So many of us want and desire to live an extraordinary life. We have incredibly large dreams. We have aspirations to be something bigger, to do something greater, to inspire more people…but the dreams never go anywhere. They stop in our heads. If we’re lucky, they might even make it down on pen and paper. But from there? Not many of us actually pursue it. We stop ourselves in our tracks before we even start. Why?
I blame it on the ugliest and most destructive four letter word out there…
Fear wears many different masks. It comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Fear of judgement.
Fear of failure.
Fear of incompetence.
Fear of no one buying your product/service.
Fear of disappointment.
Fear of vulnerability.
Fear of hardships and obstacles.
Fear of success.
Fear of the unknown.
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of having money.
Fear of looking stupid.
Fear of doing better than your family.
Fear of being unworthy.
Fear can also be disguised as self doubt, insecurity, complacency, current routine and habits that keep you stuck where you’re at. You’re getting paid well enough. You have a decent life. You are okay with the comfort level your career provides.
So what does fear say about you?
Well, it confirms that you’re living on this place called Earth. That you’re a human being.
It’s okay to experience fear. We are human after all. We were created with an innate fight or flight button. We needed fear to be able to hunt, find food, and survive. And now we need it to push boundaries, step outside our comfort zones and create a better life for ourselves.
But what do you do with the fear when it starts to surface? How do you handle it? Do you confront it? Do you run away? Do you strike yourself out of the game, before you even go up to bat?
Well, you’re not alone.
In fact, I face fear every day.
Last week when I posted my first blog post of my own messy life story, written in black and white form on the internet for all potential judging eyeballs to see, my hands were shaking when I hit “publish”. The thoughts of “what if” wouldn’t shut up.
What if I look stupid? What if no one gets me? What if, what if, what if.
I had been living in fear for four years. FOUR YEARS.
But I finally said enough was enough. No one was going to do it for me. I decided to put my big girl panties on and just do it. And so far, I’ve survived. I’m still breathing. I still have friends. I still have work. I’m still just me.
Fear will never go away, but it does get easier.
(Here’s a hot tip for you, everyone experiences fear) Even the most successful humans you know or want to meet.
Fear doesn’t just go away when you’re successful. It’s what the successful people do when they start to feel the fear, that really sets them apart from the crowd.
There’s a choice to be made in that split second. You can run or you can fight. You can cower down or you can strategize how to overcome it. You can take the fear and allow it to run your life, or you can take the fear and use it as fuel to push you further.
We need fear. We need it to keep us alive.
Without fear, we would be walking bodies of flesh, just doing this thing called life, with no ambition or goals. In my opinion, that’d be pretty boring. Doing the same mundane stuff every day.
No risk. No reward.
Fear is what keeps it exciting! It fills us with aspiration. With desire. With a burn in our soul to do something with our lives. But only if we allow it to take that role.
Fear can do the exact opposite too. It can literally paralyze you. (Okay maybe not literally) But figuratively, yes. All of your dreams and goals and plans will just sit there, wasted, if you let fear take the wheel in your life.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before – but the richest place on earth is the grave.
It’s where the million dollar ideas, inventions, goals, plans and dreams are that have passed with the people before us.
Why? That’s simple. Fear.
There are millions of ideas or plans that could’ve shaped our world differently, or changed the way we do medicine, or how we communicate with others, or something as simple as a goal or a dream to better their family. There was some form or fashion of fear that killed their dreams.
Their dreams died alongside of them.
Man, if that doesn’t hit you right where it hurts… you might as well stop reading now.
You have to want to try. You have to want to be better. You can’t just give up because of some fear in your head that probably isn’t even true. What legacy are you going to leave this world with? What are you going to leave your family with?
Or are you going to take your goals and aspirations with you when you leave this place? Depriving the world from seeing it, tasting it, touching it, and experiencing it?
Okay, so I think you get why fear is important. And why it is more important to learn how to overcome fear.
There are so many ways to overcome fear. I’ll go over a few of the ones I’ve found that have worked for me. It’s going to take effort on your part. And I really want you to understand that. This is not a fix-all, quick fix solution, but it will help you get started.
ONE | Recognize it’s happening, know what kind of fear it is, and why.
The goal is to find the source, so you can stop feeding it. Because as we know, fear grows. It can escalate quickly. It can get out of hand. Fast. So once you find where it’s coming from, then you can make a decision. Are you going to feed it? Or starve that sucker?
Think of fear as a creepy little monster with gnarly teeth, snarling at you, breathing down your neck, hiding around corners, ready to jump out at you…. is that something you want following you around?
Ah – probably not. So do something about it. Deprive it. Then you’ll start seeing it less of a threat… when it’s weak.
When it’s weak, it doesn’t take energy from you. It starts to look more like a little spider. Something you can eventually squash.
Okay, yeah I know what you’re thinking. I’m not the one to squash the spiders in my house, my fiancé does that. But you get the point. They’re a lot easier to deal with when they’re smaller than a big hairy monster the size of your fridge.
When you’re looking for the source, stop yourself in the moment you start feeling afraid. Ask yourself vital questions like “If I faced this fear, what is the worst that can happen?” or “Am I afraid of the process or result?” Sit down and journal. Write out all of your thoughts in that moment. Just keep writing. Eventually something will come into the light. When you get your thoughts down on paper, it becomes more objective.
