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6 Steps to Deflate Self-Defeating Fears

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Have you ever justified your lack of success towards a goal with the excuse that you lacked the experience? Or that you lacked the resources: money and time? Did you give up before you even tried?

Have you ever looked at a competition in your field and justified their success to something trivial like:

  • She’s successful, because she’s got better computer skills.
  • He’s successful because he knows the right people.
  • They are successful because they’ve been doing this for many years.
  • John did it, because he’s loaded, he has more money than I’ll ever see.
  • Maggie has always been luckier than me.

We’ve missed the real work behind the scene. We’ve robbed them of the real reason why they are successful. Plus, we have spent extra energy justifying our lack of success and missed real opportunities to learn from their excellence.

You are not alone

There are many of us along with you, struggling with similar experiences based on the same self-inflicted self-limiting thinking. This might sound harsh, but it is reality and in order to shine light on the matter, we must look at it with a critical eye and be honest with … ourselves.

If you are feeling defensive by my above statements, bare with me, hear me out. I’m not labeling this as bad, but rather, something I am going through which I choose not to have in my life. I’m constantly working on my mindset and I wanted to share my experiences with you.


First, a personal story:

I recently came up with an idea for a new advertising network which I was interested in pursuing. I had spent several hours today doing market research. As I went from site to site, I would click on the about section and read the bios of founders. I found myself scanning through the bios looking for keywords related to advertising or publishing. After doing this for about an hour, I finally caught on to what I was doing subconsciously. You see, I wasn’t exactly researching for existing markets, but rather was looking for excuses why I would fail in this foreign market. “Wow… what an insight.” I thought.

Can you believe it? I was actually looking up the backgrounds of founders, specifically looking for qualifications and related experiences for which I lacked. My mind was looking for evidences to justify why they’ve succeeded and why I will not succeed because I lacked these experiences. This realization woke me up and brought back memories from several years ago where I’d unconsciously allowed this self-limiting belief to stop me from living a full life, thus limiting my potential for happiness and fulfillment.


So, what are you saying?

I genuinely believe that we often compromise our goals through a limiting, self-imposed, mindset and a fear of failure. Mindset is everything. We may not be able to control the thoughts our mind throws at us, but we can choose to remain conscious and observe these thoughts rather than instantly reacting to them.

It is so easy to get caught up in the artifacts of our own mind. Our mind’s job is to keep us the same, and thus to instill fear in us to pursue goals outside our comfort zone. This is natural and instinctual. We all experience it. But for anyone who’s achieved what they really wanted, they’ve learned to move beyond it. To act in spite of the fear.

Here are 6 steps to overcome this voice in us that has the potential to stop us from pursuing and reaching our dreams:


Step 1: Hearing & Recognizing the Voice

Become aware of what excuses your mind is saying to delay or deceit action. Here are common ones I’ve picked up on:

  • I don’t have educational background, maybe I’ll do it after I’ve gained X degrees.
  • I don’t have enough money to pursue this. I can’t afford it.
  • I just don’t have any time.
  • I don’t have the right connections in this market.
  • What the heck do I know about X? Nothing. It’s never gonna work.
  • I have not learned enough about this. I need to know everything first.

Watch your language when speaking to another person. Watch the phrases you use, are you making excuses? Are you justifying a situation with thoughts of lack and limitation?


Step 2: Beware of ‘Analysis Paralysis’

I’ve fallen into this trap many times before. Analysis Paralysis is the perception that you need to understand every single element of how to do something before actually taking any action towards a project (You may have a better definition, but you get my gist.).

Here’s a scenario from my life to demonstrate this. Before pursuing a project, I would spend days and weeks on researching and analyzing the market. During this time, I’ve gathered enough reason why I will fail, thus after all this time invested, I would end up taking no action.

If I had spent this time doing minimal research and then dived straight into action, I would have gained valuable experiences than had I just sat there looking for reasons to failure. I may have even succeeded during that time.

Yes, it is important to do your research and understand a market. The problem arises when we are not conscious of our goals and purpose for researching. It is very easy to fall into analysis paralysis, which serves as another form of excuse to delay action (if any).


Step 3: Catch Yourself from the Chasm of Self-Defeating Thoughts

Our thoughts can easily become a downward spiral. While dwelling on a self-defeating thought pattern, if we do not interrupt it and consciously bring ourselves out, we can become paralyzed by fear and lack.

You can shift your emotions and interrupt your self-defeating thoughts by:

  • Changing your language. – Instead of saying I can’t do this because I don’t have enough experience. Try changing your language to I don’t yet have much experience with this, but I’m confident I could master it. Let me start today.
  • Changing your physiology. – Get up and move around. Do something different that dramatically changes your current physical state. Do 20 jumping-jacks while singing happy birthday. This is a powerful tool to interrupt any thought patterns.
  • Changing your focus. – What are you focused on? Explicitly find something else to focus on for awhile.


Step 4: Know Your Mind is Not You

Your mind’s perception is not you. Just because you have a self-defeating thought, does not mean that it is true, or that you need to follow its lure. I know this is a tough one, but trust me, you are not your thoughts, you are not your mind, you are not your ego. You are divine, you are precious and you have it within yourself to fulfill your heart’s deepest desires.


