How to overcome fear
10 min read
You’re married to your childhood sweetheart, you live in a mansion that was brought in cash from the money you rightfully earned through your successful business and you get to travel the world in luxurious jets, yachts and super cars that you dreamed of when you was a Child. Aka, the dream life!
Sounds good doesn’t it?
What if we told you that this is all possible, would you believe us? If there was one small change that you needed to make, would you take it? Well, that change revolves around fear. Fear is one of the strongest emotions in the world, it can change your behavior, your brain, body and ultimately your life.
Let’s take it back a few steps to the beginning, what’s the most common thing that stops you from asking the person you fancy out on a date? That’s right, fear of rejection. Have you ever noticed that the people who run the most successful companies in the world, don’t care about what other people think of them? Do you care about what others think about you? Maybe it’s because you fear judgment. I think you’re starting to comprehend what’s going on here but, let’s be sure of it. Have you ever dreamt of being successful but, something seamlessly holds you back from taking the actions required? That’s the fear of failure or maybe even the fear of success!
Now that you know all of this, the next question that is usually asked is “what actually is fear?”
What actually is fear?
Fear is something that we all experience in our life’s, this emotional response is intrinsically wired deep in our brains and human nature. When we sense danger, more specifically when your amygdala senses danger, it responds in a way commonly known as the fight or flight response, this can cause the body to sweat, send blood to muscles, increase breathing rate and make the heart pump faster, in order to have the best chances of survival, for example, by sending more blood to your muscles, it would aid in fighting or running away.
The amygdala is part of the limbic system which often is irrational and works on auto pilot and is responsible for things such as habits, emotions and memory. Whereas the rational, thinking part of your brain can sometimes be a bit slower. Imagine this, you’re sat down minding your own business and then… BANG! Your fight or flight system turns on, you jump and begin to sweat but then you remember that you are at a children’s party (your logical mind catches up) and realize the clown probably popped a balloon.
Before we continue, let’s get one thing straight fear isn’t always a bad thing and to be honest, it’s probably the biggest factor in human survival along with a little bit of luck!
Fear is a natural response that helps us react appropriately to a fearful stimulus and in prehistoric times, this was very useful because who would really want to fight with a lion?! Nowadays we aren’t at threat of being eaten by wild animals, however, we do still have fears but, the problem lies in when these fears become irrational and take over your life and stop you from doing the things that you want to do.
So, let’s take a look at some common fears that people experience or have at least heard about.
- Public speaking
- Enclosed spaces
- Open spaces
- being alone
- Fear itself
How to overcome fear
Before we start looking at specific ways to combat your fear in more detail, firstly you should know that fear effects everybody differently and that’s why it’s important for you to actually understand what your fear is. Like we explained earlier with the balloon scenario, our brains can easily become confused or misinformed about what is going on around you, for example, you might think that you’re scared of your mother in law when in actual fact, you fear having to eat her dredded cooking (not based on real life events).
Often, people try to avoid their fears at all costs, whether it’s by ignoring it or displacing it but, in most cases if not all, this makes things worse leaving the fear to haunt you for the rest of your life.
So, right down exactly what it is that you fear and examine how it is having an impact on your life.
Meditation was long ignored by western culture and science but, thankfully much research has proven the benefits of practicing meditation. One well documented benefit is how mindfulness meditation helps mentally healthy people and mentally ill people reduce their negative thoughts and feelings of anxiety, but more recently, studies have shown that mindfulness facilitates for extinction learning of fears, which basically means that it helps you disassociate certain stimuli from your fears. Anxiety, very similar to fear, is also one of the things that are aided by meditation in the fact that it helps calm the mind of daily stressor’s.
Realistically, meditation can be used before, during and even after a fearful experience, to some extent. Let’s take public speaking as an example, before you get on stage, you could take 5 minutes to listen to a guided meditation, when you’re center stage and the lights are shining on you, take deeper breaths between sentences, after all is said and done, be mindful of what went well and grateful for the opportunity.
Although we are huge advocates for meditation, like everything we understand that it’s not right for everyone, whether it’s because you don’t have the time or you find it too hard to get started, it’s a fair point but, there are other ways to relax yourself. Most of these you can find in our self care tips article:
- Doing some exercise, whether it’s a thirty minute gym session or a long stroll.
- Relaxation techniques such as having a bath or massage.
- Journaling either what you’re grateful for or what went well today.
2.) Benefits VS consequences
When it comes to fear, we’re often held back from the life we desire, whether it’s a potential partner or a successful business, your brain sets up barriers to protect you from risks but, at the same time blocks out any opportunities. When it comes to fear, weighing up the benefits to the perceived consequences can be very useful.
