Live Your Life & Embrace Your Fear
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What are you afraid of? I’m afraid of spiders and someone breaking into my home. The former I can’t explain, and the latter is because I used to watch too much Law and Order. Sometimes I let these fears get in the way of doing what I want and need to do. For instance, just yesterday I wanted to get my son’s soccer nets out of the shed, but I didn’t because of spiders. It seems silly, right? Well to me, it’s not. I’m sure you allow your fears to get in the way of living, too.
So what are you afraid of? Some common fears that people experience are of heights, tight spaces, and creatures like spiders, snakes, and rats. These fears prevent people from going up in a hot air balloon, riding in a submarine, and opening the shed. But many people live in fear of other less tangible notions, such as change, failure, and rejection. These fears consume and prevent them from taking chances. It is through taking risks that we learn great lessons and achieve our goals.
No one has ever found love without vulnerability. People don’t pursue an education or career without the possibility of failure. And yet, people fall in love, attend school, and go to work all the time. While some people’s fears would prevent them from even obtaining these typical milestones, others don’t recognize how doubts inhibit their lives. The fear that exists in their minds prevents them from personal growth and obtaining their dreams.
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The Danger of Fear
Fear is natural and should not be ignored. But its presence is manifested in your mind. Fear is a physiological response to danger. To prepare our bodies to defend ourselves by fighting or running, the brain sets off a series of physical reactions: increased heartbeat, rapid breathing, elevated blood pressure, etc. When I see a spider, for example, my body reacts to the possibility that it may be dangerous. But my mind has turned the spider into an unrealistic obstacle. Instead of seeing it for what it is, a small creature that lives to eat insects, I imagine it to be something it is not—a monster out to get me.
Many people let their monsters prevent them from progress. The most common causes of inaction are fears of…
· Making mistakes
· Past decisions
· Disappointing others
These fears paralyze their lives. Instead of developing, as humans are meant to, their lives remain stationary. They don’t attempt forming relationships. They don’t advocate for themselves at work. They mask their feelings. Think of it this way: our brains develop through learning, and learning happens through making new connections. How can you make new connections if you never deviate from what you already know? You may not think yourself to be someone who lives in fear, but if you are not living up to your potential or holding yourself back, you are letting apprehension stunt your growth.
How to Manage Your Fears
Above all, you have to recognize that your fears belong to you. While a lot of people are crippled by the unknown, all fear has one thing in common: it is created in the mind. Fear is imagined. Sure, you may have had a terrible experience, and it has led to your being afraid of experiencing it again; however, you can never be sure of what has not happened yet. Growth and progress are essential aspects of life, and you need to recognize which personal fears are holding you back. This is no easy task, but with some self-reflection, honesty, and courage, you can move beyond your trepidations to achieve your goals.
1. Assess your goals and determine why you haven’t achieved them.
You may not realize your fears, but you can identify which dreams of yours aren’t coming to fruition. Maybe you want a raise, to finish getting your education, or to confront someone who has hurt you. Next, ask yourself why you haven’t met your objectives. What is holding you back? Why can’t you move forward?
2. Use visualization as a technique to control your fears.
Once you recognize your fears, remember that the outcome you anticipate is imagined. Visualize an alternative path. You can write a story in the third person that results in a different outcome. Sit and envision a positive scenario.
3. Give your fears less power.
Fear exists because of potential harm. It is logical to anticipate a negative outcome. If you ask your boss for a raise, he or she will not give you one if you just spent the last 20 minutes visualizing this generosity. Failure will happen. The difference between fear and acceptance is the difference between taking chances and remaining stagnant. However, ask yourself, what is the worst that will happen? You won’t get the raise. While that is unfortunate, you will survive and you do have other choices, like getting a new job or asking your boss how to get that promotion. But you will never get a raise if you don’t take action.
4. Take chances and celebrate.
You may not be ready to confront your boss just yet, but you can start taking smaller risks. You can put yourself in increasingly uncomfortable situations. If you feel awkward about public transportation, go ride the subway. If you have a fear of getting lost, drive down a road you never have before. Slowly, you’ll see fear for what it is, a thought. When you have tackled a fear, reward yourself. Recognize your achievements, no matter how small, and imagine how you will feel when you tackle the big one.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Ross, G. (n.d.). These 10 Types of Unnecessary Fear Should not Block You Anymore. Retrieved March 18, 2015, from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/these-10-types-unnecessary-fear-should-not-block-you-anymore.html
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