Two Fears That Are Bad for Your Health

Posted February 11, 2013 7:12 PM


If you suffer from chronic health problems, your distress may be rooted in the fear of poverty and the fear of criticism. These two terrorists can keep you stuck in a job or business you hate, and relationships that drain the life out of you. To get past these gatekeepers to healthy living, confront your fears head on. Once you look at what you fear and why, you can take the action that moves fear out of the way.

The fear of poverty: The chief symptom of the fear of poverty is constantly worrying about not having enough money, even when you have the money you need.  For example, as soon as you think about changing your job or business, up comes the fear of what will happen when you run out of money. There you are, out on the street, pushing a grocery cart full of your belongings. You are too scared to take the first step to change: get accurate information, such as talking with people who have achieved what you want to do.

Asking what-if questions is another way to conquer the fear of poverty: “what if I am paid for the work I do easily and well?” Most importantly, “what if I like my work so much I never want to retire?” Can you see that changing the way you think about work, from survival to enjoyment reduces the fear of poverty?

 To defeat the fear of poverty:

•             Admit that you are not happy.

•             Put away some savings. Spend only for what you need.

•             Get the education or training you need to advance. 

•             Don’t talk about what you are doing with negative people.

•             Associate with people who take risks in spite of their fears.

•             Persevere through self-doubt until you get where you want to go.

The fear of criticism: This is rampant in a culture that measures success by status and money, rather than being true to oneself. The stress created by trying to be good and perfect fills doctors’ offices with patients who never get well.

The symptoms of the fear of criticism are procrastination, inability to accept correction without defending, ambivalence about starting and completing projects, and seeing mistakes as unforgivable failures.  Many new ideas die at birth because of the fear of looking wrong or stupid in the eyes of others, often people who are also afraid of criticism. Regrettably, this fear can cause you to miss golden opportunities for growth.

If you grew up in a highly critical family you internalized a voice that shames you when you fall short. Even when you have done nothing wrong you default to blaming yourself. If it rains it must be your fault; if someone is unhappy something you said or did caused the distress. It does not occur to you that critics could be wrong, or that the flaws they see in you belong to them. 

To defeat the fear of criticism:

•             Have compassion for the human condition. We are all insecure travelers on this planet. Accepting error as normal makes it easier to correct mistakes and move on to the solution. Strangely enough, you will be more open to criticism that helps you to improve.

•             Be prepared. Preparation is like a pair of hiking boots that take you through the roughest terrain. When you don’t take shortcuts, you handlecriticism with ease and grace.

•             Keep your sense of humor. Even the harshest critics are disarmed when you can laugh at your mistakes. When you get too serious watch funny movies, exercise vigorously, and talk with people who remind you that the mountain you are making of the situation is just a molehill.

The fear of poverty and criticism is no match for the surge of wellbeing that comes after you take the risk that scares you.  So don’t expect absence of these fears. Meanwhile, if you keep your mind focused on what you can do today to improve your life, what you do tomorrow will surprise you.  

Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to Do What You Love For a Living, and Work with Passion and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need.  Her website is



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