Fear. It’s multifaceted and can affect almost any area of our life, sometimes without us even realizing it. The interesting thing is, when you break down the reality of what fuels fear, you’ll find it’s fairly “easy” to overcome. Notice I didn’t say remove.
Anyone who says they’ve been able to eliminate fear is either lying or has reduced their life down to a point where they don’t have to feel the emotion of fear. Even elite special forces in the U.S. Military like the Navy Seals have to learn ways to push through fear. If they have it, you do too.
If we can all accept the reality that everyone experiences fear, the question you have to ask is “How do I feel fear and overcome it?”.
Learn to Become Curious Instead of Afraid – The tendency is to react when we feel the emotion of fear. By default, our reaction tends to lean into the fear instead of proactively doing something that helps snap you out of the cycle. You can train your response in a way which helps you become more self-aware and identify what’s causing you to be afraid. It helps turn you into the observer instead of the person who is trapped by what they’re feeling.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What thoughts did I have that caused the fear to appear?
- Where was I when I first felt fear?
- What do I tend to do in response to feeling fear?
- What triggered this feeling and why is it so strong?
When you are the observer, it frees up your ability to become the investigator, which in turn opens up your ability to identify the root cause connected to your fear.
Embrace 13 Seconds of Courage – If you want to overcome fear all you need is 13 seconds. That’s right, I said 13 seconds! You may need to be courageous 100 times, but don’t be overwhelmed by that thought. Instead, think about how accomplished you’ll feel when you are brave for those 13 seconds. This point is something I’ve learned to apply on a regular basis. It is the key to turning fear into a roadmap instead of something that debilitates you. Each time you are willing to acknowledge the fear is there, then push through, you find the strength of the fear weakens. Over time it has less and less ability to hold your attention.
I was terrified when I first started public speaking. I would get the sweaty palms, butterflies in my stomach, and question the validity of everything I was about to say. To be clear it still happens from time to time, but it happens less frequently, and when it does it doesn’t feel paralyzing. The reason I don’t experience that same level of fear and doubt is because I’m willing to be courageous for 13 seconds. That’s about the amount of time it takes for someone to introduce me and for me to get in front of the crowd and start speaking. Once I’m speaking the fear subsides, and I actually enjoy myself.
I feel God’s pleasure when I speak, but I’d never get to experience it if I wasn’t willing to be afraid, acknowledge it, and push through the emotion that tells me to shut up and sit down instead of getting up and speak. I need to be courageous for 13 seconds, then God partners with that courage and multiplies the effect. I’m not saying you won’t still feel fear, but it’s impossible to have it hold you back if you consistently choose to push through instead of shrink back.
Identify the Lie & Connect to Truth – Several of our fears can often be pinpointed to a lie we were exposed to as a solution at some time in our life. It may have been the only option you had at the time, but as you progress through life, it slowly erodes your ability to embrace your true identity because it leads to a debilitating fear. Fear slowly looses it’s grip when you identify the lie and begin a process of walking out the truth. It can be one of the scariest things you’ve ever done because the lie is what gave you a false sense of safety. It’s like taking an animal that lived in a cage it’s entire life, opening the door, and saying “now go be free!!”. Obviously, a better life is on the outside of the cage, but the cage has been it’s safe haven as well as a source of pain. The truth is the open field, and the lie is the cage. While it’s more fulfilling to live outside the cage, it can be terrifying to walk out of it the first time.
Let me give you an example. If you grew up in a hostile environment as a child, there’s a good chance you didn’t have permission to speak up or your parents didn’t know how to take care of your emotional needs. What happens is you’re taught as a child to “be quiet” to feel safe. As an adult you find yourself feeling really insecure in public settings. This probably stems back to the lie… “If I stay quiet then I’ll be safe.” Letting go of this lie and embracing the truth, “People love to hear what I have to say”. It can feel intimidating at first, but the more you do it, the less the lie has a grip on your voice in your life.
Accept the Fact You Will Fail – If you’ve reduced your life down to one that has never failed, I feel sorry for you. Part of living is learning how to respond to failure in a healthy way. There’s no getting around the fact you’re going to fail at something at some point in your life. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. If fear of failure is the core reason you don’t try, then you will likely find yourself unhappy with the direction your life is headed. We are hard-wired as humans to try something we’ve never tried before. It’s one of the ways we grow as an individual.
