Fear. It’s one of the main things that keeps us from living our best lives and a life of adventure. Fear of commitment, fear of flying, fear of public speaking… Fear holds us back in our work lives, in our personal lives, while traveling, and keeps us from following our dreams. Instead of standing on the sidelines of life, conquer your fear, live life boldly, and be FEARLESS!
This past year we’ve taken a leap and worked on our fears. For Bassam, that’s a fear of heights. For Lena, it’s a fear of dogs. Well, Bassam went zip lining, on a roller coaster, and took a trapeze class! Lena now is in love with our pet dog, Buddy. Conquering our fears has added so much more joy to our lives!
Let’s break down what happens when you experience fear…
In your mind: you have a feeling of apprehension. This may be stemming from a legitimate source, however, your self-talk builds up this feeling of apprehension into a full-blown fear.
Your body: is over aroused. This means you might be feeling jumpy, shaky, sweaty, on edge, and a whole host of other symptoms when you think about your fear or get close to being in the situation you fear.
Your behavior: you avoid the situation that causes you to feel fear.
Steps to conquer your fear:
1. Don’t talk about it
Common belief is that we should talk about the things that we fear in order to get them off our chest. However, research has shown that talking about your fear with others can actually make it worse. Every time you talk about your fear it just reaffirms the feeling and makes it stronger.
2. Give yourself the freedom to feel it
You can lie to others, but you can’t lie to yourself. Even if you try to push the feeling of fear out of your head, it is still there and your body will still be experiencing the symptoms. Give yourself the freedom to feel your fear. Break it down very plainly and simply and tell yourself exactly what you’re scared of. For example, I’m scared of public speaking. I might tell myself, “When I need to talk in front of others it makes me feel scared. I feel this way because I worry that others will not like what I say and they might think I’m stupid”.
3. Don’t give it so much power
Right now your fear has a lot of power. It is this great, mysterious, important thing. However, fear is just a feeling just like any other feelings we have. It is a basic human emotion. What turns it into something greater is the language we use when we talk about it. So instead, downplay it. At the same time that you are giving yourself the freedom to feel it, also tell yourself something like, “I feel afraid, but that doesn’t mean I AM afraid. It is okay to feel afraid. It is just a feeling”.
4. Move on
After you’ve talked to yourself about your feeling and let yourself experience it, move on. This doesn’t mean you have to tell yourself to stop thinking about it. We’ve all heard the infamous white elephant story. Tell someone not to think about a white elephant and that’s all they will be able to think about. Instead, let yourself feel whatever you want to feel, but keep yourself busy with doing something to work towards your fear. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, write out your speech. If you have a fear of getting hurt in love, set up an online dating profile. If during these activities you start experiencing a feeling of apprehension, it’s okay, don’t freak out. Just refer to steps 2 and 3.
5. Reframe it
Time to change how you view your fear. Just as you can build up a feeling of apprehension into a fear with the way you talk about it, you can also get rid of a fear by changing your self-talk. Start by thinking about all the positive things that can come out of engaging in the activity you fear. With the public speaking example I can tell myself it will enhance my career, give me more opportunities, allow me to meet new people, let me share what I’ve learned, and so on. From now on, do not address your “fear” as a fear. Address it as an experience that can bring you all these awesome benefits. Tell yourself that you are a courageous person and you are a person who does things to benefit your life.
Take some deep breaths whenever your feeling overwhelmed about this situation. You can do a full body relaxation where you tense and relax each individual body part. Concentrate on tensing as hard as you can and then deliberately relax. Do this for every single body part from your toes all the way up to your eyebrows.
7. Have your body trick your brain
If you adopt the body language of a fearful person, you will feel more afraid. Instead, think about the body language of someone who is confident and unafraid. You might stand up straight, smile, adopt a fierce look in your eyes, whatever actions demonstrate courage to you. At first you will feel as though you are pretending, but your brain will eventually react to the signals your body is sending and you will feel more courageous.
8. Visualize it!
You have spent so much time thinking about all the things that could wrong in this situation you fear. Now spend time thinking about the process going smoothly. Walk yourself through the situation step-by-step. Imagine yourself feeling confident, imagine the opposite of everything you fear happening, everything just going absolutely perfectly, and all the benefits you thought of in step 5.
9. Go do it
Here’s the problem with avoiding a situation that scares you: the more times you avoid it, the greater your fear will be. When you escape the unpleasant situation it teaches you that there was something to be afraid of and it reaffirms the fear for you. You need to actually get in contact with the situation that scares you so you can have the experience of NOT feeling afraid and the experience of the bad stuff you were expecting NOT happening. The first time you do this will be really hard. The good news is that every time after that will be easier and easier until you have fully conquered your fear!
We’d love to hear about a recent fear you conquered and how you did it! Tell us in the comments below!