Do you let fear stop you from taking action and living the life you really want? I don't mean the fear that comes up occasionally when there's an attack of some sort. I mean the fear that stops you from pursuing your dreams. The ball in your throat when you're about to step on stage or sing for an audition. The trembling knees when you go for that job interview. The sweaty palms that stop you from approaching the big wig you've always wanted to meet.
Fear is a powerful emotion. It lets us know when we're in danger, but it doesn't distinguish between real, life-threatening danger and stepping into the unknown. There are a lot of things you can do in advance of a situation to help with your fear.
But what do you do in the moment, in the now, when it's "go" time and you just want to run and hide? Here are three strategies you can use to conquer your fears in the moment.
1) Know where you're going
Where are you going in your life? What are you aiming for? What are your goals? If you don't have any, it's time to figure out what you want, first.
If you know where you're going, your fears are much less likely to take control. If you have goals in life, you have something to focus on.
Without goals, we go through life aimless, bouncing from one thing to another. We are easily distracted and lack focus and direction.
The world outside of you – things like the news, social media, discussions you hear at work – all pull you in different directions. The majority of these outside influences are fear-based. We end up feeling anxious and depressed, confused and unsure. These things all contribute to feelings of fear.
If you want to conquer fear, it’s important to have goals and to know where you’re going. When you’re focused on what you want, outside distractions are much easier to manage. Hearing and reading stories on the news, online, or at work no longer create much anxiety. You’re much less likely to get pulled off course by passing negativity.
There is a trick to using your goals to conquer fear
You must focus on your goals repetitively throughout the day.
Fear-based thoughts are normal, and they'll continue to make themselves known unless you choose something else to think about.
Reading and reviewing your goals every so often, or even once a day, won’t cut it. You have to train your mind to think of your goal over and over throughout the day. This is the trick to keeping fear out.
If you’re focused on something good, on what you want, fear is much less likely to creep in. And when it does, you simply choose to bring your mind back to you goal, back to where you’re going and what you want.
Start with your goal, then create a short affirmation you can repeat that brings the goal to mind. Make sure there is an emotional attachment to your goal and your statement. Repeat your goal to yourself regularly throughout your day.
2) Change your story
We often feel fear because of how we interpret something someone else says or does. Sometimes fear that is trapped from a past event is triggered by something in the present. Generally these two things are combined. We have a trapped emotion from an experience as a child, and there is a story we tell ourselves that goes along with that emotion.
We are often our own worst enemy! How often have you feared something that has never happened?
We create stories around our deepest fears
Let me give you an example of this. Let’s say you have a core wound – a deep-seated fear – of being abandoned. You’re at a nice event with your spouse, who is wonderful and faithful. You see your spouse interacting with someone else you don’t know. Your fear creeps up and you create this story that she/he is going to leave you for this unknown stranger. The story is so real to you that you can actually feel the anxiety and your heart beating faster.
But wait! You know that your spouse is a wonderful, trusting, faithful person. The trick here is to stop yourself and to change the story. Change the story now, at the event, and then take some more time to change the story repeatedly when the fear isn’t triggered.
Rewrite the story by saying statements that you know to be true. Acknowledge what you feel first, then move on from there. Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a dear friend (just in your head, of course). Here’s what this might sound like:
“Sarah, I recognize the fear I feel that my husband might leave my. That fear comes from my past. Thank you for reminding me you are there. I no longer need you. My husband is wonderful and faithful, and I choose instead to trust and feel loved. He chose me and I am safe.”
Play around with this for yourself when your fears crop up. Acknowledge your fear, and immediately change the story you tell yourself. Notice what happens to the fear when you do so.
3) Take action
There are many, many rules that we have in place that dictate our behavior. Some are good because they do keep us safe, but most of them are false rules designed to keep us from expressing ourselves and letting our light shine!
Often, we feel fear of what others will think of us. This stems from a lack of self-confidence and a low self-image. Yes, you probably were picked on when you were a kid. And you didn’t know how to deal with the hurt you felt at the time. So those emotions are still inside you, dictating how you behave, because you don’t want to keep feeling them.
I’ve got some bad news for you….if you keep stuffing those feelings inside, you’ll continue to experience them. The way to stop feeling them – in this case, the fear – is to let it out.
Let out the fear by taking action. The fear thinks it’s trying to protect you and keep you safe. But if your desire is to post a video online and you’re afraid of what others will think, the way through that fear is to post the video online!
If you’re getting ready to skydive for the first time, some fear is natural. But the way through that fear isn’t by hiding in the back of the plane. It’s by going for it and jumping!
When you act in spite of your fear, you’re demonstrating faith and courage. As you act more and more when you do feel fear, you’ll strengthen your faith and you’ll become more courageous. This will in turn strengthen your self-image and your confidence.
It’s a wonderful cycle of growth to experience. As you gain more confidence, it becomes easier for you to act when you feel fear. The action brings even more confidence.
Feel the fear, and do it anyway
- It's perfectly normal to feel fear when you're working toward something new, and in response to feeling threatened (both real and imaginary threats)
- The fear won't go away on its own. You need to acknowledge it, address it, and act in spite of the fear.
- Acting when you feel fearful is a great way to build up confidence!
How do you deal with fear in the moment so that you can keep moving forward?