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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. This is a tremendous resource! I believe that you could make a month’s worth of posts out of this material. I am going to print this and keep it in my daily reading folder. Thanks! (and Stumbled!)

  2. Tom

    Wow… Tina… This is an eye-opener. Not only have you been very helpful to me personally with this post, you’ve gained a loyal reader.


  3. Tina ~ just wanted to leave a note and say nice post!

    Let me know if you are looking for collaborators for your ad network :)

  4. stefano

    This article is horribly rhetorical. Fear is the result of any number of cognitive distortions which effect reasoning. These statements offer nothing more than token emotional self-comfort for people without significant psychological problems. Your advice would be of absolutely no use in treating a major anxiety disorder, otherwise the standard applied for evaluating psychological treatment.

    Anyone who understands the ridiculous complexity of human thought and behavior would be hesitant to post advice with no scientific or logical support. I suggest that you consider this before posting further advice.

  5. Justin

    Fantastic advice that too often will be ignored because it “can’t possibly apply to me”.

    People wonder how I can know so much about so many things. Well, a lack of money can force you to learn a LOT of things. Yes, I have felt doubt as I faced a broken transmission, and remembered “Well, I’ve never done one – always wanted to say I’ve done one” and then just dove in. I’ve had to do my transmission 6-7 times. And you know what I know a lot more now than I did after the 1st failure. Don’t be afraid to fall down. You’ll get back up!

    I’ve recently spent 9 weeks replacing my old rotten roof with a steel roof. I’ve never done one before, but took the time to learn, worked hard and realized once I took the old roof off, there was no turning back. :-) It’s beautiful, watertight, and now provides peace of mind for the rest of my life.

    I’ve had my doubts when running for office. But when you really talk to many people, you find that so many of them have doubts that linger behind a big facade. They’re JUST LIKE YOU AND ME. HUMAN. And you know, once you realize that, a lot of self-imposed fear can go away. And while I get derision from some who think I’m just another crooked politician, I have many more who know me better than that, because I’ve taken the time to be honest and truthful. And I take the time to educate people about issues. It’s very easy to do so when I make my decisions based on the fact that I should expect to explain my choices completely to those who I am accountable to. When they see the issues from different sides, they come to appreciate the difficulty in making a decisions that pleases everyone, and more often than not, they’re glad they don’t have to make the decisions. We may not agree, but they respect the effort put into it. Sadly, not everyone has that philosophy. Yeah, they look successful, but people aren’t stupid. They see through a lot the facade. And it’s very liberating (to me) when I can just be myself, including admitting mistakes and proposing solutions to overcome them.

    The real potential in all of us is largely untapped and held back by societal messages that reinforce the message of demeaning others (or being sarcastic to others) in a destructive manner to allow us to feel “wittier”, “smarter”, “better” than them. That’s nothing more than wasting energy in kicking someone where it hurts, while sinking into the muck yourself.

    We pulled our tv out years ago, and no longer are barraged by constant news and messages in television shows and advertising that suggests that we’re surrounded by tragedy, or that everyone around us is “out to get us”, or that we’re less successful in (sex, relationships, life, etc) unless we buy some product.

    There are incredibly beautiful people out there who lack anything inside. And there truly incredible people out there who radiate peace, confidence and beauty from within. The true beauty of a person is who they are inside.

    Sometimes what it takes is to stop and really think about all the obstacles you’ve overcome in your life and realize how far you have come.

    Now, look forward and go take on the day! The bumps are just life’s opportunities to learn more about ourselves.

  6. kunjan

    hi Tina….

    This is one of the best article that i have ever read on web, really awesome..


  7. Adam Wolf

    Actually, you are your thoughts and perceptions. That’s all you are.

    But I agree that defeating self-defeating thoughts is what it’s all about. It’s strange that you wrote this article about how having a positive mind set is tantamount, and at the same time downplayed the idea that our perception and attitude are the eyes through which we see the world.

    We are perception. That’s all we are.

  8. Wow Tina that was a great article, I will certainly be linking this to some of my friends and family, and hopefully it will inspire something in them as it has in me.

    I am going through a very rough patch in my life right now. My goal is to start my own PC Support and Consulting Company. I have been getting a little side work here and there, but my thoughts are always “this will never take off, I will never be able to be self employed, b/c I cannot be unemployed while I get started, and I dont have savings to be self employed, I lack the knowledge for all jobs ect.”. But after your reading I have a new drive to continue my fight for my own company, my own well being.

    Thanks for putting this out there!

  9. Oh, the mind is a tricky little devil for sure. There is a political analogy here. Can you see it?

    Our minds are like ruling political parties. They convince us that their intentions are honorable while surreptitiously acting on their own selfish agendas, playing on our emotions to achieve their goals.

