Top 26 Fears That Hold People Back in Life (And What to Do About It)

Isn’t it strange that sometimes we want something so bad, but there’s this weird pushback inside us? That’s fear for you—it could be the worry of falling flat, the sting from not fitting in, or the crazy idea that we might even be scared to win.

We all have fears. Some of these fears are helpful and keep us safe, but others can hold us back from living our best lives. They can stop us from taking risks, trying new things, and reaching our full potential.

In this article, I want to talk about some of the most common fears that people face and how they can show up in our lives. But I don’t want to just focus on the problem. I also want to share some practical tips and strategies for facing your fears and living a more authentic, fulfilling life.

Fear of Failure

Let’s be real, we’ve all been there—staring at a challenge and thinking, “What if I fall flat on my face?” Fear of failure can be a real motivation killer. It’s like having a little voice in your head constantly nagging you about everything that could go wrong.

But here’s the thing: failure is not the end of the world.

Think about the times when children learn to walk. They stumble, they fall, but they get right back up. They don’t mull over the fall, they focus on the goal—moving forward, one step at a time. As adults, embracing a bit of that childlike resilience could do wonders.

Fear of Not Being Good Enough

Do you ever feel like you’re just not good enough? Like there’s a little voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it? Well, guess what? That voice is wrong!

You are good enough, and you have your own special talents and skills that make you unique. It’s time to start trusting in yourself and shutting down that negative self-talk.

When we compare ourselves to others, it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up. With social media, we see everyone’s best moments and think their lives are perfect. But the truth is, everyone has their own problems and doubts, even if they don’t show it online.

Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing, focus on your own path and the progress you’re making.

"The biggest fear I see in students and newcomers in the professional writing field is the fear of not being 'good enough'—even though, if you ask them, they probably wouldn't be able to define what 'good enough' means... While the masses are paralyzed with insecurities and fears, you'll be doing an okay job—and that, ironically, is usually all it takes to find success."

— Derek Bryan | Founder and CEO, Make Money Writing, LLC 

Fear of the Unknown

The unknown can be a scary thing, like walking into a dark room without knowing what’s inside. It’s easy to imagine all the worst things that could happen and let that stop us from moving forward.

But also, isn’t that kind of exciting? Think about when you start a new TV series without knowing the plot or when you open a present. It’s a surprise, and surprises can be fun!

Want to make friends with the unknown?

  • Checking out new places to eat.
  • Picking a dish you’ve never had before.
  • Try out a new hobby.
  • Take a different route to work.
  • Start a conversation with someone you don’t know. 

Slowly build up your confidence in dealing with new situations. Remember, you can’t grow and stay comfortable at the same time. Embrace the discomfort and believe in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.

Fear of Change

Change can be scary, especially when we’re comfortable with the way things are. It’s easy to get stuck in our routines and resist anything that might shake things up.

But hey, change can be good for us, like a breath of fresh air.

When we’re afraid of change, we might miss out on exciting opportunities or the chance to improve our lives. We might stay in a job that makes us unhappy or a relationship that’s not healthy—just because it’s familiar.

So, how can you embrace change instead of fearing it?

  • Start by reminding yourself that change can be positive.
  • Focus on the potential benefits, like learning new skills, meeting new people, or discovering new passions.
  • Take small steps towards change rather than diving in headfirst.

Fear of Rejection

Nobody likes to feel like they didn’t make the cut, whether it’s at work, in love, or even just with friends. Rejection isn’t always personal, even though it feels that way.

When we let the fear of rejection control us, we might hold back from going after what we want. We might not apply for that dream job or ask someone out on a date because we’re scared of hearing “no.” But think about it—if you never take any risks, you’ll never know what amazing things you might be missing out on.

Keep putting yourself out there; the more you do it, the easier it gets. Then, when someone says “no,” take a moment to remind yourself of all the times you’ve heard “yes.” And don’t forget: for every rejection, ask yourself what you learned—this can help you do even better next time.

"Getting dismissed is hurtful... Humans have different tolerance levels towards rejection, which can make or break us... Thus, the key to a happy and successful life is to build tolerance and confidence to take risks for big moves like getting a new job or asking your partner to marry you, even if there is a fear of getting rejected."

