Fear is a normal emotion, and it's one that we all feel. Sometimes, it can be beneficial because it makes you aware of risks by improving your mental focus and keeping you alert to potential problems. But sometimes there's so much fear that you're rooted to the spot and cannot move. Feeling scared isn't limited to those of aspiring for more success. Even the most successful people experience fear. The secret is to stop it overcoming your actions.
The Many Shades of Fear
Fear isn't binary, or black and white. Fear can take many forms, from mild anxiety to crippling overthinking. Under certain circumstances, it can protect you from danger and stop impulsive behaviours. But, because it's closely tied into your gut instinct, it can also help you improve your decision making.
But not all types of fear are good for you. In fact, this emotion often does more harm than good. It can prevent you from achieving your full potential, fuel procrastination, and cause stress.
Let's say you want to quit your 9-to-5 job and start a creative agency or work as a freelancer. You might be afraid that you'll lose time and money if things don’t work out as you planned. What if you won't have enough clients? Or what if you get sick and can't work anymore?
Do you want to live your life wondering What if?
In the book 5 Regrets of The Dying by Bronnie Ware, it's obvious that fear has stopped people from not only living the life of their dreams, but being who they want to be:
- I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn't worked so hard. …
- I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. …
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. …
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The one that deeply pierces my heart is that last one – I wish I'd let myself be happier.
Fear has kept someone from being happy in their life, and they only realise it on the deathbed. I'll be damned if that's going to be me. So what can we do about fear?
How to Conquer Your Fear
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to get rid of fear completely. Instead, you should make it your ally.
Imagine for a moment what it would be like to achieve your goal, whatever it is. Imagine the worst-case scenario and then come up with a backup plan. Ask yourself: what are the facts? Am I making assumptions? What’s the best thing that can happen? Who can I call for help? How do I know if this really is fear or procrastination?
Use your fear as a source of guidance.
Assess your inner fears and seek possible solutions. Using the example above, you could start a side hustle in addition to your regular job. This way, if your business fails, you'll still have an income. If it keeps growing, turn it into a full-time job. With this approach, you'll get to do what you want and minimise the risks.
Practise Talking Down Your Fears
When you have elevated emotions, like right now with lockdown, quarantine and pandemic being words that you hear on an almost hourly basis, it's important to take a deep breath. The very act of breathing centres you, and helps you focus in the moment. When you're at this point you can ask yourself a very simple question:
“Is this fear mine?”
Fear is the most contagious emotion. It's readily transmitted from person to person. When you stop and question if it's your own feeling of fear, you have a moment of clarity. A spark of awareness that will either own that feeling or let it ebb away. If the feeling is yours you can question it. and if you start rationalising it, then you might want to sit down and write it all out. The rationalisation is a form of resistance and your only hope of kicking its backside is to give it a huge dose of Steven Pressfield's War of Art.
Don't Ignore Your Fears
If you own the feeling, don't ignore it. You're feeling scared for a reason. Again, this is a perfectly normal feeling. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. There's no shame in feeling fear. If you're fearful you get to decide if it's real or not. And if it is a real fear, then you can make a plan for overcoming it and dealing with the worst possible outcome. And if it's not a real fear, ask yourself why you're feeling it. Dig deep and get comfortable with the answer (which is often easier said than done). Quite often what you fear is your own success, and again, a good dose of Steven Pressfield will fix this.
There's a school of thought that says you will never overcome your fear. A great example of this is Henry Fonda, who vomited before every performance through stage fright. I don't believe in ignoring or suppressing your fears. I believe we should understand them, talk them into a “calm space” and then do what we have to do. When we listen to our fears miraculous things happen. They take the voice of their owner. A fear that I used to have was one of not drawing attention to myself. In time when I listened, it was my grandmother's voice. She was trying to protect me from negative attention. It was her fear not mine. I could've made that fear mine, I could've owned it, but by listening I could see it wasn't truly a fear but poorly expressed wisdom from someone who loved me.
If you find your fears are too much for you, then get help. I recommend talking to Honey. A good hypnotherapist can help you re-program your fears so you don't feel so anxious and can start to live a fuller and happier life.
In facing and listening to your fears, you will find that you CAN take action after all. That you can be productive and not be overwhelmed. Because you get to decide how fear behaves with you.