Growing the Courage to Face Your Fears

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What fears stand in your way? I’m going to explore how facing your fears can lead to overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way of improving your life.

Have you ever watched a movie that inspires you? Among some of my favorite movies are: Coach Carter, Dangerous Minds, Blind Side, Mona Lisa Smile, and even Coyote Ugly. My favorite movies are about people who overcome great obstacles to reach their goals.

How did they face their fears and obstacles? They grew courage. I’m going to explore how facing your fears can lead to overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way of improving your life.

Everyone experiences fear. Sometimes fear is protective. If a tornado touches down in your town, then fear motivates you to quickly move to a safe place. Fear is protective when there is real danger.

When is Fear Not Helpful?

Fear is not helpful when it interferes with reaching our goals and dreams. We can let fear freeze us or detour us. Fear can come in all shapes. You can fear success as much as failure.

Do you ever worry how your success will impact others? Or, how you can live up to what others expect of you? The character Timo Cruz from Coach Carter borrows Marianne Williamson’s 1992 poem ‘Our Deepest Fear’ when he talks about his fears about leaving the gang life: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” We really can worry about almost anything.

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While some may fear success, others fear failure, embarrassment, and/or rejection. Like Violet in Coyote Ugly, who assumes she will have stage fright when she performs her songs in front of an audience. Her fear is one of the obstacles that stands in the way of reaching her goal of becoming a songwriter.

These fears are not based on a natural disaster coming your way. There is no immediate harm to run from. It is fear based on your assumptions and perceptions. Luckily to make a good movie, Violet finds a way to grow her courage and face her fears. Courage isn’t as natural as running away or avoiding what you fear. Fight or flight is the natural response to stress. Yet, if there is no real danger, then how do you face your fears?

How Do You Face Your Fears?

I think we often try to say or do something to change our fears. You can find great relief in reducing the intensity of your fear. Yet, I think this focus on the fear can still lead to less than desired life satisfaction. So, what if you can learn to tolerate the fear that is blocking your way to the relationships, work, or life you want?

Hear are the steps that I see the lead characters (and real people) making to face their fears:


In Coyote Ugly, Violet practices her songs alone, in the dark, and in front of a small audience. Violet soon learns that she is assuming she’d have stage fright just like her mom. And, she later finds out that her mom was a great performer, but wanted to be home with her family. Like Violet, you can put so much energy into your fears that they seem real!

Each of the lead characters attempts, fails, and refocuses many times. When they fall down, they get back up and try again. Learning and practicing is their guide to eventually reaching their desired goals. In following these examples, learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. If you have a setback, how do you get back on track?


In almost all of these movies, there is at least one person who believes in the main characters. For Violet, her “family” believes in her but has a hard time letting her move to a new city. Once she is alone in New York, Violet meets Kevin, who challenges her. He encourages her to persist toward her dreams even though it is hard trying new things.

Of course it helps to have someone believe in you, but I don’t think you can borrow someone’s courage. The “coach” in these movies helps the main character acquire resources, stay focused, and find their own inner courage. Do you have a natural cheerleader in your circle?


Whether you hire a coach or learn on your own, you may encounter people who don’t believe in you. Enduring when others think your efforts are a waste of time is part of the process. What helps you hold onto your goal when you talk to negative people? You don’t need to convince them, just keep moving forward.

Violet encounters a boss who doesn’t think she should keep reaching for her dreams. Although she nearly gets side tracked, she keeps moving forward even when it seems almost impossible that anyone will listen to her songs. It is natural to want to flee when you are uncomfortable. Learning that you can tolerate some discomfort is part of the journey. It may help to keep your eye on your long term goal.


The more you face your fears and endure some discomfort, the more you will begin to believe in yourself. Since you can’t borrow or buy confidence, you watch it to grow. Before you know it, you will be acting courageously to reach for your goals in life, love, or work.

Violet eventually finds the courage to sing her songs to a big audience, and soon her songs are sung by a famous musician. She keeps her new love and friends, yet she no longer lets her fears stand in her way of becoming a songwriter.

What fears stand In your way? How much energy do you want to give your worry? Share what helps you challenge and face your fears. Here’s to growing courage wherever your journey takes you.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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