Facing the Right Fears

"I believe anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experiences behind him.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)


"Face your fears" is a very common self-help axiom. Very common, but not always helpful. It only tends to work if the fear in question is something you actually need to face.

I don’t need to face my fear of blood, for instance, because I’m not pursuing a new career in nursing. You don’t necessarily need to face your fear of spiders, or public speaking, or heights, either.

The only fears you need to face, and thus begin to conquer, are those preventing you from enjoying the life you crave. Fears like putting your creative work out there to be critiqued. Or being truly open with your spouse. Or asking your boss for greater responsibility (and greater compensation). Or confronting a family member about her hurtful behavior.

But that’s just the beginning. What Mrs. Roosevelt makes so clear above is we have to face those fears repeatedly, building up a record of success, in order to conquer them.

This means doing it again, after initial attempts may feel like failure.

And then again, after tasting anything resembling success.

And then again, as the new behavior becomes part of who you are.

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