Fear seems to be an epidemic in our society. We fear beginnings, we fear endings. We fear change, we fear staying stuck. We fear success, we fear failure. We fear living, we fear dying. We all fear something, and the truth is, most of us are controlled by fear on a daily basis without even realizing it.
It is an emotion that is hardwired into our brains and is an essential part of our survival mechanism. It serves as an alert system to danger and helps us to respond quickly to threats. Fear can be a useful and protective emotion, but it can also become overwhelming and detrimental to our well-being if we allow it to control our lives.
One of the most useful books regarding this issue that I have ever read is Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, on which I have freely based this article and from which I will draw in it. One of the key concepts that Jeffers discusses in her book is the idea that fear is not something that we can eliminate entirely. Fear is a natural and necessary part of life, and it will always be present to some degree. However, we can learn to manage our fear and use it as a motivator rather than a hindrance.
The first step to overcoming fears is to identify them. It is essential to recognize what triggers these fears and understand why they exist. Fear is often rooted in past experiences, beliefs, and perceptions. Once these fears have been identified, it is important to acknowledge and accept them. The truth is, most fears come from our insecurities. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? I thought so too, but when you think about it more, it all makes sense. Let me give you a few examples:
“I’m afraid to change schools because I don’t think I can handle the transition.”
“I’m afraid to break up with my boyfriend because then I’ll be alone, and I’m afraid to be alone.”
“I’m afraid of public speaking, because what if I get something wrong and everyone thinks I am not good enough.”
“From this moment on, every time you feel afraid, remind yourself that it is simply because you are not feeling good enough about yourself,” advises Susan Jeffers. Although this might seem harsh, it is in fact good to know where your fears are coming from, so you can start working on them. Fears and self-esteem go hand in hand. One strategy for overcoming insecurities and fears is to focus on personal growth and development. By setting achievable goals and working towards them, individuals can build confidence. Seeking out experiences that challenge them and push them out of their comfort zone can also help reduce the power of fears. In her book, Jeffers reveals the so-called 5 truths about fear, which I have chosen to mention here because they briefly describe the journey of facing fears.
- The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow.
- The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it, because “doing it” comes before the fear goes away.
- The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and do it.
- Not only you are going to experience fear whenever you are in unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
- Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.
I know from personal experience how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone and face your fears. But it’s important to do it despite all the worries and uncertainties. Either it will turn out well and bring you pleasure, an adrenaline rush, or satisfaction, or you will get an experience that you will use next time. Mostly when we have to make a decision, our brain produces reasons and negative scenarios that overwhelm us and throw us off balance. We find ourselves getting obsessed about possible catastrophes. That’s why I wish to use Jeffers’ quote: “Feel the fear, but do it anyway.” I’ve always been afraid to do things on my own, preferring to rely on others, and many times I’ve paid the price and then realized I was the only person I could rely on. I was relieved to discover that I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. People around you are most likely just as afraid as you are. Sharing personal stories and experience of fear can make you feel better, give others courage, and help them realize that not every mistake they make will cause the end of the world. That is the purpose of this article.
I often find myself replaying minute by minute in my mind situations that have happened to me, looking for mistakes I’ve made that could affect my interactions with the world around me and the people in it. This almost-obsession can consume me for hours, and it often leaves me sleepless. I fear a lot of things, such as saying the wrong thing and how people have reacted or will react. I fear that I’ve done something bad or, conversely, done nothing. I fear being alone, but I also fear crowded rooms. I fear being abandoned and also not being good enough. I fear speaking up and being myself. I fear the future and talking about my feelings. I fear being misunderstood and I fear that I don’t fully understand myself either. I fear the dark and spiders.
Some fears are minor and don’t really affect the way we look at the world around us, but added to our bigger fears they make a pile of fear that doesn’t make life any easier. Anxiety is tied up with fear, stress is tied up with anxiety, and all of a sudden I’m standing in a street full of people, all my senses on high alert, and I don’t know where to go next. Being afraid all the time is terribly draining; I could sleep 10 hours a day and still yawn at every step. It took me a great deal of time to locate the start of all my problems. When I figured it out, I was able at last to begin working on it, and that’s when my life finally started to change.
According to Jeffers, “[t]he amount of improvement you experience will depend on how much you are willing to actively participate”. First of all, it is important to remember that fear does not disappear overnight: it is a very long run. Taking baby steps day by day is the way to go. Is it going to be uncomfortable? Yes! Is it going to trigger all your emotions and senses at the same time? Absolutely! But feeling uncomfortable and overwhelmed is part of the moving-forward process. It is always better to start pushing through your fear. It might be frightening, but believe me, living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness is much worse.