Step 5: Look for the Great Value You Have to Offer

Instead of looking for reasons why we cannot be successful against another person with a head start, look for reasons why you will win by providing value that the competition has not.

Look for opportunities instead of missed opportunities. Look for things that contributed to others success and use them as inspirations to better your own venture. Look for things that others have done well, learn from them.

Focus on creating massive value. Expect to give more than you receive in return. Once this simple concept is genuinely practiced and integrated, you’ll find that the competition really does not matter for you to fulfill your vision.



Step 6: Forget about the ‘How’, Focus on the ‘What

It is easy to get caught up in the details of How you’re going to accomplish your goal, before you begin acting on the idea or project. When you get too caught up in How, you are likely welcomed with a long list of what may seem like impossible tasks. This is very discouraging and will slow down momentum. Besides, things rarely play out as you expect. Yes, it is important to have plans towards accomplishing a goal, but create plans with high-level views without being too boggled down on the How.

Time is much better spent on creating a clear, concrete and measurable target. Know exactly what it is that you want (whether it is a project or in life), create a rough plan and then dive in with massive action. Focus on what you can do now, right now!

As with driving a car late at night along a country-side road, it’s dark outside and you can only see the roads two meters ahead of you. You know your destination (your target) and you know that the road will eventually lead you there (your plan). All you can do now is to focus on the next two meters and then the two meters after that (what you can do now). You know that this will lead you there, as long as the car stays pointed down the road.


Parting Thoughts

I share the same fears with everyone else. In fact, I feel them all the time. So much so that several years ago, I would shake at the thought of something that scared me. My hands would tremor and I could feel my heart in my throat. :) I’ve since learned to dive in, to just do it, and learned that I will be safe once I land on the other side. Every single time when I’ve put my heart into something, something that scared me or otherwise, I have never failed. Things always turned out better than my fear would allow me to see. Failure is when you give up. You can’t fail, if you don’t give up.

(And no, I’m not speaking about being stubborn. I’m referring to the persistence and faith to chase and reach your dreams.)

With love,
Seattle. 2:13 am, December 13, 2007.

Did you relate with this article? If so, did you make any realizations? We’d love to hear from you and your experiences in the comments. See you there.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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68 thoughts on 6 Steps to Deflate Self-Defeating Fears

  1. randy

    i have not yet read this piece in its entirety, but from the beginning i get the feeling that what you’re speaking about is more germane to business and professional fears. it is disappointing. are money and status the only things in life? i do not read this for executive training.

    but like i said, i haven’t read the entire piece yet. once i do i will let you know if i have changed my opinion.

  2. Wow, Tina…that was a spectacular tour de force of what you are capable of. This problem plaugues hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, and you, singlehandedly, showed them how to come out of that cocoon. Great job– I won’t be surprised if you get some thank you e-mails!


  3. randy

    well i’ve read the whole thing now and it was pretty much what i thought it would be. which is okay, but that’s not my favorite type of article that you write.

    keep up the good work, i will keep reading.

  4. I am so guilty of this that I had to laugh when I read this article. It was as if you were writing it with me in mind. I love entertaining new ideas, I get excited when I consider the possibilities. I’ve always been the type to dream BIG. But I tend to go through Analysis Paralysis (when I first heard this phrase, I was stunned by how true it was). I do spend an amazing amount of time researching – doing the same thing you did with showing myself how I am not as qualified as this or that person.

    My new blog is my proof of just going for it and I must admit, it does feel great. So far learning as I go along hasn’t meant lightning has struck.. I get a lot of valuable information learning as I go as well as learning from the pros and my faves :) (this means you Tina!)

    Anyway, thanks for this posting – this was a great one

    powerful stuff – keep it up!

  5. Awesome post! Very very true.

  6. Hey Tina,

    Thanks for sharing your personal real life story. After reading your story, I think back to my own life and I found that I did that too, unconsciously.

    Now I know that I should create a better awareness to my thoughts.

  7. This makes me realize a of the reasons why I failed in the past. I was always looking at missed opportunities, making up reasons why I could not succeed, and comparing my ego to people “better” than me. I think we need to depart from comparing our ego to others, and focus on merging with the “process” of achieving success. And if we cannot enjoy the process, then we need to ask ourselves, “do I really love what I’m doing? If not, perhaps it is not a part of my life purpose… I need to find out what my life purpose is and DO that.” If we do what we love, success will become imminent.

  8. I really enjoyed reading Tina’s personal examples about planning business ventures. If you really read and understand what she is saying, you discover that her ideas really apply to achieving anything in life. Whether it’s trying to get a date (“She’s too pretty, she’ll never want to go out with me”), buying a new car (“That car is too expensive for me, I can’t afford it”) or learning a new language (“I’ve never been good at picking up languages, there’s no way I’m going to be able to learn Swedish”). The same approach still applies.

    What I really love about this blog is that there is no part of our lives that Tina’s words leave untouched.

