Contrary to popular opinion, fear isn’t such a bad thing. After all, it’s responsible for keeping us safe, prompting our fight of flight response, and sending us running for the hills when a sabre tooth tiger shows up at our door. It’s a primal and natural response that for thousands of years has ensured the survival of our species.
However, most of the fears we face today are far less life threatening and come in the shape of uncomfortable experiences and feelings that we would rather not have or feel. The fear of public speaking is a common one. And while this is unlikely to result in a fatality, it can open up the proverbial can of worms in our emotional psyche. All the ‘what if’s’ start to take up residence in our brains and before we know it we’re catastrophising like a pro. Sound familiar?
Well that’s fear talking. That little voice in your head that says – ‘what if I fail’, ‘what if I look stupid’, ‘what if I’m judged negatively’, ‘what will people think’. You know the drill. Fear steps in like an overprotective parent, attempting to steer you away from perceived danger, which in most cases is simply a feeling of intense discomfort.
But realise this, fear also paralyses you into inaction. Behind every procrastinator is a fear that the risk attached to completing a task or achieving a goal is greater than the reward. Fear loves to settle into your ‘comfort zone’, keeping you safe yes, but also keeping you small.
So how do you get fear on your side, propelling you into greatness instead of keeping you stuck?
- Give it a voice. Let your fear speak and really listen to what it’s trying to tell you. The fear that says you can’t have, do or be something is the manifestation of all your limiting beliefs, and it really just wants to stop you from getting hurt.
- Challenge your limiting beliefs – are they really valid? A good way to know if they are true or simply a fabrication of your own making is to imagine that you have to argue for them in a court of law. For example, if you have the belief that you can’t learn new skills (based on a first grade teacher telling you that you were stupid), would that really hold up? Is it likely that this would be found to be true?
- Change your beliefs – the beauty about a belief is that you are free to change it. After all, you are the owner of the belief so it’s context and content is completely up to you. Swap out negative language for positive and say it to yourself repeatedly. Your mind will accept what you tell it, you just have to commit.
- Recognise that fear and excitement share the same physiological response – increased heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, feeling of nervousness in the stomach. If this is the case, would’t it be better to tell yourself that you were excited instead of fearful. What impact could this have on you moving forward with a goal, even in the face of potential failure. Tell yourself, “I’m excited. I’m so thrilled to be…..” and finish that sentence.
- Befriend your fear– if you are prepared to partner with fear, to reframe your experiences and give them a new and more positive meaning, you start to build a strong resilience muscle. In doing this you move towards a life driven by curiosity and passion rather than anxiety and apprehension.
And one final piece of advice, let go of what other people think. Their perception of you is a reflection of them. You can’t control it so move on.