Facing our fears head-on and moving past them is essential to living life to the fullest. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Fear is usually irrational. I have a fear of heights. It often doesn’t make any sense, but the emotion of it is hard to overcome. I can be standing on a tower or cliff that is perfectly safe, but my mind will start imagining it crumbling beneath me. I see the joints of the tower buckling or the edge of the cliff giving way. I feel anxiety build in the pit of my stomach. I feel the floor or ground give way beneath my feet. I start to try to picture how I might save myself when I start to fall. I look for a branch I could grab onto. I feel the desperation. I see myself in a free fall. The pain of hitting bottom flashes into my mind. I start shuffling back from the edge.
I have never fallen from any height so I’m not sure where my fear of heights came from, but it definitely exists. I know it is illogical. I can even tell myself in the moment that it is irrational. This helps a little, but it is hard to control the thoughts and mental images that feed the fear. It starts to takeover in my mind even when I know logically that there is nothing to fear. We all have things that frighten us. Emotions are powerful and when used wisely they can accelerate us toward success, but fear can also paralyze us.
What fear is holding you back?
Fear stops us in our tracks. When it is irrational, it holds us back from living life to the fullest. It can impact us in any area of our life. We can use it as an excuse. I have been guilty of letting fear hold me back so many times. A fear of heights is one thing, but there are other fears that are even more limiting. Here are a few fears that have kept me from experiencing the best life has to offer:
- Fear of rejection – This is a biggie for me. I hate being rejected! I’ll very often avoid the situation before I’ll risk rejection. I remember a few girls in high school that I wanted to ask out, but never took any action because I thought I’d be rejected. Of course, by not asking, my probability of success was nil. This same fear has held me back in my adult life as well. I have missed opportunities because I was afraid to ask.
- Fear of failure – This one can make us scale back our dreams so we can avoid the risk of failing. This is really dangerous! It has a high price in terms of living life to the fullest. I’m guilty of this one too. I succumb to it and then wonder why I don’t achieve big things. How silly, but true.
- Fear of confrontation – What if I express an idea or take an action that others don’t agree with? They might confront me. They might criticize me. It could hurt. It could be discouraging. Why should I expose myself to that. I might not be strong enough to weather their challenge. They might see through me or expose me as a fraud. Of course, you can see that I am familiar with this fear as well!
What fear is holding you back? Is it one of these or something else? Do you want more out of life? Are you getting what you want? If you frequently feel you are not, then you are probably being held back by one of these fears. You may not even be consciously aware of it. You may have never even considered that it is fear holding you back.
Recognize and acknowledge your fears.
The first step in overcoming fear is to be honest with yourself about it. If you cannot admit your fear, then there is no way to deal with it. Recognizing fear isn’t usually that hard, but admitting it even to ourselves can be difficult. Our egos won’t let us admit that we are the source of our own limitations. Additionally, if we confess that the limit is within us, then there is no one else to blame for our lack of achieving what we truly desire. By continuing to deny our fear, we are free to blame our boss, our spouse, our circumstances, our parents, our company, or anything else outside ourselves. So, I’ll ask again, what fear is holding you back?
How to overcome fear.
In my experience, there is only one way to overcome fear. You have to confront it head-on. You have to take action and press through the fear. Unfortunately, this is the only way to defeat fear and rise above it.
Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.
I so wish that it was easy and painless to overcome fear! I wish that there was some magical secret to courage that I could give you. I wish I could tell you a simple formula sure to cure. Unfortunately, I don’t think one exists. I do not know of an antidote to fear, except working through it. You have to face it and press through to the other side. As Mark Twain states so simply and elegantly above, you just have to take action regardless of how afraid it makes you. Otherwise, you will live with the consequences forever.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
The longer we continue to wallow in our self-pity and fear, the more it imprisons us. I have tried to overcome fear by reading books, meditating, and even self-hypnosis. What a crock! I was looking for that epiphany that would cure me. It never came. As I look back, I realize that my fears persisted until I faced them and worked through them. Trust me, there is no other cure!
I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.
Mrs. Roosevelt has it right. The only way to overcome fear is by taking action and exposing it as a fraud. It takes time and it is scary. Sometimes it is so scary that it is almost impossible to move in that direction. In this case, you just have to take baby steps. Move slowly, but move. Keep moving toward your fear and gradually, you will build a record of success and before you know it, the fear will be so small that you will barely notice it anymore.
Action cures fear for me.
Over the years, I have pushed myself and consciously chose activities that expose me to uncomfortable heights. I have climbed ladders, rappelled, and rode zip lines. The more I do these things, the less frightened I become. My fear has gradually subsided. I have faced and conquered this fear. I still hear it in the back of my mind from time-to-time, but it has much less control over me than it used to.
This same thing works for other fears as well. When I start getting nervous at work about calling someone to ask for something, I force myself to immediately pick up the phone and start dialing. If I procrastinate, the fear grows and becomes a monster of my imagination that is hard to kill. However, by taking immediate and decisive action, I squelch the fear before it has a chance to get a hold of me. This same approach has worked for me in any number of situations. Give it a try the next time you start feeling nervous or anxious about a particular action. Act immediately. I think you will find it works.
Don’t let fear hold you back any longer. Acknowledge what you are afraid of, immediately proceed by taking action in the direction of your fear, and the fear will shrink. In certain extreme cases, it may not go away completely, but you will become its master instead of its slave. This is enough to help you have a full and successful life.
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Photo by Wolfcreeker