Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fear and Self Limitation - Part 1 Origins

I have been working up to writing this post for a while now. It is a very important subject to me and I wanted to go into it with a wide range of sources of inspiration before I dove into a discussion about it. I have been reading personal development books, watching presentaions by renowned trainers and motivational speakers to learn about a very simple but very powerful way to change your life. But today I want to clarify my topic before I really jump into the meat of the subject.

This is not "new agey self help" instruction.

I can safely say I have read plenty of books and watched films about prayer of many kinds and manifestation of desires, That is not what I'm going to be discussing here. Your personal spirituality can fit with what I will be discussing, but that is a very separate topic, possibly for discussion in another post.

I am not a psychiatrist, or certified personal trainer.

My words here are my own, based off of several months of research and personal growth. At the end of this article, I will post several links to professionals who you can seek for assistance.

Now, onto the topic at hand...fear.

Fear: Part 1 - Origins

Don't worry, everyone has it.

Of course everyone has fear. Ranging from a healthy desire to not engage in self-endangering feats of cliff diving, to sheer terror at the sight of an insect. Some fears are rational, or are based off of personal life experience. While others are merely brought about by doubt or insecurities. This latter form of fear is what I will be discussing.

Born Fearless:
I want to start by saying that we are born without fear.

If you read about cognitive development, babies explore their world, fearlessly for months. They watch and listen, then crawl, touch and taste to learn about the world around them. They learn at an incredibly quick rate. How the world acts around you during the first few years of your life can absolutely effect your learning and shape your character. When you first let a baby grasp your finger, then she lets go and you let her grab it again, you are shaping the connections from neurons in the amygdala to the learning centers in her sensory cortex. The more you allow this child to experience, the more she grows and learns. There is no fear in this, an infant is taught boundaries. From hot stoves to climbing tall staircases, we teach our children basic rules of safety in the world around them.

So where does the fear part start?

For most of us, our self doubt can be drawn back to pre-adolescence, some behaviors learned through family trying to explain common social norms. We as a general species spend childhood testing boundaries, learning social limits and where we fit into them.

I was (and still am, admittedly) the kid in class that wanted to raise their hand first and get the answers right. It's not a desire to detract from other students, but a desire to have what I learn be validated. This, however, was not always popular. If you were, or are a kid like that, you know that not everyone finds that trait endearing and getting called names or made fun of can certainly train you out of wanting to raise that hand again.

Conversely, being shy or unsure of yourself, you may never have wanted to be called on in class, loathing the attention and possible social exclusion.

Some of our most basic beliefs about ourselves were formed at this delicate time in our lives, or even younger.

But, being a kid sucked for a lot of people, how does that limit me now?

The transition from childhood to adulthood is certainly trying for most. Only a few really fortunate people in my experience were able to glide through adolescence unscathed in some way. That said, for the majority of Americans, who were able to spend time with peers, or had people in their lives against whom they can compare themselves. We all had "influencers" for lack of a better term, both the wonderful and the detremental.

These influencers have power over us as we are developing our sense of self. This is fantastic in the case of people who encourage exploration and support creativity and individuality. Not so great in the case of people who tend to lean towards the "keeping up with the Jones'" mentality, or worse. In these cases, your natural affinity for curiosity inherent by your birth can be pushed down, hidden behind fears of social stigma.

When childhood becomes lingering fear.

I have heard a great deal about people who hold onto childhood wrongs like a blanket of honor. Clinging to "bad childhoods" as a shield against personal responsibility. If you were harmed, wronged or neglected as a child, I am sorry for that experience. It is a terrible thing to have people in your life who did not support you. There are a great many resources out in the world to help deal with those traumas. 

Is it solely childhood trauma that causes fear?

Not always. You can have a perfectly adjusted childhood and still have learned through experience that being different or sticking your neck out  is uncomfortable at best, or dangerous at worst.

When one holds on to those negative experiences, consciously or not, they form fears and impediments to our growth in our adult life. These fears keep us from learning new things, meeting new people, taking chances and exploring in our adult life.

And that, is exactly what I want to help identify and destroy!

Feel free to start a coversation in the comments below!!

Next entry: Identifying Fear and Self Limitation


  1. I big red <3 you... I appreciate your efforts to reclaim your fearlessness - I have been working on that for a long time, so I can claim at least a little progress :) Sometimes I think it's not so much about being fearless (which still includes recognizing and acknowledging 'danger' and being appropriately cautious and prepared), but rather much more about embracing the wonder of discovery (or re-discovery) of all the experiences of life - very much like the infant/toddler of our beginnings. Another thing I read recently said that one of the ways we miss out on fulfillment is by not knowing what we want - all experiences, whether negative, neutral, or positive, give us insight into what we want our lives to be. Sometimes, the best we come away with is what we know we Do Not want in our lives. There's the tricky bit - re-framing our fears/insecurities into useful information, and taking away its power as a modifier of our behavior.

  2. It was a very brave and fearless thing you did to post here, Magpie. Congratulations on the self discovery and working on yourself.

    I would like to add that fear also comes from adult negative experiences. For example, I've heard from a lot of my friend who suffered painful break-ups, a crippling fear of dating again. Also, don't forget failures and lack of social support.

    It's kind of a cool coincidence that I read this today, right after I took a Teen Asset training at my work. Accorting to studies, the more social assets (things like role models, engaging interaction with peers and superiors, encouragement, having time to do joyful activities, ect.) that people have, the more likely they will make better life decisions: such as overcoming fears and making nourishing social connections and life choices.

  3. I would also like to add something I learned about personal growth and dealing with people who use trauma from thier past as a form of staying in victimhood and co-dependency.

    I think throughout our life we are often attracted to social circles that we can identify with. Like does attract like and when we try to grow, we can find ourselves surrounded by people who are not going the same direction we are (I speak specifically of rising out of co-dependency and self-fear, here.) Sometimes, when we rise above our own personal demons, we can find that those closest to us will try to knock us right down and can almost hinder our own personal growth.

    I wanted to share an awesome book called "Boundaries and Ralationships", by Charles Whitfield that talks about learning to protect yourself from people mired in co-dependency while still being understanding and loving.

    There's a Buddhist author called Pema Chodron who calls this principle "Firm Compassion".

    It also helps to find people who are in the places you want to be and kind of use them as a role model. (About 2 years ago, I purposely sought out people who never complained or never made excuses for ANYTHING. This was something I really wanted to overcome...and I can say. It was one of my best decisions. I now have a decent network of independant and fearless people that I can talk to and who remind me of the places I want to be)