“Feel the fear and do it anyway”. But is not always easy, is it?
Apparently most fears are learned, none of us was born with fear. Which therefore means that fear can be unlearned.
The most common types are fear of loss of some kind – money, job, people, relationships, respect from others etc… -, fear of rejection or embarrassment and fear of failure.
Mind that I’m not talking about specific types of phobias here.
More about how fear can paralyse action. It shuts down the brain triggering our innate “fight or flight” response. In certain circumstances this paralysis manifests also on a physical level: sweaty palms, a raised heart-rate, a stomach that feels like it’s doing somersaults; all of these are a by-product of fear.
It is a both terrible and useful emotion, as while on one side can keep us safe, on the other can limit creativity, preventing us from seeking or even taking opportunities and at times stopping us from living a fulfilling life.
But how can we overcome fear and anxiety?
Or actually how can we manage it so we become comfortable with it?
1. IDENTIFY YOUR FEARS
Identify what scares you or makes you anxious is the first step to overcome it. We all have that one thing that we really dread.
For me for instance is mainly the fear of falling. As far as I can remember my mum is always been super apprehensive with me growing up. I can still hear her voice in my head saying “Be careful not to fall’. Maybe is due to this kind of upbringing that made the fear of falling following me my whole life, preventing me to enjoy certain situations or even try sports and activities that I’d love to practice.
Remind yourself that Denial is not a river in Egypt. Admitting at least to yourself to be scared is not a sign of weakness or vulnerability, the opposite. It means you are willing to do something about it.
Practice visualising yourself acting with confidence towards that situation or event that makes you nervous. If you do this near enough every day, your subconscious mind will eventually take it as instruction for your performance.
3. DEAL WITH YOUR FEARS DIRECTLY
The only way to unlearn to be afraid of a certain thing is to address it head on. When you force yourself to face any fear-inducing situation in your life, your self-esteem goes up and your self-respect grows. On the contrary, the fear grows smaller and soon it loses its power over you.
There is a reason why I picked these surfing pictures for this article. The first time I went surfing I was terrified for that very fear of falling I’ve mentioned above. But at the same time I was very keen to give it a go. I cannot say that I am no longer scared of falling at all right now, but certainly after wiping out about 1,000 times from my surf-board and being here writing about it, helped me to re-frame that childhood fear. And in the end, being able to stand up on the board and make it to shore was so rewarding.
4. BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE
In the words of a writer who I really admire, Farrah Storr – definitely grab a copy of her book “the Discomfort zone”, you won’t regret reading it! – discomfort can have rewarding life-enhancing consequences if used in our favour.
Not only we should face it, we should seek it when it is absent. As it’s by overcoming discomfort that we can truly thrive on a personal and professional level.
It worth mentioning that most of the things we are really scared of are simply punctuated by brief moment of discomfort within them.
Think of it like HIIT training – short and sharp intervals of highly uncomfortable breathless moments. At the end of the session you’ll feel incredibly good for having completed it.
Plus remember: your comfort zone will keep expanding each time you’ll step out of it!