Is Fear Of The Unknown Limiting Your Life? Here's How To Overcome It

Changing jobs or moving to a new city is inherently daunting, but it should also be exciting. If you have a fear of the unknown, taking that step to create the life you really want can feel impossible. It’s this fear of the unfamiliar that keeps us stuck in what’s comfortable, not what’s best for us.

By Rebecca Hope3 min read
shutterstock 351198734
eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock

To combat this fear, first you need to understand how it occurs, then you can implement steps to overcome it. Find out how below.

What Is the Fear of the Unknown?

Fear of the unknown is often the fear of something you have no information about and no control over. One of the most common examples is fear of the future. We can make educated guesses about the future, such as how much we may earn by entering a certain industry or what struggles moving to a new city may bring. However, the future is unpredictable, and often, no amount of preparation and research can stop surprises from cropping up. 

It’s perfectly healthy to have a certain level of fear of the future. However, most people acknowledge that they don’t know what their futures look like and don’t let it get in their way. Rather than allowing this fear to hold them back, these people strive for the future they want without allowing the uncertainty to stop them from pursuing what they truly desire.

Fear of the unknown is often the fear of something you have no information about and no control over. 

Those with a genuine fear of the unknown, however, find the prospect terrifying. Some people may catastrophize and imagine worst-case scenarios whenever faced with an unpredictable situation. Others, with a more intense fear of the unknown, can experience some of the following: 

  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations

  • Shallow breathing

  • Panic attacks

  • Anxiety

What Causes a Fear of the Unknown?

Usually, fear of the unknown stems from previous trauma. This is because your subconscious is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain; it remembers your previous experiences and guides you to what it deems to be in your best interest. 

For example, if in the past, you found yourself in an unfamiliar situation and experienced a traumatic event as a result, your mind will begin to associate the unknown with danger. Your fear could just be your mind’s way of protecting you from reliving a previous pain. 

How To Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown

Thankfully, overcoming the fear of the unknown is just like overcoming any other phobia. Here are four steps recommended by therapists and life coaches that you can take to defeat it:

1. Find the Cause of Your Fear

Fear is essential to survival. In threatening situations, it heightens your senses to protect you from danger. However, an overwhelming fear of the unknown paralyzes a person and stops them from living life to the fullest. To overcome it, it must be understood. 

It’s likely made up of many thoughts, experiences, and beliefs as a result of a negative or traumatic experience. To address this, experts recommend spending time analyzing the cause of the fear. But don’t just think about it, write the fear down and explore it properly. Once you’ve identified where your fear came from, you can create steps to overcome it. 

2. Gain a Greater Awareness of Your Anxious Thoughts and Fears

When your fear of the unknown grows and you become overwhelmed with anxiety, take notice and listen to your thoughts. Write down the what you're thinking whenever you experience this fear. 

The way you speak to yourself has an enormous effect on how you react to a situation.

Often, those suffering from fear of the unknown say things like: “I know for certain the absolute worst thing is going to come out of this.” These kinds of thoughts perpetuate and mistakenly validate your fear, creating a cycle that’s hard to break free from. So, in addition to noting them down when they crop up, try to take note of which situations trigger this fear. Then, you may be able to determine whether there’s a pattern to this mindset.

The way you speak to yourself has an enormous effect on how you react to a situation. But by taking note and developing a greater awareness, you can address these thoughts and break the habit.

3. Question Your Fear

Fear of the unknown is based on our perception of what might happen in the future, not what’s certain or determined. Career resilience coach Kathryn Sandford recommends taking your fears to court and questioning them. 

Start with the below questions:

  • Is there any evidence to support my fear of the unknown?

  • What are three examples where I’ve successfully coped with uncertainty?

  • What evidence is there that I will fail?

  • What evidence is there that I won’t fail and my fear of the unknown is wrong?

After answering these questions, you may find that your fear isn’t based on reality and you can move forward.

4. Change Your Fearful Words into Empowering Words

Once you have gained a greater understanding of your fear, the next step is turning these thoughts into something more empowering. For example, instead of saying, “This is going to be a horrible experience,” change it to, “This is going to be an interesting experience where I may learn something new.”

By this point, you should have already written down the negative phrases you regularly hear yourself saying. Now you can cross out those self-limiting beliefs and rewrite them with a positive spin like the example above. By writing down the positive phrases, you’re allowing your mind to properly digest these encouraging beliefs.

From now on, whenever you hear yourself feeding your fear, choose to speak the encouraging, empowering phrases you have written instead to break the habit.

Closing Thoughts

Fear of the unknown is common, and to a certain extent, it’s healthy, but it should never keep you from reaching your true potential. Being unwilling to take that leap is paralyzing and places artificial limits on a person – limits they are perfectly capable of breaking through.

Don’t miss anything! Sign up for our weekly newsletter and get curated content weekly!