It is a rare person who lives without fearful feelings of one kind or another. You may be afraid of heights, or spiders, or new situations, or rejection. Whatever your fears may be, there are basically two ways of dealing with them. The first is to let those fears create boundaries beyond which you can’t move or grow. The second is to face your fears head-on and allow them to become opportunities to expand your life.
Which approach do you tend to use?
We should also acknowledge the fact that being afraid is not always a bad thing. There are obviously some things that we should be afraid of as a matter of survival. In these areas our fears help us to exercise appropriate caution. But if we allow our fears to control us, we can easily cheat ourselves out of much of the richness that life has to offer.
Five simple ways to address your fears
Let’s consider five tactics to help you overcome your fears, whatever they may be, so they don’t get in your way and rob you of the richness of a full life experience.
1. Realize that everyone is afraid of something. No matter what you are afraid of, you are not alone. There are so many commonly held fears out there that they call them phobias. We’ve all heard of the biggies like Arachnophobia which is a fear of spiders. But how about Bibliophobia (fear of books), Dendrophobia (fear of trees), Leukophobia (fear of the color white), Philophobia (fear of love) or Pteridophobia (fear of ferns).
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Why did I mention all these weird phobias? Because, now that you have seen some of the things that others are afraid of, your fears probably seem a little more reasonable. The point is, everyone fears something and understanding this can help you feel less isolated in your fears. Your particular fears do not make you weird and even your deepest, darkest fear is not unique to you alone.
2. You don’t have to overcome your fears all at once. Let’s imagine that you are fearful of public speaking. You probably wouldn’t want to address this by booking a speaking gig in front of a thousand people. All that would do is reinforce your fearful feelings. How much more reasonable it would be to start small and work up from there.
Fear is an acronym in the English language for ‘False Evidence Appearing Real.’ ~ Neale Donald Walsch
The same principle applies to most fears. If you are afraid to swim in the ocean don’t go to the north shore of Oahu your first time out. Instead, find a quiet little bay somewhere and get comfortable with that situation. Then, as you become familiar with the feel and rhythm of small waves, you can comfortably ease your way into something a little more challenging. One of the best ways to overcome your fears is with baby steps.
3. Approach your fears as opportunities to grow. This involves changing your emotional viewpoint. Obviously, nobody wants to live with fearful feelings. What would your life be like if you overcame your fears? What kind of new opportunities would be available to you if you could just release your fears?
Looking beyond our fears to the prospective benefits of overcoming them changes our focus completely. As long as we are focusing on fear, we feed that fearful feeling. Focusing on the benefits of overcoming our fears removes much of the emotional energy feeding them. Making a list of the pros and cons of dealing with the thing that you are afraid of can help give your focus new direction.
1) What are the potential benefits of overcoming your fear?
2) How might your life be different if you weren’t afraid of it?
3) What would you be free to do if you could let go of that fear?
4) What do you have to lose by giving up those fearful feelings?
If you can objectively appraise the advantages to moving past your fears, you will begin to see your them as an opportunity to grow. There are many wise quotes based on benefits of facing our fears. For example:
Thinking will not overcome fear but action will. ~ W. Clement Stone
4. Don’t let your imagination magnify your fear. The truth is that most fears only live in our imaginations. We are fearful of what we imagine might happen if we step outside of our comfort zone. To justify these fears we invent reasons why being afraid is a valid response. We can imagine all sorts of negative things when we contemplate something we’re afraid of, but this doesn’t make those things real.
The fears you don’t face control you. The fears you face, you move beyond. ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer
Being fearful of the unknown usually has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with insecurity. If the outcome of facing your fears is unknown then why be afraid? What do you really have to lose if you take the risk? Making a list of all the possible outcomes can quickly reveal how irrational most fears really are.
5. Failure isn’t necessarily the end of the world. If there is one fear that is common to nearly all of us, it is the fear of failure. While there are some scenarios in which failure is potentially devastating, or perhaps even life-threatening, most of the time it isn’t. Yet, apprehension over possible failure often acts as a huge restraint that deprives us of experiences and opportunities that could enrich our lives.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. ~ Ambrose Redmoon
If you have an idea and don’t try it because you are afraid of failure, you’ve just given someone else the chance to try it instead. Sooner or later someone else will try it and they will eventually succeed. How will you feel then? Our failures are really just learning experiences that lead us to new discoveries. Learning what doesn’t work is just a normal part of the process.
Most of the time our fearful feelings are nothing more than a conditioned responses to negative assumptions. By changing our perspective and encouraging our imaginations in a more positive direction we can move beyond those feelings and embrace amazing new opportunities and experiences. Don’t allow fear to rob you of that.
So then, what are you afraid of?
How do you deal with your fears?
The lines are open!
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