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What Is Holding You Back?

Identify the fears that are derailing your success—and learn how to conquer them.

By Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez

It’s been said that FEAR stands for "Forget Everything And Run." It’s that uncomfortable, disconcerting feeling that causes us to take a back seat in our lives and prevents us from proactively moving forward.

One way to counteract fear’s adverse impact on your life and career is to recognize the type of fear that might be defining you and driving your actions--or lack thereof. In fact, there are many types of fears that will prevent you from achieving success in your personal and professional lives. Recognizing them is the critical first step toward breaking free of the emotional paralysis and living a more carefree, uninhibited life. As the saying goes, "No guts, no glory." Below are 11 common fears that hold people back from what they desire.

  1. Fear of Success

    This is fear of achieving your dreams--fear of the attention you will receive should you realize success. Sometimes, it’s the fear of taking the steps necessary to work toward your goal, or knowing what to do first when all seems daunting at the onset. By giving into this particular fear, you lose faith in yourself and your abilities and in those who have your best interest at heart
  2. Fear of Leading

    With leadership comes responsibility, and many are afraid of being responsible for an outcome that impacts not only themselves, but also the people they are guiding. Many with this fear worry about leading others the wrong way. This is where you need to trust your intuition to guide you and have faith that you will make the right decisions--the same faith others have instilled in you so they may follow. Letting go of the outcome and its various possible impacts brings freedom and releases you from fearing the unknown.

  3. Fear of Speaking

    Many people fear public speaking more than any other activity. Speaking requires a palpable level of confidence and ability. In our lives and careers, we are sometimes required to present thoughts and ideas to others. Being a confident speaker requires training, not talent. Master this skill and you will command the attention and respect that you deserve and the successes will ensue.

  4. Fear of Encroachment

    Many people are working in fields that were once traditionally gender-specific, such as the military, manufacturing, nursing, and the culinary arts. Working in an environment with a gender-based stereotype has its own challenges and requires a high level of confidence in your abilities and a strong voice to be heard. If your desires are unconventional or go against what is expected of you, dig deeply and stay true to who you are and what you want out of life.

  5. Fear of Power

    Power is where your inner strength emanates from, your passions burn bright. Without power, you simply cannot move forward amid life’s seemingly endless roadblocks. For all of its importance, power is simply a mindset—a heartfelt belief that you can do anything you set your mind to. If you aren’t tapping into your authentic power, take some time to cultivate it. Start small, achieve, and savor it. Then confidently aim a little higher, achieve and revel in it. Before long, you’ll be powerful enough to shoot for the stars.

  6. Fear of Inadequacy

    Feelings of inadequacy can come from inherent low self-esteem or past negative life experiences. This subconscious stronghold can be truly debilitating. The best defense is to master the specific skill, subject or activity in question and, in doing so, you will become self-assured in your execution. If it’s more about a fundamental self-esteem issue, seek emotional support to help you value and believe in your capabilities.

  7. Fear of Failure

    We often stop short of attempting something new for fear we might embarrass ourselves or fail. Any given undertaking can result in failure. But when facing something new, a fear of failure can be amplified as anxiety or nerves, and our "fight or flight" instinct kicks in. These intense feelings can cause us to put our aspirations on the shelf where they can languish in perpetuity. Mary Kay Ash perhaps said it best: "Fail forward to success."

  8. Fear of Compromising Integrity

    Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is looking or will ultimately know. Many fear that to be successful, they have to go against what they believe is right. Overcoming this concern requires establishing a specific set of boundaries and knowing where and when you will draw the line. It’s a commitment to making belief-based decisions in all aspects of your life so that when you realize success, you have no guilt about how that success was achieved.

  9. Fear of Vulnerability

    While it can be uncomfortable to open yourself up and expose your true inner self, ideas and aspirations to others, doing so can be cathartic and a true turning point in effecting positive change. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can help you better relate to people on a more personal level.

  10. Fear of Being Alone

    Many people stay in abusive relationships or negative career situations because they are afraid of being alone. But it’s impossible to be content in life if you are uncomfortable being by yourself or if a positive frame-of-mind is contingent on someone else. Such co-dependency allows your attempts at happiness and success to be controlled by external parties, which rarely bears optimal results.

  11. Fear of Appearing Selfish

    Some people think it is selfish to do anything for themselves; so they do for everybody else and either burn out, harbor feelings of resentment, or both. To neglect your needs and focus on those of others can make you feel overwhelmed, stressed out and weighed down. Often, it is difficult to find a way out of this quagmire once people have developed expectations and have come to depend on you. However, taking care of your needs first is not a selfish luxury, but a psychological imperative to ensure you’re emotionally nourished. Only then should you tend to the needs of others. The best way to combat any fear is to hit it head on, keep moving forward and stay focused on achieving your goal. There will always be obstacles that make reaching your goal seem impossible, but you must be disciplined and tenacious enough to stay focused and on track toward your goal.

    Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez is a motivational speaker known as The Pink Biker Chic, a brand developed to empower individuals to take control of the handlebars of their lives through the power of PINK: Power, Integrity, Negotiation and Knowledge. She trains people on how to re-think and re-direct their energies for higher performance. Contact her at

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