Fear Factors: What Are You Afraid Of?

Why fear can hold you back.

The popular TV show didn’t invent fear factors. Humans did. We struggle with fear of change, fear of failure, fear of success and many others.

I understand fear of change — I observe it among colleagues and technicians almost daily.  I understand fear of failure, it’s a common human trait. But I have a harder time understanding fear of success.

Let’s explore these three fear factors.*

Fear of Change

People fear change for a number of reasons, yet they are rarely aware of it. Fear of having their old beliefs shattered.  Fear of being proven wrong. Fear of having to learn a new skill. Fear of technology. Fear of leaving their comfort zone. Fear of having their authority questioned or challenged. For higher ups, the fear is often disguised as a medical (or business) decision.

Some people stay in the same position for years or decades, and come up with all kinds of excuses. They rationalize and convince themselves why they cannot leave a job that is clearly making them (and everyone around them) miserable.

People who embrace change recognize that medicine and technology (and business) keep evolving. Not everything has to change, not everything new is beneficial, but adaptable people are able to identify what might help them perform better. They don’t feel threatened by change, they feel empowered.

Dinosaurs didn’t change, and look at what happened to them.

Fear of Failure

Many people fear public speaking, changing careers or starting a new job for fear, real or not, of being inadequate —  or worse.

Yet many times our fears are blown out of proportion. If we objectively imagined the worst that can truly happen (e.g., embarrassment, coming back to your initial job, learning from one’s mistakes), we’d realize that things are not as life-threatening as they initially sound.

The lessons learned along the way don’t make us losers. They actually make us stronger and better.

Fear of Success

Fear of success is a strange animal, yet we are also subjected to it at times. Think about these secret, deep-rooted beliefs:

  • "Nobody in my family has ever gone to college."
  • "I just can’t find the time to grow my business."
  • "Nobody in my family (or among my friends) has ever moved out of state.”
  • "If my business grows too much (or if ABC works) (or if I meet the XYZ of my dreams), I’ll be overwhelmed and have no time for my hobbies (my horse, my dog, my family, my boyfriend, my car)."
  • "Nobody in my family has ever made a lot of money."
  • “I’m fine where I am at in my life right now,” or “I’m exploring other avenues,” or “I’m thinking about changing jobs."

The unconscious mind can play all kinds of tricks to avoid success, which ends up in self-sabotage.

Do you recognize yourself if any of these three fear factors? If so, it might be a good idea to ask yourself some tough questions to elucidate exactly what you are afraid of.

Otherwise, as the saying goes: “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.”


Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com, and follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman.

* This blog is loosely inspired by “How Entrepreneurs Think” written by Janis Pettit, small business coach in Wake Forest, NC.

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