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Redeem Yourself: Overcome and Conquer Your Fear of Inadequacy

Updated on March 25, 2011
Living in fear brings about many negative emotions.
Living in fear brings about many negative emotions. | Source

What is Fear?

Fear, for the most part, is caused by what your mind perceives as imminent danger. For example, let's say you're sitting in your house and all of a sudden, you hear a sound outside of your window. As you stand up to check things out, you notice something moving in the bushes. Your heart begins to beat faster with every passing second. Your face becomes hot and your palms sweat as your blood pressure rises. Without a second thought, you reach for the closest object that may be used as a weapon.

What just happened is a response triggered by fear. The fear itself was triggered by an outside stimulus (the movement in the bushes) that your brain perceived as potentially dangerous, hence your grabbing for a weapon. This type of fear is instinctual, programmed into our bodies for the purpose of survival. If we did not experience this type of fear, we would nonchalantly step into the center of a busy highway, walk off of a 150-story building or challenge a professional body builder to a fight--all of this without thinking about the consequences. This type of instinctual fear is necessary for survival.

However, there is a different kind of fear. We will call this type of fear "fear of inadequacy." This fear stems from the fear of losing something or someone, whether it's your social status, sense of pride, your best friend or your significant other (among other things, of course). As you dig deeper, you will realize that just like fear of the future, this type of fear is irrational and could potentially cause problems in your daily life.

Causes of Fear

When you're fear stems from potential danger, it is caused by an entire brain process. It starts with whatever it is that scared you. Using the example above, the movement in the bushes would act as the stimulus. What you seen and heard is sent to a part of your brain called the thalamus. Because the thalamus cannot tell whether the circumstances are dangerous or not, but may be, it forwards the information to the amygdala which then triggers the hypothalamus to activate the fight-or-flight response. When you subconsciously reach for an object to be used as a weapon, you can thank your fight-or-flight response for preparing you for danger. This is the natural, instinctual type of fear.

Fear of inadequacy is a bit different than instinctual fear. Those who exhibit a fear of inadequacy are often overly concerned with material possessions. If you pay close attention, you will notice that it is these people who feel the need to wear the best clothes, drive the most expensive cars and live in the largest house on the block. It all stems from fear. You'll also notice that even if he does not have such things, he will do his best to make himself appear superior to others whether it's by picking fights or belittling another. Again, this is caused by fear. While many may see this behavior as "tough" or "bad", you can bet that it stems from insecurity. The truth is much deeper than his exterior demeanor. He is afraid.

While the brain process for fear of inadequacy may be similar to that of instinctual fear, the fear of inadequacy is not associated with "survival" mode. This is because the individual is not afraid of harm to his health but is instead, afraid of losing something that he feels "completes him." If one were to get rid of these attachments to material possessions, there would no longer be any reason to exhibit fear of inadequacy.

The key to change... is to let go of fear. Rosanne Cash
The key to change... is to let go of fear. Rosanne Cash | Source

Negative Effects of Fear

Besides adrenaline, another chemical called "cortisol" is released into your body when you're afraid. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress. Stress itself has plenty of negative effects on the human body. For example, if you've ever been in a fearful or dangerous situation, you may have experienced distorted perception of time (i.e., time slows down, time stops moving). Any changes in perception in a fearful situation will cause issues with judgment. When there is an err in judgment, it keeps us from making rational decisions and choosing what to do next.

Another point to consider is that if you fill your day with fear, anger and negativity, these emotions will become a part of your daily routine. Living in fear will wreak havoc on your mental well-being which will, in turn, affect your physical well being. Not only will it be difficult to break the habit, but you may even be unaware that there is a problem. It is even quite possible that you may fear what may happen if you break the habit.

Besides affecting your mental state, fear may also cause you to avoid taking risks for the fear of failure or rejection. This may cause you to settle and avoid reaching for things that are otherwise attainable. Think about it. Is living your life in fear worth losing out on huge opportunities, on life-changing--even world-changing--benefits? Fear will trick you and make you believe that your reasons for not acting are justified. It will warp your perception and will prevent you from taking the steps necessary in order to better your life and the lives of those around you. Fear of inadequacy is your enemy.

So long as your mind is wrapped around living in fear, your physical and spiritual self will never have the peace you so deserve. Many of us have trouble grasping the concept of hell while some of us do not even believe in the concept whatsoever. Well, let's say for a moment that hell is a real place. Perhaps the eternal fire that is hell is in fact an eternity of unattainable peace caused by none other than fear. Whether you believe in a spiritual realm or not, the fact remains that you must transform your mind in order to obtain peace mentally and physically.

Overcome Your Fears

If you truly want to overcome your fears, you need to recognize them. However, do not recognize your fears as the absolute truth, because it is NOT the absolute truth. You do NOT have to live in fear for the remainder of you life. You need to examine your fears and why you choose not to do something (i.e., get a new job, make new friends), or why you DO negative things (i.e., pick fights with others, act irrationally). Write down these reasons and next to each one, write the main fear that you have associated with these reasons.

Next, understand your fears. It is incredibly difficult to fear things that you understand. For example, if you're afraid of making friends, is it because you're afraid of being rejected or that people will not like you? If this is the case, then your fear of rejection is the cause of your reason for not wanting to make friends. Basically, what you want to do is reduce your list to a few specific fears.

