Fear is a bitch. So is anxiety, and so is self doubt. They can be limiting, crippling and spiraling chains of thought. Fear is the enemy which can often stop us from fulfilling our potential and tapping into our deepest desires, rendering them just as useless dreams.
However, fear IS rational. Instinct and ancestral habits have taught us to protect ourselves from risk and danger so it isn’t any wonder that we use fear as a reason to stop ourselves entering unknown territory.
It’s important to identify what “fear” means to you. Is it humiliation, failure, pain? If you’re nervous about acknowledging and accepting your fear then this is also completely normal – we are accustomed to avoid thinking about these things to protect our minds.
That being said, once we acknowledge it, we can begin to tackle it. And this is how.
- Try one new thing a week that takes you a step closer
A meaningful life that is lived to the full doesn’t always have to mean going on grandiose adventures that involve sabbaticals and savings and sacrifice. If your goal is to travel, yet you fear what you leave behind then try travelling on a smaller scale first. Book a weekend away in a remote European village that you wouldn’t normally go to. But think even smaller than that – go to a coffee shop you wouldn’t normally visit instead of a chain – catch a train to a different town at the weekend. Explore… on a small scale. These small victories will give you a taste for what achieving your goal will mean for you, and you’ll be proving to yourself that your fears aren’t quite as powerful as you thought.
- Prepare your mind and make yourself knowledgeable
The more prepared we are, the better equipped we are to handle the unexpected. If your goal is to move into different career path then the best thing you can do is research EVERY aspect of that career right down to the bone. Break it up into manageable pieces and processes of what is needed for you to get there. Perhaps your fear of not being “the right person” for that line of work will dissipate when you realise that the qualifications, training and characteristics required are all easily attainable blocks that you CAN achieve.
- Past experiences
Pick a moment in your life when you felt a similar kind of fear, and you conquered it. How amazing was that feeling?! Not many people know this, but I actually have really bad running anxiety, and in the past this has led to panic attacks on runs. This fear of running (well, more a fear of not being a good enough runner) has been so strong throughout the past few years and still affects me to this day. Sweaty palms before stepping on a treadmill and lacing up for a 5k even. BUT all it takes is for me to reflect on the exhilarating feeling of crossing the marathon finish line and I am reminded that I AM a good enough runner, and that I am worthy of tying up these laces! It’s enough to get me out of the front door, and it is often enough to stop my negative spiral of thoughts getting the better of me when I’m out pounding pavements.
See my post on Running Anxiety/Panic Attacks whilst running.
- Realise that your fears are probably irrational
The brain is an incredible thing. We have the capability to imagine, project, speculate and create. Quite often though, our ability to do all this can leave us subjected to the creation of “what if” scenarios that end up stopping us completing big projects or taking a risk. We can obsess over the “what if’s” that our minds have created and eventually fabricate these into something even more unrealistic. Once you realize what it is you’re doing, that your thoughts which only have a 1% probability of materializing, that we can get over them and move forwards.
- Realise that even rational fears are NOT the end of the world
OK, so now you’ve ruled out the irrational fears that you’re creating for yourself. But what about the fears that are rational. Well, truth be told – nothing you choose to do with your life is going to be the end of the world. The decision to move to another country might very well be risky and yeah, it might very well turn out to be a mistake. Think about the very worst thing that could happen if it doesn’t end well – and if your answer is anything less than death… then, well, your fears aren’t worthy of your submission. Remind yourself that you are tough, that you do have support, and that you will get through an adverse period in your life should things go (for want of a better phrase) tits up.
- You don’t have to compete
Bitterness and envy are huge barriers to people living out their dreams. A lot of people fear starting because they are afraid they might not do it as well as those around them (e.g. starting a business, moving to a city, finding a life partner!). If you’re not attempting to pursue your goals because you fear you might not achieve them as well as your peers then you need to change this train of thought immediately. Yes, jealousy is a toxic feeling and we’ve been taught to not feel it at all. Honestly though, unless you’re super happy with who and where you are in life then you’re going to feel it regardless. All the while you’re focusing on how well someone else is succeeding, you are stopping yourself from going out and doing the same thing. You need to turn that deep-set bitterness into a useful energy that you can throw into your efforts to achieving these goals yourself. Once you’ve identified that the people who appear to “have it all” also have their insecurities and problems, you’ll be able to humanize them more and idolize them less. One of the main reasons we actually feel jealous and bitter is because we are simultaneously feeling guilty for not doing what they’re doing ourselves. Stop focusing on them, and focus on you and your own progress. You’re not on the same path as them, and you don’t have to compete.
We are all here to make the most of life’s journey. Don’t let fear stop you doing just that.