Is Fear Useful as a Motivator?

Something that came up in my group programme recently was the idea that fear is a useful motivator and can be used as a tool.

It definitely is a motivator, which is why it is used by people in power the world over. However, it comes at a cost. Fear creates tension, damages self-esteem, creates a sense of disempowerment and lack of agency and keeps us small (which is why it is so useful when you want to oppress people!)

In this episode I talk about the reasons we don't want to let go of it as a tool.

Podcast 27 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

Is Fear Useful as a Motivator?

In the podcast I also talk about a workshop I'm running on 24th August 2023 which will teach you how to let go of your fear. If you would like to own the stage and regain the joy of performing without fear click the link below....

If you would like to learn how to let go and perform brilliantly, so that you can feel confident (even without being able to guarantee the outcome!) then go to to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:


Hi, I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice, and this episode, I want to focus on the use of fear as a motivator because when I did my last episode on what I think is the best motivator, I thought I had done this episode, but I don't think I have.



So I want to focus today on using fear as a motivator, because as I've said before, people come to me wanting to let go of their fear, let go of their anxiety, being able to let go and lean into their performance and enjoy it more. But when push comes to shove, they don't actually want to let go of their fear, because there is a big part of them that thinks that it's their fear that has got them the success they have.



And in fact, they're terrified of letting go of their fear because they fear as one client put it, they worry that if they don't worry, they won't be as good as they are, that they will slip back. And so they think it's they've got as far as they have, because of their fear being a motivator; but I would say they have got as far as they have, despite their fear being used as a motivator. Because as I said in the last episode, when we use fear to get our arse into gear, and we definitely it definitely does get our arses into gear, but when we use it for that reason, it creates tension and it promotes anxiety and overthinking and all the things that get in the way of us performing with real freedom.



So, I love to use the analogy of the lifebelt. Now, I don't know some of you may not know, some of you are probably too young to know, but they're probably still out there actually, the old fashioned lifebelt, which was a horseshoe shape, and we would have it on the back, we had one on the back of my dad's boat. Very rigid. Bizarrely, quite heavy, and definitely designed to keep you afloat. But I remember there was one time where I was being swept away by the tide, terrifyingly, and my mum and dad threw it out to me, and it definitely kept my head above water. However, it didn't make it easy to swim.



They're incredibly hard to things to swim in. A bit like armbands, if you've ever tried to swim in armbands, they're quite hard to swim. So although they might keep you afloat, they actually make it harder to do what most of us wants to do in the water, which is swim, because it's the swimming that gets you places quickly, it's the swimming that is fun and enjoyable, and has that sense of freedom to it. But when you're wearing a lifebelt, it's much harder to do that, to swim with freedom.



In the same way, you using fear to get your arse into gear may be sort of keeping your head above water, because until you change your mindset, if you don't use it, you might do nothing. It's stopping you swimming with freedom. And I come along as a life coach trained coach for performers, saying, "You don't need that lifebelt. You'll swim better without it" and you're like, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no. This lifebelt is everything that's keeping my head above water."



And in the same way, I say, "Come on, you can let go of that fear. You don't need it. You'll swim, you'll perform better without it." And part of you goes, "Yes, yes, yes." But then when, when you are challenged, it's so easy to put it back on. So again, I love this analogy because I can really stretch it. If you think about it, I might persuade you to let go of the lifebelt and get out of the lifeboat if it's in shallow waters. "It's alright, I know I can stand so I feel safe." Cool. Then you get into deep water. You're like, "Ah, no, I need my life belt on again." Even though you know you can swim better without it. There's this fear that you might sink and drown.



And then even if you take off your lifebelt there you're right it's calm, it's not so deep waters, I'm fine. If the wind picks up and the waves start to pick up, and there's something that triggers you to feel vulnerable, you'll want to put that lifebelt back on. You'll want to put the safety, it's a strange thing that we feel we're safe with fear, even though it's we're beating ourselves up with it, you'll want to put that back on because you think "I know it keeps my head above water," but you can't swim. And each time, it's really important to keep learning how if you put your fear to one side, and lean into the joy, you are more likely to be able to swim, you're more likely to get in the water. If you feel like you always are going in the water and having to wear a life about the water doesn't feel as fun. It because it's not as fun because lifebelts are uncomfortable. They get in the way, they stop you achieving what you want, and then this becomes this whole thing of I can't get in the water without a lifebelt.



Instead, if we use joy, that's like learning to swim, and knowing that when the waves come, you can swim back to shore, back to safety. So if you can think about it this way. You may in your conscious mind or in your subconscious mind, feel like using fear is a useful tool to get you going to make sure you have the adrenaline to get out on stage and to make sure you do a good job. But at the same time as possibly being a motivation to do, being the motivation to do a good job (and I would challenge that, hence my last episode) it will always hamper you actually doing the best job you could, because it will always restrict your freedom. It will always make it harder for you to perform with freedom and connection.



When you're holding on to that lifebelt, when you're holding on to fear, you cannot move with freedom, connect with your audience, engage and perform at your best. It will always stop you. The only way you will ever be able to perform at your best is by putting the lifebelt to one side, and learning that you can swim. There may be times where you find it harder, there may be times where you duck under the water, there may be times where you leg it back to shore, because it's too much. But the more you practice swimming, the stronger you'll get, and the more you'll enjoy it. And the more situations you'll find that you can go and swim in that you won't find too daunting to swim in, because you will have practised.



And so I would say go back to the joy, practice the joy, practice swimming with the lifebelt, practice letting go of fear and see what happens. Because I guarantee you it's far more enjoyable that way. Because although you still fear making mistakes, you're taking away one of the major causes of you making mistakes, which is your fear and anxiety. So you're just as likely to make mistakes, well, you're just as likely to make the same mistakes you would have done anyway, at your level of skill, but you've taken away one of the reasons you do make mistakes, so you're less likely overall to make mistakes.



The next thing is then to work on your skill level. But fear and anxiety bring nothing to that. And joy will actually your be your better motivator. And for that I say take a listen to episode 26 If you've not had a listen as yet. If you would like to have an idea of how to let go of the fear, and how to lean into the joy of being a truly fearless performer. I'm running a workshop on Friday the 28th note note Thursday, the 24th of August this Thursday, called the joy of being a fearless performer, where I will let you into what my eight steps to fearlessness are and show you some techniques how you can lean in to being fearless and let go of the fear with confidence that you will be able to swim. I love for you to join me. Click the link to join. But in the meantime, thank you for listening. I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice.