“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown
You know that gut-wrenching feeling you get when you’re scared or anxious?
That feeling that gets you in an instant panicky mode and freezes you from taking action?
I know you do, because we’re all scared of something and Different people fear different things, some people have a unimaginable fear of heights, a small 3-step ladder will get them shaking and the thought of sitting on balconies at a concert will make their skin crawl.
Then there are people who are frightened of snakes, others fear loneliness, or losing their love ones.
I know people who are always wearing a mask, very afraid of how people perceive them.
Still others are afraid of dying, some panic at the slightest thought of something happening to their children.
Nevertheless, many of us are frightened of something. But have you ever asked yourself, what fear truly is, where that fear comes from? What causes people to be afraid?
Everyone has a deep rooted fear, and it is totally o.k. to be afraid of something, think about it, that’s one of the things that make us human after all.
However it is 100% wrong to let that fear consumes you or take over your life. Life should be a happy experience not a fearful one. But irrational fears hold us back and keep us from enjoying our lives as much as we might like to. If you’re tired of letting your fears get the best of you, here are some proven tips and strategies to take you from terrified to calm and confident.
Before we can overcome our fear we first most understand what fear is.
Fear is “an emotion stirred by immediate danger or pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined“. It is a response to the immediate stimuli.
Thus fear is just a state whereby you feel frightened or afraid, regardless of whether you should be afraid or not. It is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that causes a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding or freezing from perceived traumatic events. Keywords here is perceived, that means even if there is nothing to fear, we may respond to a stimuli occurring in the present or in expectation of a future threat.
The empty feeling in your gut, the racing of your heart, palms sweating, the nervousness—that’s your brain responding in a preprogrammed way to a very specific threat.” Says Joseph Le doux of the Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety at New York university.
LeDoux adds: “Since our brains are programmed to be similar in structure, we can assume that what I experience when I’m threatened is something similar to what you experience.”
The good thing about fear
Fear is actually a tool to help us escape danger. When our precedents were confronted with saber tooth tigers it was fear that triggered them into action to safe their lives.
Fear back then was just; it was a life saving emotion.
Fear nowadays is not.
The problem with most of the fear we face today is, about 90% or more of the fear people experience today are non-physical fear – fear that only exists in their heads. We think we’re in danger but we really aren’t.
So this mental fear is what we should be overcoming. How to overcome this you ask? By first identifying the different types of fear.
“There’s two types of fears says Natasha Sharma, a psychotherapist based in Toronto.
One is natural, as humans we are born with the ability to feel fear and we need this in order to determine everyday threats — basically animal instinct,” she says. Sharma says the second type of fear occurs when we’re exposed to other people or overwhelming experiences in our lives that inflate our sense of fear.
“This type of fear is irrational fear and it varies by person. Some people will always be more fearful than others,” she tells the Huffington Post Canada.
But where does this fear originates from? I believe that fear originates from any kind of threats to your self esteem, spirit or life. For example, if you are afraid of failure, any kind of unsuccessful event is a huge blow to your self esteem and spirit and every time you encounter one of these unsuccessful events your fear only grows stronger.
In case of fear of death, which almost all people have, any life threatening situations are extremely tense situations. Anything or any being which acts as a threat to your biological life generates fear in you.
The origin of your fear
Fear comes from:
1. Traumatic experiences in your past especially your childhood.
2. Through nurturing (everything we learned from our surroundings including our primary caretakers during our young years. This fear is initiated by adults to the young mind of children.
The things we fear, we most likely don’t do. That is our thinking process, if we fear it, we won’t do it.
So what happens if we think about that process in a different order? What if we look at fear a little different.
What if instead of thinking, I wont do it because I fear it, we say I will do it because I fear it.
How do you overcome your biggest fear?
By start doing and stop thinking so much. By placing action in front of your fear. You stop to think of not being able to do that which you fear, you simply start to do it.
Turns out, it’s easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting. Those forced baby steps create the early belief in your abilities, which create the motivation—and a virtuous cycle quickly develops.
Why overcome fear?
It is necessary to overcome your fears.
Simple! To live to your full potential.
It is fear that keeps us from doing the most fun and life changing things.
You might say but it has kept me from danger, but at the same time it keeps you in a shell where you can’t really enjoy your life because you are fearful of what may happen.
So there are a whole host of reasons why you should overcome fear. I’ve condensed them into 4 key ones:
- Fear keeps you in the background.While many think that fear actually protects, the truth is that fear only convinces you that you are not capable enough to accomplish your wildest dreams, it tells you to keep quiet because everyone else knows more than you and are smarter than you. Fear has an unparalleled ability to force us in our oh so destructive comfort zone which only limits us to try greater things. Fear makes us lead a smaller life.