The fear of flying is a good example for this one. Many people are scared of flying which can put them off going on holiday entirely or they do get on the plane but, intoxicate themselves with either sleeping tablets or alcohol! But, instead of looking at what could go wrong, if instead they looked at the reward of being in a sunny country, whilst everyone else is stuck at home in the cold, they could reduce the fear of flying and actually start to enjoy the experience.
Another little technique that you could use is the F or E trick – F meaning fact and E meaning emotion, for example most people are afraid of the plane falling from the sky because they heard a noise (emotion) but, in FACT flying in a plane is the safest form of transport, over a car, bike or boat!
3.) Have a growth mindset
When you become afraid of something, it is easy to become stuck in the mindset of trying to avoid the things that push you to your limits at all costs, you get to comfortable in your comfort zone. You start questioning yourself, “what if I fail”, “what if it all goes wrong, you begin to let your amygdala “hijack” your brain, leading to feeling that you aren’t capable of achieving success.
Let’s be real for a second, not everything in life is going to go your way, you’re going to fail, get rejected and face challenging and difficult situations many times but, if you start to adopt a growth mindset, you’ll become more resilient to things going wrong which will help you to adapt and make you less afraid of taking risks in the future. A person with a growth mindset accepts failing forward and learns to grow in the process.
Let’s say that you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve just thought of a new business project but, you need a small investment to get things moving. Someone with a fixed mindset would believe that their whole idea would depend on getting this one investor that showed some interest to invest and if they got rejected everything would be over, whereas if you have a growth mindset you would believe that your hard work and effort will be rewarded no matter the result of one investor, as there are many more sharks in the sea!
4.) Just do it!
I know this sounds very easy to say and it may be over simplifying the concept of fear but, this technique has long been used in clinical psychology to help people overcome their fears and phobias, one method that is often used is called exposure therapy and this is where you expose yourself to the things that you are afraid of.
There are different types of exposure therapy for example flooding – this is where you Expose yourself to your fear straight away until you feel comfortable in that environment and learn to become relaxed so, if you are afraid of heights you would find a tall building and go to the top of it, many therapists shy away from this technique as it can become very traumatic, however, it has been seen to be very successful.
A more commonly used practice for treating people with phobias is called systematic desensitization – this is when you progressively introduce yourself to a situation that you feel anxious about to become desensitized, this is done gradually (graduated exposure therapy) when you use relaxation techniques such as muscle tension and mindfulness practices through each step of your hierarchy of fear, let’s take a look at an example.
- First you learn relaxation techniques such as muscle tension and mindfulness.
- Then you come up with a hierarchy of fear for example, if you have Arachnophobia (a phobia of spiders) you come up with a list of triggers that make you uneasy and rank them on how fearful they make you feel, this could be in the form of imagination, pictures, videos or the real thing.
- After this, you gradually work through the first step whilst using the relaxation techniques.
- Once you become relaxed during the fearful experience, you can then move on to the next stage.
- Repeat these steps until you have mastered all of the stages of your fear and hopefully have overcome it.
These techniques should only be used with the help from a trained professional.
5.) Talk about it
Anyone that has ever experienced fear knows how you can feel and that no one else has ever experienced what you are going through but, that’s not necessarily the case. Many people experience the same fears but are to afraid to share them with others as they feel that they may be judged or ridiculed. By becoming vulnerable and opening yourself up, not only does this make you look confident but, you may also find comfort in knowing that one of your friends, family members or even a total stranger, faces the same fear as you, they may also have some advice on how they deal with it that you could use.
Not only can talking to others help you become comfortable within your fears but, positive self talk can be very powerful as well, positive affirmations are a huge part of the book “feel the fear and do it anyway” which is one of our favorite books, you can read more about here!
When we face resistance leading up to fear we often put ourselves down before we even get to the experience, we say things like “I can’t do it” or “what’s the point” but it is important to affirm to yourself that you can handle anything!
Have you ever heard the quote:
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Well, there’s definitely some truth in the saying and this is something that Jia Jiang found out. As he was scrolling through the internet looking for a way to beat his fear of rejection, he came across a game invented by a Canadian entrepreneur called Jason Comely, where for 30 days you look for a chance of rejection, like asking a stranger for £100! To shorten the story, things went very well for Jia Jiang and he later became a TEDx speaker, which you can learn more about in the book rejection proof.
Our challenge for you is for the next 30 days put yourself face to face with your fears (within reason). We would love to see how your journey goes so, film the experience and tag us on our social media pages which you can find below.
If you have any further questions, remarks or requests for what you would like to see more of, you can comment here on the blog, or message us on our social media channels below.
The content in this article is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice and should only be used for informational purposes. If you are struggling with the topic discussed in this article, we advise that you seek the help from a professional.
Some of the links in this blog may be affiliate links which means if you make purchase on a product, I will make a commission of it but, IT WILL NOT be at an extra cost to you. Any money I make through this is put towards the upkeep and improvement of this blog. Thank you in advance, Jake.