Everything in life has two sides, the positive and the negative. Fear is no different because it can either be good or bad depending on its effect on the person who experiences it. By its own, you should not be afraid of fear. Actually, you can regard fear your ally because it triggers your innate instinct for self-preservation. When faced with danger, it alerts you to act immediately to either fight or flee by causing your heart to beat faster, your blood pressure to rise, and your breathing to speed up. These physical changes trigger your mind and body to respond quickly and remain until your brain senses that the danger is over.
The problem, therefore, is not fear itself but your reaction to it. Rather than taking advantage of its natural effect of inciting you to act, you suppress it. You let yourself to be controlled by your fear so it makes you withdraw from life. It paralyses you from pursuing your dreams or stepping out of your comfort zone. You docilely accept mediocrity and complacency into your life.
Since fear, as Dale Carnegie puts it, “does not exist anywhere except in the mind” and “is just a habit” according to Napoleon Hill, then you can fight it with the proper mindset. Being aware of your fear is an important step in overcoming it but mastering fear may require more effort. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Learn to face your fear. Be comfortable with it. Do the thing that frightens you instead of running away from it. For example, if height terrorizes you, look down safely from the window of a tall building. You can do this gradually by climbing up 2 stories higher each time until you can muster the challenge of viewing the street below from highest floor; or if you dread big spiders or reptiles, watch them close up in their glass cages. If you are afraid of speaking in public, join organizations like the Toastmasters’ Club or your local dramatic guild where they can help you can develop your public speaking skills. It is good to be reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s admonition: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face”. Look for chances to do the thing you think you cannot do. You will be surprised to discover for yourself that you can do it after all. Admittedly, not all your fears can be discarded easily. Some require time, determination, and patience to overcome. You do not have to rush them but just keep on moving forward in your life till you are freed from them.
- Fear is psychosomatic in nature.Fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Like many diseases that can be cured by placebo, fear is a product of heightened imagination. The fact that it cannot be seen or touched proves this about fear. Learn to control your mind and you can control your fear. As to its actual effect on you, the philosopher Seneca said about fear: “We are more often frightened than hurt (by it); and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”
- Focus on the positive. Since fear is often erroneously regarded as a negative factor in life, you may focus more on what you consider are the positives such as the things you must be grateful for like your skills or talents, past accomplishments insignificant as they may seem, any good deed you have done for someone, or simply for waking up each morning. By filling your mind with blessings and positive thoughts, you crowd fears out of your life.
- Plan for your fear. To be forewarned is to be forearmed so be prepared for them. Having an action plan in place in case what you fear show up will prevent you from giving in to them. You can prevent your fears from taking hold of you by spending time to calculate, minimize, and manage the level of risks in your actions. Acknowledge and reward every time you succeed in overcoming your fears. These reinforce your confidence and strength in conquering them until you finally scare them out of your life.
When you learn to master your fear, you develop its opposite — courage. And courage, according to Aristotle, “Is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible”. Recent neurological studies on courage have shown that mastering fear, or being graceful under pressure, is not just about facing it, but also coping with its risks and uncertainties. By consistently mastering your fear, it will eventually become a habit and makes you courageous with practice.