Acknowledge your fear
Never try to sweep your fear under the rug. It will give it more power.
Instead, you need to acknowledge and accept your fears. We all have them, and there’s no shame in that. Like we mentioned before, bravery is not about eliminating fear but moving forward despite being afraid.
2. Confront it
Confronting your fear is about understanding the underlying reasons why you’re afraid in the first place.
For example, if you’re afraid to ask for a promotion or apply for a new role, ask yourself why. Is it because you may not get it? Are you afraid of rejection, failure, or ridicule?
You’ll soon realize that your fear is often your ego trying to protect itself from feeling diminished. In reality, these experiences can only make you a stronger person, not weaker.
3. Use positive self-talk
Self-talk is that inner voice inside your head that reveals your beliefs and thoughts. When you’re afraid, it means that for a long time, you’ve created a negative stream of self-talk that may look like this:
“I would like to speak up more during meetings, but I’ll probably just say the wrong thing.”
“I’m not going to that networking event. What if I don’t know anyone there?”
When you start believing these negative thoughts, you sabotage your growth. You must catch these thoughts when they arise and replace them with positive self-talk:
“I am capable of speaking in front of my peers, even if it’s not perfect.”
“It’s okay If I don’t know anyone there. It’s a chance to meet new people and learn.”
Consistent, positive self-talk will build your confidence and your ability to overcome your fears.
4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
American writer and self-improvement pioneer Dale Carnegie once said, “Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it...that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.”
So if you’re afraid of being alone, for example, go see a movie by yourself. If you want to be even braver, take a solo trip.
The best way to become fearless is to put yourself in situations that intimidate you. Once you do them despite being afraid, fear will lose power over you.
5. Make being brave a habit
Once you conquer your fear for the first time, don’t stop there. Strengthen your fearlessness like a muscle by overcoming your fears on a regular basis.
In her book “Fear Is Not An Option,” author Monica Berg advises making a list of things that you would do if you weren’t afraid.
Make your own list and start doing those things. Begin with the easiest ones and gradually move up.
When you learn how to live courageously, you’ll realize how much you were missing out on because fear was getting in the way.
6. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness teacher and author of “The Power of Now” explains that fear is completely mind-made.
You’re always afraid of what might happen, not what is actually happening in the present moment. The fear he refers to is not an immediate danger. He’s talking about feelings of unease, anxiety, or worry about a future made-up problem.
When you practice mindfulness, you learn to observe these thoughts. You also learn not to let them take over you and turn your fear into a worst-case scenario.
7. Find a mentor
Do you know anyone in your personal or professional life whose fearlessness and confidence you admire? Build a mentorship relationship with them.
They can offer valuable advice and teach you how to be fearless and brave.
8. Embrace failure
We’re often afraid to do something because we’re afraid of failure. We try to do it once, and as soon as we fail, we give up.
Instead of fearing failure, we need to make the most of it and turn it into a learning opportunity.
So how do we do that? Start by building resilience.
Resilient people try not to be hard on themselves when they don’t succeed and have a growth mindset. When you have a growth mindset, you believe you can learn through your failures and try again.
9. Don’t aim for perfection
To overcome fear, try to approach anything you do with a beginner's mind.
Next time you want to try something you fear, don’t have any expectations of how it’s going to go. Approach it with a sense of curiosity and don’t worry about the outcome.
Learning not to judge an outcome as good or bad will take the fear of failure out of the equation.
Instead of aiming for perfection, aim to learn and grow.
Learn how to be brave and inspire others
Learning how to be brave doesn’t mean not being afraid. It means taking action despite feeling afraid.
It’s seeing fear as an opportunity instead of a roadblock — an opportunity for personal, professional, and emotional growth. Fear can guide you towards the areas of your life that need the most work.
Practicing positive self-talk or putting yourself in challenging situations are small but powerful steps to build self-confidence and become a brave person.
What steps will you take today to challenge yourself and others?
A BetterUp coach can help you develop the skills you need to overcome fear and reach your full potential.