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Is fear holding you back?

You need to ask for a pay rise, but what if you ruined your career in the process? You want to write a book, but you’re afraid of making a fool of yourself in public.

Fear can be a beast; it enters into our minds and sometimes won’t let go. At its most extreme, it can become the master puppeteer of our lives, trapping us in negative relationships or patterns, or simply holding us back from pursuing our dreams.

And yet, fear is a healthy safety mechanism; it crops up when a car dashes down a street, avoiding us by just a few inches. Fear turns up when a plane goes through turbulence; it announces that the normal course of things has been disrupted and that we should be careful.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” describes fear as a “hyper-vigilant bodyguard”. It puts your body in fight or flight mode and prevents you from thinking with a clear mind, when you could really dispense with its services.

The trouble is, fear isn’t very discerning. It’s irrational. It gives you a sore throat when you need to make a speech. It makes you feel sick when you’re on a first date. If you dig deep to understand where it’s coming from, you usually find a variation on the theme of fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of the unknown, etc.

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There are different schools of thought on how to tackle fear: the muscular approach, which encourages us to toughen up and conquer fear, and then a more compassionate tack, which I personally find more appropriate for long-term change.

I’ve compiled a few steps I like to take to help me get unstuck when fear gets in the way.

  1. Take time to really identify and understand what your fear is. Research it and write down how it affects you, however pointless or simplistic that may seem. Naming it is often the most important step towards successfully overcoming it as it allows you to become more aware and mindful of it.

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”

–  Christian Nestell Bovee

  1. Take an outsider’s view of your fear: How likely are things to go wrong? What’s the worst-case scenario? Is it an undesirable situation you could tackle or is it an unbearable mess?

“There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened.”

–  Mark Twain

”There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened.“ Mark Twain Tweet This
  1. Conversely, build a vivid image of what you stand to gain if you overcome your fear. Would you feel liberated, empowered, proud?

“Changemaking happens when people fall in love with a different version of the future.”

–  Seth Godin

  1. If you decide to tackle an element of unhelpful fear in your life, make sure you start small and create some milestones so that you’re not setting yourself up for failure. Tell a friend and ask them to support you along the way. Talk about it, role-play, exchange ideas… and make sure humour is always part of the equation, so that you can laugh about your failures and share what they’ve taught you.

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

–  Rosa Parks

  1. Last but not least, meditation and visualisation are extremely powerful tools. Visualise the best possible outcome regularly. Like an athlete going through the motions of a competition, prepare mentally to take the best steps towards success. Connect with your vision and use relaxation techniques. I would highly recommend Headspace, Calm and Pause.

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”

–  Thich Nhat Hanh

Fear is certainly one of our biggest challenges nowadays – it is abundantly reinforced and exploited by the media. How else can we survive a cold than to purchase branded pills?

Yet, we actually are capable of relying on ourselves to deal with the ache of fear if we can develop frameworks to balance our emotional response with our rational skills.

And the results are mesmerizing. Fear can teach us so much about ourselves, and what we actually care about most. For instance, the more writing matters to an aspiring author, the more terrifying the prospect of writing will be – yet they may not realize that their heightened anxiety is the very proof of a genuine desire to write. Better than calling themselves lazy, which is a common response when faced with writer’s block.

We should also find comfort in the fact that many prominent public figures admit to feeling fear on a very regular basis. It’s just that the pain of not overcoming it is simply greater than the vision of what they want to achieve. So they go ahead anyway.

We can free ourselves from the dictatorship of fear and come out on the other side feeling empowered, proud and much more self-aware.

Do you have stories of fear you could share?

  • Have you managed to overcome fear when you thought it impossible?
  • Is fear preventing you from taking action at the moment?

Please use the comments section below to join in the conversation or email me at charlotte(at)astoryworthliving.com

Spread the word! If you know anyone who is looking for more meaning in their life, please share this article with them!

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