How To Not Let Fear Control You
“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” —Henry Ford
We All Have Our Fears and Doubts
Should we go for that new job? Should we change jobs and take a chance on a new one? Are we good enough to be able to compete? What will our family or our friends say? Maybe they will discourage us and say that we don’t have what it takes. Maybe we fear that we will fail or worse, that we will succeed and then what? Our school experience may have taught us that if we don’t measure up, it is no use trying and we should just stick to what we are able to do.
I have to say that I was this way for a long time. I would have intermittent sparks of “I can do this” and then “reality” would bring me down to a level playing ground and I would settle down to doing regular, normal things, living according to (my and others’) expectations. In fact, I had often dreamed of writing and speaking in front of audiences. This very blog was supposed to have been started about 10 years ago, but I just put it off because I believed that I was not technologically savvy enough to get it off the ground. But here I am, 10 years later, doing what I always believed I could do.
Fear Is So Debilitating
Fear can paralyze us into apathy and victimhood. It is a dramatization of what we think will happen based on nothing more than our overactive imagination and our interpretation of our current circumstances and our past experience. How many times in our lives do we allow fear to keep us from doing what we would really love to do, from doing something that we would be so passionate about?
And the crazy thing is our fears are often not even real. Probably close to 95% of what we fear will most likely not even materialize; Here is a cute acronym for fear: FEAR: is F.E.A.R – False evidence appearing real. What we imagine is an obstacle doesn’t actually exist, except in our imagination.
What Do We Fear?
Most of the time, as adults, we fear (or worry about) what will happen to us and our families in the future. We anticipate (and imagine) scenarios that do not currently exist based on our present situation. Here are the top categories of what adults fear according to the Barna Research Group:
Parental Problems 11%
Family Relationships 7%
Personal Life Goals 7%
All or most of our fears fall into one or more of these categories.
What Fear Does to Us
Causes us to become more fearful (fear breeds fear)
Makes us weak (low confidence)
Wastes time and energy
Puts limits on what we can do
How Can We Tackle Our Fears?
In his book, The Difference Maker, author John Maxwell lists 8 tips to handling fear:
Admit Your Fears
Our natural tendency is to not admit that we are fearful; our human pride keeps us in a state of denial. We certainly do not want to admit to others that we are afraid- that would make us look weak, we think. But this idea of thinking that being fearful is a weakness is far from the truth. Fear is just an emotion and everyone experiences fear.
The first step is to swallow our pride and admit that we have fears (or the emotion of fear). Just by doing this we place ourselves in a position of strength because now we can begin to face it – name it and decide how to deal with it. The second step is to identify what we fear- get to the bottom of it. Finally, the third step in dealing with our fear is to analyze our reactions and our perception.
Is what we fear rational?
Is it the reality or just what might or might not happen?
Are we overreacting and projecting?
Discover The Source Of Your Fears
We need to separate reality from imagination. Sometimes we allow our perception of a situation to paint reality falsely. Fears paralyze our thinking and we are no longer able (temporarily) to think rationally about our circumstances. Part of the reason for this reaction is that it is possible that we don’t have all the facts. Maybe we are missing information or maybe we believe falsely about the information we do have. Misunderstandings and lack of information can breed fear in our minds.
Also, sometimes what we fear is not really what we fear. In other words, we don,t get to the root cause and stay on the surface. For example, at work, we may fear what our boss thinks of us or what colleagues say about us. But is this real fear? Maybe, if we dig deeper, we are afraid of losing our job and if we dig even further, we may discover that the real fear is not having enough money to live and perhaps losing our home. So it is important not to stay at the surface, but dig to find the true fear.
Understand How Fears Can Limit You
As stated, fear is not a reality for the most part; it is an emotion. We can not allow our emotions to be the guideposts of our lives. Fear is normal and everyone experiences it from time to time. But when we allow fear to control our decisions, to prevent us from doing what we would like to do, there is a problem. Of course, I am not referring to jumping out of planes or climbing Mount Everest (if you want to do that, that is fine). I am talking about missed opportunities because of fear. I am talking about collecting regrets down the road. Don’t let fear be the reason you hold back. If you allow fear to control you, you may never know what could have been.
Accept Normal Fear As Par For The Course
Fear can be an ally to us, a motivator and a challenger. Fear is not inherently disastrous; it simply needs to be understood in the correct context. It is a negative and (potentially) destructive emotion, but it is only an emotion. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the ability to confront it. Fear is normal and we need to acknowledge it as such, but not give it too much power over us. We control our fears, not the other way around.
Once we recognize that fear is normal, we can begin to turn it to our advantage. We can use it as a challenge rather than an overlord. We will feel fear. This is the reality. But we do not have to be controlled by it.
Turn Fear Into A Positive
“The hero and the coward both feel exactly the same fear, only the hero confronts his fear and converts it into fire” – Cus D’Amato
Whatever we fear, we can turn it into the opposite. If we fear we will lose our job, we can turn around the way we do our job. We can be proactive and take initiatives as well as doing our job as well and efficiently as we can. If we fear meeting people or are afraid of what they think, we can turn this around and take the first step in greeting people, We can also decide that we will get better at connecting with people and improve our “people skills”.
For every fear, there is an opposite action of courage. We do not have to live in the fear zone and remain afraid of being afraid.
Concentrate On What You Can Control
We can not control a lot of things in life, but somehow we feel as if we can or should. Worry or fear is an emotional attempt to control something that does not even exist yet or may never exist. It serves no purpose to be fearful of what may never happen and try to control what we have no control over.
Where we should put our energy is into that which is within our power to change or influence. We can not control people, politics, the economy, or any such things, but we can control what we choose to think and how we choose to act. We are in complete control of our attitude no matter what happens to us. We are also in control of how we choose to spend our time, despite what many people think. and the time I am talking about is right now, not the future. All we have is today.
Stay In The Present (Not the Past Or Future)
Yesterday no longer exists and tomorrow does not have a guarantee. All the time we have is right now. The only time we can impact is right now. There is no need or reason to mull over what we did or did not do in the past. There is no logical reason to replay yesterday’s video over and over to relive our failures or create imaginary conversations (we all do this, it’s not just me) unless the purpose is to learn from our mistakes and improve.
Likewise, when we focus too much on the future, we may miss the opportunities that are right in front of us now. It is good to not focus too much on the destination so that we can benefit from what is happening in the present. Parents- are you too focused on college for your children that you do not spend time enjoying them now? Employers – are you too focused on the next business partnership that you fail to connect with your employees?
Feed the Right Emotion
The opposite of fear is faith. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with fear and other times it is our faith that shines. Both faith and fear operate inside of us, but which one will we give more attention to? It has been said: ‘ Where our focus goes, energy grows” If we focus on our fears, our fears will grow, but if we put more energy into faith, our faith will grow.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face, You are able to say to yourself ” I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you can not do.”
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca