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Here’s what Our Deepest Fear in Nelson Mandela’s Speech Actually Means

Here’s what Our Deepest Fear in Nelson Mandela’s Speech Actually MeansUpdated on February 28, 2021 | Published on October 23, 2019
Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD, Certified Psychiatrist

How To Conquer Our Deepest Fear For A Successful Life

We often wonder what our deepest fear is. It is the fear of losing some special or it is the fear of losing ourselves in the dark? For every journey that we go on in life, our thoughts about fear and its influence on us changes.

One such thought is the poem below, where we encounter what could possibly be the most unique and appropriate interpretation of mankind and its connection to fear.

Our Deepest Fear Poem

By Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles also quoted in Nelson Mandela’s moving inaugural speech.

“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 ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,

gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won’t feel

insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of

God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we

unconsciously give other people permission

to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our

presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

This legendary poem has a powerful meaning and even greater impact. Infact, the strange fact is that it is brutally relatable even today! To give you a deeper insight, here’s a quick summary:

Explanation of “Our Deepest Fear” Poem

Often quoted, our deepest fear isn’t who we are or how we are, it is who we can be. Humans don’t think of the darkness as much as they think of the light within them. This poem talks about the fear of doubts.

It further inspired us to never second-guess our own decisions or potential and to be whoever we want to be. We can be gorgeous, brilliant, talented, and fabulous, without a sign of fear. After all, we are the children of God, with our purpose being the best version of ourselves in life.

Our deepest fear does not let us find success and rise up, it pushes us towards the dust. Why should we shrink to let others feel better about themselves? Our deepest fear is for us to break, not others to misuse.

The final advice? You have to let your heart shine and your mind speak. It is the duty of mankind to find their ‘light’ in life. The glory of the human mind only works like a charm when it doesn’t have anything to lose or be scared of. Infact, when one person follows this path and battles fear, others also feel the strength to follow.

This way, united we will stand and combat our fear. See yourself differently and let fear walk away from your life. You might feel nervous and anxious through it all, but it is all to find freedom of your soul.

Long story short, to unleash our full power we must conquer our deepest fears, and to do so, we must start from the very beginning.

To do that, we need to begin with identifying our deepest fears before we fight them… Here’s how you can do that!

What is your deepest fear?

It isn’t an easy task to chalk out our strongest traits, less so when it comes to identifying our weakest. Here’s a little test that can help you pinpoint your deepest fear, the root cause of all your other weaknesses. Follow the steps to get it right:

1. Take a piece of paper and pen and settle down in a peaceful environment. Stop thinking about anything and everything. Put on some soothing music or scented candles to help you relax.

2. Jot down all the things that scare you. It can be something as common as getting old and risking not being attractive, to something as deep as messing up children you don’t even have! Be it losing your mother or failing (falling?) in love, write them all down. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking, so write everything that comes to your mind. 

3. Once you’re done, start analyzing the underlying theme of each of those fears. If you mentioned losing your mother, the bottom line is that you’re afraid of being alone or in pain of loss. Similarly, write down the root for each of your fears.

4. Now look for a pattern or a recurring fundamental theme. That, my friend, is your darkest, deepest fear.

Now that you have identified your deepest fear, let’s move on to…

Our Deepest Fear & Ways to Overcome It
Our Deepest Fear & Ways to Overcome It

10 Ways to Overcome Our Deepest Fear

Fear and anxiety are the two most notorious and grilling human emotions. Fear can stand still and anxiety can make you puke. First and foremost, you have to be supportive of your own fears and not ever let anyone else make decisions for you.

Our deepest fear remains for the entire lifetime only if we don’t do something about it. It is time that you take charge and meet up with your negative partner. The purpose of fear is to bring you down and the steps listed below is to bring you back up:

1. Dig deep and find out the enemy

This could possibly be the most time taking process but at the same time the most crucial aspect. You can’t be hopeful of managing your fear if you don’t know what it is.

Facing your fear not only helps you find yourself better but also find the solution faster. The first step of winning a battle is always to know the enemy!

The best way to do so is to notice patterns in your habits and behavior whenever a situation or something happens. Maybe record your activities for a month or talk to a consultant.

2. Draft a Plan of Action to face your fear

Create a plan of action for you to overcome your fears. Being vague or casual about it will not help. Treat it like a goal and find your target.

Decide when you want to be able to do something that goes completely against your fear. It could be the decision to try an adventure sport, go travel, or even something like going on a date. Decide the what and decide the when.

Don’t ever leave it to luck or let your fear confuse you. Be realistic and give yourself a few months to develop the confidence to beat your fear.

3. Breathe. Breathe & Breathe

Whenever you feel your fear creeping in, focus on your breathing. You might have sweaty palms or shaking feet, but you keep your breathing regular and calm. Don’t try to distract yourself but focus on what you are doing at the moment.

Breathe till your heartbeat relaxes and keep it steady. This way, you know that your fear isn’t overpowering you. If you can get through it once, you can get through it again.

Cope with panic first, the fear automatically runs away later. A small tip, exhale longer and then inhale, let your body feel the world around you to calm itself.      

4. Find a happy place

Overcoming your fear is also possible by feeding it with happiness. Whenever you feel trapped in a circle of fear, visualize your favorite memory. Take yourself to your happy place and time, without thinking twice.