It starts with crawling as a baby and shouldn’t stop as we grow older in life. We didn’t learn to stand up and walk the first time we tried, so don’t expect to be a master at something when you try something new. It may be public speaking, starting a business, speaking up at a party, or building a barn. If you want to grow, then you have to accept the fact that you will fail. There’s a reason John C. Maxwell’s book Failing Forward has been so successful. It presents a fresh way of looking at failure. It turns failure from a negative to a positive.
Let me say it a different way. I don’t know of a single person who has learned how to thrive in life without failing as they discovered what this meant for them. They were just willing to risk, fail, and keep trying until they found their sweet spot.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions – Learning how to ask good questions is a life skill that you should learn to apply in every area of your life. Consider it something almost selfish because ultimately it’s for you. The more questions you ask, you’ll be able to ask even better questions. The better questions you ask, the deeper your relationships will go, not just with others, but also with yourself. You can use the questions above as a springboard for asking your heart questions related to fear. When you ask the right question, it unlocks the answer you actually need instead of the one you think you need.
I could ask you “Why are you scared?” or “What about speaking in public makes you shut down with fear?”. Both are questions, but one will lead you to the core reason you stay silent while the other will most likely get a response like “I don’t know, I’m just scared!” or “Because I don’t like speaking in public!”…. you get the idea.
Give Yourself Compassion – Most of us tend to respond to fear in one of a few ways. We either try to pump ourselves up with self-talk or adjust our life in a way that we don’t have to feel the fear anymore. Either one can help you temporarily, but they’re not a long-term solution for overcoming fear because they don’t help you access a solution that empowers your heart to become courageous.
Compassion is one of the most useful tools you can use to access love and find the courage you need to overcome fear. It doesn’t ignore the fear or try to suppress it. Actually, it does the opposite. It acknowledges you’re feeling afraid and opens up a key connection to God as you walk through your fear.
It says: I’m sorry you’re feeling afraid (overwhelmed, intimidated, etc.) and I’m so proud of you for facing (insert what’s causing the fear). From here you can ask God what lie you believe by using the Identify the lie & connect to truth section of this post.
That kind of response to fear is fundamentally different than “Come self! Stop being such a wimp and let’s do this!” or “How can I be afraid of something so silly.” This kind of internal response leads eventually to self-hatred and is like a toxin that affects every area of your life.
Let Go of Control and Be Willing to Trust – Trust is a tricky thing to navigate for most of us because life often teaches us to feel safe we have to trust less. It may be that we felt pain from a relationship, have been robbed or cheated, felt let down by God in some way to name a few. Over time we feel the need to trust less and control more to feel safe. We end up controlling every aspect of our life. Here’s the problem with that… it only leads to fear, and it’s freakin’ exhausting. We become afraid to let people into our heart, or we slowly trust in our abilities over God’s plan He has for our life.
We find ourself caught up in the need to present a polished persona of who we ought to be instead of who we really are. We have to make sure we can manage and manipulate anything that may potentially shed a bad light on the person we’ve tried so hard to present to others. Meanwhile, we become more isolated and empty inside.
If you desire to feel fulfilled and happy, then it’s necessary to let go of control. Think about areas of your life that terrify you to trust instead of control. Maybe it’s trusting a friend or your spouse, or it could be that you need to trust God in an area you’re trying to manage on your own. Be willing to risk embracing trust in this area. It will feel overwhelming at first, but this is where you turn to compassion and be willing to remain present when you want to run back to what is familiar.
Give yourself an ultimatum which says “Fear doesn’t get to dictate my life anymore. I’m determined to look at fear in a different way than I have and unlock a solution”. It’s ok to be afraid, all of us have been. It’s not ok to let it make you smaller than the beautiful plan God has for your life.
Do something that scares the heck out of you this week. Use one or more of the tools above to walk through the fear and find out what kind of life you can have on the other side. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to feel afraid if you face it once. It will require you doing it multiple times. Don’t let fear win. It’s a weak alternative to embracing life to it’s fullest.