Fear is the opposite of love and it is the one thing that holds us back from doing, being and having everything we want and deserve. Like the Trickster, fear sometimes looks like something else: prudence, anger, caution…. However, I’ve discovered that when we act from fear rather than love, we make poor choices, take actions that end up leading us down rabbit holes and live a less-than-satisfactory life. I know this from experience, for I stayed an extra 10 years in an unhappy marriage because of disguised (and not so disguised) fear. The following guest article provides some excellent tips on how to lessen your fear and live a more fulfilling life.
Loosen the Grips of Fear and Live Your Most Fulfilling Life Possible
By Jim Hjort
Let’s face it; everyone has something they are afraid of, whether it is a fear of heights, public speaking, social gatherings or going to the dentist. Fear can be debilitating and prevent people from living life to its fullest, both personally and professionally. It’s time to put fear in its place once and for all! Check out these tips to learn how to successfully cope with and overcome situations that bring about intense fear, so you can have a new lease on life.
Make A List — Fear is a natural, adaptive and healthy response to perceived risk, but it can also cause irrational feelings of being incompetent or under qualified to be successful in a new career or role — and paralysis. To overcome feelings of inadequacy, create a list of past accomplishments and qualifications that disprove the fear. Bringing this additional perspective to the situation can help to nullify the “imposter syndrome” that many people are plagued by.
Carma’s Note: You might be surprised how powerful this tip can be. An amazing friend of mind struggled greatly with her own “fraud syndrome” demon until she had to document her accomplishments. It was a long and harrowing journey for her, but she came out the other side with amazing confidence and resolve. I don’t recommend you go through what she did to get those results, but keeping a journal or list of your accomplishments, continuously jotting them down as they occur, will go a long way toward bolstering your self-esteem.
Assess Pros and Cons — Paralyzing fear often results from the human brain’s tendency to focus more on possible undesirable outcomes, and less on the possible favorable ones. Therefore, it can be helpful to deliberately call to mind the potential benefits of your feared action or situation. This exercise can be as simple as creating a list of pros and cons, so that your brain has a concrete, visual reference point for the balancing of the scales, and settle down a bit. Then you’ll be better able to assess rationally if the risk outweighs the benefits you might enjoy by facing your fear.
Carma’s Note: Sometimes you do this naturally, but knowing it works can help you take this step when this process isn’t on auto-pilot. When I first moved to Southern California on my own, I was scared. But at the time I didn’t really notice the fear or let it stop me because the benefits were so obvious. My options were to stay living with my mom and be jobless, or move out on my own, where I knew no one, for a job that payed better than any job I had had previously. It was a no-brainer. Therefore, I know that if you can create a list of pros and cons where the pros clearly outweigh the cons, you’ll be able to move forward courageously, just like I did.
Create A Support System — It can’t hurt to have cheerleaders in your life — positive people who can encourage you to face a fear and push through it. Just as important is to have people with whom you can discuss your concerns. Most important of all is knowing that those people will still be there even if things don’t go your way. Just knowing that can provide the boost of confidence you need to get out and explore new territory, and increase your likelihood of success. If you don’t have people like this in your life right now, it’s worth the effort to find some.
Carma’s Note: This is so true! It is so much easier to be brave when you know you have someone in your corner. I remember how it helped me learn to ride a bike knowing that my Dad was there holding the bicycle steady. And then I was doing on my own, without knowing when it let go. I remember how it emboldened me to strike out on my own, knowing that if I somehow failed, my Mom would be there to catch me and help me get back on my feet. And now, I feel so much more supported in achieving my dreams and goals knowing that my boyfriend has my back. Having people who love you and will be there for you no matter what the results, makes it so much easier to take bold steps and stride confidently into your future.
Build Up A Tolerance — Gradually exposing yourself to the thing or situation you’re afraid of can help you extinguish your fear a little at a time. Start with just imagining the feared situation, if that alone causes you anxiety. Practice often, until you’re not activated by it as much, if at all. Then try observing other people in the same situation from a distance, and so forth, working your way up to actually engaging in the activity. Even then, start small. If public speaking frightens you, start by practicing raising your hand and asking a question when someone else is speaking.
Carma’s Note: This may seem like a silly example, but I did this with vampires. When I was a child, vampire imagery terrified me. A commercial about a vampire movie could give me nightmares for weeks. So I decided that I didn’t want to be so incapacitated by a mythical creature and I took steps to conquer that fear. And now, I not only watch vampire movies and TV shows, I write about the blood suckers, as well! That said, I’m still working on my fear of spiders! 🙂
Envisioning Success — Either by itself or in connection with the previous exercise, visualizing yourself successfully engaging in your feared activity or situation can work wonders. Pro athletes use visualization all the time: imagining shooting perfect free throws has a measurable effect on basketball players’ success on the court. Practice imagining, as vividly as you can, yourself not just in the situation, but mastering it. Then give it another shot in real life and see if your relationship to it has shifted.
Carma’s Note: Visualization is an excellent way to create the reality you wish. However, there are people, like myself, that have trouble seeing with their mind’s eye. Never fear (no pun intended), if you can feel your “visualization” rather than see it, that will work, too. In fact, it is the emotional quality of your visualization that does the trick more than the images you see.
Fearful situations won’t just disappear from your life overnight. Coping with fear is a process, so just continue to take small steps and build on each bit of improvement. Some fears may never completely go away, but there’s no reason why you need to be incapacitated by them.
About Jim Hjort
Jim Hjort, LCSW, helps us overcome roadblocks to self-actualization as a psychotherapist, Right Life Coach, and mindfulness meditation instructor. He founded the RightLifeProject to help you understand how to handle the different dimensions of your life (psychological, social, physical, and vocational) in ways that enable you to be happier and more fulfilled, and to reach your full potential. You can check out his blog and podcast here, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. For more information visit www.rightlifeproject.com.