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What Makes Someone Fearless?

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If I learned anything from The Princess Diaries, it is first, to never go for the conventionally hot guy, second, that eyebrows really do have the power to transform your entire face, and finally, that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. And it’s like, okay Eduard Christoff Philippe Gérard Renaldi, Prince of Genovia, that’s a lovely sentiment, but can you say easier said than done? Sure, I believe that taking risks and trying new things is objectively more important than my petty anxieties, but that doesn’t mean they stop existing (See: my Fears as a New Graduate and my Fears in the First Few Years of My Career). Making that judgment means nothing if you don’t have the strength to act on it.

[Related: Inside the Fears of a Go-Getter Girl]

So how can we be more like the seemingly fearless do-ers of the world? The bold entrepreneurs? The people who obviously have doubts and anxieties but seem unfettered by them? Who take risks that lead to both massive failures and massive successes? Who allow themselves to experience the fear, then take a deep breath and do it anyway?

1. Coming to terms with your weaknesses.

This advice made me immediately think of the Salvador Dali quote: “Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” At the root of being fearless is strong self-awareness—understanding that you have flaws, you will make mistakes, you will fail. “The idea that an overblown self-confidence is going to render you fearless is a misconception,” says psychology writer John Vespasian. “Self-delusion is not going to protect you from discouragement, depression, or anxiety. Individuals become fearless only when they accept their own weaknesses, and as a result, learn to deal calmly with stressful situations. They become fearless because they are willing to give up the pretension of invulnerability, while at the same time, they are committed to remaining effective and alert.” As I wrote in “4 Totally Counterintuitive Lessons about Success,” embracing vulnerability makes you powerful.

[Related: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers]

2. Being realistic with your goals.

…but still optimistic. Yeah, it’s a tough balance. “Individuals who hold unrealistic expectations are those who prove the most susceptible to feelings of helplessness and fear,” Vespasian says. “One of the key aspects of becoming fearless is learning to be realistic without falling prey to cynicism and disillusionment. You have to learn to view reality as it is, but also maintain your ability to view the positive in each negative situation. Fearless people are always able to see hopeful signs even when everything seems to be falling apart. Learning to be realistic will help you stay calm and fully operational in crisis situations, and reinforce your self-confidence.”

3. Cultivating balance in all areas of your life.

Fear is a natural human response to threatening situations. Fear can warn you of approaching danger or potentially save you from a career disaster…but only if it is kept in balance. “You can dramatically reduce such negative emotional reactions if you have cultivated balance in all areas of your life,” Vespasian says. “And I mean balance between your professional and private life and between your short-term and long-term goals. Balance makes you strong and self-confident, because you are not dependent on just one thing. It removes from your mind the compulsion to win all the time. A balanced life is the greatest contributor to a fearless personality.”

[Related: 7 Notable Women on Work-Life Balance]

4. Re-programming your inner voice.

According to Dr. Robert Mauerer, author of Mastering Fear, at the root of fearlessness is the pattern of conversations we have with ourselves. “People tend have either a nurturing or a harsh inner voice,” Mauerer says. During times of adversity, successful people have a voice that reminds them it is okay to make mistakes, be afraid, or ask for help. On the other hand, he says, “people who are afraid of risk will often confess they are afraid of the emotional beating they will give themselves if their efforts fail.” If your inner voice is your harshest critic, don’t despair—it can be re-programmed. First, Mauerer says, identify what you say to yourself when facing setbacks. “Is the conversation you are having inside the same one you’d have if you were supporting and comforting a colleague or friend? [If it isn’t], write out what you would say to someone else facing the same challenge you are facing.” He suggests reading those thoughts aloud two or three times a day, in a comforting, affirming voice. Over time, this will train your inner voice to be less of an asshole.

[Related: 4 Reasons Why Women Need To Embrace Failure]

5. Seeking out mentors.

One of the worst responses to fear is letting it fester internally, bouncing around between you and your asshole inner voice. In order to understand your fears and turn them into excitement or positive action, you’re going to need to consult someone you trust. “Seek out a mentor, teacher, colleague to discuss fears and brainstorm strategies for the situation,” Mauerer says. “This can be hard for people moving up the career ladder, as much of our success comes from individual competition. Being able to compete against others and outshine other applicants or colleagues is essential up to a point. The next set of skills, equally crucial, is the ability to ask for help, seek support, and collaborate. Ultimately, both skills are essential: competing and collaborating.” Sharing fears or insecurities doesn’t make you weak—you will learn that other people share your fears, and ultimately, it will empower you to press on.

[Related: 7 Empowering Tales of Mentorship]

Photo: Tim Robberts / Getty Images

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Topics:

Lifestyle #Balance #Conquering Fears #Fear Of Failure Mentorship #Homepage
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Join the conversation:

"A balanced life is the greatest contributor to a fearless personality"

Thanks for providing a different perspective! I never thought about the importance of balance in helping us to lead and live fearlessly. Thanks Kelsey!

It's always great to hear about different perspectives. I agree that being optimistic is very essential!

Thank you for this article. Inner voice is what I can relate most and it is hard facing the possibility emotional beating.

Great article Kelsey. Sharing it on FB.

I agree with this list. Very well written!

This is a great article. Very well written and descriptive. Nice work!

I'm so glad you mentioned how important it is to seek out a mentor. That's one of the most important thing sin my opinion. well done!

To me, fear and weaknessare the path to strength and confidence. It has been so in my life.

Thank you for you sharing this type of article.Becoming fearless is all of them can't .Almost women are fearfull in their life problems.As a staff of homeopathy news i like to share few words about it.Woman lost their mental power when a failure occurs.

do yoga and meditation , especially breathing exercise . it will give you immense power .

Self-awareness, agreed, is a contributing factor to becoming fearless. But self-compassion plays a much larger role. Awareness comes first, and is often such a hard place to start, but compassion, for me at least, is by far the most difficult. If you can forgive your "weaknesses", while understanding that weaknesses often are balanced by strengths, and thus believe in your self-worth - you will go far.

PS. Looking for a female mentor if there are any suggestions!

Thank for a really interesting article. I love the advice, and as part of your recommendation on being realistic (yet optimistic), I don't think we should strive to be truly #fearless⁠. Aim for being FEAR-AWARE instead...

Fear is not all bad. It’s what kept us from being eaten by tigers in early centuries, and it keeps you from doing triple backflips off bridges because you want to be 20 bucks richer. However, fear can’t be a figurative ball and chain around your ankle, ensuring you never push onto newer, greater things.

Understanding your fears, managing your fears, and being willing to push past them to new, exciting, and rewarding opportunities is what results in a life - and career - you can truly enjoy.


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