Think long and hard about each one of your fears. Ask yourself, "If I decide to do what I'm afraid to do, what is the worst case scenario?" At one point in my life, I was terrified to tell anyone how I felt, whether it was a friend, family member or partner. My aunt once said to me, "What's the worst that could happen? They're not going to eat you!" Her comment made me laugh but it also rang true and still rings true to this day. Let's say you want to ask someone on a date but you're afraid of rejection. The worst that could happen is that your potential date says no. Will this be the end of the world? The answer is no. Even better, what if they say yes? You won't have to spend your entire life wondering, "What if?" Even if your potential date does reject you, you WILL recover. It may take a few weeks, even a month or two, but this is nothing compared to the rest of your life.

Now, if you feel anger coming on, just stop what you're doing and breathe deeply. Inhale through your nose and exhale through you're mouth. Close your eyes and think to yourself, "What am I afraid of?" Finally, ask yourself, "Is this seriously so important that it will affect my life five years down the road?" If the answer is no, which it likely will be, move on and focus on the positive things in your life that DO matter, such as your mental well-being.

Finally, in order to overcome the fears that consume you, you need to let go of your ego, of the self . Let go of your sense of status and significance above others. Once you've released your ego, what do you have left to fear?

A fight is often initiated out of fear.
A fight is often initiated out of fear. | Source

Fear of Inadequacy Serves No Purpose

Have you ever witnessed a physical fight that was over something completely justifiable? Let your mind ponder this question for a moment. No? Yeah, well, me either. I do, however, know many individuals who have attacked someone out of pure fear. The story behind it doesn't matter because they still attacked out of full-blown fear. It is fear that will encompass these individuals for the rest of their lives unless they transform their perspective. If they choose to remain in fear, they will continue getting themselves into dangerous situations, never truly attaining peace.

Besides physical altercations, seemingly harmless debates may also stem from fear of being outdone, or feeling inferior.

When you sit, engaged in a debate about which football team is better, your points--no matter how valid--are falling on deaf ears. No one participating in the debate cares about which football team is better. The purpose of the debate is now to see who knows more or who can get the last word. In most instances, no one wins the debate. Take this scenario for example: Someone starts reciting statistics about a specific football team from the past ten years. Although your team's statistics may be better, you cannot recite your team's statistics, so you've been outdone. "In your face!" he shouts. Although he may have won the battle, the war is unable to be won by anybody--unless you consider the guy in the corner that avoids getting involved at all.

Any argument, whether about the best looking female, the best tasting steak or the smelliest cheese is never about the topic itself. Instead, the argument is about who is condescending enough to "win" the battle. If you were generally confident in yourself, you would never feel the need to engage in petty debates and arguments that serve no purpose other than to make someone feel better about themselves---out of fear of looking bad, weak, or whatever it may be.

Take religion for example; ignorance and hypocrisy at it's best. Everyone wants to believe (and wants YOU to believe) that their religion is the way to go. While it is completely fine to have an opinion, so many people are "in-your-face" crazy with their religion, attempting to convert you if you so much as mention anything religious ("All I said was 'bless you! Geez!'"). Arguing that your religion is the best above the rest until your blue in the face not only achieves nothing, but it reeks of ignorance. So now, not only are you unable to disagree with their beliefs without getting the cold shoulder, but you have to deal with one more person angry with you over what you consider your truth. Fearful individuals often take things much too seriously.

What are you most afraid of?

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Never let the fear of striking out get in your way. Babe Ruth
Never let the fear of striking out get in your way. Babe Ruth | Source

Spread the Word

In order to make this world that we live in a better place, we must spread the word that fear of inadequacy is our enemy--that fear of tomorrow is our enemy.

Let's take a look at a huge example of fear. On September 11, 2001 after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, it was pounded in our head that "terrorism" was the enemy. Despite this, we were given conflicted messages such as "We cannot live in fear." While we're being told that we cannot live in fear, terrifying images and news is being broadcast on our television stations that had us shaking in our seats. We feared for tomorrow. We feared for the future. We feared that we would be unable to prevent the next terrorist attack. It was then that we allowed our liberties to be taken away in the NAME OF FEAR. Our fears caused us to LOSE OUT.

Do not lose out in the name of fear. Protect your mental well-being by letting go of irrational fears, by letting go of things that do not matter today. Do not fear for tomorrow. Do not fear for your future. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Once you let go of fear, you will realize that your worth runs much deeper than what you own or what you have in your possession. What others think of you will be a distant memory as you focus on the true value of your life. You will finally be able to enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed. You will no longer live to please others, you will be tolerant of what others think and believe. You will free yourself from the chains of fear, and there is nothing more important than that.

Fear Quotes

“Why are we scared to die? Do any of us remember being scared when we were born?” - Trevor Kay

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” - Dostoyevsky

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. “ - Ambrose Redmoon

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” - Sven Goran Eriksson

“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.” - Mary Manin Morrissey

“Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.” - Usman B. Asif

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” - Marie Curie

“There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.” - George S. Patton

“Fear is the highest fence.” - Dudley Nichols

“Fear has a large shadow, but he himself is small.” - Ruth Gendler

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” - Bertrand Russell

“Fear cannot take what you do not give it.” - Christopher Coan


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    • Emilia_Lamberto profile imageAUTHOR

      Emily Lambert 

      5 years ago from New Carlisle, Ohio

      Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice article!

    • Emilia_Lamberto profile imageAUTHOR

      Emily Lambert 

      7 years ago from New Carlisle, Ohio


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fear is useful. it helps us stay alive. but to a certain extent it keeps us from living

    • Emilia_Lamberto profile imageAUTHOR

      Emily Lambert 

      7 years ago from New Carlisle, Ohio

      Thank you Marcos!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      well said ! i really like the quotes you included in this article


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