6 Ways to Conquer Your Fears
Don't allow your fears to keep you trapped.
Posted Sep 30, 2020
The difference between a fulfilling life and a stifled one comes down to whether you are in control of your fears or if your fears are in control of you.
I've lived in fear for most of my life. Afraid to show myself. Afraid to love. Afraid of rejection. The growing grays in my hair. That I won't be able to get it up one day. Afraid I won't be able to pay my bills. Afraid my dreams won't come true. Afraid this is as good as it gets. And when you live with this much fear, you are no longer afraid of death. You become afraid of life.
When fear becomes the daily blanket you wrap yourself in, your fears turn into walls as you create your own prison. These walls separate you from your life. You start to die, slowly. Inside. These fears starve you of the new experiences required for you to grow, thrive, and evolve. You become a shell. And life just becomes an idea.
If you feel that fear has stripped you of life and robbed you of sharing your gifts with the world, made you stay behind a window and watch your life instead of going outside and living one, maybe it's time to start breaking down your walls of fear.
Here are six tips to help you free yourself. So that you can start to live again. Love again. Build again. Breathe again. Or maybe for the first time.
1. The Commitment.
We get to a point when we're done allowing fear to rule us. Like a New Year resolution, we tell ourselves we're going to work on dissolving them. We know we need to do this. So we make the announcement. We blast it all over social media. We're pumped. Determined. Done. People say, "I'll have what she's having." But it doesn't last for more than a week. It pretty much ends at the intention. Dissolving our fears becomes a book we've been wanting to read that just collects dust inside our nightstand. For years.
Without an iron-clad commitment to chase, capture, and start dissolving your fears, your fears will outrun you. Always. You can't just be interested in dissolving fears. You have to commit to it. As if you're committing to raising a child. There is no turning back.
Look, it doesn't matter how small you start. You can enter at the shallow end of the pool. You don't have to leap off the diving board. But you do have to take a step forward, even if it's just one. Knowing there is only forward. You can take a step back but you can't stop. You have to get back up. You have to keep moving forward with consistency. Or you are not committed. You are interested and curious and interest and curiosity will not change your life. Overcoming your fears takes commitment.
What does that look like for you? What is getting in the way of your commitment?
2. Play Out Your Fears.
Due to our cognitive distortions, our fears can grow but bigger than they actually are. We can exaggerate our fears and allow them to become monsters. When in actuality, they're shadows cast by our own hand. Or in this case, head. One way to shrink our fears is to actually play them out. Actually play out "the worst-case scenario." Write it down. What happens if you lose your marriage. Declare bankruptcy. Don't win the race. Can't lift the weight. Don't get the promotion. How will your life unfold?
Chances are you will realize the sky is not going to fall. Life will go on. That you've been in this place before and have climbed out of the hole. Whenever we're in our heads, we tend to blow things up or exaggerate our circumstances. We play things back that is not the truth and it causes us to feel panic and fear. We then catastrophize and allow fear to grip our neck.
Write the fear down. Play it out. What is the worst-case scenario? Chances are you'll see that it's not as scary as you thought. You'll start to think of solutions and options to the unfolding and realize it's not that bad or scary.
3. Friend Your Fears.
A quick story: I recently moved to a home at the bottom of the Altadena hills. One night, I heard my trash being tipped over. I peered out the window to see a black animal. There are no street lights here so I couldn't make out what it was. Then I realized it was a bear!
Once my brain computed that it was a bear, which was literally seven feet from my window, I was instantly covered with fear. My body froze. Then I scrambled, didn't know what to do. I have a 7-month-old in the house. I know nothing about bears. Will it climb the side fence and break in? My window lock is flimsy. All I saw was the scene in The Revenant where Leo was getting tossed around like a rag doll from a Grizzly. But then something strange happened. We made eye contact. It was brief. But in that half-second, I didn't see a bear. I saw a calm curious animal looking for dinner behind those soft brown eyes. He glanced at me and then moseyed off.
Most of us see our fears as a bear standing outside our porch. But if you friend it by actually looking at it instead of reacting to it, you'll realize it's not the monster you think it is.
Friend your fear. Name it. Humanize it. Figure out where it's coming from and why it's acting up. Follow that thread and there will be a story there. Once you realize there's a story, you'll recognize that fear isn't a constant. Instead, it was created. By you. It is only a reaction to your story.
And you can rewrite your story.
When you do, you will be less afraid.
4. Reframe the Situation.
Let's say your most crippling fear is of failure. Reframe the situation by redefining what failure means. As you know and have heard, every failure is a learning opportunity. Failure teaches you so much more than success. So, whenever you imagine an outcome as a failure, take the time to reimagine it, redefine it as learning. It's data. Information. Yes, it may be hard to swallow since the feeling of failure will most likely be there. Even if you try to convince yourself that it's not failure. It's just information; information needed to do better and grow.
Here's another example. If someone you're dating rejects you, it doesn't mean that you're defective. Yes, you may feel rejected. But you also dodged a bullet because what would it look like to be with someone who isn't fully invested? The answer is lopsided. You would be setting yourself up for a poor relationship and most likely cementing old unhealthy patterns. And ultimately beliefs about yourself.
Reframing will help you lean into your fears. And it's this leaning into your fears that will make all the difference. Instead of running from it, you will now give yourself...
5. A New Experience.
There is nothing more convincing than a new experience. Affirmations, reframing, and redefining may be powerful ways to start dissolving your fears but a new experience will start punching holes in them. An experience pulls you out of logic and imagination and into real life. When you drop into your body and experience something new, something that scares you, it shifts you internally. You realize the world didn't end. He didn't leave you. You didn't get fired. Of course not just one experience. It may take many. But the more new experiences you give yourself, the less afraid you become.
6. Raise the Stakes. It's Greater Than You.
The fear is not greater than you. But dissolving your fears is. If you see your fear as something that only affects you, you're less likely to commit slaying them.
See your fear as what prevents you from sharing your gifts with the world. Making your dent. Or loving to the fullest extent of your capabilities. Now it's about the people around you. It's about your friends, family, loved ones. And everyone you come in contact with. By making it about others, you will get out of your own way.
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