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Hands up if you remember being fearless as a child. When given the opportunity to try something new or do something that was out of your element, you accepted the challenge with excitement and eagerness, determined to do your best and not worrying about what would happen if you didn’t get it right the first time. 

If naysayers told you that you couldn’t do something, you simply shrugged it off. In fact, the more they discouraged you, the harder you worked to prove them wrong. And if you failed, you simply picked yourself up and tried again.

As you got older, all that changed. You stopped taking risks and embarking on new adventures because a little voice inside of you told you that you’d probably fail. Your worries about how you might come across to others held you back from living your dreams and being your true self. 

Our fears are mostly due to negative thoughts, says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness at Gleneagles Medical Centre. These negative thoughts develop over many years and are the result of good and bad experiences, the situations we find ourselves in, and our interactions with others. If we have one setback after another, are constantly told “no” by others, or are made to feel that we are not good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, fast enough or brave enough, sooner or later we may start to question our talents, abilities and worth, and stop going out on a limb for our dreams altogether.

Are these six fears holding you back from getting what you want and being happy in life? Dr Lim tells you how to overcome them. 

1. “I’m not perfect”

There’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection, but Dr Lim believes that perfection is not a destination. Rather, it is an ideal that should help guide your plans and actions, not prevent you from doing something. “Insisting that you have to be perfect all the time for everyone is no way to live,” he points out. “It’s not practical, either, because it will only increase your sense of inadequacy and make you feel anxious and insecure. You can certainly improve, but you can never be perfect. There’s just no such thing, and it’s totally fine. Besides, making mistakes and falling short are sometimes the best ways to learn and be better for next time.”

2. “I will probably fail, anyway”

Have you ever resisted beginning a new project, starting a business or switching careers, all because you felt that you would not succeed? Has the fear of failure stopped you from even taking the next crucial step? The next time such negative thoughts hijack your mind, Dr Lim says to ask yourself if that really is the truth. After all, there’s no way to know how you’re going to fare at something if you don’t try it to begin with. 

“This is unrealistic and catastrophic thinking, and it can prevent you from achieving your true potential,” Dr Lim explains. “Even if someone discourages you from attempting something because they think you will fail, question it. This is not to say that you should disregard other’s opinions entirely, because we all have blind spots in our thinking and sometimes it can help to listen to what others have to say. But don’t allow their opinions to influence your decision. It is far better to try and fail, rather than not try at all because you’re afraid to fail.”

3. “I’m not prepared”

No one is ever totally prepared for anything. But allowing this feeling of unpreparedness to hold you back will not help you at all, says Dr Lim, so don’t use it as an excuse. All you can do is prepare as best you can, consider all the possible outcomes, both good and bad, and get on with it. “Instead of allowing the anxiety to paralyse you, use it as motivation to prepare yourself as much as possible,” Dr Lim advises. 

4. “I’m afraid of getting hurt”

Many of us avoid getting close to others or starting new relationships because we don’t want to get hurt. We may have been hurt before or seen friends and family members have bad relationships, so we tell ourselves that we’re better off alone. But Dr Lim says that this fear is simply not worth giving up a friendship or relationship for. “There are negative aspects to every endeavour, and there is no way to avoid negative emotions. Don’t be someone who is so afraid of death that she stops living, so to speak. If you allow this fear of getting hurt to determine your relationship status, you will never give yourself the chance to experience love at all. Taking a chance may not necessarily bring you happiness, but if you don’t try, you will never know.”

5. “I’m afraid I won’t fit in”

We can’t help what other people think of us. But changing what you are or acting like someone you’re not, just to be accepted by the rest of the group can damage your self-esteem and self-confidence. It’s an easy way to lose your identity and forces you to hide the qualities that make you unique. 

“You should never be afraid of others thinking of you as some kind of outcast,” Dr Lim says. “Most of the time, this isn’t the case anyway. Plus, if a group of people isn’t going to accept you as you are and make you feel like you belong, then you don’t want to be hanging around with them.”

6. “I’m scared to ask for help”

The main reason why many of us refrain from asking others for help is because we don’t want to be seen as weak. Ironically, however, it takes courage to ask for help and admit that you have vulnerabilities. 

Dr Lim explains: “Believing that you can do everything on your own and do not need help from anybody is selfish. And suffering in silence will get you nowhere. In life, we all experience problems that prevent us from succeeding. When the burden gets too heavy and you find that you need a helping hand, you should find the strength and courage to ask for it. Don’t be afraid to rely on others when it comes to achieving your goals and getting things done. You’ll prevent problems from getting out of hand and for which you may need even bigger solutions later down the road. Besides, we solve problems more effectively when we have someone by our side. And, when your friend or loved one helps you out, they will get the opportunity to forge a closer bond with you.”


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