“Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.” Anon
My series on how to Give Fear The Finger was popular, so I’ve taken it a step further and found people who’ve faced their fears and gone on to succeed because of it.
We all have fears. By hearing about other people who were scared, but found the courage to carry on regardless, more of us will be able to follow their example. 19 people who’ve successfully overcome their fears share their stories here, thanks to the HARO mailing list and my query:
“I’m looking for people who’ve faced their fears or put their neck on the line to get what they wanted and been rewarded for it.”
The first time I put out a Haro query I had a massive response and included all the people who replied in a story called How To Rise From The Ashes Like A Phoenix. It was a huge job compiling that post so this time I asked people to tell me their stories in their own words. It still took ages, but it was worth it. I guarantee these stories will get you fired up.
Fear holds us back in life
Fear is universal but fear sucks. Whether it’s a general fear, like the fear of change, or specific fears, like a fear of public speaking or the fear of failure, fear creates a barrier to getting what we want out of life. Let’s find inspiration from these people who faced their fears and learn from them how we can do it too.
For the record, I originally set up this blog because I wanted to be a writer but had a fear of being read and judged. It seems so stupid now, but that fear held me back for years. All I can say is that I’m glad I decided to take the bull by the horns and get over it.
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If you live in fear you’re not really living at all
I’ve divided the fear fighters up according to the fear they overcame, but otherwise they’re in no particular order. Read all of them. They’re all inspiring, humbling and thought-provoking. Then check out the lessons we can learn from this at the end of the article and some tips on how you can turn fearful into fierce.
Fear of Being Yourself
Robert Mack – I’m a 32 year old man. I was salutatorian of my high school class, a standout athlete, an Ivy League masters graduate, a professional model and actor, featured in TV shows for MTV, CBS, NBC and others and in magazines like Glamour, a Big 4 corporate consultant and executive coach to presidents and CEOs at Fortune 500 companies across the world… and deeply, seriously, strangely suicidal for years.
I’m now a celebrity life coach, speaker, and a published author and I have written about all this in my new book, “Happiness from the Inside Out: The Art and Science of Fulfillment”.
Here’s are 2 tips to get you started:
1. Drop all comparison. Become independent of the good opinion of
others. Blaze your own trail and beat your own path. Live dangerously
and sublimely joyful on your own terms, in your own way. Remember,
there’s never a crowd on the leading edge!
2. Make feeling good your top priority. Be selfish enough to
prioritize your happiness over everything else in the world. Then,
like the rain cloud, you’ll become so full of love, joy, and bliss,
that you won’t be able to contain yourself; you’ll shower that love,
joy, and bliss all over the earth. Realize that it’s only in being
selfish that you can become happy. And only in becoming happy, that
you’ll ever truly become unselfish.
Karen Muranko – My life was challenged by living with Panic Disorder for thirty years. Thanks to a wonderful “Recovery Team”, as I refer to them, I reached seven years of recovery in June 2009. Living with Panic Disorder was challenging since I wasn’t even diagnosed until twenty years into my disorder. It took another ten years to find my Team.
By sharing my story I want to inspire others who live with a mental health disorder believe that it is not necessarily a life sentence. There are many options both conventional and non-conventional and alternative.
Since discussion of mental health disorders is still considered taboo in our society, that is the reason many people don’t seek help. Living with a mental health disorder is nothing about which to feel shame or embarrassment. It’s like any other disorder, physical or mental.
I speak out for those who are afraid. I am the face for people who are afraid to show their faces. I feel no shame or embarrassment when I share my story and hope to help others through my work as an anxiety wellness mentor.
Lin Morel – My life is so rich because I’ve consistently chosen to face my fears and have turned them into my steppingstones. They have strengthened me so that now I can help myself and others from experience. The most challenging fears I’ve faced occurred with the loss of loved ones.
I have been married three times, widowed twice and divorced once. There were times when I have had to face my anger and resentments toward God, myself and others.
Knowing myself, loving myself and accepting myself is the fruit of facing my fear. Through my work as a life coach I help other people take charge of their lives.
Dr. Talia Witkowski – I put my neck on the line for recovery from compulsive overeating and addictions. I did it out of necessity. My life was a complete mess and I needed to make some big changes to not have to hurt myself anymore with food, alcohol, drugs, unhealthy sexual relationships or compulsive spending.
I got a lot of help from a man named Roy Nelson through Heal Your Hunger and am so thankful for the help that I received. I put my neck on the line because when I made changes in my life for the sake of recovery, everyone around me became irritated – when one part of the puzzle changes the rest of the pieces are forced to as well and forced change is not a very graceful experience.