— Jordyn Mastrodomenico, LCADC, LAC, CTP | Clinical Director, ChoicePoint

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

In today’s social media-driven world, FOMO is more prevalent than ever. We see our friends and acquaintances living their best lives online, and it’s easy to feel like we’re missing out on all the fun. But the truth is, people only post their highlight reels, not their everyday struggles.

When we’re constantly worried about missing out, we might overcommit ourselves or make decisions that don’t align with our true values and goals. We might say yes to every invitation, even if we’re exhausted, or buy things we can’t afford just to keep up with the latest trends.

Sometimes, it’s better to put the phone down and look around at what’s happening right where you are. Chances are, there’s some good stuff going on.

If FOMO’s being a bit too clingy, try these steps:

  • Do a tech timeout. Set times when you’ll just put your gadgets away and be present.
  • Make a list—yeah, another one—of cool things you’ve done recently. It’s a quick reminder that you’ve got your own fun happening.
  • And create something to look forward to. Plan a catch-up with friends or a solo movie night. When you have your own things going on, FOMO has less room to bug you.

Remember, life isn’t a competition or a checklist of experiences. It’s about finding what brings you joy and fulfillment and letting go of the pressure to do everything and be everything.

Fear of Success (Jonah Complex)

It might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes we’re not just afraid of failing…we’re afraid of succeeding. This is known as the Jonah Complex, named after the biblical figure who ran away from his destiny.

When we’re afraid of success, we might sabotage ourselves or avoid taking risks that could lead to big wins.

"People often think that if we're successful, we'll have to work harder and be under more pressure. Others might also worry that they won't be able to handle the responsibility that comes with success and keep up the good work... But if you're afraid of success, you might not even try to achieve your goals. You might miss out on opportunities because you're too scared to take them."

— Dr. Harold Hong | Board-Certified Psychiatrist, New Waters Recovery

Here’s how you can kick the Jonah Complex to the curb:

  • Talk it out with someone who’s been there. They’ll tell you success isn’t as scary as it seems.
  • Set goals that get you excited. Excitement can be a great motivator.
  • Remember, you’re allowed to grow at your own pace. You don’t have to rush.

Remember that success doesn’t mean losing yourself; it’s about becoming more of who you already are—with a few extra cool stories to tell.

Fear of Being Judged

We all have those moments where we think everyone’s watching and critiquing every move we make. Like giving a speech and imagining everyone in the audience is bored. But the truth is, people are usually more concerned about themselves than they are about judging us.

Fearing judgment can keep us from speaking up or trying new things. But truth be told, the judgment we fear is usually way harsher in our heads than it is in reality. Most people are too busy thinking about their own lives to focus on yours—just like you are to them.

So, what can you do to get past this fear?

  • Remember that mistakes are part of being human. They’re not the end of the world.
  • Focus on people who support you. They’re your personal cheerleaders.
  • Finally, practice being kind to yourself. Encourage yourself like you would a good friend.

Life’s too short to worry about what everyone else might be thinking. Do what makes you happy, and let the rest take care of itself.

Fear of Expressing Oneself

Speaking your mind or showing off your creative side can be a lot scary. It’s like getting onstage, and the spotlight is suddenly on you—yikes! But your ideas and feelings deserve to be out there, and sharing them is part of being true to who you are.

So, how can you overcome the fear of expressing yourself? Start by expressing yourself in comfortable settings, like with close friends or family. Then, try writing. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and feelings down without the rush of speaking out loud.

Remember, the world needs your voice and your ideas. Don’t let fear keep you silent.

Fear of Disappointing Others

Let’s be honest, we all want to make the people we care about proud. But twisting yourself into knots to avoid disappointing others is a losing game to play—exhausting and not much fun.

Recognize that you can’t please everyone all the time. Sometimes, you have to make the call that’s right for you, even if others might not get it at first. Remember, those who truly support you will want you to be happy with your choices, too.

Fear of the Future

Do you ever find yourself lying awake at night, worrying about what tomorrow might bring? There’s so much that could happen, and not knowing what’s in store can be unsettling.

But if you think of it, no one really knows what’s around the corner, but that’s part of life’s excitement! Embrace it! Start making plans, even simple ones like a weekend away or learning a new hobby. It helps you step into tomorrow with something to look forward to.

And remember, take it one day at a time. Focus on today, and let tomorrow come as it will. Each day is a new start, a little step towards a future that only you can shape.

