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“I want to, but I can’t.” “I want to, but maybe not now.” These are phrases that we tend to fall back on when we, well, chicken out. We all know that whatever we are hoping for will obviously not happen with this mindset, so why do we continue to stay in it anyway?

If you are like me, you are a very ambitious and optimistic person. However, you may also be stuck wondering why you cannot get yourself to simply begin. You know what you want for yourself, but there is some debilitating force that continues to hold you back. This can be as small as getting yourself to go workout, or it could be actually creating that business idea that you have kept trapped inside your head. As someone who is extremely hard on herself, feeling like I am being lazy can also be extremely discouraging. There are times when I feel like I have all of this built up eagerness and energy that I end up failing to act on day after day. 

So how do you transform all of this potential energy into actual movement? When digging a little deeper, the issue is probably not simply laziness and lack of motivation, but your subconscious fears that have yet to be brought into the light. Fear has the power to create a seemingly large gap between where you are and where you want to be. It disguises that first simple small step you want to make as a very daunting and intimidating leap. For this reason, fear also causes discomfort and unwanted disruption in our lives, so we therefore naturally try to avoid it.

We normally do not focus much of our daily energy on those more obvious and tangible fears until we come into contact with them, whether that is a fear of heights, snakes, clowns, etc. However, many of us do not realize that we might have other more significant unrecognized fears that have actually been showing up in our everyday lives. Like any other fear, we automatically resist them using various survival mechanisms. This is because when it comes to decisions, our minds will immediately choose what feels safe unless we intentionally decide otherwise. This looks like relying on or distracting ourselves with anything within our comfort zones, which can then translate into that feeling of laziness (resorting to our phones is a big one).

Dave Asprey, a professional biohacker as well as founder and host of the famous “Bulletproof Radio” podcast mentions in his book, Game Changers, “giving into fear doesn’t make you safe. And not taking risks makes you weaker, not stronger.” The truth is that we cannot avoid our fears forever. Since they have become a part of our daily lives, our natural responses to whatever scares us have become habits that we must now make a conscious effort to break in order to move forward. This means ridding ourselves of shame and facing our fears head-on, which can be scary but very worth it in the long run. It is important to remember that bringing these thoughts to life and making them top-of-mind is uncomfortable, so this process requires devoted time and effort. Remain patient and kind to yourself. 

The first step is not to change your whole perspective and lifestyle around, but to simply identify and acknowledge your fear(s). In other words, what is it that keeps holding you back? Welcome to the wonderful world of vulnerability! I recently attended a TEDx Conference where I heard speaker/entrepreneur Ruth Soukup discuss the seven archetypes of fear that can subconsciously show up in our lives. Each are brought to life in different ways and even have the ability to work together to have various effects displayed through our own personality. (I highly recommend taking this assessment to see which type(s) you face and for further descriptions/guidance).

Procrastinator: You have a fear of getting started and completing projects because you tend to be a perfectionist who hates making mistakes. However, you pay high attention to details.

People pleaser: You get scared about being judged and letting others down. You tend to put others before yourself, which prevents you from actually doing what you desire. However, you probably have a lot of friends and get along with everyone. 

Rule follower: You avoid the chances of getting in trouble. There is a right and wrong way of doing things, which means that you will follow an instruction manual word-for-word. With this fear, you excel when given guidance, but might struggle when given more freedom.

Outcast: To others, it may seem like you do not care, but in reality, you might be covering up. This is because you have a fear of rejection, so you tend to reject others before they can even reject you. This causes you to be independent and reliant on yourself.

Self-doubter: You can get very insecure about your capabilities, so you will spend a lot of time preparing amazing presentations but fail to even present. You can be very sensitive and empathetic and may be able to give others amazing advice but doubt your own abilities. This fear also allows you to be a very hard worker.

Excuse-maker: You struggle sharing your opinion and do not want to be blamed, so you may hand responsibilities to others. You do not want to let people down, so you come up with some excuse that prevents you from getting started. You might also not enjoy taking on leadership roles, but you love supporting peers.

Pessimist: You may want to try new things, but you have a fear of facing adversity. This causes you to stay on guard and play it safe.

One of my most interesting takeaways from this conversation is that there are also ways all seven of these fears can positively show up depending on how we choose to handle them and make them work in our lives. Although these fears can be burdensome, they are nothing to be ashamed of. Be grateful for the positive ways your fears can help shape you and stay mindful about the rest. Also, understand that making a change or creating something of your own is not a one-step ordeal. It is an inevitably uncomfortable process consisting of smaller obstacles to overcome along the way, but it will surely lead you to a long-term payoff. Your vulnerability builds up the resilience that allows you to face any obstacle that your mind may view as “unsafe.” Once you have built and stabilized that trust in yourself, you will be able to not only achieve more but enjoy the journey. 

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis