How to Fight Your Fears
Fear is one of my favorite topics. Much of my time has been spent understanding this emotion and how I can overcome my personal fears. A sense of personal empowerment, accomplishment, and fulfillment surges with each fear I face.
The most important fact about fears that we should always bear in mind is this: Fear is not a rational response to whatever challenges stare at us in life. And it is all in our mind, within us, and not anything external to us.
The purpose of fear is to protect us from life threatening circumstances. For example: to run away when there’s a bear chasing us, or to be careful when handling live electric wires.
Fear can cause us to make an irrational response to challenges we face. Fear imposes limits on our minds, removing our clarity and leaving only negative thought patterns. Fear causes us to act emotionally because we panic, our mind shuts down and we respond instinctively to protect ourselves and our egos.
Fear hinders us in situations where there is no direct threat to life, but we might perceive a threat to our life as we know it. Fear of failure is one of the most crippling emotions that can limit your potential in life. Fear of social censure makes one feel lonely. Fear of heights takes away the joy of reaching mountain peaks and touching the clouds.
A personal story: I started photographing people, because I had a deep fear of approaching people and capturing intimate moments. I used to tell myself these stories: “I wasn’t good enough” and “Why would anyone take me, an inexperienced photographer seriously?”. I essentially created this fear because I didn’t want to “look stupid”. I eventually conquered this fear by doing it despite the fear. I used to regularly approach strangers on the street and ask to take their portraits. The first time I did this, I was shaking so hard, the picture came out blurry, but what I gained was priceless: Momentum towards a new skill and eliminating a fear. I learned that the more you do what you fear, the less you will fear it! Now, two years later, I shoot people portraits professionally and have been published in several publications for my portrait work.
Here are some tried and tested tips on how to fight your fears:
• “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” – The best method to fight any fear is to take positive action against whatever it is that you are afraid of. Is fear of failure stopping you from learning that new skill? Go ahead and learn it! This is what courage is all about: to act despite the fear. (I highly recommend Susan Jeffer’s book)
• Educate Yourself – Learn more and more about the object that you are afraid of. You want to chuck your job and plunge into your own business, but are afraid of the risks involved? Then the best way to reduce the fears is to consciously learn about the business in as much depth as you can. Preparation increases confidence and calms those butterflies in the stomach. Just be aware of “Analysis-paralysis” (I will cover this topic in more depth in future posts from my own experience.).
• Affirmations - Use self-affirmations that give a positive spin to whatever it is that you fear. Write these self-affirmations on a stick-it note where it is easily visible. Say you are afraid of criticism from others, then one possible self-affirmation could be – “I am outstanding. I must be outstanding for all the people I will help.”
• Visualization – Positive visualization is projecting an image of yourself overcoming your fears, and is a powerful technique to fight your fears. If you are afraid of your boss, visualize that your boss is smiling at you, appreciating you, and complimenting you of a job well done. Keep this image in your mind firmly.
• “What’s the Worst Case Scenario?” – Often when this question is asked, you realize how silly the fear is. Example, if you are afraid to ask someone out on a date, what’s the worst that could happen? The other person saying “No”? It’s not that bad, right? One of my most enlightening realizations is recognizing that “I have nothing to lose”.
In my experience, we can always fight our fears, win, and get ahead in life.
What do you think?