How to rise above doubt, fear and insecurities

The greatest strides and triumphs of our lives will come when we cast fears and insecurities to the side — by accepting them for what they are — and continue powering forward to what we want most.

As John Mayer once sang, “fear is a friend who’s misunderstood.” But fear can also be an enemy. So as we experience the doubts and insecurities of life, we must learn how to harness the energy to both accept and reject fear.

One of my artistic heroes, Paul McCartney, appeared on 60 Minutes in 2018 and discussed memories, fears, proudest moments and shockingly — insecurities.

Few people would think of the greatest icon in the history of popular — and rock n’ roll music — as a man who is insecure. And yet Paul McCartney, then at age 76, was there to tell us that he’s human, too.

McCartney was asked what the biggest misconception about him is. Like most of us, we’ll never really know of what others think of us. So, on its head, it was a curious question. But McCartney digested it, thought a bit and said,

I don’t know what people think about me. I can try and guess. I’ll tell you what,

“You must have no insecurities.”

Just like anyone else, you have insecurities. ’Cause everyone has them. And no matter how high and great and wonderful you get, there’s still something that will make you worry.”

No matter how high and great and wonderful you get, there will always be worry. Even when you’re the greatest the world has ever seen, you still doubt. You’re still insecure about whether your work, your thoughts or things that you do will resonate and matter. When you’re dedicated to giving the world your absolute best, you will always care. You’ll always worry. And that’s OK. To fear is human. To worry is, too. Insecure? Aren’t we all?

This is not a bad thing. The more we disown our human nature, the more we struggle. The more we pretend that we can make it through life without worrying about the good and the bad, the less vulnerable we are. The less we are ourselves. And we should always try to live our best, boldest life — which is being ourselves and striving to get better everyday.

“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” — Steven Pressfield

Life isn’t about living someone else’s life — and furthermore, it’s not about pretending to be someone that doesn’t even exist.

If you find yourself succumbing to fears and worries on your journey, take solace in the fact that the world’s most talented and successful people find themselves in moments of doubt, just like you and me.

In fact, the more experienced you become in insecurity and fear, the better able you are at mastering it and launching the greatest growth moments of your life. How do I know? I’ll tell you.

Launching a Dream

My whole life, I wanted to write a book. But I didn’t just want to write a book to say I was an author. It was never about that. Titles mean nothing. Impact is really what matters. I wanted to write a book that changed people’s lives, offered a glimpse into what it means to do what matters most, and to provide clear definition to why we do, what we do.

The more I dedicated time to self-examination, to thinking of all of my biggest failures and mistakes, as well as my biggest victories and moments of progress, I found very deep meaning in what I needed to do. I motivated and inspired myself to make meaning of my life and to continue doing what I love most: writing in an effort to help others.

I was living my calling. And yet the closer I got to living my dream and publishing my book, The Value of You, the more fear set in. It was crazy. How could it be that the more I immersed myself in what meant everything to me, in certain respects, the more difficult it became? I didn’t have an answer, at the time. But I knew the intensity of the moment was real.

Right before I was wrapping up the editing of the final chapters, I was sitting at my dining room table staring at the screen. For all intents and purposes, I was finished. But I knew there was still just a little bit left. I could feel the doubt starting to set in:

You can’t finish this. Just leave it be. No one’s going to care anyway. You’re not going to be a published author. No one’s going to care.

In a moment of epiphany that I can only describe as sublime, I snapped out of the moment, re-applied myself and powered through the rest of the editing. I was finished. The book wasn’t yet published. But I had just completed living my dream. It was one of the most remarkable feelings I’ve ever experienced, in part because I overcame the feelings of insecurity and doubt and smashed them in their face. You too will face fear when you commit to a consistent daily approach of doing great work — doing what you love. You must be prepared.

Examining your fear and doubt

This piece from Harvard Business Review, by Matt Brubaker and Foster Mobley, takes into account four great ways to combat fear. It’s an excellent step-by-step process to incorporate emotional intelligence and break down four parts of fear and how this cycle manifests itself in our lives:

Step 1: Acknowledge the Fear: In the acknowledge phase, we suggest that people take a close look at their history and examine the choices they’ve made and the reasons behind those choices.”

“Step 2: Interrogate the fear to better understand it: assess current reality and look at the costs of fear… spend time considering what it would mean if (you) failed at something.”

“Step 3: Choose a different course of action. This is about deciding what to do next and making commitments — understanding what truly matters to you.”

“Step 4: Act on that choice — in a way that aligns with your values. The last step is to deliver on your commitments.”

The battle of life

In his must-read book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about the biggest enemy (and sometimes catalyst) all of us will face in life: fear. Fear is our lifelong companion. We can’t shake it. So we might as well live with it. Pressfield asks a timeless question that all of us will need to answer time and time again,

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Fear, Insecurities, Doubt. It really depends on which side of the coin you’re looking at.

When I was in the doldrums of insecurity while struggling with anxiety, fear and low self-esteem — which included the loss of a job, the loss of a family member and rejections from publishers — that’s when I really learned the most about myself. It was in those moments that I realized that fear is the biggest fight and battle of our lives. And it will never end.

If we succumb to fear, if we begin rationalizing the voice inside our head that tells us to give in to what we don’t really want, we lose big time. We stop fighting and acquiesce, letting the wind take us whichever way it so pleases.

We must keep up the fight, and while we won’t always control every outcome, our effort to influence and embrace ourselves for exactly who and what we are at all times, is the epitome of what it means to triumph and persevere.

Fear and insecurities are given life by the voice inside our heads. It’s rare that it comes from others. And frankly, if you’re finding yourself speaking with people who are making you more fearful and anxious, then cut them off. Eliminate those conversations from your life.

Lean in and do what you really want

Insecurities are truly pushing us in the direction of what we really want. It sure doesn’t seem that way, but take a step back and realize the way that you feel when you try to launch your dream and you find your mind leading you astray into doubt. It happens in the blink of an eye. You’ll start to think you don’t really want this thing that drives the passion inside of you each day.

Please. Do what you want. Go after what you want with maximum effort and energy. If you’re reading this and this resonates with you in your personal struggle, then know that this is your time to do that.

Don’t get caught up worrying about time or the “*I’m too old” or “I’m starting too late” or “What if it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be” or “What if I’m not as good as I think I am?” Those excuses and rationalizations are all fear-based.

You may want to create your own website, write a book, perhaps you want to launch a new app that helps increase literacy among children, or maybe you just want to rock on the guitar and write a few songs.

Concluding thoughts

Paul McCartney will tell you that all of us struggle with insecurity. It’s how we both proactively embrace fear, as well as how we react to moments of self-doubt that define our lives.

When you view life through this lens, you begin to make the most of your human experience. I think you’ll look back and realize that you’ve learned a tremendous amount about yourself.

Fear can break you, if you let it. But fear and insecurity can drive your life to do things that can literally change the world — and the lives of others for the better. Know your insecurities.

Know your fears. Things that will help positively shape the rest of your life. 

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