Do you have a fear that’s holding you back?
I want to share with you some tools I’ve used to overcome my own fears.
First, take a moment to think of one of your own, so you can immediately see how these tools can be applied. If you need some help, here are some juicy ones: fear of rejection, fear of getting hurt in a relationship, fear of public speaking, fear of flying, etc.
For me, a big one is my To Do list–basically not being able to do everything I expect of myself as well as I expect myself to do it. So for me using these steps means letting go of my expectations for what I can do in a given day, which can be a big challenge for me. What’s yours?
Step 1: Clearly Identify the Fear
It’s really important that you notice and admit to your fear, because it’s internal and easy to hide–even from yourself.
Most of us are masters at hiding our inner fears. No one can see our thoughts, and the actions we take to deal with our fears. There isn’t necessarily anyone to hold us accountable. So it’s really important to be honest with yourself and hold yourself accountable. That starts with admitting your fear and noticing how you handle it.
At this stage, give yourself a number from one to ten that describes how much fear you feel. Some people use a scale from 1 to 100, which gives more variability. But I like 1 to 10, because I think it’s less overwhelming. Use a scale that you feel comfortable with. This number is your baseline.
Step 2: Notice How You Respond
Now that you’ve identified your fear, notice how you respond to it.
There are 4 basic ways people tend to respond to fear, and none of these ways work in the long term. They all provide short term relief, but they create an addictive cycle. When you start to feel fear and anxiety, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling, so your first impulse is to decrease that feeling. These strategies make you feel better for a little bit, but then that uncomfortable feeling comes back…
Here are some ways you might respond:
2) Reassuring yourself it can’t possibly happen or asking others for reassurance
3) Forcing yourself to relax–maybe by meditating, listening to soft music or taking a hot bath (this works if your anxiety is low, but if it’s high you will most likely just find yourself frustrated that you can’t relax!)
4) Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol
Step3: Expose Yourself to Your Fear
The best way to dampen your fear down is to become bored with it. And you will become bored with it if you allow yourself to really feel all the anxiety and discomfort of your fear. Instead of avoiding your fear, you want to rush towards it, embrace it, and invite it in for tea.
Here are some ways you can expose yourself to your fear:
1) Do it anyway. Take an action towards whatever your afraid of. Your action could be public speaking, introducing yourself to someone you don’t know, reading an article on a topic that freaks you out, taking a flight if you’re afraid of flying…
2) Imagine doing it. If your fear is something you can’t realistically do right now (like take a flight) or you don’t feel ready to confront your fear, you can always start with a visualization.
3) Create your Horror Story. Write down your worst case scenario coming true. This is scary, but it can also be a funny way to start laughing at your fear. If you’re afraid of public speaking you can write a story about how you spilled something on your dress as you walked out on stage, forgot what you planned to say, and watched as thousands of people begin booing and leaving. Read this story to yourself over and over again for days until you become bored with it. It *will*eventually become boring and you will no longer feel an anxious reaction (or at least a weaker one) when you read it or think about it. You can also record your horror story as an audio recording and listen to yourself read it over and over again.
As you expose yourself to your fear, give yourself a number on a scale from 1 to 10. Your number will probably be higher as you begin exposing yourself to your fear, and you will probably feel worse for awhile–that’s normal. It does get worse before it gets better. This process of becoming bored with your fear can take a few days to a few months. Stick with it. You will get bored.
Step 4: Let it go
As you fully feel the emotion of fear and anxiety, it can be tempting to fall into a mental loop of worrying. Don’t go there. Feel the physical emotions fully, but do what you have to do to face your fear and move on. This is not avoidance, but keeping yourself from getting stuck. Continue to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 and over time you will see this number go down.
You can get started facing a fear right now by leaving a comment and sharing a fear you can use these steps to work through *OR* share one of your tips for dealing with fear.