New York Times best-selling author Ruth Soukup knows a lot about overcoming fear.
In her 20s, Soukup fell into a deep depression and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to sexual abuse she experienced as a child. After multiple attempts to end her life and stays at six different psychiatric hospitals over the course of almost three years, she found herself bankrupt, divorced, and alone.
Soukup eventually found her way to effective treatment, adopted a healthy lifestyle, fell in love again, and became a mother.
She also founded what would eventually turn into a multimillion-dollar company.
“Every step felt so hard along the way, but when I would do it, it gave me courage to take the next step,” Soukup tells Healthline.
“I’m living proof that it doesn’t matter how badly you screwed up your life, how many mistakes you’ve made, or what has happened to you. You do not have to be defined by those circumstances. You just have to be willing to take one step and then the next step.”
While interacting with other women, one recurring word kept popping up when discussing why these individuals weren’t pursing their goals or dreams: fear. This realization led to Soukup’s creation of the Do It Scared Movement, an online community of resources that helps women to face their fears head-on to achieve their goals.
“For women… there’s a lot of fear that comes with feeling a sense of emptiness or fear that life has passed them by,” says Soukup.
“Often, women feel that they’ve given their best years of their life to raising their kids and taking care of all the people around them. Then they get to this point of thinking ‘Who am I?’ What are my goals? I’m afraid to go after my goals.’”
Eventually Soukup would go on to hire a group of experts who surveyed over 4,000 women and questioned the role fear plays in their lives. These findings would become the basis for her book, “Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You Love.”
We talked with Soukup about some of the tips from her book on how to face your fears in order to achieve your goals. Here’s what she had to say.
Understand why you’re afraid
Soukup explains that each person is impacted by fear in different ways. Based on her survey, she found seven distinct ways that fear impacts people’s willingness to step outside their comfort zone and pursue a dream or opportunity. She identifies these “Fear Archetypes” as the:
- Rule Follower
- People Pleaser
- Excuse Maker
“When you go to the doctor and you say you don’t feel well, the first thing the doctor has to do is figure out what is happening and then he can create the cure. Without the diagnosis, there is no cure,” Soukup says.
“That’s how fear works, too. So much of the fear in these different archetypes is happening subconsciously. We might have this general feeling that we feel afraid or nervous or apprehensive. But when it happens subconsciously, it’s really difficult to do anything about it. If you can identify what fear looks like specifically for you — if you can “diagnose it” — then you can start to see the patterns of what’s happening. And once you see those patterns, that’s when you can start to do something about it.”
For instance, she defines the Procrastinator archetype as someone who is similar to a perfectionist and whose underlying fear is making a mistake or moving forward for fear of getting something wrong.
“Those [apprehensions] may have been happening automatically without you realizing it. [But] now that you have identified that as your fear, you can start to spot it when it happens,” explains Soukup.
To figure out your archetype, take the assessment here.
Practice principles of courage
Once you know how fear manifests itself in your life, Soukup says adopting a set of principles around practicing courage can help you to face your fears. Some of the principles she writes about include:
Daring to think big
By creating big goals, or stretch goals, Soukup says women dare themselves to set goals that scare them.
“Women are so focused on the present and getting through the day or week or month or keeping the plates spinning at the same time that they lose sight of those stretch goals and abandon them. Then it’s really hard to start thinking about those big things again,” she says.
She often hears women say they just want to want something.
“This is a longing to have a stretch goal that’s been absent from their life for so long that they want to feel that again,” Soukup explains.
“Figuring out who you are… and giv[ing] yourself the space and freedom within the day-to-day grind to actually find out what you want to pursue [takes a lot of work].”
Rules are for suckers
It isn’t that all rules are bad, explains Soukup, only that women should use their critical thinking skills to think for themselves.
“Just because someone else does something or feels that something needs to be done in a certain way, doesn’t always mean you have to. Use your judgment. Sometimes there is a feeling to stay within the lines, but creativity doesn’t happen in those lines. If we want to push ourselves, we can’t worry about making sure everything is done exactly the right way, every time,” says Soukup.
The importance of embracing honest feedback
Soukup says both women and men could benefit from surrounding themselves with truth tellers.
“People who not only lift you up and encourage you, but who will push you to be better and call you out when they see you letting fear stand in your way are the relationships to seek out and cultivate,” says Soukup.
“This is probably the most powerful thing you can do for your life.”
Understanding that balance is overrated
Often women feel guilty for not being all things, to all people, at all times. However there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to strive to balance it all, Soukup explains.
“Seasons come and seasons go, so whatever season you are in, it’s OK to embrace that season. If you’re in a season of being busy with little kids at home, it’s OK to just focus on that and not a career — if that’s what you want — and not apologize for it,” she says.
“As humans, I don’t think we are called to balance. I think we’re called to purpose. If you look at really successful people who are widely admired, none of those people are balanced. People who are crushing it in their life are never really crushing it in every area their life. They are crushing it in one area of their life. Or maybe two areas, if they’re really amazing."
Accept fear as it comes
Finally, while Soukup offers ways to understand your fear, control it, and overcome it, she says fear will always be present — and sometimes it can come on strong.
“Fear is always something that we have to deal [with] especially if you are out there doing really hard things and creating change in your life,” she says.
“Courage is like a muscle: The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. If you can learn to manage fear and work through it on a continual basis, nothing can stand in your way because you’ll have the right tools.”
Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories around health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.