Overcome Fear with Powerful Habits
Fears become ingrained very quickly, because avoiding the thing that causes the fear makes the fear stronger.
Imagine that you’re considering asking your boss for a raise. You quickly feel a twinge of fear. If you avoid asking for that raise, you instantly feel better. Your brain just got a quick lesson on how to make you feel better: feel afraid, the behavior is avoided, feel better.
Avoidance is a drug of sorts. It’s a quick way to instantly relieve yourself of fear. The best way to ensure you’ll avoid a behavior is to generate the physical sensations of fear. It’s a challenging cycle to break.
In this article we'll look into:
- How courage and acceptance can help you overcome fear and
- Ways how to overcome specific fears like public speaking and heights.
Those with courage aren’t without fear. If you weren’t afraid, you wouldn’t need courage in the first place!
Courage is acting in the presence of fear.
Courage is ultimately a habit that must be cultivated daily until it becomes automatic.
Try These Strategies to Develop Your Courage:
1. Confront your fear. Our natural instincts are to run the other way. Try holding your ground for a change. Feel the fear in your body. Avoid distracting yourself or avoiding the situation. Just sit with those uncomfortable feelings and give them your full attention. Notice how those feelings dissipate within a few minutes.
2. Expect success. Things generally seem to work out for the best in the end. Expect a positive outcome and fear is difficult to maintain.
3. Stay with reality. How many failures have you had in life that created long-term challenges for you? Very few. It’s easy to create disastrous scenarios in your mind, but that’s the only place they exist. Realistically, you have little to risk in most situations. The most fearful situations have the biggest rewards.
○ Evaluate the risk/reward ratio for your situation. Try to make a logical decision and ignore what your body is telling you. Your body is lying to you.
4. Challenge yourself. Fears go away when you keep pushing forward. When fear fails to stop you from acting, your brain will realize it’s a strategy that simply doesn’t work anymore.
It’s worth the effort to learn how to act more courageously on a consistent basis. It’s one habit that carries over to every part of your life. When fear is no longer steering your decisions, life becomes much easier.
“You gain strength, courage, and conﬁdence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’"
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Learn Dealing With Discomfort
You wouldn’t let a stubbed toe or sore shoulder stop you from getting things done. So, there’s no reason why a few butterflies in your stomach should be an obstacle. Keep in mind that fear is just a physical sensation. It doesn’t have to direct your actions.
Make discomfort your friend:
5. Be excited. When you’re experiencing discomfort, it means you’re doing something that can make a real difference in your life. When you spend an entire day feeling a little bit of discomfort, you can bet that good things are happening.
6. Relax. Relax your shoulders and all the other muscles in your body. That tenseness that occurs when you’re afraid sets off a chain reaction that creates even more discomfort.
○ You can relieve a lot of your discomfort by simply relaxing your muscles.
7. Breathe. Shallow, uneven breathing creates physiological changes that create more physical discomfort. Your breathing is one thing that you can control. Take deeper, slower breaths and watch what happens.
8. Be curious. Instead of putting yourself into a state of mental distress when the uncomfortable body feelings begin, ask yourself a few questions.
○ “That’s an interesting feeling. I wonder why I’m feeling this way?”
○ “What is the worst that can happen? How could I handle that?”
○ “How great will I feel if I don’t give up this time?”
○ By directing your attention, you can stop the fear from growing out of control.
9. Stay present. Fear grows when you allow your thoughts to drift to unpleasant places. Keep your mind focused on the present moment. Avoid imagining the worst.
Discomfort can be your friend.
The most successful people often report that they’re afraid all the time. They have learned how to accept it and continue forward.
“We don't develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difﬁcult times and challenging adversity.”
- Barbara De Angeli
Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
Public speaking is one of the most common fears. Overcoming this fear can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding. By getting at the underlying root of the problem, mainly the fear of humiliation and rejection, you’ll get a good start on eliminating many other social-based fears.