Eventually everyone came around, more or less. While it took time it was well worth the effort.
Brooke Kelley – I was sexually abused as a child and have dealt with and overcome the problem. Now, I don’t live in fear at all. Even if I’m in a situation that is considered dangerous by many, I’m the last one to be afraid. I’m not concerned that it’s ever going to happen to me again, and I’ve let go of all the pain.
I’ve also overcome the fear of having friends disappear. That was a tough one, after loosing all my high school friends. We lost touch one by one, and it was really devastating to me. Now, I’m not only at peace with it, I don’t fear that ever happening again.
Dallas Woodburn – I’m 22 now but I was born three months prematurely, weighing a mere two pounds, six ounces. I was in the hospital for the first few months of my life, being kept alive by feeding tubes and a respirator. I feel so incredibly blessed to be alive and healthy today. My harrowing entrance into the world is a daily reminder for me of the fragility of life – passions and dreams are too important to “put off” till tomorrow!
Today I’m passionate about literacy. I published my first book, a collection of short stories and poems titled There’s a Huge Pimple on My Nose, when I was in fifth grade. It went on to sell 2,200 copies. I have also published stories in a wide variety of magazines including Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, and Justine, and seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
Writing has given me so much: self-confidence, an outlet for my imagination and self-expression, a means to connect with others. I have learned things like the importance of following your passion, believing in yourself, and persevering despite setbacks. Thanks to my writing, I have had once-in-a-lifetime experiences like being flown to New York City to be a guest on The Early Show on CBS; studying abroad for a semester at a university in Norwich, England; appearing on the national PBS book talk show Between the Lines; and meeting people from all over the world and all walks of life.
In 2000 I created Write On! For Literacy, a nonprofit foundation to encourage kids to discover joy, confidence, and a means of self-expression and connection with others through reading and writing. In the past eight years, my Holiday Book Drive has collected and distributed 10,140 new books to underprivileged children for Christmas. A portion of the profits from my books are donated to Write On’s Scholarship Fund, which I established three years ago to send deserving young writers to summer writing camp.
Fear of Change
Suzanne Blake – Having always been successful in my very secure job in vocational counseling/special education, I took a huge leap after my mother died to start my own career coaching business. I was terrified to start my own business, but kept my vision focused on my dream. Although I had the tools to help people find their ideal career, I lacked the business skills to make my business a success.
After a year of struggling, I went back to being a special education teacher, but didn’t give up on my dream. I took coaching classes, hired a business coach and re-launched my business while recovering from back surgery, juggling a part-time teaching job, a growing private practice and becoming a step-mother and first time time wife at 42!
My work has been profiled in the New York Times, The Boston Globe, Redbook Magazine, MSN.com, Smart Money Magazine, and numerous other media venues. I published the book, 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, with leading experts Jack Canfield, John Gray and Bob Proctor when I was 51, as well as an eBook to help women attract their ideal mate.
With only one corporate coaching class, I have traveled the world giving communications and management seminars, each time experiencing many fears as I entered new environments. I use the lessons from all my challenges to teach my private and corporate clients how to experience more career and relationship success. Many of these tips and books can be accessed on my web site.
Mike Cortson – I had a terrible time controlling my thinking. I was a successful lawyer for nearly 20 years when I collapsed in 2003 and was rushed to the hospital. I had an emergency colonoscopy, died twice during the surgery, had 5 cancerous polyps removed, underwent further testing and discovered I was dying from pancreas, liver and colon cancers. Nice.
I was NOT a candidate for treatment or further surgery and was sent home to die. I was depressed and my family was sure I was suicidal. I had lost 60 pounds and was withering away fast. My family had me arrested and imposed a conservatorship on me and I was thrown into the looney bin. I managed to talk my way out of there after a few days and was released. By then my digestive system was shot. My body was completely jaundiced and the whites of my eyes were orange. The pain was horrific.
I got home and finally realized that I was indeed going to die. I called hospice. They were shocked since the patient rarely makes that call to them. I then did my funeral arrangements. I continued to get worse and was finally facing the end. By October hospice had brought out the “comfort pack” which is the final stage where you get the maximum morphine up until you expire. I had a massive stroke leaving me in a coma for several weeks. When I woke up I was not lucid and was paralyzed. Some time in January 2004 the massive blood clot in my brain released and my lucidity started to return.
It was an awakening I can only liken to being a newborn baby. I couldn’t do a thing for myself and I was now in my third nursing home in an end of life program as the cancers were not going away.
