If there is one thing that holds people back from fulfilling their potential, it’s fear! Fear is a belief: it’s not a fact. So how do we overcome fear? We choose to believe that our fears are our reality. I’m all alone! I’m not clever enough! I’m underqualified! I’m too fat! I’m too young! I’m too old! These are just some of the ones I’ve heard and even been guilty of saying too. One of the most common reasons for fear is the fear of failure. Let’s be honest no one wants to fail, do they? What are the steps to overcoming fear? I realised that this was one that I had to overcome in order to run be successful in my business. I was frightened of the risk I was taking of leaving a company I had been successful in and set up on my own. I was frightened of no longer having a monthly salary payment! I was frightened of failing and also of what failing would do to my own self-perception! So I started reading around the subject and here I share with you some of what I have learnt about overcoming fear.
In her book ‘Playing Big’ Tara Mohr shares a useful distinction, from the Hebrew Bible, of two different types of fear:
Pachad: a projected or imagined fear stems from our reptile brain
Yirah: the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to. When we are inhabiting a larger space than we are used to.
The problem is we tend to lump them together and not see the difference. One of the things Tara suggests you can do is:
- In your journal write down your fears fully.
- Then ask yourself, is it imagined?
- If it gives you a feeling of fear along with excitement or some exhilaration, then it is likely to be Yirah. This should then be explored more fully and if possible savoured.
Gabrielle Bernstein describes fear using this mnemonic:
Generally, our fears relate to not being able to cope with a particular situation that we think we might have to face. I frequently find myself working with fantastic talented people who have always wanted a particular job or promotion then get it and worry that they will not be able to handle it. Another common scenario is the client who wanted redundancy but is now confused about what they are going to do next and feeling stuck.
However, it is not just business or career issues that get us stuck.
One of my clients had spent so long in her comfort zone, bringing up her children and creating a home that she was frightened of them leaving home and having an ‘empty nest’. She no longer knew how to prioritise herself and what she might be capable of. For her setting goals that were scary meant working on small projects to expand her horizons a little at a time whilst slowly building her confidence. It needed to be slightly scary but not terrifying for her to do it! Gradually, of course, her boundaries and self-perception shifted and life opened up in a beautiful way.
Did you know that the most common fear is glossophobia? A fear of public speaking! Apparently, the figure is around 74% of the population suffering from this. Amazing when you consider how low the bar is set by many leaders! This, of course, is a skill that can be learnt and with practice, it can be overcome.
Susan Jeffers in ‘Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway’ suggests that in order to overcome fear we need to re-educate ourselves to accept fear as part of growth and then move on.
So how can you overcome fear?
Here are some pointers.
Gabrielle Bernstein suggests that the following affirmation can help us move through our fear.
“I am willing to witness my fear.” And
“I am willing to see this differently, I am willing to see love.”
Pay attention to your self-talk.
Are the messages you are sending to yourself helpful and empowering or are they just escalating your fear? Practise positive thinking. Just like the body needs refuelling with food and water so does the brain. Make sure you keep your topped up with positive messages.
Each day take a few moments to remind yourself of everything that you have to be grateful for.
Get specific about what it actually is your fear.
Write down what you fear. Then ask yourself, is this always true? When is it not true? Get curious about when it is not true and it may throw some light into the circumstances that make it true. This could lead to a solution.
Ask yourself… What is the worst thing that could happen?
I find when working with clients and they tell me about their fears, I ask them to tell me about the worst possible outcome of their fear situation. We then discuss the what they would do if that happened. Often it is not as bad as they thought it might be. This can be quite liberating and helps get the fear back in perspective.
Practise free flow writing in your journal. Set yourself 5 minutes and open your journal and write down everything that comes into your head. Do not edit it or stop to check spelling or audit it. Just write. This helps get it out of your head. You don’t even need to read it back. It is useful just to get it out of your head.
Accept that many things will happen in your life over which you will have no or little control. These can range from small things in our individual lives to things happening elsewhere in the world. If like me, you have a high need for control, this might take some work. However, learning to let go of this need, will help you reduce your fear.
I know that we live in difficult changing times and that for many people fear and living in our fear response – fight or flight, has become part of our daily lives. However, we really would benefit from pausing and feeling what is behind the response.
My final words for today come from Mark Twain
“Some of the worst things in my life never happened.”
I’d love to know what you think. Please leave your comments below.