Everyone is afraid of something. Fear is a primal emotion, a natural survival mechanism when our mind feels your safety is threatened. It doesn’t have to make sense (a kid can be afraid of a vacuum cleaner; you could be afraid of public speaking) but it is, nevertheless, real to us. How do we get it under control?
Fear really feeds on itself – the more you think of something you are afraid of, the greater your fear becomes. Deep fear can lead us to procrastination, indecision, poor self-esteem. It can also slow us down in our path to our goals, because it stops us from taking risks that may fast-track our success. Fear can also lead to stagnation, because when we won’t get out of our comfort zone we will avoid the changes that can expand knowledge, skills, perspective and network.
As Walt Disney says, ‘All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.’ And courage is not lack of fear but acting despite fear.
The first step is to know your fear so you can recognize it when it holds you back. Many people avoid putting themselves in fearful situations without really realizing why, like quitting a job because of a fear of disappointing others, or dating the wrong people because of a fear of commitment.
That said, analyze your fear and see what is realistic and irrational. Play out the worst case scenarios and ask yourself, ‘Can I handle this? Is it as bad as it sounds?’
Then befriend your fear, accepting it as a part of growth. Partner it with motivation or a dream that’s worth facing the fear . ‘I’m scared of getting hurt, and I acknowledge the fear, but I really love this person and I’m willing to face the risks.’ See how the fear actually makes the risk more meaningful?
Then take baby steps to reducing the fear, sort of like numbing yourself to it. Afraid of public performance? Start with a small project, like reading a story to a group of kids. Then work your way up to joining the church choir. Little things like that are low-risk and build confidence.
Photo from impulse.org.in