3 Effective Steps to Overcome Your Fear and Live Your Best Life
How would your life be different if you were not afraid of
…changing your job?
…moving to a different city or county?
…leaving an unhealthy relationship?
…starting a new business?
…trying a new hobby?
Nobody likes to admit it, but fear often shapes our lives.
Fear can stop you from taking a new career opportunity, finding your soulmate, exploring places, or trying new things.
Some fears seem rational and justified by our prior life experiences or trauma. Others seem to be wholly irrational and strange.
The origins of fear
Fear is one of the most primitive human emotions, which triggers our survival mechanism.
The fight-or-flight response, also known as the acute stress response, refers to a physiological reaction resulting from physical danger or a psychological threat.
The response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety. Some physical signs include increased heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, dry mouth, and trembling.
This response happens automatically, and it’s common among people. From an evolutionary perspective, fear protected humans from predators and other threats.
Fear still serves the survival purpose today, preventing you from going to dark areas late at night, walking into traffic, or jumping from a rooftop.
However, nowadays, fear is more often created by your mind and not an actual physical danger or threat.
Fear only exists in your thoughts
Sometimes you anticipate bad things that might happen — things you have seen on TV, heard about, or read about. Anticipating a fearful stimulus can provoke the same response as actually experiencing it.
When you deal with uncertainty, your mind can create negative expectations, leading to anticipatory anxiety. People could feel fearful for an extended time about an imagined future situation perceived as a threat.
When you convince yourself that something terrible will happen, you live with feelings of anxiety, fear, and chronic stress, which can cause illness.
Fear can impact your judgments and influence your ability to make decisions about important areas of your life: relationships, career, and goals.
As a result of fear, people may find themselves avoiding challenges that could benefit them in the long run.
Experiencing fear now and then is a normal part of life. But living in constant fear can be physically and emotionally exhausting. It may prevent you from taking action towards your dreams and living your best life.
What can you do about your fears?
Say Hello to your fear
The first step is to recognize and create awareness of your fear. Fear is an emotional response caused by your thoughts and beliefs. As you pay more attention to your emotions and the stories you tell yourself, gradually, you will be able to identify the underlying reasons for your fear.
Understanding what you’re afraid of goes a long way toward releasing that fear.
Observing your thoughts and emotions will also help identify specific triggers that make you fearful. Writing down or discussing your fears can help you release those negative thoughts.
One of the ways to deal with your fear is by looking at it from a different perspective.
By asking yourself, “How true is it?” and considering different angles instead of just focusing on negative thoughts, you often realize that you might be making a big deal of nothing.
Accept the unknown
Many people are afraid of the unknown. This fear is driven by the feeling that you do not have control over your life, which is very unsettling.
The fear of the unknown is often based on the fear of failure. This is especially true when you are about to embark on a new, unfamiliar journey.
As you pursue your dreams, you must find the courage to step outside your comfort zone and deal with uncertainty.
It does not mean that you ignore your fear. You need to understand your fear of the unknown, but do not allow it to stop you from taking action.
Your mind does not like to deal with uncertainty. It creates predictions about how we would like an event to unfold or a person to act. You want to be able to control your life and the outcomes of each situation.
However, you can never completely control what happens to you. You can only control how you choose to respond to each situation.
Although uncertainty can be scary, it can also be exhilarating. The unknown can be just as exciting as it is fearful. Just let life happen and experience it the way it is.
What’s the worst that could happen?
If there is something you are afraid to do because it seems scary or complicated, take small steps towards your goals. Slowly building familiarity with a frightening subject makes it more manageable.
The only way to move beyond the fear holding you back is by exposing yourself directly to what you fear and doing things that scare you.
Reflecting on the worst possible outcome often makes you realize that your fear is often imaginary, and taking small actions is not as scary as you imagined.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
My resolve to overcome my fear of cycling motivated me to sign up for my first triathlon in 2015.
I used to enjoy riding a bike as a kid till I got into an accident. Although I had no severe injuries in that accident, I was too scared to get on a bike for over 20 years.
I realized that my fear of cycling was irrational, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
As I was writing my New Year’s resolutions on January 1st, 2015, I decided to register for New York City triathlon, which would require me to relearn how to ride a bike.
In the spring, I bought my first road bike, and in July 2015, I completed my first Olympic-distance race.
Cycling has added an entirely new dimension to my life. I learned a lot about the sport, including practical skills and gear. I joined a triathlon club and met interesting people. I moved to long-distance triathlons and became an expert in endurance training.
I’m still a cautious cyclist, especially after a couple of crashes over the past several years. I admit that cycling is my least favorite part of triathlons, but I enjoy the sport. I still feel anxious about riding fast and riding in traffic, but it does not stop me from pursuing my dream of completing 12 Ironman races and participating in the Ironman World Championship.
It’s natural to experience fear. However, it’s within your power not to let fear dominate your life. By understanding your fear, accepting the uncertainty, and doing things that scare you, you can overcome your fear and live your best life.