Fear of Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a scary thing. It means opening ourselves up to the possibility of rejection, hurt, or disappointment. It means letting others see our true selves, flaws and all. 

When we’re afraid of being vulnerable, we might put up walls or wear masks to protect ourselves. We might avoid intimacy or authentic self-expression because the risk of getting hurt feels too high. But the truth is, without vulnerability, we can’t experience true love, friendship, or personal transformation.

So, how can you overcome the fear of vulnerability?

  • Start by sharing little things with people you trust.
  • Write down your thoughts in a journal. It’s a private way to get comfortable with your feelings.
  • Practice self-compassion. By being kind to yourself, you set the stage for opening up to others.

At the end of the day, vulnerability is a risk—but it’s one worth taking. By letting ourselves be seen and embracing the messiness of the human experience, we open ourselves up to a world of possibility and connection.

Fear of Making the Wrong Decision

Making decisions can be tough, especially when the stakes feel high. What if we choose the wrong path and can’t go back and undo it? What if we miss out on something great or end up regretting our choice down the line?

When we’re afraid of making the wrong decision, we might avoid making choices altogether. We might spend hours or even days weighing our options, trying to predict every possible outcome. But the truth is, no decision is perfect, and there’s no way to know for sure how things will turn out.

To help you feel more sure about your decisions, try this:

  • List down the pros and cons. Writing out the good and bad can make things clearer.
  • Talk it out with a friend or family member. Getting a different perspective can be a game-changer.
  • Trust your gut. Often, your instincts know what’s up, even if your brain is all over the place.

And if a choice doesn’t work out, remember, it’s not the end of the world. It’s a lesson learned and a chance to grow. What matters is you keep making choices and moving forward—it’s how you discover what works for you.

Fear of Commitment

Commitment can be a scary thing, whether it’s in relationships, careers, or personal goals. It means putting ourselves out there, investing time and energy, and risking disappointment or heartbreak if things don’t work out. 

But here’s the thing: commitment is a way to show you care about something enough to stick with it. Start with something small, like committing to a daily self-care practice or a weekly hobby. Commit to giving it a go for a little while.

Fear of Public Speaking

Standing up to talk in front of a bunch of people can make you want to run for the hills. Your palms get sweaty, your throat goes dry.

When we’re afraid of public speaking, we might avoid opportunities to share our ideas or expertise, even if we have valuable things to contribute. We might turn down invitations to speak at conferences or events or shy away from leadership roles that require public presentations.

The best way to beat this fear is by practicing. If you need a little push, give these a try:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Knowing your stuff can boost your confidence.
  • Picture the audience as friends. They’re not out to get you; they want to see you do well.
  • Focus on your breathing. Deep breaths can calm those jitters.

Remember, everyone in the room is human, just like you. They’ve all felt nervous at one time or another. Each time you speak up, you’re getting stronger, and that fear gets a little smaller.

Fear of Getting Hurt

As humans, we’re wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. It’s a survival instinct that’s kept our species alive for thousands of years. But sometimes, that instinct can hold us back from taking risks and opening ourselves up to new experiences.

Life is full of risks—some lead to scrapes, sure, but many lead to pure joy. The trick is not to shut yourself off but to learn to patch up the scratches and jump back in when you’re ready.

To take care of this fear, start by acknowledging it:

  • Recognize that, yes, getting hurt is a possibility, but not a certainty.
  • Build a support network. Friends and family can be great at helping you heal after a fall.
  • Keep a positive outlook. Even when things don’t go as planned, try to see what good can come out of it.

Each bump on the road is part of your story. They’re not just oops moments; they’re oh-wells that teach you something valuable for next time.

Fear of Not Fitting In

We all want to belong, to find our tribe, but squeezing into places where you don’t fit is no way to live. It’s okay to stand out, to have different interests, and to be your own kind of cool.

Start by embracing what makes you, well, you. Celebrate your quirks, and don’t hide them. When you’re true to yourself, you naturally attract people who get you. So, instead of changing to fit in, look for folks who like the same weird stuff you do.

Now, say it with me: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Fear of Being Too Much

When we’re afraid of being too much, we might find ourselves dimming our light and holding back our true potential. We might avoid speaking up in meetings, expressing our needs in relationships, or pursuing our biggest dreams and goals.