- Fear Limits Your Full Potential and stops your growth.
Fear brings you to accept the what is and shun the what you could possibly be. Most of us know that we can be much more than we are at this moment, but still we chose to lead the life we live. Why because we are afraid of what we will lose. We are so afraid of the unknown.
In the Map of Consciousness – by David Hawkins, fear is the fifth lowest level in the whole map of 17 levels. Not only that, fear is at an energy level of 100, which is quite a distance below 200, the first awakening point from being a sleepwalker. To be living the life of a sleepwalker, means you are chained to fear. you are being held back from rising to the higher levels of Courage, Acceptance, Love, Joy, Peace, Enlightenment and so much more of the positive.
As long as you let fear drive your thoughts, feelings, decisions and behaviors, you will always be a sleepwalker. Don’t let your life become a byproduct of fear, instead let your life be driven by desire.
- Fear Is A Waste of Your Energy
Fear is illogical and a waste of emotional and mental energy.
Every moment you waste on fear, the stronger your fear become. The more you think of it, the more you become fearful. Instead of being fearful, it is better to understand, accept and process the fact that you are fearful. Understand that fear is only holding you back in life and seek a way to trump your fear.
Also remember that for every moment you spend being fearful, you have one less moment for positive thoughts and feelings, which can blossom into a whole other spring of positive effects. How would you rather spend your time – being happy and positive, or being negative and scared? I pick the former any day.
- Fear Is All In Your Mind
Every thought, starts in your mind. Surprisingly most of the fear we are having is also mental fear. It’s like being afraid of a snake by a simple mind picture of it. Seeing the snake in your mind, looks scary and seems scary- however that snake in your mind is harmless. This mental fear you carry everywhere around. You become so afraid of a mental picture so when you see it in real life you are ready to faint.
mental fear is based on danger made up in your mind. This fear arises because your brain somehow formulated a perception these non-physical dangers are real dangers – when they are not.
As you can see, fear not only paralyses us in reaching our full potential and holds us back, it also messes with our mental state of being.
So to help you get going, I detailed some steps to crush your fear once and for all:
Step 1: Learn More About What You Fear and understand it.
The more you understand that which you fear, the better your chances of overcoming it. You can challenge the negative thoughts and feelings associated with your fear by learning more about them. Jeff Guardalabene, a clinical psychologist in Portland, said:
For example, with a fear of flying, knowing that the wheels will go “bump” when they are retracted, understanding that it is normal to experience mild turbulence, and even peeking at the accident statistics for airplane flight (hundreds of millions of flight miles with barely any accidents), can really help.
Knowledge is power. And comforting.
That’s why it is of utmost importance to understand you fear.
It’s so important to 100% understand your fear, fear is one of the main reasons people feel overwhelmed. This can also cause you to feel intense anxiety or nervousness.
Reflect on your fears and notice how much they affect your life. If your fear causes:
- intense anxiety
- panic attacks.
- You recognize that your fear is not rational.
- You avoid specific places or situations.
- Avoidance of the fear causes distress and interferes with your functioning.
Now that we know the powerful grip fear can have over our lives, there is one more area that we have to touch upon for a deeper understanding of fear.
Understanding the symptoms of fear
Fears often manifest as phobias, which can include situations (fear of public speaking or raising your hand), animals (fear of snakes or spiders), blood, injections, etc. When you experience fear, physiological, mental, and emotional reactions occur, which can include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy
- Heavy Sweating
- Overwhelming anxiety, panic
- Needing to escape
- Feeling detached
- Feeling powerless to your fear, even if you know it’s irrational
Step 2: Know yourself: It is important to know thy self in fearful situation. Know what emotions will arise, which one of these symptoms you’re more likely to experience and what do you normally do when fear arises. If necessary write it down and remember it.
Step 3: Acceptance
For many of us it is hard to accept the things we fear and cannot control. However to be able to rid ourselves of the fear that binds us we should fully accept that which arouses our fear.
Step 4: dig deep to understand the root cause of your fear.
Knowing why you’re afraid—the root cause—might also be insightful. Digging deep and discovering the root core of your fear is worthwhile, because only then can you openly communicate about your fear.
Through this deep dive you not only discover the reasons or reason why you are afraid, it also shows you ways to tackle other fears of yours.
Communicating about the process can not only help you understand but also help you accept the fear so the healing process can start.
Digging deep actually is the process of when you reflect on any traumatic events from the past (mostly during childhood and adolescent).
This is the best way to overcome ones fear, if for example you cannot go through this alone, after reading many books, blog posts etc. about overcoming your fear then it is wise to consult a professional.
Step 5: Acknowledge your fear.
