The Difference Between Being Scared & Having Doubts
Monday January 28, 2013

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“New things are scary. Anything worth having is scary.” — Shonda Rhimes script on the series finale of Private Practice

Many people ask me where I find inspiration for each week’s posts, and while I can honestly say I find inspiration everywhere, what inspired today’s post were two different items I read – one an article and one a book – over the past week and weekend.

While reading Hope Alcocer’s contributing blog post to Verily regarding red flags when it comes to relationships, I was reminded of doubt, and how instinctually, when I have doubts, it is my subconscious pointing out something that I haven’t fully grasped but am being heeded to take time to investigate. In complete contrast, while reading Barbara Stanny’s book Secrets of Six-Figure Women, I was reassured that having fears is natural if what we are seeking is something we genuinely want – a life change, a new job, etc.

There is significant evidence to support the claim that having doubts about something is much different than being scared or having fear about something. Simply, doubt is a red-flag that has been honed through your life’s experience and fear is a natural uncertainty based not on experience but perhaps the voices of others, society, etc, but not the doubt you have regarding your own abilities.

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” —Bertrand Russell

In fact, when you are fearful or scared it is because you actually have no evidence that you can or can’t do it, which is all the more reason to try. It is natural to feel apprehension as you have no proof that you will succeed, but the good news is, you have no proof that you won’t either. If indeed we desire to take that leap of faith and work toward a dream that others may not grasp yet or pursue a life change that breaks the mold, we are fearful partially because we are excited about the change it will bring, and fearful that we won’t be able to make it happen. In this case, so long as you believe more resolutely that you can rather than you can’t, you will be successful.

“’How does one become a butterfly?’ she asked pensively, ‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.’” —Trina Paulus

On the other hand, having doubts involves previous experience, knowledge of similar behavior and an ability to know more about a situation than others either want you to know or don’t even understand themselves. For example, in a previous relationship that I eventually ended, I began seeing red flags (or having doubts) five months prior to the relationship ending; however, I didn’t want to accept what I knew instinctually to be true, so I kept working at the relationships. It wasn’t until I saw evidence of my doubts realized that I recognized my instincts were correct, and I thankfully chose to follow what I had subconsciously been aware of all along. Much later, other further evidence reassured me that I had made the correct decision. The good news about doubts is that they are our constant warriors of protection, and it is our job to investigate what they are trying to tell us.

The key to discerning the difference between whether you are feeling doubt or fear is to know yourself fully. Only you can honestly say why you are feeling what you’re feeling. Only you can say, I want it so bad that if I don’t achieve it, I will ache incessantly. Only you can say, I don’t trust what is promised. There is a great difference between these two statements. Know yourself, and you will know how to proceed.


~Your Fear is Speaking

~Why Not . . . Get to Know Yourself?

~Dealing with the Unknowns in Life | The Simply Luxurious Life

6 thoughts on “The Difference Between Being Scared & Having Doubts

  1. Thank you for the timely post. I was grappling with fear which I thought was doubt. Making that distinction makes me feel stronger as I venture into this unchartered territory! Thanks Shannon.

  2. Thanks for these reminders! I am directly dealing with this situation right now. I’m newly involved as a leadership board member with an organization that is alot more high profile than anything I’ve done in the past. While I’ve been excited about the opportunity for months, when I went to my first meeting last week, I felt SO unnerved! I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards, just trying to figure out how to do the best that I can while at the same time feeling intimidated in a room full of knowledgable people I don’t know. I had found self-doubt creeping in, but it’s not like the doubt that you describe, it’s really just fear. I know that I’m a very capable person and can fully do this, but it IS scary! I’m going to push through the fear, but right now it feels like a really challenging venture. And it is something I am completely volunteering for! So sure, I could free myself of the challenge/stress and not do it. But I absolutely know that I HAVE to do it because I believe inside that the rewards can far outweight the risks. So for that reason I’m feeling the same way as that first sentence in your last paragraph “If I don’t achieve it, I will ache…” It’s true what they say – knowing how hard it is makes me know it’s something worth doing! I just can’t wait for the day when I can look back and know that I made it through:) My confidence is there, I just sometimes forget about it!

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