Understanding your fears is a big part of what we do at Root + River related to helping uncover a leader or organization’s brand. Fear may be an unexpected topic for a brand strategy, but fear determines our reality. Our fears frame and inform how we see the world, how we make decisions and how we envision a future.

When we start digging into fears with a client, we ask them if they know the only two innate fears we are each born with. The answers range from fear of the unknown (sort of true) to fear of abandonment (again, sort of true). In actuality, research shows that the two innate fears we are born with are a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Here’s an interesting article that delves deeper into the science of fear.

In my own development, I’ve become a self-taught expert on fear. Fear has dominated my psyche for the past 46+ years. It is only in the past 6 months or so that I’ve begun to understand — and even occasionally embrace- my fears.

Here’s the #1 thing I’ve learned about fear: it has a root.

There is a root fear that we are taught very early on in our lives. This root fear is embedded in us by early childhood circumstances and conditions. As we grow, this root fear begins to produce tendrils that become elements of our personality, behavior and habits. As we mature, we are able to trace back all current fears to this root fear. And by tracing it back to the root, we are able to master and even harness these fears.

My root fear is a fear of rejection.

Instability, violence, mixed messages fed this fear. And my naturally hyper-sensitive soul took this fear of rejection and amplified it. This fear of rejection lead directly to a constant need for validation; a drive to prove my worth. While this made me incredibility tenacious, it also thwarted a lot of relationships and growth — and robbed me of happiness.

Denying this fear of rejection lead to many years of anxiety, depression and even migraines. But then I discovered this truth: any learned fear can be unlearned.

The process of unlearning the fear of rejection was part of an extensive journey of a spiritual awakening, discovering my mission and deepening the relationships that I value the most.

The secret weapon in the effort to eradicate this root fear was LOVE. Specifically, self-love. By learning to love and accept myself unconditionally, I was able to see past the root fear to my innate value. I learned that this fear of rejection was in direct contrast to an on-board belief in defiance and individualism. No wonder there was depression and anxiety — I was trying to not fear by being someone that I thought would be accepted.

I was able to harness my tenacity, curiosity and openness to focus not on fearing rejection less but on simply loving more. Along the way I learned another truth that I share in every speech I give: no one’s words or actions add to or take away from your value.

I will leave you with this …

I used to hate my root fear. I viewed it as an enemy; a threat to my well being. Now I realize that my root fear is a gift that has spurred me to deeper levels of understanding and higher levels of awareness. Without this root fear, I very likely would have never embarked on the journey to discover the true me.

What is your root fear and how does it influence your life?

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