Let’s start with simple things that helped me improve my self-esteem, and with it my overall quality of life. I’ve always been incredibly afraid of expressing my own opinion. I’m a big people-pleaser, and disagreeing with others is something I’d rather avoid. The result of not speaking up was that a lot of people thought I agreed with their opinions and started taking words out of my mouth. But I didn’t want people to have a distorted image of me. So, I started to express my views, slowly but effectively. First, I started with people close to me, who after all know me best and, luckily for me, are understanding. Then I confided this problem to my closest friends, who then started to give me more space in different situations to give me their opinion. Communication is essential. If you don’t express yourself, you give people more room to assume who you really are. So be honest, share your struggles, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, because being vulnerable means being human.
Another major change I’ve decided to make in my life is to stop taking things too seriously. This is advice you hear from all directions, but it’s among the most important, and it helps me calm down whenever I feel pressured. Think of where you are right now. Whether you’re sitting at school or lying in bed at home, you’re part of something much bigger. Let me give you an example. You are in a store that is one of dozens in your town. There are several thousand towns in your country and there are 195 countries in the world at the moment. There are 8,023,581,103 people living in these countries today, and you are one of them. When you begin to look at the world on a much larger scale, with more distance, you realize that your current problem is not as big as it seems. Putting things in a much broader perspective will help you realize that not every move you make has to be perfect, because even if something goes wrong the world certainly won’t stop. Another important thing to remember is that we’re all human, so we all make mistakes. It’s okay to mess up, and it’s okay to be afraid. In fact, it’s normal.
You’ve shared your fears and put them in a broader perspective. Now it’s time to face them. Leaving your comfort zone can be a daunting task, but it is necessary if you want to grow and reach your full potential. Facing your fears can be one of the most difficult challenges, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. The important thing is not to let your fears control you and keep moving forward in spite of them. As Susan Jeffers says, “The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and do it.” Only by doing this can you grow and become the best version of yourself. Often, our fears are based on negative thoughts and beliefs. We should challenge these thoughts by questioning their validity. I’m afraid of not being enough for my friends, but is that really true? When I think about it, why would they be my friends if they thought so? This is your insecurities controlling your mind and misrepresenting reality. By doing the exact opposite of what your insecurities are trying to tell you, you are actively fighting your fears, exceeding and expanding your limits, and above all, growing as a person. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.
My greatest achievement in the fight against fear is the time I spent in Norway. In my senior year at high school I came to the realization that the life I was living was not fulfilling. I felt stuck in one place, like I was going round in circles. I was full of fear and insecurity, and I didn’t believe in myself at all. I needed a change, and I needed to change. It is said that you can’t heal in the environment that made you sick. I knew that in order to grow as a person, I had to do it on my own, somewhere else. I found a job at a small Norwegian bakery that was hiring foreign workers, bought plane tickets, and flew there for the whole summer. Alone. It was terrifying. There were dozens of fears competing to be the greatest: fear of being separated from family, of leaving friends, of traveling alone, of relying on myself, of communicating in a foreign language, of making new relationships, and a great many more. The first week in my new job was insane. Each day exhausted me physically and emotionally. Every minute of it I thought about giving up and going back home, to my old ways, to my comfort zone. But I stayed despite it all because deep down I knew it was worth it. Day by day the work got easier, and I felt more comfortable. I made new friends, met people from different parts of the world, improved my language skills, and saw places I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. After a month, it was my new comfort zone.
It’s very strange to experience this process, because things that you thought could never happen in your life have actually happened. And it’s all thanks to the fact that I decided to fight the fear and not let it absorb me. I felt the fear, and I did it anyway. When I got back home, immediately I felt stronger, and more confident. I was no longer a little girl afraid to face whatever came her way. Of course, many other fears remain with me, because we never really get rid of them. They will always be with us. But it’s up to us whether we keep them under control or let them drive us.
I know it’s always easier to say things than to actually do them. But in this case, doing is the way out of the labyrinth of fear. I hope that this article has given you something or been helpful in some way, and that it has shown that it is indeed possible to confront fear. Finally, I would like to say that whoever you are, I have faith in you, and I believe you can do anything you set your mind to. I wish you strength and perseverance, because you will definitely need it!
Jeffers, S. J. (2012). Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Vermilion.