Another option is to ask someone with an outside perspective. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own fears that we are blinded and can’t see where they’re coming from. People from the outside looking in can usually figure out what it is that’s causing it. Or at least ask enough probing questions to get to the nitty gritty so you can see it for yourself.
If you don’t have anyone that can help you, (don’t panic for what I’m about to suggest next)… allow a professional to help.
I get it. Going to a therapist is not easy. But you shouldn’t be ashamed. I’ll share my story of my experiences with therapists later on in my blog. But for now, just trust me. It doesn’t make you less of a person to seek professional advice.
Give your fear a voice. Allow it to surface so you can face it. Head on.
So you got that? Recognize the fear is there, find where it’s hiding out, where it’s coming from, and why.
TWO | Understand that being afraid doesn’t make you inadequate.
As I mentioned before, having fear is okay. But letting fear run your life, is not.
As we get older, we have been told over and over again to “suck it up” or “get over it”. When you ignore it, it doesn’t just go away. In fact, it just compiles up over time and eventually you’ll have to face it. And at that point, it’s usually a lot scarier than if you were to face it right away when it first started showing up.
Accepting your fears is vital to this process. Our fears are unique. Even though someone may be experiencing or has experienced a similar fear, it is never exactly like yours. And don’t let that discourage you.
We all live different stories, we run into different circumstances, and we all experience fear very differently. Ignore the critics. Keep your head up. And keep moving towards discovering what is living beyond your fears.
THREE | Visualize yourself as unafraid.
It sounds easier said than done. And believe me it is. But once you nail it down, you’ll be unstoppable.
My fear of heights is very real and it can spin out of control quickly. Like seriously where I’m to the point of tears. Summer of 2015 at the Minnesota State Fair is one of these ‘episodes’ I remember very well. I was sitting next to my 5 year old and now fiancé on the skyride, which is basically a little contraption that moves slowly over the crowds of people, literally being only like 20-30 feet above ground. Here’s some pictures of the skyride to further validate how this ride should not be scary.
MN State Fair Skyride.
I don’t remember anything about the ride itself except that my hands and feet were clammy, my chest was heavy, tears welled up in my eyes, and chills creeped across the back of my neck. And there’s no way I could forget all the incessant thoughts of how this thing was going to all of a sudden fall and we were all going to die or get seriously injured. Family fun day, right? Uh, not so much for mom in that moment.
And of course, my daughter with a super awesome memory, has not let let this, less than awesome, moment down.
So last summer 2016, when the fair rolled around again, I was determined to prove her (and myself) wrong. I didn’t just want to ride the skyride again. I had to. As we were waiting in line, I used the technique of visualizing myself as unafraid. I breathed deeply and slowly as I stepped up to get in. I told myself all the reasons I would be okay. I allowed myself the freedom to enjoy it (even if it was just a little bit) of this 4 minute ride. And would you look at that – I survived it to tell you this story 😉
So when you’re feeling the fear, change the direction of your thinking. Give it a new light. Lie to yourself if you must. Make your visualizations as real as possible. Picture every detail. Create the result you want to happen. Facing your fears will not be as scary when you go in headfirst with the mindset that everything will be alright.
FOUR | Confront your fears and move towards it.
That’s exactly what I did with the skyride. I knew that I was afraid the year prior, but with the visualization and my determination to try it again, I confronted my fear once again. And this time I conquered it. And I know the 2017 fair skyride, will be even easier.
So the visualization is great. But without taking action, it doesn’t matter. A lot of the time, we spend more time thinking and talking about it than actually taking action. And that’s probably because our visualizations aren’t strong enough. We are thinking of the end result being a negative one. So we stop there.
But you have to understand that moving towards your fear doesn’t have to be something big. You can take small steps. You don’t have to feel unafraid while you take action. You just have to do them. One by one. This is where a lot of people fail. Because they don’t take action.
You’re stronger than you think. Start small. Be consistently taking steps towards your fear. Every single day. Each time you move towards the fear, the effect it has on you lessens. It’s all about practice.
FIVE | Daily practice.
You won’t get it perfect the first time. Or the second. Or the fifteenth. But you will prove yourself wrong in ways you would’ve never expected. Disassemble the shackles fear has around you. Take one step today, that you’ve been promising yourself that you’d take.
And remember, as you travel on this journey of confronting your fears, you will not experience an instant overnight change. It’s something you build over time. It’s a habit. Its a strength you build up.
Just like going to the gym. You can’t expect to build great biceps by going to the gym one day and do one set of curls…right? Or even a week at the gym. Sure you might start feeling the effects of the habit each day you go. But the results build up over time.
Success is sequential, not simultaneous. That’s how overcoming fear works too…
One day, one step at a time.
It builds and builds and builds. And someday, down the road, you’ll look in the mirror and notice those amazing chiseled pipes hanging by your side. (if not the pipes, you’ll tackle those incredible large fears you had at the beginning of your journey 😉 )
It’s all about learning you, and finding what works and what doesn’t. Just promise yourself and the rest of the world that you will never ever give up.
You deserve your dreams, goals and the life you desire way too much to let fear stand in your way.
Love and conquering fear,