Fear can be crippling. The fear of failure, rejection, or simply the unknown can render us paralyzed. Imprisoned in our own minds, we may end up boxing ourselves into a corner, feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. On the other hand, fear serves a purpose. From a survival standpoint, fear keeps us from doing things that might be harmful such as walking off the top of a 16-story building. Thanks, fear of heights. Fear can also be a great motivator: if we direct our energy in the right way, the fear of not achieving goals or falling short of a vision, can get us moving.
Here are a few truths about fear to help you utilize it, rather than let it control you.
1. Realize that most of your fears are irrational
Our minds sometimes ramble and project. We have a huge capacity for speculation, imagination, and wonder. This can be an asset as creativity is the wellspring of innovation. It can also get in the way when the things we imagine provoke fear. We can imagine the worst scenarios. The “what if” element can befuddle us into non-action.
Some minds tend to linger in the murkier side of “what if” more than others. At a certain point you simply have to realize that the things you’re obsessing over are pretty far-fetched, and let it go. Instead of succumbing to this dread in your mind, simply analyzing the things you’ve been afraid of in the past, which never materialized, can help you overcome your current fears. Once fear is recognized as unreal, the impediment is removed and you’re propelled forward.
2. Understand that even your rational fears will probably never happen
Even if our fears are based in reality and qualify as somewhat rational, a lot of life is a battle in the mind more than anything else. Most of even the legitimate scenarios we dream up will never come to fruition. In fact, not even close.
For those of us who manage to psyche ourselves out with the possibilities in our future, let’s keep in mind that they’re just that: possibilities. Most embarrassment, disgrace, horrible modes of disease and death you ponder will not happen to you. Tragedies in life are usually unforeseen and unavoidable. So stop ruining your life worrying about it!
Coming to terms with this will not only help you relax in general, but it might even help you to take new chances. Without the feeling of impending doom, you’re free to experience life in a more vibrant way.
3. Accept that sometimes you will realize a genuine fear, but you’ll get through it
Bad things happen, even to the best, the most cautious, and the healthiest of us. But even when we realize a fear in one form or another, it’s more than likely not as bad as we thought. So you completely bombed on an interview, the guy you were seeing was still seeing his ex-girlfriend, or you’re a terrible executive assistant. Even though these things can be painful in the moment, anything short of death itself is literally not the end of the world.
You’ll manage. You’ll get through. And in the long run, these nightmares-come-true really do lose their sting. Most of the time it’s never as bad as you feared, and when it is, it usually isn’t later on. You’ll surprise yourself with your veracity, even in the face of truly awful things.
4. Be aware that realizing fears can help refine you
It’s also these somewhat painful experiences that help us define what we don’t want. Maybe the energy of the office you were interviewing for doesn’t suit you; that weepy, artistic guy wasn’t all you envisioned him to be; or being someone’s own personal servant isn’t in the stars for you. There are worse things.
Take these experiences as a means of reflecting and saying “This didn’t work. That didn’t fit. So what else is there?” We are built to adapt. Embrace this strength, which is your innate gift from nature, and you will overcome even your worst fears.
5. Know that you’ll do fine at the things you’re putting off because you’re afraid
Sometimes there’s a learning curve. Don’t let it freak you out. In fact, if you’re afraid because you’re challenged or trying something new, that’s great! Discomfort is a side effect of growth.
The truth is, the things you’ve already learned in life build upon themselves, feeding into new tasks as you develop them. And you have a great capacity to absorb new information. There’s very little you can’t learn, and honestly you’re probably already fine at it. The only regret you’ll have is not having started sooner. A little stress, a little discomfort — it’ll all pass. But making up for lost time? That’s pretty tough. Just do it. You’ll be fine.
6. Try harnessing your fear of not being “good enough” and use it to drive you to try harder
The hardest part of anything you put your time and energy into is the first action. Once you’re a mile into a daily walk, you’ve got a pace going and you’re not even thinking about how hard it was to get started, you’re just getting it done.
From improving physical health or physique to mastering a new computer program, the prospect of attempting something new can be daunting. The doubt in the back of your mind that you’ll succeed or negative self talk can keep you from ever trying. But the truth is, a failed attempt will not haunt you the way a lack of trying will.
When you start to doubt yourself, collect that fear and mentally fuel your desire to meet goals. Rather than succumb to feeling that anxiety spreading across your chest, consciously realize that once you get started, the best of your problem will soon be whittled away into something manageable. Don’t be okay with failure or complacency — use fear of those things to conquer them.
7. Use fear that someone else is living your dream to focus on your goals
Jealousy and envy; we’ve been taught that these are detrimental dispositions, and to some extent they are. Any time you’re burning up energy occupied with someone else’s life instead of you own, you’re wasting time. Unless you can use those feelings as fuel for focus.
Do you see people living the life you want? Jealous? Don’t be! Realize that they’re as human as you, with their own sets of pitfalls, insecurities and imperfections. If you want certain things in your own life, rather than ooze with jealously, ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” If the answer is, “I want to travel, be in a happy relationship, or start my own business.” you realize the root of your feeling and can turn your attention to questions like, “What steps can I take to make these things a reality in my own life?”
Once you start spending your energy on your own goals, you’ll find you’re too busy to steam over other people’s accomplishments. And when you do find out about what your peers are up to, you’ll be happy for them since you won’t be hampered with your own guilt or feelings of short-coming.
8. Bear in mind that failures are inevitable, but nothing helps you learn so well as failing.
From time to time, you will fail. Failure is part of the process. Any successful person will tell you that, at one time or another, they failed.
These stories of failure are also consistently tied with astounding successes later. The failure offered some huge insight or corrected some faulty way of approaching a problem. There’s no teacher as impacting as the sting of failure, and no read on whether something works better than receiving a resounding “no” from the people in our lives, the market, or the universe.
9. Pat yourself on the back
Appreciate the strength it takes to work through your anxiety and congratulate yourself for that. And in the future, draw from that knowledge for more strength. Look back over the things you used to fear and how you overcame them. Analyze how you were wrong about certain things that used to paralyze you, and how you were right about the things you knew you were made to do. You’ll find new fears less intimidating and your accomplishments will steadily outweigh insecurities.
Featured photo credit: Jonas Leupe via unsplash.com