We all experience fear, which plays out in different ways for each person. For some, it plays out as excuses they make for why they aren’t achieving the results they want.
For others, it may play out as justification, being practical or being responsible. Fear can be useful because it helps keep us safe, but all too often, that level of safety becomes our comfort zone.
How Does Fear Affect You
When we give in to our fears, it can:
- Create self-doubt in our ability to do something we’ve never done before.
- Stop us from pursuing our dreams.
- Put additional strain on our closest relationships.
- Lower our self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Lead to regret later on in life.
If we allow fear to control us, it will dictate what we will or will not do. We have to learn to overcome the fears that are holding us back from creating the outcomes we want.
Many years ago, I had a real fear of public speaking. Standing in front of other people made me extremely nervous, which often caused me tense up. As a result, my voice used to tremble and my hands would shake, and I rarely made an impact with my words.
When I wanted to become a trainer and speaker, I knew I had to get better at speaking in front of people. I enrolled in a Toastmasters course, which helped me harness my fear of speaking in a more effective way. As I still had a corporate job at that time, I was able to practice what I was learning during management or team meetings, and also during monthly presentations I had to give to all employees.
As I transitioned out of my corporate job, I was able to practice speaking at different business and networking events, initially with audiences of less than ten people. I continued improving my speaking by enrolling in other trainings and workshops, and also taking online courses. That all helped me gain more confidence and feel more comfortable speaking to different-sized audiences.
My most satisfying speaking accomplishment to date has been at a TEDx event in India, where I spoke in front of over 1,000 people. By willing to work on overcoming my fear of public speaking, I have been able to build a new career that involves speaking to people most of the time.
10 Things You Can Do to Overcome Your Fears Right Now
- Acknowledge your fear and understand it as best as you can. Things to become aware of include, “What is this fear trying to inform me or keep me safe from?” and “What is the real fear that is coming up?” The more awareness we have about our fears, the easier it’ll be to deal with them.
- Give the fear a voice. A lot of times, our fears aren’t something we developed ourselves. We may have been conditioned to feel certain fears. Questions we can ask ourselves include, “Is this voice my voice or someone else’s?” and “When did I first hear or buy into that voice?” The answers to those questions can help take the power out of the fear we are experiencing.
- Challenge your fear. A fear can just be a belief or assumption about something we think is true. Instead of just accepting the fear, we should always ask ourselves, “Is the fear I am experiencing really true?” Most times, our fears are false assumptions we’ve made about something.
- Evaluate the cost of the fear. As mentioned previously, our fears affect us, which can be costly in the long run. One way to get a different perspective is to ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” This will help us view our fears differently and make better informed decisions.
- Learn more about the different kinds of fear you experience. Self-awareness is the key to personal growth. As we learn more about why we do what we do and why we experience certain fears, we’re more likely to take the power out of those fears and make better choices.
- Focus on the long-term benefits. By allowing our fears to stop us from doing something now, there will be costs later on, whether they’re direct costs or opportunity costs. Instead, if we can focus more on the potential benefits, we are more likely to do what’s necessary to overcome our fears.
- Get help. There will be times when we may need professional help to overcome our fears, especially if they’ve arisen as a result of significant emotional events. Working with a therapist, counsellor or a coach can be extremely helpful in dealing with certain fears that are holding us back.
- Get into action. It’s easy to over-think something and stop ourselves from taking action. Getting started is often the most difficult thing. By being willing to take small actions, we’ll see progress and build momentum, which will make our fears appear insignificant.
- Surrender and listen to your inner voice. A lesson I learned from Oprah Winfrey is when we are struggling and have done all we can with what we know, then the best thing to do is surrender and be willing to listen to our inner voice. We’re always guided and will receive the right answers, only if we’re willing to be quiet and listen.
- Visualise what you want. Our fears are imaginary. We create mental pictures of potential negative consequences and scare ourselves from taking action. Instead of creating images of what we don’t want, we should create images of the outcomes we want and get emotionally connected to those outcomes. Those positive emotions will help move us into action.
Our fears can prevent us from living the life we truly want. Instead of giving in to our fears, we overcome them by becoming more aware of what’s creating our fears. If we do, we’re more likely to create the results we want. If we don’t, the costs will be significant throughout our lives.
Action Step: Reflect on an area of your life which is not what you’d like it to be. What’s stopping you from doing what’s necessary to create it the way you want it to be? What are those fears? Once you notice those fears, choose any of the suggestions above to overcome them.
Question: What is something else we can do to overcome our biggest fears in life?