Nelson Mandela once said that “courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” It’s reassuring to know that feeling fear doesn’t rob us of our ability to be courageous. All we have to do is conquer that fear. Which of course, leaves us asking “well how do we do that?” The good news is, you’re in the right place! Below are 9 powerful insights and tips about fear that will help you understand it, identify it, and most importantly, overcome it!
Fear is one of the biggest obstacles holding us back
If I were to ask you what is one thing that you would really love to do, but haven’t started, what would it be? Now, think about why you haven’t started it…what’s holding you back? Usually, when I ask people this question, the answer is either time or money. They don’t have enough time or they don’t have enough money. The thing about time and money is that they are very convincing excuses. We can attach the requirement of time and money to almost anything and justify why we don’t have enough of it. But what if I asked you to dig beyond your apparent lack of time or money (or whatever other excuses you’re holding up)? What if I challenged your lack of time, or debunked your requirement for money? What’s left? Fear is often the only thing left standing.
Fear is natural
It’s ok to feel fear. In fact, it’s very natural, and at times, even life-saving! After all, that is why we feel it! The emotion of fear has a very important purpose; it protects us. Imagine if you were swimming in the ocean and you saw a shark. Now imagine if you felt absolutely no fear! What would you do? I, for one, would go up and pet it. I would also probably get my head bitten off. So in some cases, fear is extremely important! However, in other cases, it shows up uninvited and crashes the party….which brings me to point three.
There is validated fear and false fear
Seeing a shark in the ocean = validated fear. But how about when we feel fear about something that isn’t going to kill us? Or even injure us? Our natural emotion of fear is one of survival. It is triggered when our brain senses a threat. The problem is that only sometimes that threat is real. When it’s not real, we still feel the fear – sometimes so much that it stops us from doing that thing – even though we are not at any risk of dangers. Public speaking is a perfect example. For many people, public speaking is one of the most intense triggers of fear. Is it going to kill you? No! Injure you? No! It is a false fear. The worst that can happen is that you might stumble on your words or forget what you were going to say, but you will still wake up the next morning and live your life mostly in exactly the same way. The key then is to identify valid fear from false fear. What is the worst possible thing that could happen? What is the best possible thing that could happen? If the best possible thing outweighs the worst possible thing, then you have some false fear on your hands!! Push that fear aside and go for it! But how?
Chunk it out
“Chunk it out” is about breaking your goal or dream into “chunks” and attacking just one chunk at a time. Often when we have a dream, a goal or a vision, the thought of accomplishing it is daunting and overwhelming. But what if you just think of one very small step you can take? And then when you’ve done that, think of another very small step. You don’t need to do everything at once, and we have found that one of the best ways to fight fear is to chunk it out, baby!
You’re not alone
This is something that might seem obvious, but that many of us forget at times. When we feel fear – no matter what it’s about – we often think that we are the only one feeling this way. We’re not! Everyone feels fear in one form or another, and as another of our guest speakers said: “everyone is going through something”. In the world of Facebook and Instagram, it’s easy to feel like we’re the only one. It’s easy to feel like everyone else is at the beach in the Bahamas while we sit alone struggling with a job we hate and not knowing what to do about it. But when you actually talk to people, when you let yourself be vulnerable and give them permission to be so too, you realize that everyone is fighting something. Everyone is human, just like you.
Surround yourself with positivity and supporters
While we can sometimes fight fear on our lonesome, often it’s stronger than we are. Alone that is. But is it stronger than we are when surrounded by positive and empowering peeps cheering us on? Hell no! We are so conscious of how the food we put in our body affects our physical health, but sometimes we forget how the food we put in our brain affects our mental health. Who are you surrounding yourself with? What are they telling you? What are you reading and watching? How is it affecting you? Is it helping you or hurting you? The key is to surround yourself with people and resources that lift you up! Listen to your energy. What is it saying when you’re lunching with a certain person or reading a certain book? How do you feel when you leave or finish? Are you inspired to go and change the world? Or do you want to curl into a ball in a dark corner? Sometimes we forget just how much people and words affect us, and the key is to choose wisely. Very wisely!
Seek out opportunities to face your fear of failure
I once saw an amazing TED talk about a guy who was very scared about rejection and so decided to try and experiment. He went out and deliberately sought out rejection. He asked people for crazy things and made seemingly ridiculous requests. And you know what happened? He met amazing people, achieved amazing things, and when he was rejected… life went on…I challenge you to do this with fear. Seek it out. For when you seek out fear and failure, you try things that you may have otherwise never tried, and experience things that you may have otherwise never experienced, and chances are, they will change your life forever! Let’s stop perceiving fear and failure as the enemies, and instead look at them as opportunities! Which brings me to the next point…
Shift your perspective
Fear is what you make of it. You can run from it or face it, and when you face it, you will almost always learn something new. Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, asks her kids every night what they failed at that day. If they haven’t failed at anything, they don’t get dessert! You know why? Because if you haven’t failed at anything, you haven’t put yourself on the line enough, and without putting yourself on the line, you’ll never know what you can truly achieve. So let’s shift our perspective! Let’s not perceive failure as bad or scary, but instead, let’s view it as necessary and exciting! Let’s fail! Let’s fail until we succeed in a way that we never ever would have been able to without those damn failures!
Take the lesson and let yoself laugh
And last but not least, learn and laugh. It is the failures that take us closer to success. So thank them! Thank your failures for teaching you something new. Find the golden lesson and carry it forward to your next attempt. And importantly, laugh at yourself! Sometimes our failures are pretty damn funny! Have you ever tried to mimic a birthday cake on Pinterest? Funny right! Sometimes our failures are pretty hilarious, and when we laugh at them, we reduce their power. So then, let yourself fail, but also let yourself learn and importantly, laugh!
And one last thing… kudos to you! Fear can be crippling, and overcoming it does not just “happen”. We need to be intentional about it! The very fact that you are right here, reading up on how to understand and overcome your fear, shows that you’re being intentional! It shows that you care enough about your dreams to conquer the fear that is holding them back. So I’d like to leave you with a challenge. Think about something that you have been wanting to do, but in which fear has been getting in the way. It could be anything – big, small, serious, crazy, truly anything. Now, think of one small step (or chunk) that you can take this week. Write it down, commit to it, and get out there and go for it! Sure, maybe you’ll fall (and get back up!) but… what if you fly?