Managing fear for Personal Development

Let’s talk about fear today. One of our biggest obstacles to personal development and growth.


A bit about Fear

Fear is a word that we hear about often and also experience in our lives regularly. People experience various types of fears. The common ones being of Death, Disease, Heights, Public Speaking, Animals, Darkness, Authority, the Unknown, etc.

A 1960 study by scientists however found that humans are born with just 2 fears. One is of loud sounds and the other is of heights. The remaining fears are actually learned fears.

Most individuals consider fear to be an unhealthy emotion. Why? Because we are taught that in our childhood. And unfortunately, most of us continue believing this through the remaining part of our lives!  And that’s when this ‘harmful and bad’ emotion turns into a personal development inhibitor.

The truth is, that like any other emotion, fear is also useful. Its only when it goes beyond a certain permissible limit does it become unhealthy.

Too Fearful

Our beliefs, values, attitudes, motivations, conditioning and personality trigger off various emotions within us. And these in turn drive most of our behaviors. This process, however, takes place so fast (in a spilt of a second!) that we usually are blind to it.

Let’s take a typical childhood example that most of us will relate to. When we were children, we were told that it’s not good to go in the dark as ghosts reside there. When this dialogue was repeated multiple times, we started believing it even though it was quite far from the truth! This belief created fear in us. And what resulted? Whenever we encountered darkness, we got fearful.

And how did we behave because of this? We avoided going in dark places, asked someone to accompany us to such places, etc. In short, we became rather timid. And you can well imagine how that impacted our personal development!


How Fear can harm us  

Some of the harmful effects that fear can have on us are:

  • Comes in the way of experimenting and exploring
  • Stops us from taking risks that help us grow
  • Makes us stay with the status quo
  • Stresses us out and affects the normal functioning of our body
  • Hijacks our brain and prevents us from thinking rationally
  • Eventually leads to mental health issues


Too Careless

 At times, our beliefs can take us the other way! They can fail to trigger off fear, which may actually be required to keep us safe. This may lead us to disregard facts which in turn can negatively affect our behaviour. This is the opposite of being fearful. And is commonly called false bravado.

Take for example the Covid-19 Pandemic. Many people believe that they are immune to the disease. This can be seen in videos on Youtube of people claiming that the current Pandemic is a conspiracy. Or even those holding Covid-19 parties. This leads them to be fearless and flout social distancing norms and other necessary precautions.

However, what does the data around the disease show? It shows that nobody can claim to be 100% immune to the disease. In fact, even people with good immune systems are falling sick.

Appropriate Fear

As you would have understood, not everything about fear is bad. And fear, can in fact, be channelized positively. Let’s see how:

  • When you experience fear, try not to let it take control over you and your actions. So, instead of panicking and being hysterical, understand how fear works and find ways to manage it.

  • Take necessary precautions based on the right information to mitigate the risk. Don’t allow false beliefs and fears to trigger unnecessary behaviours.

For example, at the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, many youngsters and middle-aged people panicked. They hoarded masks, medicines, food and other consumables. Some have got in the habit of washing their hands and clothes excessively, while others have not stepped out of their home since the past 6 months!

What do statistics say? While Corona has definitely been devastating for those with co-morbidities, it is usually not fatal for those below 40 with good health. Thus, let the fear make you take necessary precautions, but don’t let it take you to panic and hysteria.

The Fear Continuum

Let’s look at the Fear Continuum:


Over Confidence                        Healthy Fear                               Unhealthy Fear

Fake Bravado                                   Managing Fear                                 Getting hijacked

Disregarding data                           Mining for information                  Unable to function

No Planning                                     Speaking to experts                         Over visualizing impact

No Precaution                                 Planning                                             Paranoia & Depression

Uncalculated Risks                        Taking Precautions                          Delusions

So where do you tend to reside and what’s your plan to stay in the middle?

"Fear – the Biggest Growth Inhibitor" - By The Yellow Spot - - No Comments