So how can things be worse? How can you find a positive from all that? I had to relearn EVERYTHING from scratching my nose, walking, talking, reading, writing…all of it. Sure it was easier as my memory gradually returned. The physical aspects were next to impossible. In Feb 2004 my cancer was gone. I had lost everything financially. What I didn’t pay in medical I gave away to family. I had no use for material things any longer. I became determined to walk again and made my goal to leave the nursing home and return to a “normal” life. It was WORK!
My determination never faltered. Each step was agony but everyone was a win. In November 2004 I WALKED out of Jordan’s Nursing Home and returned to life on the outside. I was the only one to leave alive since the place was opened.
How do you overcome the negative? I wrote it all in a book, Winning Thinking, How To Be Happy Almost All Of The Time where I share the techniques you can learn immediately to take total control of all you think. My tenacity and absolute resolve to be happy no matter what is what started the healing sequence and maintains it today. My happiness is focused on the moment and not in reliance on some future event or acquisition. I am living proof of the power of the mind. My doctors have no explanation. The hospice people can’t believe I didn’t die.
You may benefit from this book and practice what is in there every day for the rest of your life. I do. I also have a weekly half hour radio program on WRHC-FM 106.7 that airs Tuesdays at 10 am ET and replays Thursdays at 6 pm ET. The station streams live at www.radioharborcountry.org . All of the programs are available for free download as podcasts from my web site at http://michaelcortson.com.
You have every right to be happy. You choose your reality. Choose happy and smile! I do every morning. Being happy in the moment, no matter what, turns you into this wonderful receptacle for more happiness. It just grows and grows. Remember, the most important thing a human can do is…………………SMILE!
Matt Toone – About a year ago I had the goal/dream of leaving my 9-5 day job and setting out on an entrepreneurial dream. I took the risk, and am bombarded daily by the constant voices of fear and doubt that is in all of our minds, and seems to never dissipate. However, I have persisted and accomplished my goal – now having two successful businesses, am a published author, have two successful blogs, and started a non-profit (all in the last year). Has it been easy – no way! Has it been worth it – absolutely.
I just launched a blog, Awake Your Potential, that essentially documents what I learned and experienced in this last year’s journey – and the entire purpose of the blog is for people to overcome their fears, live up to their full potential, and accomplish their goals and dreams
Fear of Failure
Angel Cruzado – Long story short! Became unhappy with my job and started a social matchmaking company to help everyday people – Meet People… Not Their Profiles. I have written in my blog about myself, and my interns have written about their experience with my company and working with me. We can be reached at Guys and Girls Next Door.
Zohra Sarwari – I’ve faced my fears because I’m a Muslim woman who wears traditional Islamic clothing including the veil, yet I want to help inspire Muslims and Non-Muslims. It has been a long journey because I get people who think I am not educated, that I don’t speak English, or they treat me as if I am oppressed. I choose to succeed regardless of how people are to me. I choose to be positive, and I choose to hang around people who are positive, and believe in my message.
My parents fear for my life, because of the ignorant people out there, yet I know that if I don’t have courage and try my best, how can I break the cycle of ignorance? Sometimes we have to put our fears aside for the sake of humanity!
I”m the author of 7 books, a professional speaker, and a business coach.
Danny Kofke – I’m a special education teacher and author of the book How To Survive (and perhaps thrive) On A Teacher’s Salary. When my book was released two years ago I was an unknown author. My greatest fear was not knowing how to spread my message and wondering if it would be as powerful as I thought it would be.
Two years and one recession later, I’ve had some positive media exposure and have helped others in their financial lives. With a lot of hard work and persisitence, I have been featured on numerous websites, magazines and newspapers including AOL.com, Yahoo Finance and The Wall Street Journal. I’ve been on several television shows and over 85 radio shows!
I am still looking for ways to share my message but have overcome my fear of not being able to spread my message and show others how they can thrive on their salaries too.
Will Corrente – Fear is nothing more than a lack of faith in yourself to overcome the obstacle, circumstance, or challenge in your path. It is that flicker of doubt in your mind that grows into a flame, that you do not have the ability to “do it”. Whatever, “IT” is. In 2002, I faced a couple of my “IT’s”; the fear of the unknown and the fear of going it alone in a new and unfamiliar place.
In 2001, I found myself working for a company in New York City. Although I considered myself a serial entrepreneur, I somehow drifted off track to the “safety” of a job and convinced myself I was on the right path. The events of 9/11 changed all that and in the months following, I was reinvigorated with thoughts of possibilities. I had seen first-hand the frailty of life and decided that when confronted with an “IT” circumstance I would make fear my ally and not my adversary.