Usually we try to ignore our fear, we tend to put it somewhere in the back of our mind. That is easy but it takes a hell of courage to acknowledge it and face it.
In the process of eliminating ones fear it is very important to take into account everything that happens in the mind and in the body when you feel fearful. This means that you will own every emotion, thought and action that you experience when you think or come into contact with that which you fear.
It is also very important during this process to understand your fear triggers. The triggers are things, places or situations that immediately arouse your fear. E.g. continuing with our fear of snakes, if you see the shedded skin of a snake on your path, you immediately assume that a snake is right there hiding in the bushes waiting to attack you. Or if you have a fear for the death, seeing someone in an accident suffering might scare you to death.
It is very important to know your triggers, so you can tackle the fear on all levels. The more you know, the better.
Understand that the less you know about your fear the more power it holds over you. Only by asking the right questions, will you be able to identify your triggers and get rid of your fear.
The same way you identified (mentally) what your triggers are, the same way you should mentally think how you want to feel the next time you are confronted with your fear. It is of utmost importance to know the state you wish to be mentally, physically and emotionally when confronted with your fear again.
Step 6: Visualize and Expose Yourself Gently To That Which You Fear
One of the first tactic to overcoming your fear is Visualization. Visualization creates the opportunity to tackle the fear in its deep seated play ground – the mind. As I said previous, most fears are in the mind. So the mind is where you start. You imagine yourself in a situation or a place where you confidently face your fears. Imagine you touching that which you fear or talking to it depending on the fear you have. Helpguide.org, a non-profit resource for confronting health challenges, suggests you gradually expose yourself to your fear by working up a “fearladder”. So, if you’re afraid of snakes, your fear ladder might be: look at pictures of snakes, watch a educational documentary about snakes, you’ll learn much about how they operate, act and react to their environment. Visit a zoo and watch them. Try to learn more about them.
If you have a very deep-seated fear, you may want to see a therapist for guided visualization or hypnosis. Dr. Wylie Goodman, a clinical psychologist in New York, says that in these techniques, the therapists helps you into a relaxed state so you feel safe and secure while facing the feared place or object. Sometimes it’s harder for people to face their fears consciously, so these relaxed-state techniques and being guided by a therapist’s voice might be more effective.
Step 7: Try deep- breathing exercises.
One of the easiest and yet very powerful things to do when suffering from fear and anxiety is deep breathing.
Deep breathing exercises helps to ease the fear and anxiety and helps you think logical instead of emotional. There are many deep breathing exercises that you can take.
The easiest is to incorporate a short and quick daily breathing session in your routine. This will be very helpful when you are trying to overcome your fear, because deep breathing will calm you down and boost logical thinking instead of emotional thinking which will make it easier to face your fears.
So when fearful thoughts arise just stop for 10 seconds and do some deep breathing. Breathe deeply for 10 counts to be calm and face your fears.
Step 8: Be persistent: You can overcome fear and anxiety by being persistence. Just like every other thing in life, overcoming your fears won’t be easy but if you be very persistent it will happen. It might even be harder then you think since many fears are there but we do not know the root cause of the fear, but perseverance and persistence will be the only thing to help you rid yourself of the fear that binds you.
Step 9: Facing Your Fears
Facing your fears is the most crucial step in overcoming them. As stated before, many times fears develop during childhood and during a traumatic situation.
First, it is of utmost importance to understand that some fears are healthy and some situations should be avoided for your own personal safety. There is no reason you should hurt yourself or put your \self in a dangerous situation in the name of facing your fears.
We already know that most fears are based in false beliefs. We fear that a certain object, place or situation can cause or harm us in some kind of way. Take public speaking for example so many of us are afraid of publicly speaking our mind because we are afraid of saying the wrong things, or offending people. We are afraid of what people may say that can affect our self- esteem. But most of the time we are not asked to speak publicly at all. We are just afraid of it because we might’ve seen it happen to someone in the distance past. This is perceived fear, so the next time you get fearful like this, what you should do is reconstruct your thoughts, you’ll also reconstruct your outwards view on what you fear.
So when fear arises do a 10 second deep breathing and remind yourself that it its most likely perceived fear you are feeling.
Step 10: Enlist professional help: If for some reason you feel like you have tried to conquer your fears but because you have such deep rooted fears that whatever you do it feels like you can’t get rid of it, then the best thing to do is to consult with a therapist.
It’s o.k. to get professional help. Together with your therapist you can get personal guidance customized to help you find the root cause of your fear and finally get rid of it.
Do one thing everyday that scares you – Eleanor Roosevelt
Imagine going for your routine morning walk in the park, and on your way you see the shedded skin of a snake; This time without panic or hesitation to continue your walk as if nothing happened. Doesn’t this sound better than freaking out? Please let me know in the comments below.