We all have things we fear. Some fears are more concrete, like the terror of spiders and snakes, while some fears go much deeper, sabotaging us so that we are unable to follow our dreams. Too often, we avoid our fears, unwilling to acknowledge that we have them. We hope that if we don’t give breath to their existence, they will become less real… It rarely works this way.
Instead, let’s put on a brave face and tackle our fears. In the darkness of ignorance, the monsters still reign over us, but in the light of knowledge and acceptance, they are seen for what they are: simply self-made straw men—unworthy of the terror they command.
1. Give up fear of failure
“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement. – C. S. Lewis
Fear of failure is a huge problem for many people. Some people are so afraid to fail, they never try to do great things. However, most great successes are paved with failures. If you are afraid to fail, you will be too paralyzed to really excel. Many times, it is the failure that guides people to their greatest success. Learn to embrace it. A great question to ask yourself is, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Write down your answer, and then go do it.
2. Know thine enemy
“The first duty of man is to conquer fear; he must get rid of it; he cannot act till then.” Thomas Carlyle
Often, when we examine fear, we see that it’s just the unknown portion that scares us. We often fear what we don’t understand. When you take the time to understand why you’re afraid, you can properly address it. Instead of looking at the future expecting the worst to happen, turn your belief system around and expect the best. Often, dwelling on our fears gives them a voice of prediction in our lives. Don’t give fear that foothold. Envision your future as one full of hope and excitement!
3. Focus on past success
“Ultimately, we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” – Marilyn Ferguson
Our own visualization of fear often brings it to fruition. Think about when you are about to speak in public: a huge fear for some. Instead of seeing yourself doing well, you may think about how you might stutter over your sentences. What happens? You lose your train of thought and blow the presentation. You then reaffirm the belief that messing up speeches is all that you are capable of doing. Instead, focus on your past success. Remember how you did well speaking in rehearsals and visualize yourself giving the best speech of your life. What happens? You do amazingly! Visualization techniques are utilized by athletes and businessmen alike. Instead of giving fear any credence, conceptualize yourself successfully conquering fear—what you envision often will become reality.
4. Realize that fear is often an illusionist
“Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself.” – Samuel Butler
Most of the things that we worry about never actually happen. Even when our worst fears do happen, we realize that it isn’t actually as bad as we believed. It’s like when you first start riding a bike: before you fall for the first time, the distance from the ground and the speed that the rocks whizz by seem so intimidating. However, once you fall and realize the actual impact isn’t nearly as bad as your imagination, you can ride confidently. Sure, it hurts to fall, but the joy of the ride is worth the risk. Give yourself permission to examine the worst-case scenario. Even if the catastrophe happened, in the grand scheme of life, is it really worth the anxiety? Probably not. You are tougher than you realize and will get through any humbling experience with more wisdom on better ways to go about your goals.
5. There are no monsters under your bed
“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” – Andre Gide
Some people have unrealistic belief systems, but they don’t acknowledge how nonsensical they sound until they are forced to think it through. For example, ascribing to a belief that demands that every person you interact with will like you is doomed to failure. It’s just not logical that you can meet every expectation of every person. Accepting this fact and understanding that disappointing others will happen in life often helps people address these unrealistic beliefs that cause them anxiety.
6. Kill the moles before they make mountains
“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.” – Christian Nestell Bovee
Some people make things much worse in their own head than they are in reality, causing themselves more pain and greater fear. For example, imagine a person who fears societal judgements. They often do things they don’t want to do because they are worried that saying “no” will cause people to reject them. When asked if they would think poorly of a different individual who said they didn’t want to do something, the person will usually say that they would understand. When you ask them to turn this around and ascribe this same amiable attitude within themselves to others, they realize most people think as they do and would sympathize if they didn’t go along with their every whim. The fears in their heads make other people more easy to offend than reality.
7. Plan to strike at first dawn
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks
If certain fears are crippling your life, put together a plan to stand up to them. There is no shame in seeking help from a qualified counselor. You can also share your fears with mentors and accountability partners to help you work through them. Write down goals that help you face your fears in a healthy way so you can break free to a no-limits life.
8. Fear the un-lived life
“Great work is done by people who are not afraid to be great.” – Fernando Flores
One great visualization technique is to look at what holding onto your fear is doing to your future. Think about what would happen if you were never brave enough to change your thinking. If you are afraid to talk to others now, how will this impact your dating and social life years later? If you are afraid to take risks, what opportunities are you missing that could change your lifestyle for the better? If you are afraid to look silly at the gym, what illness can sneak into your life in a few more years due to excess weight or unhealthy habits? Let your un-altered future scare you enough to change it.
9. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
“To fight fear, act. To increase fear – wait, put off, postpone.” – David Joseph Schwartz
Sometimes, you just have to jump. There are so many experiences (some did involve jumping) that I would have missed out on if I gave in to my fears. Your life will be much more full with memories of how you felt afraid, pushed past it, and learned you are stronger than you ever thought possible. Pushing past the fear creates self confidence, and you become emboldened to take on more challenges in life, even if they scare you. Once you accept that growth begins outside of your comfort zone, you are ready to challenge yourself to face your worst demons.
10. Create dreams that make you brave
“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” – Bill Cosby
Sometimes, people are often not motivated to face their fears because they haven’t entertained what life can be like on the other side of them. When you allow yourself to dream, suddenly your fears pale in comparison to all the excitement of the brave new world just beyond them. Create dreams that inspire change. You will find that when you let go of the fear, you really are free to become the person you always knew you could be.