How To Use Self-Awareness To Face Your Fears

The fears we harbour within are normally compounded; most of us probably aren’t just scared of one single thing to the exclusion of all others. To effectively combat your fears, though, you need to know exactly what they are and why they’re there in the first place. 

This, essentially, is the emotional self-awareness, defined as “the ability to monitor our inner world.” The extent to which we are aware of our emotional responses to the world around us determines our emotional well-being, resilience, and maturity. Daniel Goleman, who first popularised the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI), has referred to self-awareness as “mindsight”–the ability to see your own mind. According to Goleman, it’s what forms the basis of emotional intelligence. 


When it comes to fear, specifically, those of us who managed to overcome our fears aren’t necessarily less susceptible to feeling afraid. The only difference is that they often practice good self-awareness. It enables them to better navigate around their fears, so that they’re not blocking their own path to success. Here’s how you can do the same.

P.S. Learn the keys to mastering your emotional skills with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage yourself at work at the operations level!


Identifying the fears

It may be true that some people have a naturally higher EI, but it’s also a skill that can be sharpened over time. Much like working out regularly strengthens particular muscles, you can also develop your EI muscles with regular practice. 

Start by identifying the fears that are sabotaging your success. Think of a time when you were held back at work because of specific limiting beliefs or negative self-talk. Then, try to dissect those thoughts to get to the bottom of what you’re really afraid of. 


To that end, IDEO leaders Tom and David Kelley propose that most people are afraid of failure because they fear:*

  • The unknown
  • Negative judgment
  • Taking that first step
  • Losing control

*As reported in the Harvard Business Review.


Remedying your fears

1. Fear of the unknown: Build your self-efficacy. 

The unknown is daunting because you don’t know if you have the requisite skills to make it out there on your own merits. Focusing on small successes, one step at a time helps to erode this feeling of being daunted over time. 


Self-efficacy refers to how strongly you believe you can excel at a particular task given your skills and abilities. Psychologists have identified this as one of the most crucial determinants of personal success, over and above talent.

The more you sharpen your skills, the greater your chances of success, and the stronger your self-efficacy becomes. Once you’ve developed a high enough sense of self-efficacy, the unknown doesn’t scare you anymore because you can take anything that comes your way.


2. Fear of negative judgment: Focus on creating. 

There are some things you can control, and others that you can’t. You can’t control how other people are going to react you. You can only control the value you’re providing to them as you go out there and start building your success. 

Judgment is inevitable, but what you stand to gain from pushing ahead regardless is incomparable. 



3. Fear of taking that first step: Start small.

The first step is always the hardest to make. That’s because we tend to think of it as something that’s going to have a monumental, immediate impact that may or may not be negative. Instead, think of it as just a small step that you need to make to get your foot in the door. Once you’ve made this first move, you can slowly make room for progressively bigger moves as time passes.



4. Fear of losing control: Recognise that you are not self-sufficient.

No matter how capable, efficient, or productive, you are, at some point, you are going to have to rely on other people for their input. When you try too hard to be the superhero and control every little thing you can, you’re shutting off the benefits of collaboration and diverse perspectives. You’re also effectively limiting your own success and that of your team’s too. 



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