Overcoming Fear

I was able to share at the Alabama Adult Education Conference. I spoke on Overcoming Fear in students, and adults. Below is my outline I used.

What Causes Fear?

While each one of us struggles with fear, we all probably have different backstories surrounding that fear. Your story is unique, your students’ story is unique and it’s a good idea to spend some time reflecting on the root cause of your fear. Here are a few reasons we develop a fear of failure: 

  • Perfectionism: Often, we don’t want to try something new because we’re afraid of feeling dumb or not doing it right the first time around. The key to overcoming perfectionism is to give yourself the permission to be a beginner.
  • Comparison:It’s easy to fear failure because we care so much about what others think. We compare ourselves to people around us instead of focusing on who we want to become.
  • Past trauma: All of us carry scars from painful things we’ve experienced. You might be afraid to put yourself out there because you don’t want to risk a repeat of what happened last time. “Your past is a context‚ not an excuse.” We can’t blame our past for our present—at some point, we all have to choose to make changes in our lives.” 
  • Belief systems: Our values and beliefs are often engrained into us from a very young age. Your family’s patterns of talking and relating with each other shaped you more than you realize. You are bringing a unique perspective on life to the table. And that’s a good thing! But sometimes, our beliefs can hold us back. For example, if you were told by your parents that you weren’t smart enough to be a (fill in the blank), then you might struggle to believe you can accomplish great things, even as an adult.
  • Negative thoughts: Often, we’re our own worst enemy! You probably hear all sorts of discouraging lies in your head about who you are and what you can accomplish. 
  • Tying your self-worth to your accomplishments: If you’re like me, it’s easy for you to find a sense of meaning in what you can accomplish. But when you find your worth in what you can do, failure becomes devastating, because it reflects on who you are at your core. We all need to work extra hard to separate our sense of self-worth from our jobs or our goals. 
  • Fear of Success: Yes, success brings its own challenges. Our adult education students have had so many failures in their life that success seems so distant to them, so unattainable. 
  • Fear of Change: This one is the one nobody likes. Change. Change brings out the fear in all of us. 
  • Fear of College: As crazy as this sounds, college campuses can be intimidating for adult learners. 

Helping Overcome Fears

  1. Identify Fear: Fear hates to be identified. Fear hates to be named, highlighted, and confronted.
    1. Journal it out! When fear starts to creep in, and it will, write those fears down in a journal. No matter how small, how trivial, or how silly, WRITE IT DOWN!
    1. Read it OUTLOUD! Once you have written them down, read them out loud to yourself or to somebody else. 


  • Eliminate Fears: We must overcome fear by eliminating negative people, circumstances, and voices.
    • Internal Voices:
      • Self-Doubt
      • Parents and Upbringing
      • Internal Negative Voices
        • “Don’t have time”
        • No opportunities
        • Risk disapproval
        • I should be content with where I am
        • I’m scared of the risk
    • External Voices
      • Friends
      • Family
      • Co-workers
      • Kids
      • Parents
  • Plan: Fear and Doubt thrive in chaos. A plan helps deal with Chaos
    • Chaos=Complete disorder and confusion.
    • Use S.M.A.R.T. GOALS
      • Specific
      • Measurable
      • Attainable
      • Realistic
      • Time-Bound
  • Motivate, Motivate, Motivate
    • No Negative Talk
    • Money, Money, Money
    • Lead by example

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