“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
— Nelson Mandela
As human beings, we’re hard-wired for fear and back in the days of the Neanderthals, this innate reaction of fight, flight, or freeze was fundamental to our very survival.
In modern times, however, while this fear still has its purpose, it often harms us more than it is beneficial.
Whatever form it comes in, for most of us, fear is the single biggest thing that stands in our way from becoming the best version of ourselves and living our best lives.
Whether it’s fear of failure, change, judgment, rejection, or all of the above, at the very core of it, it essentially stems from our resistance to uncertainty.
The lack of control and not knowing exactly how our lives will unravel often paralyzes us; keeping us from taking risks and staying in the bubble of what we believe to be ‘safe’ (aka our comfort zones).
The good news is that while conquering our fear is easier said than done, it’s hardly impossible.
Below are 5 potent ways to help you face your fears and stop them from holding you back once and for all:
1. Fear Setting – Define Your Fear(s)
If you happen to be a fan of Tim Ferriss, a best-selling author & renowned podcaster, and thought-leader, you may have heard of this simple yet powerful exercise.
Fear setting is something he credits much of his success to and to this day, he makes time to do it at least once a quarter.
Instead of setting goals, we ‘set’ our fears by taking the time to explore our fears in a thorough manner. This is important because “we suffer more in our imagination than in reality.”
What he means by this is that when it comes to taking a risk or doing something new, we instantly think of the worst-case scenarios, which (almost) never happens.
A big reason why fear tends to keep us stuck is that we often look at our fears only through the surface level.
Fear setting, however, encourages us to lean into our fears; First to understand them (define), then think of the worst-case scenarios and honestly assess the likelihood of them happening (prevent).
And lastly, you’d need to come up with actions that you can take should the worst-case scenarios end up happening (repair).
Once you complete this challenging yet worthwhile exercise, you’ll likely have more clarity about the realities of taking action and feel more at ease & confident about taking a leap that faith.
2. Talk it Out
When you’re contemplating making a big change or taking a risk, it can be all too easy to think that you’re alone.
Truth is, while others may not have walked in your shoes or faced the exact same predicament, chances are there are at least a handful of people in your life that have had faced similar circumstances or situations.
Talking your worries and fears out with someone you trust, not only feels cathartic, they may even be able to offer insights and solutions that you may not previously have thought of, or at the very least, they can lend an emphatic shoulder to lean on.
If you’re not comfortable talking it out just yet, jotting down your thoughts in a journal could also be an effective way in getting a better understanding of your fears and help you figure out your next steps.
3. Recall Your Past Failures
They say ‘the only time you should look back, is to see how far you’ve come.’
I’ve personally found that looking back on previous experiences can provide the boost you need to ‘feel the fear and do it anyways.’
Chances are, there were some risks you’ve taken that didn’t quite pan out the way you hoped or expected it to. Perhaps those experiences may have ended up in failure, pain, embarrassment, or all the above.
Yet despite, however ‘bad’ the experience was, you were able to bounce back and are still standing strong today. You may have even learned priceless lessons in the process. In short, it was far from being the end of the world.
Each one of us has fallen ‘flat on our face’ at least once before. Choose to see these ‘failures’ as a stepping stone that is getting you closer to where you want to go. After all, when you know better, you do better.
4. Craft a Resilience Résumé
Alternatively, it’s just as powerful to recall moments in your past where you do take a risk and it ended up working out – perhaps even better than you’d hoped.
During one of our Self-Care & Mental Health chat on Clubhouse on this very topic, Dr. Jacqueline Ashley, an award-winning social worker & coach, shared that creating a resilience résumé can be a great tool in reminding us that we’re more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
To start, list down accomplishments that you’re most proud of; perhaps they can be your most recent or most memorable. Then, go back further to your past and write down as many experiences where you did something new or stepped out of your comfort zone.
You can list them as simple bullet points, or better yet, elaborate on the experience, write down your thoughts and emotions, and how it felt to accomplish something that you didn’t think you could do.
Reviewing this list can prove to be empowering and will give you the confidence you need whenever you feel fear or self-doubt clouding your thoughts.
5. Visualize Positive Outcomes
As mentioned earlier, when it comes to doing something new or taking a risk, most of us have a tendency to think of all the things that can and will go wrong.
While this can be beneficial when we’re fear-setting, it may lead us to self-sabotage.
When it comes to visualizing experiences when coupled with strong emotions and feelings, our brain doesn’t know to differentiate whether it’s real or not. Hence, it’s in our best interest to focus our visualizations on positive outcomes.
When practiced regularly, visualizing your desired outcomes as if they’re already achieved not only can help to kick fear to the curb, it can actually accelerate their manifestation!