Fear is a terrible feeling. It can hold us back from trying new things or pursuing what we want in life. Fear affects our digestion, our sleep patterns, and our happiness, and some of the worst actions done by humans were caused by fear.
It’s hard to be a fearless person, because we all experience fear at different stages. Some of us may be better at doing some scary things even though they’re terrifying, like public speaking, jumping out of an airplane, or free diving. Personal and professional survival sometimes requires finding courage and facing your fears over and over again.
The point of fear, physiologically, is to help us keep safe, and has been a useful part of human beings since the very first humans walked the Earth. It is part of the all-important fight-or-flight response that we get when we’re faced with a dangerous situation, making us more aware of our surroundings and sharpening our senses when we need them.
This means that fear isn’t a bad thing, unlike what many people think. The problem is that unless we manage it, fear can prevent us from living life to the fullest and can lower our happiness and quality of life. It can affect relationships, prevent our personal or professional development, and stand in our way of chasing new experiences.
When you feel like you didn’t do something you really want to because you were afraid, it can chip away at you and your self-confidence and create regret. The good news is, there are some steps you can take to get over your fears and stop being afraid; at worst, these tips will help you push through whatever obstacle fear has placed in your way, even if the fear is still there.
“Once you become fearless, life becomes limitless.”
1. Name your fears
You won’t be able to just wake up and fight your fears; it’s a longer process than that. If you put too much stress on yourself to face your fears, you risk making everything worse. Instead, time is of the essence and take it easy, step by step.
The first thing you’ll want to do is name your fears. Recognize what they are and why you have the fears that you do, then accept them. This is actually harder than it sounds, because it can be hard to accept them and forgive yourself for having those fears. The reality is, though, that no one in the world is fearless and rushes into every situation head on without a second thought.
By naming your fears, you’re taking away some of the power they hold over you. Write it down or tell a loved one about what you’re most afraid of, and you’ll find your fear immediately seems more manageable. By thinking about your fear, you can already start thinking about solutions to your fear or how you can handle it if you were to be confronted with it.
Sometimes, the very act of giving yourself permission to feel your fear, wallow in the emotion and the worry, is a major step in moving forward. You tell yourself that you can feel afraid and worried, but as soon as you stop, then you’re finished with this type of unproductive fear and you can move on with your life.
2. Understand the type of fear you feel
As we have previously discussed, fear has been useful for humans in the past because it helps them handle situations that can be risky for their well being and survival.
Fear helped humans live longer by accepting certain situation and avoiding others. There are different types of fear that our bodies and brains will experience, from the type of fear that is more physical to a more complex, existential fear that is felt intellectually.
It’s important to understand the different between reasonable fears, which are fears born of situations that we know are a risk to our life and safety, and unreasonable fears that don’t make rational sense and don’t make your life safer, only more complicated for no reason. Some examples of reasonable fear are fear of heights, wild animals, losing your job, and more, whereas examples of unreasonable fears are clowns, ghosts, and spiders (in most parts of the world).
“We grow fearless by walking into our fears.” –Robin Sharma
Understanding whether you’re feeling a rational or irrational fear is an important step in controlling and eventually conquering your fears. The reality is that fear comes from uncertainty. When we’re completely certain of ourselves and our ability to handle something, then it becomes a lot more difficult to feel fear. We can also take it one step further when we look at reasonable fears. Although it may seem like you’re afraid because you’re making a judgment that something is dangerous, what’s really happening is that your brain is receiving fear chemical signals.
These chemical signals can actually be injected, thereby inducing fear artificially and proving that fear is just a chemical reaction. That’s why as we get older, we tend to become more cautious and wary of the world. That’s because when we age our brains will process chemicals differently, so a daredevil child may become a cautious adult.
To prevent your brain from being taken over by these chemicals flooding it when you’re afraid, you should start an activity that requires the use of your cognition. This is action in your prefrontal cortex, the reasoning part of the brain. That means to try to solve a problem, whether it’s bookkeeping, crossword puzzles, writing work emails, or anything else that uses reason and is emotionally neutral. This can be as simple as sitting down at a desk.
3. Think about what you can do about it
The next step is to think about what you can control about your fear, change, or even avoid. In fact, it’s possible that your fear is what’s suggesting a good path to follow based on your needs.