If you’ve ever been told you’re too loud, too excited, or too sensitive, remember that your too-much-ness is somebody else’s just right. You’re not too much—you’re more than enough.

Here’s a reminder for when you feel that ‘too much’ worry creeping in:

  • Your vibe attracts your tribe. The more you are yourself, the more you’ll attract people who appreciate your kind of intensity.
  • It’s about finding people who sing along when you turn up the volume on that favorite song. And you know it isn’t just about your favorite song.
  • Your too-much-ness is what makes you memorable and special. Never forget that!

Fear of Being Perceived as Stupid

Nobody wants to feel like the only one who didn’t get the joke or the lesson. It’s like when you’re at a meeting, and you think everyone has the answers except you. The fear of looking stupid can make you keep your mouth shut or not ask for help when you need it.

But everyone, at some point, has been the person who didn’t know. It’s part of learning and growing. Asking questions isn’t a sign you’re silly, it’s a sign you’re smart enough to realize you want to know more.

Fear of Confrontation

Conflict can be downright uncomfortable. Whether it’s addressing a problem with a coworker, setting boundaries with a family member, or standing up for ourselves in a difficult situation.

We might worry about damaging relationships, being seen as aggressive or unkind, or facing retaliation. But if you’re stepping up because you care or because something important’s at stake—confrontation becomes less about conflict and more about taking a stand for what matters.

Holding your ground when it counts can really make a difference. It might not be the easiest path, but if it leads to the right destination, isn’t it worth the walk?

So, how do you deal with this fear?

  • First, recognize that confrontation isn’t about fighting, it’s about resolving issues.
  • Approach it with the aim to solve, not to win.
  • Plan out what you want to say ahead of time.
  • Keep your cool, mind your tone, stick to the facts, and listen as much as you talk.

Fear of Something Bad Happening

It’s human to worry about the ‘what ifs.’ What if I make the wrong choice? What if things don’t work out? It’s like living with a personal raincloud that might pour down at any moment. But the truth is, most of the things we worry about never happen.

Acknowledge your fears, sure, but don’t let them boss you around. Instead of spending time worrying about that raincloud, why not dance in the possible rain? After all, sometimes the best things in life come from the unexpected.

To help let go of those ‘what if’ worries, here are some ideas:

  • Focus on the present moment rather than what may never be.
  • Chat with someone about your concerns—saying them out loud can make them less scary.
  • Remind yourself of past worries that never came true—this shows you that worries are just thoughts, not predictions.

Fear of Losing Your ‘Identity’

In life, big changes can shake up everything you thought you knew about yourself. A fresh job, a budding relationship, or a move to a different city. It’s exciting, but part of you hesitates. You wonder, “Will I still be me after all this?”

The fear of losing our identity can manifest in many ways.

  • We might resist change or growth, because it feels like a threat to our established sense of self.
  • We might cling to outdated beliefs or behaviors, because they’ve become so ingrained in who we are.
  • We might avoid new experiences or relationships, because they might challenge our existing worldview.

But here’s a fresh angle: every change is a chance to add depth to who you are, not wash it away. Our identity isn’t a single, never-changing snapshot. It’s more of a photo album, layering up with every picture over time—a decision, a change, a new chapter.

Fear of Aging

Watching the years tick by can feel like watching the last few sand grains in an hourglass – a little bit unsettling. It might be about the wrinkles, grey hairs, or not being ‘in your prime’ anymore.

But what if we reframe that fear into something positive?

Think about aging as gaining—gaining wisdom, experiences, and stories to tell. It means you’ve been on this planet long enough to learn a thing or two, and that’s pretty cool. Instead of focusing on what you think you’re losing, why not celebrate what you’re gaining?

Here’s how to embrace the years:

  • Make your health a priority—eat well, stay active, and keep your mind sharp.
  • Connect with people of all ages—it keeps your perspective fresh.
  • Start ticking off that bucket list now. Why wait?

Remember, aging is just another word for living, and living is all about collecting moments, not counting years.

Fear of Being Alone

Let’s get this straight—being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.

You could be in a huge crowd and still feel lonely, or you could be by yourself and feel completely content. Sometimes, being with the wrong people can leave you feeling more alone than when you’re actually on your own.

