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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Fight Your Irrational Fears and Stay Strong

How to Fight Your Irrational Fears and Stay Strong

I could hear my baby crying but was frozen in the doorway, unable to move. The crying got worse and I knew that unless I comforted the infant soon the baby would be inconsolable, and yet my feet wouldn’t move. I didn’t look at the crib but the floor in front, where the venomous hairy monster sat….okay it was a UK spider so very unlikely to kill me at all, and yet still my body was frozen as the tears fell down my face. “What a useless mother you are,” I berated myself as I faced these irrational fears.

My fear of spiders had not been controlled for years, and I was at the stage where I wouldn’t open a newspaper until my husband had read it and removed the images of spiders. I hated houses that had wooden floors or skirting boards because every knot in the wood could be a spider about to crawl across me.

At the height of my fear, I tried to get out of a moving car. Clearly this harmless 8-legged creature had massive levels of power over me, but now that the fear is gone, I’m never going to love spiders, but I’m not going to leave the room because of one, and I can read the word without freaking out and sobbing.

If you think that fear is irrational, what about the fear of going to airports? Or the fear of not asking for help?

Today I want to look at how our irrational fears impact us, and how they can destroy our success. They can damage our health and even stop us from living our lives. And then I’ll share the benefits of fighting that fear and, most importantly, how you can fight your fears, too.

How Irrational Fears Impact Your Life

The thing about irrational fears is that we are not keen to look at the particular object or situation causing them as it causes a great deal of distress. It makes us feel inadequate, weak, and silly because we can’t do things that it seems everyone else can. That gives the fear power.

Fear loves negative emotions and saps up yours, making your fear bigger and uglier and even more powerful. Not ideal to say the least. Fears can cause us to do any of the following:

Avoid Certain Situations

If you know you may have to face your fear, you can find yourself dodging parties, new jobs, or new experiences where you aren’t sure you will be able to protect yourself.

Hinder Sleep

We may have trouble falling asleep, thinking the thing we fear will “get us in the night.” For me this was massive, and I stopped sleeping, which had massive implications when my job was to look after a toddler and a baby. I felt half dead most of the time!

Experience High Levels of Stress and Anxiety

Stress can be the cause of unhealthy decisions. Drinking alcohol when we shouldn’t, eating chocolate because it makes us feel better…the list of excuses that we hold on to is long so that we can avoid the cause of our stress. These high levels of anxiety can even lead to panic attacks or a long-term anxiety disorder.

If we experience long-term stress and anxiety from our fears, it can cause health issues that may extend far beyond the times we are actually feeling fear[1].

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Irrational fears can cause long-term stress effects

     

    Negative Thinking and Mental Distress

    Having irrational fears can damage our confidence. Having coached thousands, I know that a lack of confidence is usually the underlining impactor on most people’s success across all areas of their lives.

    Seeming Aloof

    We risk looking aloof or arrogant because we won’t participate like other people. Our fears can even isolate us in our personal and professional lives, too.

    Feeling Debilitated

    Needless to say, these fears may look irrational and shouldn’t exist to the outside world, but to the sufferer they are debilitating. They can ultimately impact their earning potential, love life, hobbies, travels and personal and professional success.

    Why Bother Fighting the Fear?

    Couldn’t you just ensure you live your life in a way that you don’t have to deal with your fear?

    I had a client that was so scared of flying that they couldn’t even take their partner to the airport. I had another who had avoided public speaking for over 20 years and yet now, at the height of their profession, they had no choice. There was another who could never ask for help, and another who feared people finding out who they really were.

    All these fears and many more can be fixed, but only if we can appreciate the benefits of fighting the fear.

    If you’re going to change the way you do something that has impacted your life, thoughts, and actions for years, it can be hard to believe change is possible.

    The first thing you must do is give yourself a big enough reason why. Go back through your life and remember all the occasions that this fear was there.

