Advertising
Advertising

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].

Advertising

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?

    Advertising

    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.”

    Advertising

    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.

      Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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

      Trending in Success Mindset

      1 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd 2 Is There a True Measure of Success? How to Define Your Own 3 How Do You Measure Success: 10 New And Better Ways 4 50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn 5 8 Daily Habits of the Successful People (Which Are Rare)

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

      17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

      17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

      If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

      Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

      You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

      “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

      Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

      Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

      You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

      1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

      Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

      When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

      • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
      • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
      • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

      2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

      A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.

      Advertising

      Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

      3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

      As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

      Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

      4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

      Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

      Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

      If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

      5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

      If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

      Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

      6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

      Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

      Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.

      Advertising

      7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

      The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

      Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

      8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

      Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

      Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

      9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

      The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

      Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

      Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

      10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

      Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

      And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

      You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:

      Advertising

      How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

      11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

      A short and sweet lesson for you:

      You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

      Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

      12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

      A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

      Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

      13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

      Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

      Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

      • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
      • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
      • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

      14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

      Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

      The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.

      Advertising

      Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

      15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

      There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

      Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

      16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

      In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

      Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

      17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

      The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

      Keep your mission in mind.

      Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

      Final thoughts

      Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

      What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.

      Advertising

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

      Read Next