Five Great Ways to Conquer Your Fears

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Five Great Ways to Conquer Your Fears

It is a rare person who lives without fear of one kind or another. You may fear heights, or spiders, or new situations, or rejection–whatever your fears may be, you can either let those fears form boundaries beyond which you can’t move or grow, or you can face them head-on and allow them to become opportunities to move into new places in your life. The choice is truly yours.

Fear can be paralyzing, literally, for some people.

Fear is not always a bad thing. There are obviously some things about which we should be afraid and in which we should exercise appropriate caution. But if our fears control us, or prevent us from taking certain risks, we allow those fears to define us, to limit us only to courses of action that we deem sufficiently safe, and as a result, many of us never achieve our potential–or we cheat ourselves out of the richness that life could otherwise hold for us.

1. Realize that everyone is afraid of something.

Others may not fear the same things you fear, but everyone fears something, and understanding this can help you not to feel isolated in your fear. You’re not alone, and the fact that you are fearful in some area doesn’t make you a weak person.

Try this: find someone to talk to about your fears–you may find that someone else has faced the same fears as you, and has found a way through them that can help you.

2. You don’t have to overcome your fear all at once.

Try this: write down something you are afraid of, some fear you want to overcome, and make a list of three small steps you think you CAN make to begin facing up to your fear. Choose one and do it tomorrow.

3. Approach your fears as opportunities for growth.

You don’t really want to be afraid, do you? If you think about what your life might be like if you weren’t afraid of that thing, whatever it is, you know that things would be better. If you look beyond the fear to the benefits of overcoming the fear, you may see a world that might just be worth taking some risk to live in.

Take a few minutes and make a list of the pros and cons of dealing with the thing that you’re afraid of:

  • What are the potential benefits of overcoming that fear?
  • How might your life be different if you weren’t afraid of it?
  • What would you be free to do that you aren’t free to do now because of your fear?
  • What do you have to lose by giving up that fear?

If you can objectively appraise the advantages to moving past your fear, you may come to see your fear as an opportunity to grow. The adage, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and all of its various permutations (e.g., “no guts, no glory”) are based on the time-tested principle that we can’t grow if we don’t allow ourselves to be stretched. You know this is true in the physical realm–a muscle that isn’t regularly used eventually atrophies and becomes useless–and it is no less true in other areas of our lives.

Try this: write a paragraph or two about how your life will be different when you overcome that fear that has dogged you for so long, and why the potential benefits are worth some risk.

      4. Be careful how you talk to yourself about what you fear.
Sometimes we are fearful of what we imagine might happen if we step outside of our comfort zone. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that your reasons for being afraid are all valid. I once heard a wise man say, “More important than what happens to us is how we talk to ourselves about what happens to us.” This is so true–we can imagine all sorts of negative things when we contemplate something we’re afraid of, but this doesn’t make those things real.

It is entirely natural to be fearful of the unknown. You don’t know what might happen if you make that phone call to the person who intimidates you, or you’re not sure how the boss might react if you really speak your mind. Why not go ahead and make a list of the possible outcomes? What do you really have to lose if you take the risk? Seeing that list on paper may help you see how irrational some of your fears really are. Don’t forget to include in your list the possibility that things might turn out for the better.

Try this: instead of convincing yourself to believe the worst about something you fear, try imagining the best.

      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 the fear of failure short-circuits ideas, stymies careers and deprives us of experiences and opportunities that could enrich our lives.

If you have an idea and don’t try it for fear of failure, you’ve just given someone else the chance to try it instead–and someone else will, if you don’t.

Our failures can be dead-ends or learning experiences that can lead us to try other routes to success, depending on how we treat them. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That’s a very old saying, but it’s great advice.

Try this: if you’re afraid to fail at something, make yourself a list of the things you can try if you do fail at first. It never hurts to plan ahead. (They put redundant systems on the Space Shuttle for this very reason.)

So what are you afraid of?

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