    Remember the feelings, the actions, the negative feelings you felt afterwards. Really experience the fear. Make it so painful that you probably notice your heart racing, your shoulders drawing up, and your breath changing. That fear is causing physical change in your body; doesn’t feel good, does it?

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    When the irrational fear is challenged and destroyed, it can’t have power over you. New opportunities can come your way, and instead of fearing them, you can be open to new hobbies, more travel, or expanded job opportunities. You can plan on being happier, healthier, and more confident.

    How to Stop Irrational Fears

    In my book Fight the Fear: How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life, I cover 12 of the biggest fears that I see impact success and happiness. Not all of these are obvious, but they all have far-reaching consequences.

    Here are some of those ideas to help you fight your fear and get more of what you want out of life:

    1. “Why I’m Awesome”

    Creating a 2-page handwritten document of why you are awesome can help. This document will be packed with achievements, successes, overcoming adversity, and all of those will be full of positive emotions, actions, and feelings. It is not easy to write; however, it is a powerful reminder that you can stand up and accomplish something.

    2. Draw out Your Emotions

    Earlier, we looked at how irrational fears can damage every aspect of our lives. If you were to follow the negative spiral down, you can follow the positive spiral up again.

    I draw these individually for clients, and with each action, thought, or feeling, we put an arrow between them. Each arrow is an opportunity to do something different. If we know that irrational fear is an automatic thought process, then we can start to see that we need to think, do or feel something different.

    3. Acknowledge That You Need to Change

    It’s not easy to change, and that is a belief that many hold. Remember that when you want to do, think, or feel differently, you’ve already achieved the first step, and that is recognizing something must change (you don’t need to know what).

    Then, it’s about acknowledging it. That means not only accepting it, but feeling that it is yours to take on and change.

    There will be times when you fail. Instead of berating yourself, just start again and take a look at the list you made in step 1. 

    4. Choose Your Words Carefully

    Any thought that gives power to your fear takes away power from you to fight it. Therefore, choose how you word your goal to overcome your fear carefully[2].

    Think thoughts like “I remember when I achieved X, and that reminds me I’m far tougher and more capable than I give myself credit for.”

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    Talk yourself up to overcome fears

      You can practice cultivating positive self-talk with this article.

      5. Believe That You Have the Control

      The only person that can control what we think and feel is us.

      If you really think about that for a moment, can you see that you have the right to think and feel anything you want right now? I’m certain you wouldn’t choose pain, fear or anxiety. So, what would you choose to think about your fear?

      6. Put up Physical Reminders

      Physical reminders or visuals can be great for reorienting the mind toward overcoming irrational fears.

      For example, the CEO who was petrified of public speaking but could handle a conference call with 300 without a second thought imagined the microphone was a phone when they spoke in front of 400 people to help reinforce the positive thoughts and ideas we’d created.

      The client that always worried that they were an imposter and “someone else can do this better” pinned on their office wall a tag cloud of all the words that made up their “Why I’m awesome” document.

      They had a daily reminder. They were the right one for the job, and they could do it.

      What would be your visual clues to remind you that you can overcome this?

      7. Change Your Environment

      Music, natural environment, and even smells can impact the way we think and feel. Know the music that makes you feel alive, calm, and ready for anything. Try aromatherapy oils to feel positive and energized. Even choose your work environment or clothing to empower you.

      Giving yourself physical reminders toward action can help power up your emotional state, too.

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      8. Don’t Go It Alone

      The fear to ask for help is very real (and has a whole chapter in my book), so I know people really struggle with this. The fact is we all need people. We are not insular by design, and as such it can be tough to admit that you have irrational fears that you need help with.

      However, sharing your intense fear with a trusted friend, colleague, loved one, or mental health professional can mean that when you are feeling the fear, you can talk to someone. It could be that you share with them the contents of your tool kit and ask their permission to be added to it. That way they know what works for you and how to best support you.

      It’s not a sign of weakness to tell people about your specific phobia. It takes massive levels of strength to say, “I have this fear, and I want to get rid of it.”