When you let happiness sink in, there is no place left for fear in your mind. It can be meeting your family, walking on a beach, or the moment you crack your dream job.

Remember, to experience these happy moments, you have to put fear in the backseat.  To grow and to be in self-control, you have to let your happy self-drive the car, not the feared child.

5. Be open about it

Hiding your fear just gives it more power. Being comfortable about having fear is absolutely okay. No human being is perfect after all!

You can confide in your family or your partner. If that feels difficult, there are many support groups that help you feel motivated.

Sometimes, when you hear the fear of others, you realize how you are lucky to have a possibly easier fear. Sometimes, your experience can help someone else take a step forward in the right direction. It’s a two-way street, you share, you let it go and you receive something valuable in return.

6. Go all out on rewards

When you cope up with your fears, you somewhat become like a child who is learning something new. There has to be self-love and incentives involved. One step at a time, one day at a time, and one goal at a time.

Let’s say, you are scared of heights. When you reach your one-month goal of, say walking on a bridge or standing at the terrace corner of the 40th floor, reward yourself with a fancy dinner.

It is a tough battle and you definitely need to keep rejuvenating yourself. Be rewarding and feel proud of every milestone along the way. Let your fear know, you aren’t backing off easily.

7. Be closer to nature

Sometimes, being alone and being at one with the world can help. Go for a walk, introspect and let the breeze make you feel good again. Nature is often called the best therapist. Why not put it to use? Natural beauty can bring back the shine in your eyes, relax your mind and reduce anxiety.

When all these symbols of fear are sorted, you can have your brain wish your fear, a warm goodbye. Moreover, physical activity in the arms of nature also boosts your confidence and distracts your mind well. An empty mind is a home to the fear devil so why not let nature keep it busy!

8. Fight the excuses

When the fear starts acting up, you subconsciously keep giving excuses to avoid activities. You might be scared of animals and blame the lack of sleep to cancel a trip to the zoo. The worst part? You probably won’t even realize the real reason for making these excuses.

Hence, start making a note of all your plan changes, cancels, and excuses. Then, one by one, eliminate these excuses.

Sleep well, eat well, and have a timely calendar. This way, you can never use sleep, hunger or time as an excuse to avoid facing your fears.

9. Learn to accept your failure

Even if you set goals and follow a ton of different approaches, you might still fail to overcome your fear. Don’t worry, it isn’t permanent but an important step in the journey. Without failure, you can never crave or value success.

If your plan fails, make a new plan. If you feel that you need to do more, then do more. Just don’t give up. Remember, everyone fails in overcoming their long-term fear in the first go because it is a challenge. Yet, only those succeed who accept the failure and move on.

10. Put yourself in the opposite spot

It is always a good time to reflect on your actions or fear. Let’s say, you are scared of flying in an airplane. Yet, think about how you would have reacted if a friend came and told you about this fear. Would you think not traveling in flights can be possible for any successful human?

When you do this, you start questioning your own fear. You start realizing that you do not need to live with a fear that you’ll regret having later. Use positive thoughts and honest conversations in overcoming your fear.

Our Deepest Fear | Marianne Williamson : Inspirational Video

Our Deepest Fear | Marianne Williamson | Inspirational Video

Closing Thoughts!

Overcoming our deepest fears is definitely not an easy task.

Yet, it’s not impossible.  

Just make conscious efforts to work on it while also not letting it burden you. With periodic processes, you’ll soon be okay.

Remember, fear always leads to disadvantages, problems, and hindrances. When you become clear in your head, nothing can beat you. It is your life and you paint it the way you want to.

So, don’t let fear color it black, not now and not later. Don’t give up and you’ll see the change yourself.

FAQs About Conquering Our Deepest Fears

What causes fear?

Fear is a primitive instinct in all humans. It’s there to protect us. But unnecessary fear comes from various reasons. The cause of fear is different for each person. For some, fear is the result of a traumatic experience, for others, it could be a wrong subconscious program, phobia or deep-rooted psychological problem.

What are the 10 most common fears?

The most common fears list includes 10 things –  
1. Fear of loneliness
2. Fear of death
3. Fear of public speaking and open spaces
4. Fear of animals, imaginative creatures, etc
5. Fear of intimacy
6. Fear of going mad
7. Fear of germs
8. Fear of being a coward
9. Fear of being poisoned
10. Fear of being getting old

What is meant by deepest fear?

There could be something close to your heart that intimidates you. It is your deepest fear meaning it is usually not expressed but it resides in your mind. Maybe you are not even aware of it! It could be a childhood trauma that inhibits you to do certain things subconsciously.

How to figure out your deepest fear?

The easiest way to find out your fears is by jotting your feelings in a diary. If you are not confident doing something ask yourself, “what’s stopping me?” Write down whatever comes to your mind. Whenever you are feeling a resistance understand that there is some underlying fearful emotion.

How to be fearless and confident in life?

There will always be some common fears in life. Some are necessary even because they protect us. But unnecessary fears leads to stress. If you really want to be confident start learning how to be fearless. The easiest way to get rid of fear is to go out of your comfort zone and do stuff in spite of fear.