If you want to conquer your fears, say goodbye to these 8 behaviors
You’re scared. No, scratch that. You’re terrified. And the emotion is so overwhelming that it makes you feel like you’re the only person in the world feeling this way.
Surely, everyone else is stronger. Surely, you’re just not meant to conquer your fears if you’re so afraid in the first place.
Fear is a universal emotion, one that is designed to protect us from danger. If you see a bear, your instinct is to run.
However, the 21st-century world isn’t exactly brimming with dangerous bears. Instead, we’re dealing with anxiety and information overload, an avalanche of emails, a 9-5 regime that drains us of energy, and dreams of financial independence that seem to be just beyond our reach.
It’s better than bears, I suppose. That doesn’t make it any less exhausting, though.
My point is, it’s normal to be scared. In fact, I’d even go far as to say that if you’re not even a tiny bit afraid, your goals probably aren’t big enough.
You *can* conquer your fears. But first, you’ve got to say goodbye to these 8 behaviors.
1) Living in denial
Let’s get this one out of the way right here, right now. You can’t face your fears and grow from it if you keep insisting they don’t exist.
“I’m not scared of spiders.” Oh, really? Is that why you shake each time a spider is nearby?
“I’m not afraid of vulnerability.” So why do you never open up to any of your romantic partners?
“I don’t mind being the center of attention.” You never go up on a stage to play your music though, do you?
Before you move on to any of the other sections in this article, I recommend you grab a piece of paper and write down your five biggest fears.
Be honest. Acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step to solving the problem.
2) Rationalizing your fears away
Next come the excuses.
“I don’t think I’m scared of spiders more than the average person. It’s not a big deal.” The average person doesn’t have recurring nightmares about them.
“Everyone struggles with vulnerability. I just haven’t met the right person to open up to yet.” You’ve already met, like, three different wonderful people who made you feel safe. It’s not about them. It’s about you.
“I don’t really even want to be a musician.” Is that why you’ve already written three different albums?
Look your fear in the eye and accept it for what it is – a fear. A protective mechanism. A challenge.
Don’t let the rational mind convince you otherwise.
3) Putting yourself down
If there’s one thing that only adds salt to the injury, it’s got to be negative self-talk.
“I’m afraid because I’m weak.”
“I’ll never achieve my goals. I just don’t have it in me.”
“People like me don’t reach that level of success. I should just give up.”
Everyone has doubts from time to time. But do you know what separates people who make their wildest dreams come true from those who don’t?
They simply don’t let it stop them. What’s more, they work to reprogram their beliefs about what they deserve and what life they ought to live.
I, for example, have experienced a radical shift in my personal and professional life since I started listening to positive affirmations. The brain is capable of change – this phenomenon is called neuroplasticity – and the more positive information you feed it, the more it latches onto it.
In other words, telling yourself that you are worthy of success and that you are actively combatting your fears may motivate you to take the necessary steps to get to that place.
4) Ignoring negative emotions
Repeating positive affirmations and trying to have a positive outlook on life doesn’t mean you’ll never feel angry or sad.
And that’s okay! All emotions play an important role in your life, and ignoring them will only make matters worse.
Here’s an example. I used to suffer from really bad social anxiety, and while it’s gotten much better over time, it still hits me occasionally.
And it’s a terrible feeling. My whole body is tense, I feel like I want to dig a hole and hide in it, I sweat like crazy, and my heart is like an angry bird fluttering its wings inside my ribcage.
But I know that ignoring it won’t help. Instead, I let myself feel it. I scan my body, focusing on the tight sensation in my throat, the nervous energy in my tummy, and the heaviness in my feet.
And then I follow the advice of Barry McDonagh, who wrote in Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks Fast:
“You need to demand more! The request for more is the most empowering paradoxical move you can make when facing a panic attack. It’s a request anxiety can’t deliver. Your fear quickly subsides because the fuel that powers it (the fear of fear) has been suddenly cut off.”
When I challenge my anxiety to manifest itself fully in my body and accept all the sensations that come with it, I make my peace with the situation and feel the fear slowly diminish. It may not go away completely, but it helps me face life’s obstacles with more confidence.
5) Postponing your battles
Years ago, when my anxiety was particularly bad, my friend and I challenged ourselves to go on a date with someone by the end of the month.
Despite our fear and panic, we both found people we liked on a dating app and made plans to go out. But when the big week came around, my friend canceled her date while I forced myself to go outside my comfort zone.
I ended up in a three-year relationship. She ended up stuck in the same place, and her anxiety only got worse.
If you want to conquer your fears, do it now. Don’t wait until you feel “ready” or until the “right” opportunity comes along.
Chances are, the longer you wait, the bigger your fears will become. So rip the band-aid off.
6) Surrounding yourself with people who don’t inspire you
Want to know the number one secret when it comes to conquering your fears?
Be friends with people who inspire you to grow, not those who motivate you to stay in your comfort zone.
Humans are social beings, and we easily absorb the energies of the people around us – especially if we’re in touch with them on a regular basis.
I can honestly say that the moment I surrounded myself with friends who didn’t struggle with anxiety and who were assertive and outspoken was the moment I realized that I, too, could be that person.
And slowly but surely…I became her.
7) Holding onto things you can’t control
There are only a few things in life that are completely certain. One, you’ll eventually leave this world. Two, you’ll only ever be *you* in this lifetime. Three, most things are beyond your control.
If you want to conquer your fears, accept the uncertain nature of the universe. You don’t know how that business meeting will go. You don’t know if you’ll win that competition. You don’t know if you’ll truly fancy the person you’ve met on a dating app.
But that’s okay. All you have to do is trust your future self to be able to handle the situation. Pass the responsibility onto them.
It is often in our anticipation where fear hides. The moment the big event starts, though, you go into full focus mode and don’t have the time to worry anymore.
Most things are scarier in your head than they are in reality.
Let go. It’ll be okay.
8) Running away from failure
When you’re scared of something, it’s because you’re afraid of failing.
What if you finally set up that business only to go bankrupt?
What if you ask your crush out on a date, and they’ll reject you?
What if you send out your manuscript, and no one is interested?
When thoughts like this wash over me, I remind myself of what Stephen King used to do back before he was famous.
He pinned every single rejection letter to his wall. “By the time I was fourteen,” he writes, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
Failure is an inevitable part of success. The more times you fail, the closer you are to getting it right. Instead of letting failure get you down, why not celebrate it?
At the end of the day, failure only means that you’ve reached yet another stepping stone. Time to move on and keep conquering those fears.