Developing these habits will help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
10. Introduce yourself. Whenever you’re at a party, standing in line at the store, or in the presence of anyone you don’t know, introduce yourself immediately. Avoid giving yourself any time to change your mind.
○ You’ll quickly realize that no one will reject you. People aren’t something that you need to avoid. After 50 positive experiences, you’ll worry much less about rejection.
11. Speak up at meetings. Start with smaller meetings and eventually move up to larger, town hall-type gatherings. Ask a simple question or make a relevant comment. After several experiences without any negative outcomes, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable and confident.
12. Begin and end each day with visualization. Spend five minutes each morning and evening imagining yourself giving a presentation. Vary the group size and the topic of the speech. Picture your audience captivated by your words. Feel their support and enthusiasm. Allow yourself to feel poised and confident.
○ This process can require a few weeks to make a significant. difference, but you’ll grow accustomed to speaking to groups and expecting success. When you expect the best to happen, there’s no room for fear to survive.
13. Repeat affirmations throughout the day. Constantly tell yourself that you’re a great public speaker and you’re brimming with confidence. Here are a few ideas:
○ “Others love to listen to me speak.”
○ “I feel most confident when sharing my thoughts and ideas publicly.”
○ “I enjoy the attention I receive while giving a presentation.”
○ “I love people and they love me.”
○ Make a list of affirmations and repeat them to yourself regularly. Remember, you talk to yourself all day long! Try to avoid going more than five minutes without reciting an affirmation in your self-talk.
14. Speak to groups regularly. Join Toastmasters International and make speeches on a regular basis. You’ll get feedback from experts and give presentations in a comfortable environment. One of the best ways to get over a fear of something is to do it regularly.
Overcoming a fear of public speaking can be a huge enhancement to your life. You’ll be more comfortable in social situations, and your career will receive a great boost!
“Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most easily of all, the gate of fear.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Overcome Your Fear of Heights
You can create a set of habits that will have you peering over the edge of a skyscraper in no time.
Give these tips a try:
15. Spend some time each day looking at pictures and videos that create fear in you. YouTube has countless videos of crazy teenagers jumping from rooftop to rooftop. You can also find videos of people climbing radio antennas, skydiving, or doing handstands on the edges of tall buildings.
○ Force yourself to watch videos and view pictures that make you “weak in the knees” each day. Keep watching until your fear response dissipates.
16. Put yourself in real situations. Whether it’s a rotating restaurant on the 70th floor or a grain silo, expose yourself to heights on a regular basis. You might start by looking out the second floor of a building and add a floor every few days.
17. Tell yourself that heights are exciting to you. There’s a fine line between excitement and fear. The physical sensations are remarkably similar; it’s the expectation that differs.
18. Visualize yourself in situations that involve heights. Remind yourself that you’re safe, but make the imagery as vivid as possible. See yourself handling the situation bravely and comfortably.
○ In time, you’ll behave the same way when faced with real situations. Practice daily and you’ll be rewarded handsomely.
Life favors the bold.
Fears can be systematically defeated and habits can be a critical component of that process. Use the suggestions in this book to help desensitize you to your fear. Repeat these actions over and over again, until they become habits, then rejoice as you see your fear dissipate!
Silke Glaab (aka SilkCelia) is a psychologist (MA) who helps executives, entrepreneurs and experts to be more resilient to stress and dramatically improve their thinking and feeling so that they enhance their performance and leave a legacy in their companies, their lives and the world.
Silk uses rapid transformation therapy to help clients to transform the roots of a presented issue within minutes while using neuroscience to boost brain power and emotional intelligence to create mindful behavior and decision making in all areas of life.
Silk holds a master degree in psychology and has worked for over 20 years as a trainer, consultant and counselor in divers industries in Germany, Kenya, and Dubai. She is personally trained by the celebrity hypnotherapist Marisa Peer and the neuroscientist Prof. Dr. Kennedy.