      9. Pay Attention to Your Body

      One of the reasons that a fear can escalate is because we have come to accept that response. Our body reacted in a certain way, repeated the behavior, and formed a habit that was accepted.

      Challenging a fear can be done using our body when we appreciate that fear is actually a reaction inside our bodies. We don’t need to understand where in our brains or what chemicals are racing through us to use our physicality to help us challenge our fears.

      When I was writing my book, the Cuddy Superhero pose[3] was proved and disproved by various researchers around the world 3 times. Whether it’s real or not, the fact is the way we stand, the way we breathe, and even the speed at which we speak can impact us, as well as those around us.

      If you have a fear of public speaking, or a fear of people thinking you are stupid, or a fear of what people are thinking, you can look at how you speak, stand, and move. If you compare these with people you deem confident and happy in these situations, how do you look? What can you learn?

      The research around placebos reinforces the idea that if it feels like it’s working, then keep doing it! What could you use to help reinforce your power and fearlessness?

      Final Thoughts

      A little fear can be good. However, when irrational fears become debilitating, it’s time to take a long look at what you can do to undermine their power over your life.

      Despite having an absolute hatred of public speaking 10 years ago, I now love an audience, and yet I have a healthy level of fear. That level of fear ensures that I prepare well, do my best to understand my audience, and push myself to deliver a great speech. Those thoughts are all sensible.

      As you aim to reduce your irrational fears, cultivate a healthy sense of fear to help you achieve success.

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      More About Fighting Fears

      Featured photo credit: Isaiah Rustad via unsplash.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Mandie Holgate

      International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

      50 Words of Encouragement for Moving Forward 7 Types Of Emotional Baggage And How To Deal With Them How to Control the Uncontrollable In Life 6 Types of Fear of Success (And How to Overcome Them) Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness

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      Last Updated on June 4, 2021

      10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

      10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

      Failure occurs everyday, in school, jobs, housework, and within families. It is unavoidable, irritating and causes pessimism.

      While the thought of flinging your hands in the air and walking away is all too appealing, take a second to connect with the people who have been there and survived.

      Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. — Henry Ford

      Here are 10 famous failures to success stories around the world that will inspire you to keep going and achieve greatness:

        1. J.K. Rowling

          During a Harvard commencement speech, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling outlined the importance and value of failure.[1]

          Why? Simply because she was once a failure too.

          A few short years after her graduation from college, her worst nightmares were realized. In her words,

          “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

          Coming out of this failure stronger and more determined was the key to her success.

          2. Steve Jobs

            The now revolutionary Apple started off with two men in a garage. Years later we all know it as a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees.

            Yet, almost unbelievably, Steve Jobs was fired from the very company he began.

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            The dismissal made him realize that his passion for his work exceeded the disappointment of failure. Further ventures such as NeXT and Pixar eventually led Jobs back to the CEO position at AppleJobs said in 2005:

            “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

            Lost your job today? Keep kicking and you could be just like this guy!

            3. Bill Gates
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              Bill Gates was a Harvard dropout. He co-owned a business called Traf-O-Data, which was a true failure.[2]

              However, skill and a passion for computer programming turned this failure into the pioneer of famous software company Microsoft, and the then 31-year-old into the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

              In his own words:

              “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

              This isn’t to say that dropping out of Harvard will make you into a billionaire, but maybe that shiny degree isn’t worth as much as the drive and passion to succeed.

              If you haven’t found your passion like Bill Gates, this will help you:

              How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

              4. Albert Einstein

                The word ‘Einstein’ is associated with intelligence and synonymous with genius. Yet it is a famous fact that the pioneer of the theory of general relativity, Albert Einstein himself, could not speak fluently until the age of nine. His rebellious nature led to expulsion from school, and he was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School.

                His earlier setbacks did not stop him from winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. After all, he believed that:

                “Success is failure in progress.”

                To this day, his research has influenced various aspects of life including culture, religion, art, and even late night TV.

