We usually feel fear when we get frustrated, when our self-esteem is threatened, or when we feel pressured to perform beyond our perceived capability. Unhealthy fear is debilitating; healthy fear is mobilizing. But no matter what kind of fear you experience, it requires your immediate attention, or you risk cowering behind your full potential for the rest of your life. Read on for some tips on facing up to your fears.
Fighting fear is futile
Acknowledge that it’s there, and move on: How can I make singing this song an enjoyable experience? Now your mind has something else to focus on!
Don’t fight it, instead face it, but like an ex-lover, it is something you can definitely let go of. Like a ghost in your past, tell it that you don’t have to be afraid of the things you were afraid of in the past or as a child anymore.
Reality vs. Fantasy
Learn to differentiate obvious, realistic threats from unrealistic fears that you may just be magnifying or catastrophizing.
Fear is a normal emotion and its purpose is to protect us from threats and dangers in our environment, like naturally backing off when we are near the edge of a cliff. This is real and you must act on it for your safety’s sake.
But more often than not, our perceived threats are very far from our immediate circumstance, and our most imagined fears don’t come true at all in real life.
Letting our imagined fears rule our lives cause us to miss out on great opportunities, hamper how we carry out our responsibilities, and cause us to dismiss people and situations that could otherwise make our lives richer and more fulfilling.
Measure your fear in inches
Play out your most realistic fears and imagine the worst-case scenario. What are the odds of it happening and what can you do to prepare yourself for it in case it happens?
If this fear comes true, would its effects be permanent or temporary? Is it normal and inevitable such as natural death or growing old, or far-fetched like being abducted by aliens? On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad are the consequences of this fear?
Gathering objective data about your fear can help put it in its proper perspective in your life rather than let it remain some mystical terror which you magnify and shudder unreasonably from, which leads you to the next tip…
The best way thing to do in facing up to your fears is doing something concrete about it. While you can’t eliminate the root cause of every fear you have, doing something about what’s within your power will make you realize that you’re not completely powerless to just succumb to it either.
Things like having a fire extinguisher in your house, taking good care of your health, parking in well-lit areas and locking your car, preparing well for a performance or speech, or starting out small if you’re shy or afraid to swim, taking up hypnosis or relaxation classes, you get the idea. Doing something can spell the difference between conquering your fears or letting it conquer you.
Knowledge is power
Often the reason we fear is because we are afraid of the unknown. When you’re dealing with what you don’t know, potential consequences seem far worse than they actually are. Take the power out of your fear by understanding it.
Map out all the potential outcomes, both good and bad, to get a genuine understanding of the risk of it happening and the benefits if it’s prevented. Analyzing these outcomes will help you see clearer through your fear and empower you to manage it better, like recovering from surgery or living with cancer, for example.
Faith is good for you
Last but not the least, people who trust in a Being or natural order higher than themselves in things they have no control over are scientifically proven to be healthier, less stressed, and have more peace of mind than those who have no one or nothing but themselves to rely on.
Whether it is trust in a supreme being, karma, or the universe, fear is lessened in the expectation that things will always work out for the greater good in the end.
In Christianity alone, there are about 350 verses in the Bible saying “Do not fear” and teach believers to cast all their cares onto Jesus.
This is not the same as blindly throwing your fears to fate. On the other hand, faith acknowledges that fear is very real, but trusting that someone bigger is still in control when you aren’t anymore will definitely make it easier for you face your fear and eventually let go of it.
Photo by Alex //Berlin _ Alexander Stübner
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7 thoughts on “Facing Up to Your Fears”
What really hurts us is fear itself.
It isn’t really the thing that we fear that holds the power. I have realized that I too often procrastinate on uncomfortable phone calls, but every time I have taken the call I feel much better afterward.
The call itself isn’t dangerous.
We need to learn to face our fears because every time we do we grow and we can stop thinking about the thing we are afraid of.
Fear can be a useful emotion if we take it at face-value and don’t add any imaginary scenarios to it.
It’s the feeling of fear that we react to and not what it is that we are afraid of.
Well said my friend! Especially about knowledge being power. I recently took a psychology class and it turn my thinking 100% upside down. The things I thought about fear used to make me even more fearful but know I realize that fear can have it’s advantages.
Funny I should run across your blog. I was just thinking yesterday how much fear has played a part in holding me back and how it makes inroads into so many areas of our lives. Sometimes we don’t recognize it as fear because there aren’t strong emotions accompanying it. It often is a fear of the unknown like you said, or a fear of a repeat ‘bad’ event. Either way, we become masters of avoiding moving forward and masters of the comfort zone – and I do believe more than we realize has to do with fear, even when we believe it’s another reason.
I think the fear of being judged is what holds people from trying new things.
Facing our fears is a tremendous step in our personal and spiritual development, and one of the first steps in facing our fears is identifying specifically what we fear most and how it shows up in our life to block us from living true to ourselves.
In the Life On Purpose Process one of the most critical steps to helping people clarify their true purpose is to help them uncover the fear and lack-based ‘Inherited Purpose’ (the lie we’ve told ourselves about ourselves and about life for so long we’ve come to believe its true.) While it’s often the most challenging of the 6 passages it’s also one of the most enlightening and freeing steps to living a life on purpose.
Thanks for your excellent article.
Great article Mark. I really like what you said about how fear causes us to dismiss people and situations that could otherwise make our lives richer and more fulfilling.
I also like the part about faith – and to add a little spin to it – facing our fears and acknowledging each step we take moving forward to more fulfillment in our lives is what builds up our own faith in ourselves. We can call on that faith when facing new challenges as we keep growing. That is what confidence really means – con fides – with faith.
Thanks for sharing this.