Finishing school for the summer of 2009, an American substitute teacher recommended I read ‘Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway‘ By Susan Jeffers. It’s a personal development book that wasn’t really known in the UK at the time, especially by my peers. But after the summer holidays, I would embark on a new Creative Diploma that would see me public speaking, a lot. Knowing how fearful I was of this, she told me to go away, read it and practice the easy exercises inside it, to overcome the fears that were holding me back from reaching my potential. And every year, since buying the book whilst on holiday that summer, I’ve re-read it whenever a challenge arises for a little reminder of the amazing techniques inside.
Overcoming our fears isn’t usually the first thought we have when thinking of ways to be happier. And yet, having the confidence to follow our passions, and participate in activities we would usually shy away from, gives us back the control we feel we might have temporarily lost, ultimately making us happier!
There are all kinds of fears that hold us back throughout life. People fear rejection, embarrassment, loss of love, loss of financial security and loss of respect. Harbouring these fears puts us on a scale of feeling pain, helplessness, depression and paralysis. We let our fears control and consume us, holding us back from living our dreams. But by facing them, we put ourselves on the scale of having power, choice and excitement, and we generally feel more productive emotions.
The good news is that all fears are learned. We aren’t born being fearful. Instead, we are the root cause of them. That means that with a little self-discipline and practice, we have the power to overcome our fears and stop them from holding us back.
3 steps to overcoming fear:
1. What is holding you back?
Make a list of all the things you’re afraid to do, such as moving to a new city, leaving a stable job or leaving a long-term relationship that no longer fulfils you.
2. Ask yourself, “why am I afraid of this?”
Once you’ve made your list, begin to think of why each statement causes feelings of fear for you. For example, you might add to “I’m fearful of starting my own business” with “because I’m worried I won’t make it financially, and I might embarrass myself if it fails.” Once you do this, you begin to realise that you are the one creating your fears by imagining the negative future outcomes.
3. Imagine the best possible scenario.
Instead, take that sentence and transform it into a positive one. For example, you might say “I am no longer fearful of starting my own business and failing financially, because instead I will work hard and do whatever it takes to make my business successful.” Doing this flips the fearful and helpless attitudes we have towards our fears, and immediately transforms them into positive, empowering visions for success.
Other strategies to help:
- Use positive affirmations: Affirmations are powerful statements that allow us to create a success-oriented mindset by stating something in the now, and believing it to be true. The next time you start to doubt an outcome, imagine the reality you desire and then form a positive statement that declares it already being achieved. For example “I am so happy and grateful now that __.”
- Change your language: By wiping “can’t” from your vocabulary and acting “as if” you’ve already achieved your desirable outcome, you start to behave and think as though the outcome you want is already occurring. You begin to feel more affirmative and have more encouragement to attract your desire in a particular situation, taking action towards your goals. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and visualise successful outcomes when you start to doubt yourself. And if you suddenly start to think “what if __ doesn’t work?” change it and start to think instead “well, what if it does?”
- Build up to bigger challenges: Starting small is often underestimated. But taking on smaller challenges, and working our way up, gives us the confidence needed to achieve greater growth and success in the long-term. If you want to run a marathon, start slowly by first embarking on 5k runs and eating better. Similarly, if you want to start your own business, take a step in the right direction by contacting suppliers one day, or building a website first. Breaking our goals into smaller, more manageable steps, stops us from feeling fearful at the huge scale of them and keeps us pushing towards.
It’s so refreshing to realise that the fear of something won’t actually ever go away. We are always going to experience fear whenever we take a step towards anything that is new and unknown to us. But feeling that fear, and doing it anyway, forces our self-esteem and sense of personal pride to sky rocket. The more we face our fears, the smaller and more manageable they become, and the happier we feel knowing we can reach our goals.
Use this time of staying home right now to move towards the fears that are causing you anxiety and holding you back. Whether that’s doing a home workout each morning and moving in the direction of getting fitter and signing up to that marathon, or finally working on a project you have been putting off because of your fear of failure. Take this time for you, visualise your ideal outcome and just do it!
No matter what the particular situation is, you will handle it.