Everyone experiences some level of fear in their lives and in normal situations this is actually a good thing - it can keep you alive. A fear of suffering is designed to do exactly that. It is a natural and healthy part of life. The problem comes when an irrational fear of imagined outcomes prevents you from doing things that you need to lead a happy and successful life.
Perhaps you start thinking about all the things that could go wrong if you fail to achieve your goal; You may feel bad, people may laugh at you, or there may be other more painful consequences from that thing you fear.
Perhaps you have been so afraid of failing at something that you are unaware that you have been avoiding it for a long time. You may fear failure so much that you actually stop yourself from succeeding by worrying so much about failing. You may even become paralyzed with fear - which is not very helpful if you need to be running away from a hungry lion at the time!
We don’t often meet hungry lions in everyday life but it should be pretty obvious that fear can be destructive. If your fears are allowed to get out of control then you may spend your whole life fearful of any situation or event:
- What if it doesn't happen?
- What if it does happen?
- What if they don’t turn up?
- What if they do turn up?
- What if I don't get the job?
- What if they find out about it?
- What if I forget my words?
The list of possible fears is as endless as your brains capacity to keep coming up with them.
The main point to note here is that although our mind can generate many different forms of fear, they are all based on something that has not happened yet...but it might!
The point being, these terrifying scenarios do not actually exist – except in your head.
How many times have you been afraid of something that, in the end, never actually happened? Probably more times than when the thing you feared did actually turn into a reality.
The main cause of this fear is concern about things you don't know about or perhaps understand. This is the ‘what if?’ type of fear which your mind will happily encourage by giving you all the gory, painful options it can.
The other type of fear is most often created by your own ego. It is a fear of causing damage to yourself in the eyes of others by looking stupid or losing respect etc. Emotional fear is much more subtle than the more natural fear of suffering from direct physical pain and is one that advertising agencies love to exploit at every opportunity.
To overcome fear you need to identify what it is you are actually in fear of. Even the task of simply taking the time to identify your fears can help you realize how irrational you may be being.
Looking further into the possible dreaded outcomes you have been having nightmares about, with an open and practical mind, will also help to remove many of the more extreme outcomes your over-active mind has conjured up for you. But, do be aware that your fears may be far more subtle than you think and you may not even realize they are holding you back from getting the things you want in life. Follow these Clever steps to removing your fear and living the life you deserve.
How to overcome your fears in 6 simple steps.
1. Remember that everyone experiences fear to some degree.
Your fears are probably not new or special so don’t personalize them. It is important to understand that we all make errors in life. It is part of life! If you are not occasionally making mistakes then you are not living life to the full. It is very easy for someone to say that they never make mistakes when the never do anything! So don't fear them, just think of them as being a part of life to be overcome in some way.
2. Learn from your mistakes rather than fear them.
If something goes wrong or does not turn out the way you wanted it to, then use it as something to learn from. Learning from your experience enables you to change your approach the next time you are faced with something similar giving you a better chance of future success!
Failing can also show you who your true friends are. They are the ones who will be there to help you get up and get moving forward again.
3. Identify your fears.
Look into your fears with a practical and objective approach. This can help you identify areas where you may need to find out more before you decide to go ahead. Perhaps you need to learn more about an operation so that you understand it better and are less fearful of it.
When identifying your fears you need to also work out how your fears are actually being shown. This may be from open panic to sulking silence or explosive anger. Take your time to identify how your fear is affecting you and then work on minimizing it's negative or more harmful reactions.
4. Identify all the possible outcomes (the real ones not the imagined ones) and write them down.
Write out your fears on a piece of paper. Seeing your fears in black and white in front of you will help you to identify what are the real and imagined fears and to see them for what they really are. Once you have done this you can then identify ways to overcome them.
This process is a really positive way for your brain to look rationally at these fears and prevent your imagination from overreacting to them. It is also worth keeping in mind that if you find that the main outcome is truly terrible then it may be time to actually act on your fears and start running!
5. Be positive.
Try to think positively about all the possible outcomes. Think about how good you will feel when it all goes well rather than the negatives if you fail.
6. Have a backup plan.
If you cannot remove all of your fears then try to identify a backup plan that you can use if your main fears do become a reality. Thinking about ways you can minimize the risk or damage will help to give you more confidence when you are carrying out the main task and even boost your chances of success.
As long as you keep trying and keep moving forward your fears will start to fade away as your confidence and understanding grows so don’t let your fears control you - start taking control of your fears.
For more on the fear of failure and even success read our Clever article Removing-barriers-to-learning.