All of us want to quit at some stage or another, even when the thing we’re about to give up on is a long-held goal or dream. But often the reason we want to throw in the towel has little to do with the activity or task at hand. According to science, it’s typically a consequence of specific fears.
And while fear is not always a bad thing — as it can fuel your success and keep you safe in “fight-or-flight” moments — if your fear is ultimately making you a quitter, then try these tips to recognize which fear is causing you problems and overcome it.
How to Overcome These 5 Common, Life-Limiting Fears
1. Fear of Failure
Recent statistics from the World Bank claim that 41.2% of Americans who believe that the signs are good to start a business say that they wouldn’t do it for fear of failure.
While this might make some sense considering the economic fallout of a business flop, experts have noted that similar fears of failure prevent people from embarking on other sure bets toward a better life. The reason for this, some studies say, is that the fear of failure translates into the pursuit of perfectionism. In other words, if you can’t be sure you’ll do things well, you find it best to not do them at all.
How to Overcome a Fear of Failure
So what should you do when your fear of failure overrides your need to achieve some great ambition? Interestingly, the answer doesn’t lie in tackling your fear head-on. Rather, it involves increasing your courage.
Related: 4 Amazing Benefits of Completely Failing
In his book, Facing Your Fears, former Navy Seal Don Mann claims that Seals aren’t fearless. Rather, they make a conscious choice to embrace challenges and persevere; to look for ways to control their fear rather than letting their fear control them.
In this way, they learn to move forward with a clear mind. And the more they muster up courage, the more facing down their fears becomes a familiar state, and the less power their fear of failure begins to have over them.
2. Fear of Feedback
Few of us feel comfortable with receiving feedback on our performances, whether it’s in the office, in the gym, or out on the race course.
There could be a deeply-wired, evolutionary reason for this. According to Peter Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College, criticism can signal exclusion, which is tied to our innate sense of survival.
In early hunter-gatherer societies, being excluded from the group was potentially life-threatening. Fast forward to the 21st century, and your manager’s feedback might trigger an instinctive fear of exclusion from your perceived tribe.
But if you truly fear the possibility of a performance review or even just the constructive criticism of others, it might be the very thing that’s stopping you from progressing in your work and your life.
How to Ditch the Fear of Feedback
Not wanting others’ opinions might seem like a good way to stay strong and single-minded, but more often than not, psychologists say that we overthink the feedback anyway. And making fear-based assumptions tends to lead to maladaptive behaviors such as denial, procrastination, avoidance, and self-sabotage.
Instead, reframe criticism as being constructive. After all, most of us can benefit from some advice on how to better our work, training, or lives. Also, use what you’ve learned to take action toward positive change so you can see the benefits in action. And finally, actively create support systems with people whose opinions you really trust and value. Not only will this encourage you to move forward with your goals, but it’ll help you become more comfortable with receiving pointers from different people.
3. Fear of Confrontation
Having a fear of confrontation is pretty common. After all, most of us just want to get on with our days without having to deal with disagreements with others.
But if you consistently avoid confrontation to the point that you’d rather quit a project, a workout, or a social event than step up and make your voice heard, it’s time to face this fear directly.
Of course, this is easier said than done. But even the most shy or outspoken person can become comfortable with some measure of confrontation if they can look at approaching conflict as less about shouting and more about solutions.
Ways to Overcome the Fear of Confrontation
According to the Thomas–Kilmann conflict resolution model developed in the 1970s, we each have a natural approach to managing conflict. These approaches — which vary from “avoiding” to “compromising” to “collaborating” — are not fixed, however. This means that all of us can adapt our way of managing conflict to yield better results.
While the model offers several suggestions on how exactly to do that, some of the simplest involve a reframe: accepting that confrontation isn’t necessarily bad. Confronting someone whose opinions and behavior you have an issue with can clear the air, address a challenge, or even prompt you to find areas of compromise and collaboration — all of which reduce the possibility of future periods of confrontation.
4. Fear of Rejection
Nobody likes being rejected, but living your life in avoidance of it is not really living your life at all. The truth is that most of us will face rejection at some stage, whether we get turned down for a job, denied a place on a team or project, or rebuffed in a relationship.
Because acceptance was a necessary part of evolutionary survival, human beings developed biopsychological mechanisms to deal with threats to acceptance and belonging. Some of these involve emotions such as anger and jealousy, which can cause friction in present-day society.
So, how do we stop quitting on our goals and passions because of a fear of rejection, and curb the aggressive emotions that might accompany that fear?
How to Stop Fearing Rejection
In his book, Brain Blocks: Overcoming the Seven Hidden Barriers to Success, neuropsychologist Theo Tsaousides, Ph.D., claims that validating your feelings of fear and pain is necessary, but so is using those feelings as an opportunity for self-discovery. If we don’t know why a particular rejection devastated us or why we actively avoid people or experiences that we associate with rejection, Tsaousides explains that “it can have a serious impact on the goals we seek to accomplish and the life we aim to build.”
So aim for self-reflection. Keep things in perspective, but figure out what’s actually behind the reason that you as a unique individual fear being rejected.
5. Fear of Change
Fear of change is really a fear of the unknown. When life feels unpredictable or we can’t anticipate the outcome of a particular event, we’re likely to feel more anxious and stressed than usual. (This is also why so many people prefer to stay in their comfort zone, or the experiences that feel safe and familiar to us.)
However, at Spartan, staying in your comfort zone is not an option. The primary constant to a healthier life in mind and body is change.
Sticking with a harmful lifestyle, staying in a toxic relationship, not exercising because you’ve never made it a priority in the past, or quitting a race because it feels unfamiliar are all examples of a fear of change and a pathway to an unsatisfying or downright boring life.
On the flip side, getting over your fear of change creates challenges for you to overcome and prove to yourself that you can achieve so much more than you ever believed.
How to Get Over a Fear of Change
So how do you do it? There are countless articles and guides on the Spartan website to show you how to move outside of your comfort zone.
For example, make yourself vulnerable and sign up for a race, even if you think you’re not ready for it. Or, envision a goal that you’ve always dreamed of crushing and break it down bit by bit to make achieving it a reality.
Surround yourself with people who’ll champion your need for change. And finally, just stop for a moment and imagine what your life would be like if, instead of quitting every time something unexpected — possibly extraordinary — loomed on the horizon, you turned to face it and met it head on.