So, if you find yourself alone, don’t fret. It can be a good thing. It’s a chance to get comfy with just being you. When it’s just you, there’s no need to pretend or try to impress anyone. You can just be yourself, and that’s a relaxed, peaceful feeling.

Combat the fear of solitude by:

  • Picking up hobbies that you can enjoy solo.
  • Treating yourself to dates—go see that movie, visit that cafe, just because you can.
  • Learn something new or start a little project—it keeps your brain busy and feels rewarding.

Getting to be comfortable with yourself is an important step. The more you enjoy being with yourself, the more confident and content you’ll feel, whether you’re alone or with others.

Fear of Who You Really Are

Sometimes, we’re scared to look in the mirror, not because of the reflection we see, but because of what that reflection might reveal about us. We might worry that if we look too closely at our own thoughts, feelings, and desires, we’ll discover something shameful, unlovable, or unworthy.

But here’s a bit of truth: your real self, with all its ups and downs, is something to be proud of. It’s the heart of who you are. No one else has your mix of traits, and that’s pretty awesome.

To shake off the fear of your true self:

  • Give yourself a break. Being perfect is overrated. It’s okay to have parts you’re working on.
  • Shine a light on what you love about yourself. We’ve all got loads of good stuff going on.
  • Remember, change is part of growing. If there’s something about you that you’re not fond of, guess what? You’ve got the power to tweak it.

Fear of Death

Let’s talk about the big one—death. It’s the fear that we all share, wondering when our time will run out and what we’ll leave behind. Sometimes, it isn’t about death itself but about not having enough time to do everything we want in life.

But here’s a thought: instead of fearing the end, why not focus on making the now as great as it can be? It’s about making every day count and doing things that matter to you. Checking stuff off your bucket list and filling your life with stories to tell.

If you find yourself worried about death, try flipping the script:

  • Accept it. It’s natural, and it happens to all of us.
  • Live deliberately. Spend your time on things that you love and that make you happy.
  • Create and cherish connections with people. These relationships add real value to your life.

It’s not about beating the fear of death or denying it; it’s about living in such a way that whenever the time comes, you can look back and think, “Yeah, I really lived.”

More Insights

“If you reflect on your fear and believe it is unhealthy and holding you back versus healthy and keeping you safe, start with small actions… The important thing is to move and not let fear keep you paralyzed. Often those small moments motivate us toward more forward movement.”

— Jocelyn Hamsher LPC, CST | Professor and Course Creator | Licensed Professional Counselor, Courageous Living AZ

“Most people are taught to forgive others while never receiving the tools how to forgive themselves… Understanding how to forgive ourselves requires inner trust and confidence… Then give yourself permission to release the attachment to the approval of others and do it scared.”

— Tuniscia Okeke | Forgiveness Coach and CEO, Forgiveness Lifestyle | Author, Empowered Stepmother

Frequently Asked Questions

Can fear ever be a positive thing?

Yes, a certain level of fear can be healthy as it serves as a survival mechanism and can motivate you to prepare adequately for challenges. However, when fear is disproportionate and paralyzing, it becomes detrimental to personal growth and development.

Should I seek professional help to overcome my fears?

If your fears are significantly impacting your quality of life or if you feel overwhelmed in dealing with them, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor can provide support and strategies to manage and overcome your fears in a healthy way.

Final Thoughts

We’ve talked a lot about fear today, haven’t we? It’s clear that these fears—whether it’s fear of messing up, standing out, or even doing really well—are pretty common feelings that can tug on our sleeves. But remember, they don’t have to stop you from living the life you want.

Now, it’s all about what you do next. Take one of these fears, maybe the one that nags you the most, and try out the advice. Start small if you need to, but start—that’s what matters.

You’ve got this! And who knows, maybe one day soon, you’ll look back at your fears and think, “I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me.” Let’s get out there and live fearlessly, one step at a time.

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Clariza is a passionate writer and editor who firmly believes that words have great power. She has a degree in BS Psychology, which gives her an in-depth understanding of the complexities of human behavior. As a woman of science and art, she fused her love for both fields in crafting insightful articles on lifestyle, mental health, and social justice to inspire others and advocate for change.

In her leisure time, you can find her sitting in the corner of her favorite coffee shop downtown, deeply immersed in her bubble of thoughts. Being an art enthusiast that she is, she finds bliss in exploring the rich world of fiction writing and diverse art forms.