  9. Gil

    A very timely advice for me. Thanks Tina. I’ve actually come to peace with the idea that I’m sort of a like a fish (not that Gill is my realname) in a fishbowl. After flopping outside and gasping for air for a while, I’ve managed to get back inside the fishbowl. I now think that I can be whatever I want to be or achieve anything I dream of as long as I’m inside the fishbowl.

    All of us have the power and means to be someone but on the perspective of a greater consciousness maybe there is a reason why we’re all like in a fishbowl too — with Earth being the great fish bowl in the universe.

    Something in this article stuck with me and it’s Step 5. Look for the Great Value You Have to Offer. Maybe I can just continue to be the philosophical clown fish I was born to be even if to just make other fish giggle or smile. Being a clown fish doesn’t mean I couldn’t stop dreaming though. Especially now that I’m aware that there’s more to life than just swimming aimlessly inside a fish bowl. : )

  10. Deb

    Thanks for sharing your tools for success, for overcoming our fears… It’s true that I often wonder how people are so ‘smart’ or so confident… It’s because they do what they set out to do, and do their best… not letting analysis paralysis overcome them…;) Like i do, too often…

  11. Tina, this is an awesome article. You’re very right – we do look for reasons why we will not succeed. Like it is said, the only failure is not to have tried for the fear of failure. When we move forward, we find a way to make things happen. And even if we do not succeed, we gain wisdom from the process

    My Positivity Blog

  12. Just stumbled upon your site. I like it very much. I loved the article as well. It’s very very true. Just what I needed to hear.

    My Diet & Health Blog,

  13. Wow. Awesome article. It’s always good to be reminded to fight that fear that is disguised as other things. Thanks for the link too!

  14. What a great post! I think there is such universal appeal and relevance to what you shared about self-defeating fears and thoughts. My dream is to get a PhD and start my own crisis management consulting business and teach college part-time. “I don’t have enough money to pursue this. I can’t afford it” is something that gets played alot in my head because of my already outrageous student loan. I keep thinking to myself, “If only I have the money, I’d do it.”

    So when I read your post, it was validating to see that others struggle with similar issues. I think I’ll start taking small, active steps to getting this “money” to pay for my schooling.

    Thanks again Tina.

  15. Hi Tina,
    Another great article. One statement that I’m learning to use is “Thank you for sharing”, taught by T. Harv Eker. For everytime your little voice came out, representing your fear, doubt and worry, just thank them and shut them. And don’t be controlled by them.

    Another insights I got from Harv Eker’s book is that rich people making action while poor people still preparing. That’s so true as what you said in analysis paralysis, when we see opportunities, we splash it with all our negativity, our excuses of not having this and that, and at the end we’re not doing it at all.

    Thanks for reminding us to take action in spite of fear!

  16. Step 6: Forget about the ‘How’, Focus on the ‘What‘ – Hey Tina, I believe that the WHY is more important than the how or the what. Only when you know why you must change can you go about defining what and how to change. That’s what I learned in NLP anyway =P

    For those who still have so many fears and limiting beliefs, I suggest you look at these videos:

    Nick Vujicic, the man with no limbs, on Perspective, Vision and Choices

    This guy was born without arms and legs and yet he is able to achieve more things than “normal” people. He’s truly extraordinary.

  17. Taming Your Gremlin

    Excellent book!

  18. Yeah!!! Tina, well said – Thank You.

    Will post it with ZenHabits on Facebook.

    Happy days,


  19. Thanks for sharing your own experiences with me and your readers. It is good food for thought actually. Everytime i read your blog, i discover myself again and again. You are simply amazing!

  20. Hi Tina good morning!!!

    What a nice inspirational post you have here! Words are well spoken and honest! I never went to college. At times I thought that would be my biggest set back. I started my family quite young. I went to work with no experience after my youngest went to school.

    I used to say, “I have slipped through the cracks. I climbed the ladder with out them knowing that I had no degree.” But now I realize it was all me. It wasn’t luck. I didn’t slip, I worked my booty off to get where I am today. I have a successful career and I am proud of myself :)

    6 helpful hints that I am sure will help alot of people! Have agreat weekend!

  21. Anne-Marie M

    Fantastic, enlightening and inspiring. Thank you Tina!

  22. I’ve reached a point in my career where I am more skilled than I’ve ever been, but with it has come some occasional doubts as to my true level of capability. Believing in one’s self is crucial to a happy attitude and continued success/growth =) Great post!

  23. Great Post! Last night I fell deep into depression. See I’m trying to start a small profiting business recording local bands but feeling overwhelmed with how to make enough profit to survive. The main problem my wife came to was not that I couldn’t figure out how to make enough money, but that I was so depressed about it I could think with a clear enough mind to see around the problem. Thank you Tina, this article will go up on my wall with the others that have pushed me past my own doubts to fulfill my heart’s desire to work in the music industry even if it means not making as much money, but being more content with my life and feeling whole.


  24. coreman


    Then sometimes you throw your whole body and soul into something, moving past fears and doubts. And then one day it all blows up rather spectacularly, and most/all of your fears and doubts then are suddenly reality.

    What then?

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