I knew I had always wanted to build a company from the ground up, to do something I truly enjoyed and achieve a comfortable lifestyle for all of my efforts. So in May of 2002, I sold my condo, quit my job and moved to Florida to open a business. Not really sure what the business was going to be, but taking the chance and having the faith that I had the ability to “do it”.
Overcoming fear for me was accomplished by looking into my future and seeing the regret of inaction. In that moment I realized the regret of inaction far outweighed any possible setback I may encounter. After several months in Florida of soul searching, opportunity seeking and introspection, I had an idea to turn my passion for animals into a business.
I opened a dog daycare, hotel, grooming and training center with two business partners. The business has been very successful and has proven to me that “IT” is never something to be feared, “IT” is to be embraced. Building on my success in the pet industry, I am again facing my “IT”, and have opened a speaking and consulting practice working with individuals and entrepreneurs to live a life without regret. Now that business, Corrente Consulting International is helping people get where they want to go.
Jeff Rivera – One of my greatest fears to overcome was the fear that I would fail. I remember when I was writing my novel, Forever My Lady, I wondered if I would ever finish it. Was it a total waste of time? Would people even like it when I had completed? And when it came out would people even buy it?
I told people, some were even friends, that I wanted to self-publish Forever My Lady and they laughed and smirked and told me I was wasting my time. I told them that I wanted to somehow get this book picked up by a major publisher and they talked about me behind my back.
I had to really take a look at myself and keep moving forward, I kept writing one page at a time. There were times that I was ready to give up. But I overcame my fear by thinking about the big picture, I wasn’t just writing this for me. I was writing this novel for the young people in the world, mostly Hispanic, who didn’t have anything to read that they could relate to. Nothing. I had to tell this story for them. The reason had to go beyond just me. That’s what I did to overcome my fear of failure. And it worked. I finished the novel, I self-published and lo and behold, the book was picked up by Warner Books.”
Fear of Not Fulfilling Your Dreams
Kathryn Tristan – Imagine being trapped for more than 20 years! My prison bars were invisible but very real. I couldn’t leave my own city for fear of having overwhelming anxiety and panic. I trembled at crossing bridges and even at times doing simple things like grocery shopping.
But here’s the good news. I overcame these disabling fears. I learned that when you want to make real and lasting changes, you do that from INSIDE OUT, not the more traditional way of outside in (e.g., pills). By learning to hear the inner chatterbox of doom and gloom and choosing to disagree, I became the leader of my thoughts, not the follower of my fears.
We can all learn to challenge the automatic ‘terribilizing’ that goes on in our heads most without ever knowing it. Fear has been my best teacher. It not only showed me how ‘not’ to live, it gave me the push I needed to re-establish the mangled connection to my inner fearless spirit. This wonderful internal guide knows all things are happening as they need to and that I can handle not just some of my challenges but all of them with grace and strength. I have now flown to many parts of the world and even have spoken to packed audiences. Never, ever give up on yourself and always remember…our thoughts create our lives, choose them wisely!
Today I am a research scientist on the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, USA, and proud author of the book, Anxiety Rescue – Simple Strategies to Stop Fear from Ruling Your Life.
Von Babasin – Let me start by saying, I’ve never doubted myself. I have always felt supremely confident in my own talents and abilities. I’m now 54 years old and my biggest fear hasn’t been believing in myself, it’s been finding someone who believed in me. Even people like Oprah and Steven Speilberg had to have someone else believe in them and give them their chance to fulfill their destinies.
My breakthrough came when I sent a 20-page proposal to the New York Foundation for the Arts. In less than two weeks, I had a signed contract for a fiscal sponsorship to produce a documentary film on the life of my father and the entire west coast jazz movement called Harry Babasin’s Jazz In Hollywood.
With the support of one of the most prestigious arts organizations in the world, there is no individual or organization I cannot approach – I have letters of support from such esteemed individuals as Dr. Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation, and Dr. Zaven Khatchaturian, film curator of the Arpa Foundation for Film, Music, and Art. I talk with some of the most revered jazz historians, journalists, and musicians in the world. I am not at the end of my journey and there’s still a lot of hard work ahead. True inspiration is both a validation and a purpose in itself. I simply trust what inspires me.
Diane Griffith – Shortly before my husband, Tony turned fifty he was made redundant from an IT managerial position in Liverpool and lost his redundancy pay. We reached rock bottom so there was nowhere else to go, but up. He was slipping into deep depression.
