Fear — we can all thank our instinctual fight or flight response for this one. That stomach-churning, palms-sweating, I’ve-got-to-get-out-of-here feeling we’ve all known at some point. Fear is a parasite of the mind; at times, it can be debilitating. It can hold us back and get in the way of things we want in life.
But I’ll tell you a secret: it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, you can indeed overcome your fears.
The first thing you have to do is feel the fear. This may seem counterproductive, but trust me on this one. Acknowledge that you are fearful about a certain situation, then dig a little deeper and ask yourself, “Why?” When you get to the root of your fear, you’ll have the tools you need to overcome it.
The next thing you should do is set up a plan for yourself to face that fear head on. Start small. Just like everything else in life, it’s a process that needs time, dedication and work. For example, if you have social anxiety, start striking up conversations with strangers. The first day you attempt to talk to one random person, then two people the next day, and so on. What you’re doing is called conditioning. You are consciously putting yourself in a scenario you don’t feel comfortable with, and that’s great. Do more of that! The more you condition yourself, the more these actions will start to feel normal, and you’ll become better apt to be in an environment that causes your fear.
Fear is all in our heads. It’s completely made up. Fear helps the mind create events and outcomes that haven’t actually happened and may never happen. Remember fear isn’t logical or based in reality. By letting fear hijack the mind, you’re creating stress and worry that isn’t necessary or beneficial for your well-being.
Facing a fear can be so empowering. Even if it takes you a while or a couple tries to muster up the courage. Even if the outcome wasn’t what you hoped for or expected. What’s important to remember is that you didn’t let it hold you back. Congrats! You just conquered your fear.
I faced my fear of sharks by learning how to surf one summer. It was such an amazing experience and something I had always wanted to learn, but my fear held me back. I know my fear stemmed from watching Jaws at a young age. Over the years, I spent a lot of time in the ocean, went swimming with sharks, and even pet one. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a part of my conditioning. Of course, I still felt that anxiety and fear before every surf lesson — that doesn’t go away so easily. But I pushed those feelings aside and just focused on my goal: Learning how to surf. Having my first successful ride was a moment I’ll never forget. It was exhilarating to know I faced my fear and was finally experiencing something I yearned for all my life. That summer I even went surfing in Cape Cod, which has a booming Great White population.
I am so proud of myself for facing my fear and what I accomplished after that. I think everyone should experience this in their lifetime. It brings you to a whole new level of understanding yourself.
What is fear holding you back from?
Stand up to fear and say it with me: Not today, Satan!