For example, if your fear revolves around being in a crowd, public speaking, or competitive natures, think about a career you can pursue or events you can attend that don’t involve these aspects of life.
Though this advice of avoiding things that scare you isn’t always the greatest thing to do because you won’t resolve your fear or move past it, sometimes you don’t need to do any more. Just because you feel uncomfortable sometimes in a certain situation, it doesn’t mean you need to make a major change in your life.
The last thing you should do for this step is to think about is whether you need to take action or do anything about your fear. Sometimes, it makes sense to trust in the decision you made and stick by your guns. It also doesn’t hurt to get a second advice here to know if you’re on the right track with your choice to take action or not take action.
Not all fears are the same. Some fears can be helpful while others should not be addressed either because they take up pointless energy fighting them. Consider speaking with a professional about what you’re going through, even if only to get an expert opinion on how debilitating your fear is and how far along in the process you are.
“Be fearless is having a lot of fears, but you jump anyway.” –Taylor Swift
4. Move out of your comfort zone
Like we’ve already explained, you don’t need to confront and beat every fear that you have, nor do you want to run away or avoid every situation you’re uncomfortable with.
The objective should be neither to try to be fearless nor shelter yourself from any possibility. Instead, try to find the happy medium by respecting yourself and the limits that you know you have while also being open to changing and personal growth.
To do this, start by stepping out of your comfort zone occasionally, first with smaller fears and then when you’ve done this a few times you can confront those that are more challenging and preventing you from living your life. These can be things like taking a little flight near your home when you’re terrified of flying, or trying a new type of food, or even going to the nature museum and learning about and observing some neat insects and spiders.
By stepping out of your comfort zone a little bit on a regular basis, you’re allowing yourself the possibility of controlling and eventually overcoming your fears of the unknown by becoming more familiar with something.
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”
5. Meditate and let go of paralyzing emotions
Some fears, like we previously explored, are more irrational and unreasonable than others because they’re more emotional and psychological instead of having to do with our physical wellbeing.
These fears, if we don’t learn to manage them, can affect our lives negatively by preventing us from seeking the jobs or promotions we want, by engaging in valuable and new experiences, and even meeting new people and trying new things.
These fears can come from the need of perfectionism, of wanting to do it perfectly just because we’re afraid to fail or make a mistake along the way. Perfectionism, the idea that the only good things or worthy things have to be perfect, is usually a worse quality than we think. It can be the cause of many fears and holds us back from learning an instrument, taking up a new sport or activity, or going to a certain event.
A good way to let go of the paralyzing fears and perfectionism is to meditate. By sitting quietly and clearing your mind, focusing only on your breath or on one single word or phrase, you’re essentially rewiring your brain. Even five minutes a day can have an impact on your brain function.
If you’re unable to spend time every day doing this, you can start smaller and just do it when you’re feeling afraid. Take a step back and stop for a moment. Focus on your breath, and fill your brain with oxygen. You will notice that it’s a very effective tool to drive out fear and help you take control of your emotions.
Related: How To Overcome The Fear Of Failure
“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” –Dale Carnegie
6. Embrace the unknown
A lot can be said about the simple act of embracing the uncertainties.
At the end of the day, it comes down to a simple decision: allowing uncertainty to control your fears and therefore control you, or embrace it as a thrilling emotion that lets you challenge yourself and let out your inner adventurer.
Give yourself every chance of success and motivate yourself to live every day as fully as you can, because you don’t have do-overs or the chance to restart. This is it.
Fear can control us and weaken us, yes, but it can also make us stronger, more resilient, and more attentive. The choice is yours, but it helps knowing that overcoming fear and using it as a tool instead of letting it control you is doable, and not as hard as it sounds. Sometimes, all it takes is the reminder that fear can actually endanger us and harm us.
By knowing that fear can harm us, we can learn to move past it. Accept it, understand it, and then tuck it aside and move on, understanding that you can revisit it another time if you wish.
Although fear is crippling for some of us, and we all have certain rational and irrational fears, these 6 steps can help you manage it and live life to the fullest instead of allowing yourself to be boxed in by fear. These methods are tried and true, so the next time you feel the fear chemicals taking over your brain, take a step out of your comfort zone and be prepared to change your outlook and your life for the better.
You won’t regret it, that’s for sure.