7 Ways Fear Is Holding You Back (And How To Overcome It)

7 Ways Fear Is Holding You Back (And How To Overcome It)

“Just do it,” a well-meaning friend recently told me, invoking the infamous Nike slogan. Sure, if it were that easy, wouldn’t we already be the best versions of ourselves today, tomorrow, and always—or at the very least, be our best memes?

But my friend got me thinking, what is it that is holding me back? Is it fear of rejection? Fear of making a mistake? Fear of not being good enough?

Enter Ruth Soukup, entrepreneur and author of the forthcoming book Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You Love. Soukup wants us to realize that we’re indeed capable of doing whatever it is we’ve dreamt of, but the key? To do it while being scared. She surveyed more than 7,000 women and worked with a team of researchers to identify what she calls the seven most common “fear archetypes.”

“Until I started doing this work, I didn’t realize how often I hold myself back because of my fear of rejection. Or how my trust issues have affected my life and business,” Soukup says.

Having overcome a number of difficult setbacks herself—including debilitating depression that almost took her life—Soukup says understanding the unique and specific ways in which fear affects our daily lives is a critical first step in being able to overcome it.

So, what are you waiting for? We’ve outlined how each of Soukup’s seven fear archetypes might be holding you back, and how to charge ahead anyway.

Archetype no. 1: The Procrastinator

The Procrastinator archetype isn’t what it seems. For those of us with this dominant fear archetype, we are often so obsessed with the end product being perfect that the planning and researching phase never quite gets wrapped up. That makes both getting started and completing projects difficult.

What it feels like: “I feel so embarrassed about not achieving perfection that it prevents me from even getting started,” one woman wrote on Soukup’s fear assessment survey.

How to make it work for you:Procrastinators produce high-quality work and are known for their attention to detail. Try reframing your life as a series of “lessons rather than mistakes,” Soukup advises. Deadlines can also be a major game-changer if you find yourself bogged down by the notion that everything must be “right.” Instead, focus on turning in work on time rather than work that’s perfect. Soukup writes that “the more ‘real’ you can make the deadlines, the more likely you will be to stick to them.”

Archetype no. 2: The Rule Follower

The Rule Follower is just what it sounds like: you’re dedicated to adhering to clear definitions of what’s right and what’s wrong, even if it’s at the expense of your own success.

What it feels like: “I am most scared about whether or not I’m making the ‘right’ decision. I often think that if I make the decision to go with this option, then what am I missing out on by not choosing the other option?”

How to make it work for you:The key here is to distance yourself from static notions of what’s “allowed” and what isn’t—and to forget FOMO. According to Soukup, make the most of your instinctive sense of what’s right by recognizing and defining your own set of principles that “overrule” external sources. And don’t forget to practice a little self-compassion, advises Lynne Everatt, co-author of the book, The 5-Minute Recharge: 31 Proven Strategies to Refresh, Reset and Become the Boss of Your Day. “I think we need to give ourselves a break,” Everatt says. “If you can’t be compassionate with yourself, it’s really difficult to show compassion for anyone else.”

Archetype no. 3: The People Pleaser

If you’re a People Pleaser, that means you struggle most with the fear of being judged or worry most about others being disappointed in you. This can manifest as difficulty with boundaries or saying “no.”

What it feels like: “I’m afraid of looking stupid, of having people think I’m wasting money, and of disappointing those I love or making them angry in some way.”

How to make it work for you:You’re likely a fantastic employee, friend, and mentor because of your considerate nature. But Soukup says finding a mentor or teacher—ideally with a different archetype, such as an Outcast—can help you learn how to say no, and give yourself permission to prioritize you.

Archetype no. 4: The Outcast

Soukup says she’s “an Outcast through and through,” and notes that it’s a common archetype for entrepreneurs. “It has been incredibly enlightening to identify this part of myself and to start to notice how often my Outcast tendencies play a part in my life,” she adds, noting that she has focused on being more intentional about asking for help since learning that’s a weak point.

Outcasts tend to outwardly appear fearless—but are secretly so afraid of rejection, they often reject others first.

What it feels like: “I’ve learned that I can’t rely on anyone, and if I want to get something done, I have to do it myself.”

How to make it work for you:You’re already self-motivated and willing to take risks, so consider making your individualism work for you by pursuing a long-lost passion or seeking guidance from a mentor to create your own business endeavor. But remember: You can’t do it alone. Soukup recommends forming a “truth club” where you can gain support and accountability from people you trust. Meet regularly to get thoughtful feedback and maintain your motivation to keep going.

Archetype no. 5: The Self-Doubter

For those of us that are Self-Doubters, the most dominant fear in your life is likely entrenched in deep feelings of insecurity about your own capabilities. You might describe yourself as “stuck,” or perhaps even find yourself judging others who make the leap as a way of masking your own fears.

What it feels like: “I am afraid to realize that I am not capable of what I really want to do and that no one will take me seriously or care about what I have to offer.”

How to make it work for you:You’re a hard-worker who likely is regularly the first one in and the last one to leave—always happy to go above and beyond to get the job done. But Soukup suggests putting this to the test by allowing yourself to get out of your comfort zone to try something new. “Action is the antidote to fear,” she writes, adding that the only way to prove you’re capable of doing something is to do it. Set small goals and track your progress in a journal or on a blog. You might even surprise your toughest critic—you.

Archetype no. 6: The Excuse Maker

For the Excuse Maker archetype, taking responsibility for your life choices and goals (or lack thereof) can be a major challenge. Rather than lead, you might find yourself often taking a backseat approach to life, allowing others to make decisions for you—and therefore letting yourself off the hook.

What it feels like: “I’d like to start my own business, but it feels like someone or something always stops me. I don’t have time. I don’t have money. There is no one to show me what to do.”

How to make it work for you:Your fear of taking a leadership stance means you probably make a great cheerleader to your friends and coworkers. But Soukup advises something that might seem counterintuitive to help move you past excuses and into a place of action: encouraging conflict. “It’s important to hear other points of view, even when you don’t agree with them,” she says. “Listening to the thoughts of someone who doesn’t agree with you forces you to solidify your own beliefs. And fighting to make things better will get you better results.”

Archetype no. 7: The Pessimist

If you identify as someone with the Pessimist archetype, you likely struggle most with a fear of adversity or pain. Hardships feel more like stop signs, Soukup says, rather than stepping-stones to something greater.

What it feels like: “I always try new things, but old problems always get in the way and drag me down.”

How to make it work for you:Remember, everyone goes through tough times, but you can choose how you’ll respond next time it seems the deck is stacked against you. Take advantage of your big heart and compassion by putting it to good use for others: studies show “doing good”—everything from volunteering to making a cup of tea or coffee for a coworker—can promote better health, happiness, and can even decrease depression and high blood pressure. Of course, if you need professional help feeling better, don’t be afraid to ask a trusted friend to make a recommendation for a good mental health counselor in your area.

Ready to launch into action? Take Soukup’s short online fear assessment to identify your own specific fear archetype.