There’s a famous survey often cited, which concludes that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. Of course the fear of death is understandable. But the fear of public speaking denotes a different aspect of fear. Whereas death deals with the physical, the fear of public speaking deals with the mental, to wit, the fear of failure and scrutiny. There’s nothing you can do about death, but there is something you can do about public speaking.

Often, when I speak with people about what is going on in their life, and the things they would like to change, they slowly get around to the very fact that they themselves are their own biggest obstacle. What makes this particularly frustrating, is the fact that they know they are. And yet, they continue to make excuses. It’s quite sad. Life is short, and one of the biggest regrets people express towards the end of their life, is having not lived the life that they truly wanted.

We all have fears. But our extreme self-consciousness, coupled with unpleasant past experiences, creates patterns of self-sabotage in our thought-processes and identity, which ultimately reflects in our behavior. I am of the belief that the majority of us live wasted lives. We often avoid daring to dream, because we have limited ourselves so severely, our vision becomes narrow. We care too much about what others think. And at some point, we project the negative thoughts of others onto ourselves. We create a self-image that isn’t representative of ourselves, and in turn stifles the true expression of our personalities.

How that manifests is manifold. This is especially acute with women, in my experience and practice as a health and life coach. But get me correct–it’s a gender-neutral problem. One of the ways it manifests is through thoughts and feelings of “undeservedness.” This can be making more money, getting a promotion or a good job, wanting and demanding a better relationship, asking to take vacation, etc. We often tend to find excuses to make, to stop ourselves from going after something we desire, or enjoy something offered to us. It’s a sadomasochistic game we play with ourselves, and often we don’t even realize it.

We fear resistance, and so we don’t like to rock the boat. And often times we give some people so much real estate in our heads and hearts, that when the boat is solely occupied, we still fear rocking it. There are many things to be said here. But a main one is that when you live according to something you don’t believe, it takes a psychic toll, which in turn takes a physical toll.

What people don’t seem to realize, as they refuse to assert themselves, cultivate proper self-care, and confront the deep-seated and self-induced obstacles to their well-being, is that living a life you enjoy, and in which you strive to improve holistically doesn’t benefit just you. People appreciate authenticity. And even if your authenticity rubs people the wrong way (let’s hope it’s for a good reason), the people who stick around you tend to be authentic as well, or at least gravitate toward you by genuine attraction.

We fear scrutiny, we fear failure. Those things are true. But we also, above all, fear excellence. Ironically, the fear of failure generates and perpetuates failure. Failure becomes comfortable, where we lie to ourselves that things are not really our fault. And we indulge in the self-delusion that our habitual failure can be rectified, immediately, at a moment’s notice. Know this–helping others along with that toxic thought-process is not an act of love; you’re not doing them any favors.

We fear excellence because we fear sacrifice. We fear the growing pains and discomfort that the process of excellence brings and requires (i.e. more time for fitness, diet change, better work habits, better sleep habits, etc). Excellence is demanding, and it produces pressure because it produces expectations. But to strive towards excellence and your ideal vision of yourself, should not simply be the goal. What does the particular excellence, or ideal state that you desire, do for you?

In conclusion, we can be our own worst enemies. Now ask yourself: what are some things that I can do that help me manifest some of my goals (beginning with the small meaningful ones)? Is it the reshuffling of boundaries in my relationships, new perspectives, etc? Ask yourself, also, another very important question: In being yourself, expressing your desires in an adult manner, and working towards your goals unapologetically, what are some positive things this generates for your work, relationships, home life, etc? What opens up for you that isn’t open now?

In the end, no one can come into your body and live your life for you. It will require an honest self-assessment. And if you’re lost, a life/health coach can always help.