    Our mind is like that ruling party. It has a limited view that centers on its own survival and enjoyment, while trying to be cognizant of its approval rating to remain in power. Its prime tactic is to instill fear to encourage dependence and its own longevity. Sound familiar?

    Just as we the people are not the political party in office, we are also not the fearful person that our mind wants us to believe in for its own selfish reasons.

    Have you also noticed that a person’s fear of failure is increased greatly in proportion to how close to their true nature, their proposed plans are? The more we align with our true self, the more our lower mind injects fear to ensure its continued governance.

    Just some thoughts, and thanks for the cue,

  10. Nice post. Enjoyed reading it.


  11. I started my online retail program two years ago, offering Swiss Army brand luggage and business gear, decorated with collegiate logos. At the time I thought that it was just a matter of getting the license to use each university’s logo, creating the luggage and then selling it on my website. I should mention that I didn’t HAVE a website, but I figured that wouldn’t be a problem.

    In the time since then I have invested bunches of time, energy, creativity and good old $$$ developing the website (I am on my third set of web designers, with whom I am delighted) and getting the program up and running. I would honestly say that during the 24 months I have been in the “Downward Spiral of Fear” more times than I can remember. It seemed that nothing I did made any difference and that all of my grand plans for when I got to the next level were on hold as I tried to get to the first level.

    Your article gave me a genuine feeling of relief. There is something comforting about the knowledge that I am going through a commonly-experienced phase that many entrepreneurs go through during the start of a new endeavor.

    One last thing, I turn 60 on Sunday. So I will consider your article a birthday present.

  12. Tina,
    This is true and insighting. You have a loaded post here. Thanks for the really educative post.


  13. Wang

    The main problem is that it’s easy to know how to do,but hard to always practise according to it.

  14. tina,

    your words speak from the heart of an entrepreneur and independent individual – thank you for the valuable advice on conquering self-imposed fear. i especially liked the bit about analysis paralysis, because it’s SO true that we all overanalyze situations instead of diving into them headstrong. keep em coming tina!

  15. Tina,

    For some reason, every person who e-mails a comment on your article to you also winds up copying ME. I guess it is the way these websites are constructed.

    I noticed that there are frequent references to the expression “analysis paralysis”. I have a friend of many years who refers to this as “over ANALyzing”. It’s a bit more crude than your prose, but he is a bit more crude in general.

    Ciao for Niao,

  16. Nice look at how our minds can–well-drive us nuts, Tina.

    I chuckled at your “research” story because I discovered myself doing something similar. After 30 years in business–and poised to add a new twist to our consulting practice–I did some online research that began convincing me that, somehow, all of these people were more “successful” than I had been. (Forget that some hadn’t yet been born when I incorporated :-) ).

    And thanks for closing with the remark regarding “persistent” vs. “stubborn”. I’ve always viewed persistence as a deliberate choice once my vision–and some corroborating data–tell me it’s time to step out in faith.

    Keep writing…

  17. It is amazing how when you think badly of yourself you will drag yourself down and make bad decisions. Looking back at all of those times where I was in a self defeating attitude I never achieved but once I turned my life around i realized that it was all about my self attitude

  18. @bill nad – that is a great point!

  19. Another wonderful article Tina! I have finally subscribed to make it easier to read your content.

    Tony Robbins once popularized the acrostic “FEAR,” – False Evidence Appearing Real. In the personal development and success realms, We do tend to create our own fears and then fall victim to their paralyzing grip. We often simultaneously fear both failure and success, making excuses and creating quite an obstacle to overcome.

    I like your six steps Tina. Mark Twain once said “Do that which you fear and the death of fear is certain.” Action, it would appear then, is also a superb fear-buster.

    In the end, we often discover that the thing we were once afraid of was not all that bad!

  20. I love your step 6. What an empowering analogy (the car at night on a country road) for the encouragement of staying in the present moment!

  21. Tina,

    I like your insights! Fear of rejection is my waterloo. I’ve always been full of doubts because of the excuses I’ve been feeding myself. In turn, these doubts lower my self-esteem. Eventually, the world matched my perceived reality. However, I’ve been trying to climb out of this hole for quite some time. One day, I decided to change the way I look at the world and to start to look at the world in a positive spin. To reinforce this mindset, I’ve banded with a group of friends who believe in the power of positivism. Visit our blog at:

  22. Hi,
    you are so right. I often notice, that I am not starting to realize projects. I am thinking about it until it doesn’t make sense for me to realize it. And I even KNOW that I am acting that way. I think it’s a kind of fear. Because you’re feared to go that step, you trying to find reasons not to do so, over and over.
    Articles like this one always motivate me in getting things done. So thank you, I will keep this in mind and try to think about it next time I fear to start over.

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