Then I heard a little boy who was autistic spoke for the first time after seeing a video of his holiday we made and sent to his parents. So the idea was born….. We had flown to the Greek island of Lefkas, the previous year in 4 hours; this time it took 4 days in an 18 year-old VW camper.
We made videos of the island, adding personal moments for people, doing all the editing in the van in the sweltering heat, using a generator. The first night we showed the video on a portable TV, placed above the sink in the VW, facing a cobbled street. We caused a sensation in the sleepy little village of Agios Nikitas. Something exciting had happened. – Our idea had worked and was looking profitable.
A managing director of a very successful business in the UK head about what Tony had done. Tony landed a better job than he had lost.
I wrote a book, Chasing Dreams in Lefkas, when the memories were fresh in my mind. 20 years later I sent it to the US via email. I was delighted when Eloquent Books, published it last year.
My life changed when I became a published author at 67 years. I have a book for young children called “Granny’s Magic Garden” being released soon. We live in Cyprus, where I have written two novels, It Mattered Yesterday and A Moment to Remember. Both will be out next year.
Fear of Public Speaking
Dan Nainan – I was a senior engineer for Intel Corporation, doing technical demonstrations onstage with the CEO Andy Grove. I designed technical demonstrations in the lab and presented them at events all over the world. The technical part was easy, but speaking on stage in front of thousands of people, or sometimes millions on television, was terrifying.
To overcome my fear, first I took a Toastmasters class, but that wasn’t challenging enough, as there were only 10 or 15 other computer nerds like myself to speak in front of. So, I decided to take a stand up comedy class, thinking that if I could do comedy, then speaking at computer events would be easy. That turned out to be true, but I also discovered that I had a knack for comedy.
Long story short, I’m now a professional comedian who tours all over the world – in fact, I’m writing to you from Chennai, India, where I’m performing for 1100 fans tonight. I performed at the Democratic national convention in Denver, as well as at three inaugural events in Washington in January. I’m based in New York City.
I’ve also done some acting; in fact I just filmed a $250 million movie called “The Last Airbender” with Dev Patel of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame.
Lisa Tener – Public speaking was definitely a fear of mine. I remember the first talk I ever had to give in junior high school in front of the auditorium. I thought my knees would completely give way. And now, I do a lot of public speaking as part of my living–and I teach classes in person and on the phone and even teach to over 200 people at the Harvard Medical School CME Publishing Course each year. I have been on national TV (ABC World News with Peter Jennings, PBS-TV) and even have a few very goofy youtube videos I shot for some hubpages articles.
And it’s definitely paid off–I could not get the word out as effectively about what I do [helping people write and publish their books] and could not teach to large crowds if I hadn’t mostly gotten over it. But I didn’t overcome it in one fellswoop. First I took some acting classes in college. Then I spoke to small groups of volunteers, training them and occasionally giving a fund-raising speech when I ran a nonprofit organization. And then they put me on TV–that was really scary.
The four things that have helped get over my fear of public speaking the most:
1. Be prepared–practice–be spontaneous, but from really knowing your stuff.
2. Get a coach. I did this more as I got older and it helped tremendously.
3. Be yourself. The more you can relax into it, the more you can be you and the more your audience connects with you.
4. Practice practice practice. It does become second nature. The fear doesn’t totally go away but it becomes more something in the background.
6 Lessons I’ve Learnt From Writing This Story
- Anyone can go from being terrified to being terrific.
- You’re never too old or too depressed to make your life change.
- Fear can be overcome by tackling it head first.
- If you don’t take a risk you can’t gain anything.
- Adversity makes you stronger.
- People love to help other people.
Tips For Overcoming Fear
Many thanks to Susan Blake for these wonderful tips:
If we look closely at fears, we can see they’re not really true. I like to use the acronym:
This helps one ask the question: “What proof do I have that this fear is real?” and helps take the power out of their fearful thoughts.
When we are really scared, a great technique is to take a pad of paper and write down the sentence
I am afraid of…….. and write the rest of the the sentence, then start again and write
I am afraid of……….. and write the rest of the sentence. By doing this over and over, some deep felt fears get cleared and one can move past them.
One can also isolate their “inner critic” by giving the voice a name and having a dialogue with it to distinguish it from the wiser voices in our head. One can say, “Okay Sam, back off”, or “Poor Sam, you are really scared today” to help manage the critic!
Thank you also to Dr. Kenneth Herman, psychologist and author of Secrets From The Sofa who says:
“Face your fears directly despite anxiety because they will be abated. Many people wait until their problem reaches a severe state. By waiting the problem becomes more complicated.”
What are your main fears? Are you ready to face them? Do you have any tips on how to overcome fear?
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