Full text of best-selling author Ruth Soukup’s talk: One simple trick to overcome your biggest fear at TEDxMileHigh conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: One simple trick to overcome your biggest fear by Ruth Soukup at TEDxMileHigh
So, at 23 years old, I was pretty sure I had ruined my life forever.
I remember, at rock bottom, I opened the phone book to the P section for psychologists. And I stared at that phone for what… felt like hours, just trying to work up the courage to make that call.
Because in that moment, I was a divorced, unemployed, bankrupt college dropout who had just moved back in with my dad after my last hospital stay, because I literally had no other place to go.
My arms and legs were covered in ugly scars from all the suicide attempts and self-harm. And most days I was still so depressed I couldn’t even get out of bed.
I was a mess. And I was completely terrified.
I finally did make that call and I said I’ve just spent the last two and a half years talking about every bad thing that’s ever happened to me. And it hasn’t helped, and now I just need to know how to live.
And so for the next two years, that’s what I did.
First, it was learning how to go to the grocery store without having a panic attack. Then it was getting a part-time job in my own apartment.
And fighting my way back from that depression, I learned that, sometimes, courage is just taking that first tiny step. And then the next tiny step after that.
But eventually I did finish college, and I got married and had a couple of kids, and became a fully functioning member of society. I even registered to vote.
And then… and then I started a business… oh! And once again I remembered how it felt to be terrified every single day. I was so afraid of making a mistake, so sure that I was doing it wrong. I felt like everybody else had it figured out and I was a fraud. Every blog post felt like another opportunity to fail.
And while that fear never totally went away completely, it did over time get easier. And my business grew.
My blog started reaching millions of readers. I wrote best-selling books and created courses and products and resources to help people reach their goals. I even started a podcast.
But over and over and over, my students and readers and customers and podcast listeners kept telling me: they felt stuck.
One told me how she had bought a planner, and then just let it sit there for over a year, just because she was so afraid of messing it up.
Another told me how she had dreamed about starting a business for so long, her whole life. And every time she got close, she stopped because it felt like too big of a risk.
Another was in tears when she told me: I just want to want something.
And although the symptoms were all a little bit different, I could relate, because the underlying root cause was something I knew all too well. It was FEAR, not the phobia kind of fear, like the fear of snakes but this deeper, more internal kind of fear.
The kind of fear that keeps us from stepping outside of our comfort zone, the kind of fear that keeps us from taking risks and prevents us from wholeheartedly pursuing our biggest goals and dreams.
And it made me wonder: How does fear show up differently for all of us and how does that impact our ability to push past it?
And so I started asking questions, and those questions led to more questions. And ultimately it led me to survey more than 4,000 people on the role of fear in their lives.
We had so much data and so many responses that I had to hire an entire team of researchers and psychologists to help me sift through it and make sense of it all.
But through all this research, we discovered a couple of really important things.
First of all, not all fear is created equal. We all experience fear but we all experience it a little bit differently. We all have our own fear fingerprint that is completely unique to us.
And although fear shows up differently for everyone, it does tend to show up in seven very distinct patterns, which I call the SEVEN FEAR ARCHETYPES.
Now each of these seven archetypes have both positive qualities and negative qualities. There’s a piece that’s serving you, and there is a piece that’s holding you back. And understanding how your fear is serving you is actually just as important as knowing how it’s holding you back.
But regardless of how it shows up, almost all of this fear happens subconsciously, beneath the surface. We don’t actually know that’s what’s going on.
And so whether you call it fear or anxiety or worry or perfectionism or overwhelm or anything else, the end result is the same. We experience it as truth. And we think well that’s just the way that I’m wired.
But that is what makes identifying your fear archetype so powerful. It’s sort of like going to the doctor, because you have a stomachache. Before the doctor can help you, he needs to know: do you have a gas bubble or do you have cancer, because those are two very different things.
Your fear is the same way. Without a diagnosis, there can be no cure. But on the flip side, the simple act of identifying and understanding how your fear is showing up is the instant insight into your own behavior and thought patterns that allows you to start changing them.
So at this point, you’re probably wondering: Well what’s my fear archetype?
So listen closely as I go through them, see if you can identify yourself, or maybe just figure out what’s wrong with all your friends.
First of all, the procrastinator, also known as the Perfectionist. You probably spend a lot of time doing research and getting organized. And you are always tweaking things right until the last minute.
Now you are the person that takes six months to pick out a car, because you are so afraid of making the wrong choice. You hate making mistakes, and that can also sometimes show up as a fear of commitment or a fear of getting started.
On the plus side, though, you tend to do very good work and have a high attention to detail, which is something you probably take a lot of pride in.
Or maybe you’re the People Pleaser. If so, the fear that holds you back is a fear of being judged and a fear of letting people down, because you care a lot about what other people think. In fact, probably too much, and as a result, you can struggle with setting boundaries or saying no.
For you, situations like sitting in a meeting can feel like torture, because you will sit there and not say a word even when you disagree just because you don’t want to be the one to cause waves or to make anyone mad.
But as a people pleaser, you do tend to do a really good job of getting along with almost everyone and you tend to be popular and well-liked.
And then there’s the Rule Follower. Now you know that there is always a right way to do things and a proven path that should be followed, right? You don’t like straying from that path; you don’t even like it when other people stray away from that path.