                Just because you haven’t achieved anything great yet, doesn’t mean you can’t be an Einstein yourself.

                5. Abraham Lincoln

                  Failing in business in 1831, suffering a nervous breakdown in 1836, defeated in his run for president in 1856, Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to rejection and failure. Rather than taking these signs as a motivation for surrender, he refused to stop trying his best.

                  In this great man’s words:

                  “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

                  Lincoln was elected in 1861 as the 16th President of the United States of America.

                  The amount of rejection you receive is not a defining factor. Success is still within your reach.

                  6. Michael Jordan

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                    “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

                    This quote by retired basketball legend Michael Jordan in a Nike advertisement speaks for itself.

                    It would be an easy misconception that Jordan’s basketball skills revolve around natural talent. In fact, in his earlier years,  basketball coaches had trouble looking past the fact that Jordan didn’t reach the minimum height. It was years of effort, practice, and failure that made the star we know today.

                    Michael Jordan’s success all came down to his Intrinsic Motivation, one of the most invincible types of motivation that drives people to succeed.

                    7. Steven Spielberg

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                    217307-steven-spielberg

                      Regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, Steven Spielberg is a familiar household name. It is surprising to realize therefore that the genius behind Jaws and E.T. had poor grades in high school, getting him rejected from the University of Southern California three times.

                      While he was in college, he caught the eye of executives at Universal, who signed him as a television director in 1969. This meant that he would not finish his college degree for another 33 years.

                      Perseverance and acceptance of failure is the key to success, after all.

                      “Even though I get older, what I do never gets old, and that’s what I think keeps me hungry.”

                      Bad grades in high school aside, there is no questioning the genius involved.

                      To date, Spielberg has directed 51 films and has been awarded three Oscars.

                      8. Walt Disney

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                        Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney dropped out of school at a young age in a failed attempt at joining the army.[3] One of his earlier ventures, Laugh-o-Gram Studios, went bankrupt due to his lack of ability to run a successful business. He was once fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.”

                        Yet today, The genius behind Disney studios is responsible for generations of childhood memories and dreams. From Snow White to Frozen, Disney will continue to entertain the world for generations to come.

                        The logic behind this is simple:

                        “We don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

                        9. Vincent Van Gogh

                          During his lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh suffered mental illness, failed relationships, and committed suicide at the age of 37.

                          He only ever sold one painting in his life, pinning him a failure as an artist. However that did not put a damper on his enthusiasm and passion for art.

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                          He would never know that years and years after his death he would become known as a key figure in the world of post-impressionism, and ultimately, one of the greatest artist that ever lived.

                          He would never know that he became a hot topic in art classes and his image was going to be used in TV, books and other forms of popular culture.

                          In the words of this great, but tragic man:

                          “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

                          10. Stephen King

                          01-Stephen-King-Rags-to-Riches-Celebs-1

                            As a paranoid, troubled child, tormented by nightmares and raised in poverty, it is no surprise that Stephen King grew up to the title: “Master of Horror”.[4]

                            An addiction to drugs and alcohol were his mechanisms to cope with the unhappiness he felt with his life. The frustration he felt towards multiple rejections by publishers in combination with illicit substances caused him to mentally contemplate violence towards his own children.

                            These intense emotions were those that he focused onto his writing. And that’s why he said:

                            “We make up horros to help us cope with the real ones.”

                            Writing became his new coping mechanism, and this is how the master author we know today grew to success.

                            Fail More Often in Order to Succeed

                            Like Albert Einstein said, failure really is just success in progress. If you’d rather not to fail, you will probably never succeed.

                            Success comes from moments of frustrations when you’ll be most uncomfortable with. But after you’ve gone through all those bitter times, you’ll become stronger and you’ll get closer to success.

                            If you feel like a failure and think that you’ve failed all too many times, it’s not too late to change things up! Here’s how to turn your limitations into your opportunities:

                            Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, start failing, and start failing often; that’s how you will succeed.

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                            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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