We’re all guilty of being scared every now and then, especially when it comes to things we don’t fully understand. One thing we know for sure: The mind is a powerful tool, one that can lead us to great discoveries and also inhibit us from them. “Our thoughts and habits have an enormous impact on the way we live our lives, but our fears are what stand in the way of us pursuing our dreams and realizing our potential,” says Petalyn Halgreen, certified life coach and NLP practitioner. Deep stuff—and wildly important.
If you find yourself battling mini panic attacks now and then (or even on the daily), first know that you’re normal. Also? There are ways you can minimize your fears and even overcome them. We chatted with six inspiring life coaches about how to tackle life’s greatest fears.
The fear: Never finding your purpose or passion in life
“Usually, this fear is grounded in the belief that you might fail. One of the greatest ways to overcome this fear is to know for certain that you are going to succeed,” says Halgreen.
How to overcome it: “First start by digging into your interests,” suggests life coach Jennifer Horton, M.S. “What’s that thing that keeps coming back up—that thing you think about every day? What comes naturally to you? Take some of those free interest assessments online to help you pinpoint areas to focus on, and be honest with yourself. You’ll find one or two things that are usually related and coming back up. Use these to be a guide and explore your options. The fear of not finding ‘it’ is exactly what will make you find it. Again, the fear of being stuck in the pain will be greater than the fear of exploration and you will move. It is usually a journey to find your sweet spot of purpose and passion. Once you discover your passion, your purpose will become more apparent, and from there you be in an excellent frame of mind to identify your dream job prospects.”
The fear: Never losing the weight and achieving your dream bod
“Where attention goes, power goes, so if you’re constantly focusing on not being able to lose weight, then you’re subconsciously telling your body, repeatedly, that you can’t do it,” says Jennifer Dene, certified health and life coach, personal trainer and Pilates instructor.
How to overcome it: First, figure out what you’re really looking for when it comes to this “dream bod.” Is it about getting to a weight that makes you feel healthy, confident and vibrant? Or is it an arbitrary number or size that you think will look good on you? “Instead of focusing on your inability to lose weight, direct your attention to areas you can control, like exercising regularly but not excessively, eating more vegetables, drinking more water, cutting back on sugar, etc.,” Dene says.
If you feel like you’re being unkind to yourself because you have always been that way about your body and weight, it’s time to change the story. “Every time you try to make a negative comment about your body or your weight, change it,” says Kelsey Patel, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based life coach. “Force yourself, as uncomfortable as it may be, to say something positive right away. See the difference and let it be awkward. If we were each a little more confident in ourselves, we could help teach others it’s a beautiful thing to be confident, too!”
The fear: Never finding love or getting married
“Love, first and foremost, comes from within, so when we prepare to love ourselves first and also to show up in ways that demonstrate our value, we most often attract others who want our love and need our love,” says Jessi L. LaCosta, resilience advisor and board-certified leadership and life coach. “While there’s no guarantee we’ll find love, the fear of never finding love or getting married is one that can be diminished by understanding that love attracts love, fear attracts more fear.”
How to overcome it: “Start by trying to figure out why you feel the way you do,” suggests Halgreen. “There may be a deep-seated reason, typically from your past, where this belief was installed. For example, maybe your parents had a loveless marriage that ended in divorce and now you feel your future is doomed with that same fate.” It’s only by removing the fear associated with never finding love that allows you to move confidently forward and open yourself up to the experience. “The fear is unconsciously causing you to avoid taking the risk of finding love, and putting you into survival mode instead of allowing you to expand into the experience and explore opportunities. Hey, it takes courage to move past any fear, let alone one that’s forcing you to be so vulnerable, so start slowly and steadily, focusing on your confidence and self-esteem first. Reframe how you see yourself, with a particular emphases on getting rid of the ‘nobody wants me’ mindset,” says Halgreen.
The fear: That you’ll always have to struggle with money
“Money blocks are one of the most common limiting beliefs I see in my business coaching practice, which usually comes from a troubled relationship history with money,” says Amber Hurdle, certified life coach who specializes in working with female entrepreneurs. Whether you grew up witnessing your parents struggle to make ends meet or you’re simply concerned about the job market, it’s understandable to have concerns about your livelihood.
How to overcome it: “Start with the biggest money challenge you face, whether it is saving or paying down debt, and then take small actions towards proving to yourself that you can be successful in that area,” says Hurdle.
