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Don’t Let Fear Get In Your Way

face your fears

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.

Beyond fearfulness

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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28 Comments

  1. Justin August 23, 2011 Reply

    Hi,

    Like your site. There is definitely some form of fear or another in everyone. I look at fear as something necessary to overcome and progress. Thanks.

    • Jonathan August 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Justin, that is a healthy way to look at fear because with that perspective fear becomes a gateway to new opportunities.

  2. Galen Pearl August 23, 2011 Reply

    This is great. Fear of ferns was my favorite. I have a bunch of ferns growing next to the sidewalk in front of my house. Oh dear! For me? It’s sharkophobia. I’m sure there is a word for that, too!

    The acronym is easy to remember and a great centering mantra. I’m going to post that one near my computer.

    Regarding #4 about magnifying fear, I was reminded of a quote–“My life has been full of terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.”

    Thanks for a helpful and insightful post.

    • Jonathan August 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Galen, that is a Michel de Montaigne quote. He also said “He who fears will suffer, he already suffers from his fear.” Our minds are capable of creating some fearful thoughts if we give them permission to go down that road. I prefer to choose a different road.

  3. Nancy August 23, 2011 Reply

    What timing on this post – I just experienced FEAR out of survival – I was walking home this evening and saw a man looking at me – my instinct told me not good – so I stopped to get ice cream and was going down my street and there he was at a corner on his phone. I trusted my instincts and decided to walk the other way and not go home. I called a friend and she came to pick me up instead and took me home via car.

    So did I FEAR – you bet I did – but I also used my instincts and survival instincts to trust my gut feeling and do something about it.

    Great timing of this post my friend,
    Nancy

    • Jonathan August 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Nancy, that sounds like one of those times when fear is your friend. Maybe it was all in your head, but there are plenty of crazies around and in a situation like that you are wise to play it safe.

  4. Scott August 24, 2011 Reply

    Great post….A few thoughts on fear (I just wrote my own blog: On Facing Fear, Dreaming Big and Prospering) last week. It is perfectly normal to have fear. What we can’t do is let fear become a self-limiting behavior. As you said, we need to face it head on. I have created skillsets to do just this, one of which is using affirmations. The amazing thing is that fear can actually be used as an inspiration to go after what we dream of and prosper!

    Thanks for the message,

    Scott

    • Jonathan August 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Scott, in some situations we can actually reframe the fear energy and use it as a form of motivation. Identifying the source of our fear before we categorize it is usually a good idea. If a big black bear is about to attack me I don’t need to reframe anything, I’ll be plenty motivated to make tracks out of there as fast as I can and analyze it later.

  5. Byron August 24, 2011 Reply

    Hello,

    One of my biggest fears has always been approaching new people and just putting myself out there. It was only recently that I started learning how powerful it is to stay PRESENT, and connect with my body by BREATHING. Instead of worrying about what people think, I get out of my head and ground myself in the moment – what a powerful feeling!

    • Jonathan August 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Byron, for that particular fear (and many others) that is a very effective strategy. Most fear only exists in our head, so getting out of the analyzing mode and into the reality of the moment completely changes our perspective.

  6. Great article, Jonathan. You bring fear down to size, instead of keeping it monster-sized, the way it seems sometimes.

    I especially like #4. Imagination can definitely magnify a fear. We begin to think of all kinds of scary possibilities before we even get started. Investigating the truth of these thoughts is a wise path.

    • Jonathan August 24, 2011 Reply

      Greeting Gail, how nice to have you stop by for a visit. Isn’t it strange how effortlessly we magnify the fears in life instead of the blessings? Focus is such a powerful tool for turning that around. I count it a privilege to be able to interact with so many who focus on the positive while simultaneously shrinking their fears.

  7. David Stevens August 24, 2011 Reply

    Imagine the ‘positive’ Jonathan.
    We all have fears of some kind, work with them, don’t let them be your boss. Imagining the good can help, it’s not a breakthrough panacea on it’s own however it is a great ally.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Jonathan August 24, 2011 Reply

      Hey David, I was afraid you would say something like that :) Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  8. Sibyl August 25, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan: Really great and helpful post. I appreciated what you said about everyone having fears and really showing how fears can be broken down step by step. It can seem so overwhelming at first to tackle a fear, especially one that you have had for a long time, but your advice to just take small steps and chip away at fears is really good. Great post. I am going to be sharing this one on my weekly roundup:) I think it is so helpful.

    • Jonathan August 26, 2011 Reply

      Greetings Sibyl, it’s great to have you stop by. I think that many people hide from their fears which just allows them (the fears) to maintain their fearful and deceptive facade. Once we shine a little light of reality on those fearful feelings they tend to shrink way down and become something much less threatening.

  9. Andrew August 29, 2011 Reply

    Hey Jonathan,

    I think what you said about baby steps is very valid. Most people would tend to dismiss the notion, thinking that they aren’t making any progress… but every baby step adds to the last step, and the one before, and so on.

    And small progress has to be better than no progress at all, so it’s definitely worth the effort.

  10. Vic August 29, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan,

    I’m so glad that you touched base on this topic. Right now fear is affecting us all. You have to look fear in the face and show it whose boss. Like you said, fear is mostly in our imagination. If we can dream up fear, we most certainly can dream up courage.

  11. Norah September 3, 2012 Reply

    A very good article.. thanks it inspired me.. I made the decision to start facing my fears even before I finish reading :) I am a very good student, I always get very high grades, but I don’t participate in class because I am afraid of making a mistake or saying something wrong! When my teachers see my exam papers they are always impressed and wonder why I don’t participate. but this great article opened my eyes to the fact that need to start facing my fears because I want be a successful person.
    thanks again:)

  12. Ryan Biddulph October 22, 2013 Reply

    Jonathan, I feel that seeing the benefits of facing your fear, and releasing it, can force you to do uncomfortable things. Awesome pointer here. Dwell on the idea of doing what you fear to do. Then dwell on the idea of whatever lies on the other side of the fear.

    I never flew until I was 36. I felt a bit nervous before my first flight, and fearful, but I decided that traveling all over the world was worth it. 30 months later I am happy that I conquered that fear.

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  13. Sandra Pawula October 22, 2013 Reply

    I would really love to see another option, Jonathan! Which is the fact that it’s really OK if we decide just to live with our fear. I’m so glad you pointed out that it makes sense to go slow (#2) as it’s easy to re-traumatize yourself when you push yourself to fast, too soon, and without adequate support. Fear is complex and can be embedded deeply in our physiology. That doesn’t mean it cannot be changed, but it’s not necessarily as easy for some as it might be for others. At the same time, recognizing that a fear is simply a construction of the mind has helped me a lot. Thanks for this encouragement.

  14. Liem October 25, 2013 Reply

    Fear is the anticipation of pain in the future. Most of the time our fearful feelings are nothing more than a conditioned responses to negative assumptions. Thanks for the article. Very useful information.

  15. Aware October 25, 2013 Reply

    Very practical post.. In my opinion > beyond your greatest fear you will find your greatest excitement!!! Identify it. Face it. Follow it. Walk through it. You will be relieved and empowered.

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