Overcoming our fears is the most liberating feeling in the world.
I should know. I used to live my life in constant fear. I was so fearful that I suffered horrifically from anxiety and depression. I was scared to live. I was scared to do everything that I wanted to – fly, drive long distances, interviews, public speaking, expressing myself.
The list is endless. The truth is many are living a life full of fear.
The road to freedom is gradual one. It does not happen overnight. However not taking that road is worse than the fear of the unknown.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.” Paulo Coelho
I am thankful I no longer live my life in fear. I have broken free from the destructive thought cycles that result in anxiety and depression. I have long overcome my fear of flying, driving and interviews. I am almost over my fear of public speaking.
And over the past month I have finally (after a very long struggle) overcame my fear of expressing myself. I have finally found my voice. Don’t get me wrong I have seen brief glimpses of it over the past 2 years. However, now the fear has finally gone, 100%. Disappeared and I feel on top of the world.
I realise there is a process you go through each time you overcome fears. I would like to share this with you.
1) Make a commitment. Decide what fear you would like to overcome and make a decision to do something about it. Thinking about it is going to help. You might think “what’s the point” “I’m doing okay as I am”. This is self defeating. It might seem like the easy option but it’s not. When you don’t face your fears head on, you limit yourself. This slowly and gradually decreases your self esteem and confidence. You feel good when you are pushing yourself, when you are extending your comfort zone. This starts by making and a decision to do whatever it takes, no matter what. No going back when it gets tough.
2) Take action – you need to take actionable steps to achieve what you want. It doesn’t matter how small but you need to keep moving forward. As I was saying you grow when you extend your comfort zone. This does not mean that you need to go so far that you head straight for panic. Don’t get me wrong if you learn and work well under pressure, go for it. The majority of us learn best with slight pressure. Too much pressure makes you want to recoil. In my opinion the best way to grow is to keep extending the comfort zone step by step. For example when overcoming my fear of flying I was regularly flying short distances. I would not have gone long haul at the height of my fears. Similarly when I was scared of driving long distances, I gradually increased the distance. Over a short period I was able to enjoy driving and flying.
3) Re-programme your subconscious mind. You have unconsciously programmed your mind to react a certain way in the situation you fear. Whenever you encounter the situation your brain responds in the same way that is did on previous occasions. It can be a challenging cycle to break. Many people live with the same fears their whole life and never do anything about it. This is self defeating. The good news is that you subconscious mind does not know the difference between a real situation and an imagined one. This has been scientifically proven. Your body will respond to the imagined or real experience in the same way. Therefore, a very effective way to re-programme your subconscious is through the process of visualisation. Visualisation of how you feel and how you want to act when doing something you fear does work. It will not work in isolation. You still need to make a decision and take action. However, as a technique to overcome fear it is very powerful.
4) Learn to control your thoughts. Your thoughts are creating your reality. When you are scared and fearful your thoughts have gone into overdrive. If you cannot control your thoughts at crucial moments it will be difficult to overcome fear. THE best exercise I know to control your thoughts is “watch the thinker” by Eckhart Tolle. You practice observing and watching your thoughts over a period of time. The amazing thing is when you become the observer of your thoughts you realise the essence of you is something far deeper (the observer). If you are the observer then you are consciously able to choose the thoughts or disregard those that are unhelpful and fearful. This exercise has been a pivotal part in my overcoming my fear of public speaking. It is life changing.
5) Be aware of how you talk. Talking to people about your fears, how bad you feel and anything else for that matter is not going to help you overcome them. The language that you use is very important. The aim is to re-train and programme your subconscious mind. Your thoughts, words and actions have to be congruent. There is no point in trying to change your thoughts if all you speak about is your fear/s. More often than not we think that talking about it will help. I am all for expressing our emotions but talking about your fears will not help any. It is self perpetuating. Remember, thoughts, words and action – all congruent.
6) Accept your limits. Limits are fine and perfectly acceptable. It is wise to get to know these limits. Pushing yourself too far has the opposite effect of overcoming fears. You may decide it’s too hard and give up all together. When you reach your limits, have respect for yourself, pull back a little. Be kind to yourself. Change that lasts and sticks long-term is a gradual process. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. You know yourself better than anyone.
7) Don’t take yourself too seriously. One of the biggest things that I see in Toastmasters (public speaking club) is people taking themselves too seriously. I know when I joined I was one of those. I have come to the conclusion that it is better to be in the game than not at all. Being in the game, giving it a go will be a mixture of ups and downs. When you are in the arena playing you are going to make mistakes. You will get in wrong sometimes. This is natural when learning new skills and overcoming fear.
What I know is this! When you go through all of the above and you overcome your greatest fear, you will feel like a different person. This is what makes it all worthwhile. So keep taking those steps no matter how small.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Mark Twain