Fear is a natural response to danger…
If we didn’t experience fear, we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves in life-or-death situations. In our modern society, most of aren’t faced with life-threatening situations very often. Yet we continue to experience fear.
Fear of failure is one of the most common fears. It can lead to procrastination and a loss of self-esteem. Other common fears include a fear of being embarrassed or humiliated, a fear of being alone, a fear of being incapacitated by illness or injury, and perhaps the most universal fear of them all – the fear of death.
Playing it safe may seem like the best way to deal with these fears, but people who play it safe are never truly satisfied. They will always wonder why life seems to be passing them by.
Whether our fear is triggered by events from our past or is based on anxiety about the future, it can be a barrier from achieving our goals and realizing our dreams.
The antidote to fear is to face it and challenge it. Instead of leaving a trail of “could-haves” behind you as you move through life, here are 3 quick steps or techniques that can help you challenge the fears that are holding you back.
STEP#1: Face Fear Head On
Fear is personal — each of us experiences it in a unique way. Some fears have a mysterious origin. We don’t know why we’re afraid of something, but we are. Others sources of fear are a bit more obvious. In either case, we can challenge our fear by facing it head on. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt summed up the need to face our fears this way:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
In an article in Psychology Today, psychologist Noam Shpancer explains that fear and anxiety have a biological component. Certain situations arouse our nervous system and make us feel uncomfortable. There is a natural tendency to avoid these situations, but each time we avoid our fear we open ourselves up to a sense of failure. By avoiding fear and anxiety we actually strengthen these negative emotions. Avoidance allows fear to get the upper hand.
Shpancer recommends that we expose ourselves to the sources of our fear in order to make them seem familiar.
Facing our fear can be very difficult in the short term, but will bring greater long-term peace of mind. Staying in a fear situation and living with a heightened fear response will require courage and a leap of faith. But the reward is great. Soon you find that instead of escalating, your fear will diminish as it its source becomes more familiar.
STEP#2: Take Immediate Action
Fear isn’t always something to be gotten through. In some cases, it may be a call to action that needs to be heeded.
Seth Godin, an entrepreneur, author and self-described “agent of change,” addressed this aspect of fear in a blog post.
When we are afraid to do something, waiting until our fear subsides may mean that the action is no longer important. A window of opportunity may close while we work through our fear. In this case fear may actually be a signal that the time for action is now.
Besides being a sign of danger, fear can be a symptom of change...
It may mean that a path towards our dreams is in front of us but we need to start moving. The key is to listen to the message in your fear. If it tells you that a change is coming, use your fear to embrace the change or prepare yourself for the inevitable. Instead of allowing fear to paralyze you, use it as a motivator.
Fear can give us an edge that we would never have otherwise. If you’ve ever stayed up late studying for an important exam then you’ve probably experienced the heightened focus that a fear of failure creates.
The discomfort that fear brings is often caused by surges of adrenaline. Learning to use this adrenaline can actually improve performance and allow you to achieve things that would otherwise be beyond your reach.
Remember that everyone who has ever achieved something great probably experienced fear along the way. You may be surprised to learn how many powerful and successful people have accepted fear as the price they pay for the rewards of success and have learned to use it to their advantage.
STEP#3: Exist in the Present
Many of us over-analyze every new situation, feeding fear until it becomes overwhelming. When we exist in the present we don’t escape from fear. It is the rare human who is never afraid. But instead of surrendering and letting fear take over, you can learn to let it pass through your mind without letting it deter you.
When you fully exist in the present, your thoughts and emotions aren’t escaping to the past or the future. This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the past or plan for the future, it simply means that you are not stuck looping through repetitive thoughts of regret and anxiety. You’re not dwelling on what has gone wrong or could go wrong – you are focusing on what you need to do today.
Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher who addresses the importance of living in the present. In his excellent book, The Power of Now, he explains how we are the creators of our own pain. By leaving our analytical mind and ego behind, we can become connected to our true selves and free from fear that is based on our interpretation of the past and anticipation of the future.
When we focus on the present we will spend less energy worrying about outcomes and have more energy for creating the reality of our present moment.