“Create a financial plan and get a clear idea of your current financial status, then look for ways to either cut back or supplement your income,” suggests Halgreen. “Even starting a savings account and committing to putting away 10% of your income every month can cause your subconscious mind to feel safe and relaxed knowing there’s money for emergencies.”
If the fear is rooted in the premise that you are not worthy of having money, this creates an entirely different limiting belief where you would have to look at ways of overcoming the thought that you do not deserve money. “In this case, your thoughts patterns would have to be adjusted to install new beliefs that you are worthy and that there is enough money to go around for everyone,” Halgreen says.
The fear: Never having babies or becoming a parent
“Fears of being able to conceive are mostly as a result of information being incorrectly perceived and translated by your subconscious,” says Halgreen. “For example, you may have read an article about a woman that couldn’t conceive and unconsciously taken on the fear that this would happen to you as well.” This is one fear that could largely impact other areas of your life, such as finding love.
How to overcome it: Even if your family history includes women who have struggled with fertility, remind yourself the moment you have a negative thought that you are a different person and that modern science develops every day, says Hurdle. “No matter what your circumstances are, there are always facts that can support a positive outcome and those are the thoughts you should be focusing on.” Consult with your doctor and get his or her expert opinion on your ability to conceive. From there you may want to consider the possibility of adopting should, in the unlikely event, it be that you are not able to conceive. Remember that this fear is being fueled by “what ifs” and that you have all the resources available to you to be able to answer those should they arise. The fear is only in your mind until it has been validated in reality, Hurdle says.
The rear: Falling out of love with your partner years down the road
“This goes back to a person’s core beliefs and experiences,” says Horton. “Something in your life is leading you to lose hope in the ‘til death do us part’ kind of relationship. Perhaps there are a lot of people in your life or family who are divorced?”
How to overcome it: “First, know that you can’t control someone else’s emotions, so fear of their changes are beyond your control,” says Horton. “That fear of falling out of love later can actually be a good thing to use to ensure that you don’t. In most relationships, people get to a point where one person doesn’t like the other. The little habits and flaws start becoming more irritating. Knowing this is going to happen can actually help you recognize that path and help you change it. Love is a decision and commitment. It’s not the flowery, romantic, gooshy feeling we experience at the beginning of a relationship. That’s only the advertising. We can recreate it and visit it, but the feeling isn’t what keeps the relationship going.”
Start with the little things like, keeping the love alive by having date night once a week. Remind yourself often (perhaps even keeping a journal) of all the things that you found attractive in your partner and the reasons you fell in love with them in the first place. Create loving experiences that you can look forward to in the future and replace the fear of falling out of love with falling in love again on an ongoing but ever-changing, basis.
The fear: That you or a loved one will die an untimely death
“Fear of the unknown is one of our greatest fears,” says Halgreen. “When we have no idea of what is ahead, our imagination takes over going wild with one scary thought after another. And when you’re worrying over something you have no control over, your fears are controlling you.”
How to overcome it: First understand and acknowledge that death is inevitable and make peace with that thought. “Remove external worries that may be influencing the fear by planning ahead, for example by ensuring you have sufficient funds to cover funeral costs so no one else will have to deal with that burden,” says Halgreen. Devote your time to finding the solutions to all of the concerns you have around this issue. For instance, encourage your loved ones to engage in a healthy lifestyle with lots of exercise and a nutritious diet. “Engage yourself in activities that allow you to be present in the moment, such as yoga and meditation. Living in the moment will not only eliminate your fears for the future but will also propel you towards a happier state of being,” she says.
The fear: That you’ve made the wrong choices in life
Good news, you’re human! You have made wrong choices—repeatedly—which have all helped mold you you’ve become. What lessons can you learn from your losses? What did those mistakes teach you about yourself, others or about the specific issue at hand that you can now leverage to course correct or make better decisions in the future?
How to overcome it: “Once you’ve stopped beating yourself up you can be a little more analytical, and then use those data point as much as you use your success data points to guide you towards a future in which you can be confident,” says Hurdle.
“I’ve absolutely made what I thought were bad or wrong choices in my life, only to realize later on how perfect and necessary they were for me at the time to come to where I am today,” says Patel. “My mantra to myself and all of my clients is: I always make the right choice. So, even when it feels wrong or you’re scared or you feel bad after a choice, let those feelings come up and see where they take you. The ‘wrong’ choice can easily become the ‘right’ choice because of what you do with it, how you grow from it and what you allow it to change in you because of it.”