Fear kills more dreams than failure ever has. Inhale – Exhale. As a person coping with the fear of failure, this hits a nerve. But at the same time, I like to define myself as a pro-active dreamer. Meaning, making dreams become reality by planning them, manifesting them, and yes, this also means by facing fears. By slowly, but steadily choosing to overcome fears. The whole reason this website exists I owe to the fact that I set my mind to it. I made this dream come true by facing my fear of failing. Because what if no-one reads it, or worse, resents it…?
However, I was not going to allow any fear to kill that dream. And here on the other side, having that blog, feels pretty awesome (understatement). It provides a sense of empowerment and confidence. More than I could have ever imagined.
It got me thinking though, to overcome fears, there must be more to it… What are the secrets of fearless people? What are the concrete action plans we can take to overcome fears, to look them in the eyes and smile?
…And then I, figuratively speaking, dove into stacks of books, the wide web stamped with information, interviews with psychologists, podcasts, ted-talks, peoples personal opinions and methods. And what I learned was so valuable that I consider this post rather a necessity than a possibility.
What I found out was so motivating and practical I was mind-blown and it came down to the following:
The root of all fears: Every fear is based on one general fear of not being able to handle what life throws at you.
With the next question being: Would you still have fear if you believed you could handle everything that came your way?
Hmm… Cool right? In this post, we will cover methods that help us establish trust in our ability to deal with any challenge life presents. From confronting yourself, expanding your comfort zone and why it’s important to learn to give freely. What are you waiting for, let’s go!
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Why overcome fears?
The very reason why fear, once upon a time, used to be useful was that it was to protect us. To protect us from harm. Fear was there to warm us for prospective danger. To either prepare us to run, or to fight. But, as life goes, things change over time and nowadays humanity tends to be too anxious. And where fear used to protect us, excessive fear is harmful.
Say, you suffer from a fear of being in a large group of people but your number one dream in life is to attend a concert by your favorite music band. In this case, your fear is not protecting you, it stands in the way of you living your dream. Or you’re anxious for death and therefore you never take a risk in life, leaving you living a dull and tasteless life.
If living your dream life is not enough reason to overcome fears than I honestly wouldn’t know what is.
Ok, enough introduction, let’s dive into the methods that will help us overcome fears.
1 Push through and confront yourself
First things first, no-one is truly fearless. The people that seem to be fearless, are just able to confront themselves with their fears. Fear is a reflex when we are faced with new, unfamiliar things and we have to realize that we cannot avoid fear if we want to experience new things in life. And we want to experience new things right?
Another statement that has to be made: the feeling of fear will always remain until you act upon it.
For example, say you are afraid of dogs, but then your best friend gets a puppy and you are (somewhat forcefully) confronted with the animal. Then, according to your worst nightmares, your friend encourages you to pet it! What if, to your surprise, it is less frightening than you imagined it to be? It all goes well. No bites, just cuddles? Gradually, the next time you see that dog (or another dog) the initial fear of dogs will be less and you maybe you will start enjoying the company of the dog.
”Going through life tortured by fear is far scarier than pushing past your fears whenever they arise.”
To conclude: confronting and acting upon your fears can effectively improve your quality of life. In turn, by pushing through you gain a greater self-confidence and a new-found sense of self-respect. An advice I take to heart (and as the title goes of one the best books on overcoming fears by Susan Jeffers): Feel the fear but do it anyway!
The exposure of gradually confronting yourself with your fear will create a new form of reasoning, which consists of creating new, safe memories of your fears.
In this exciting journey of overcoming fears, don’t forget to set aside time for yourself to recharge. Self-care is the way to go. Find your inspiration here.
2 Transform your attitude and take action
In short: don’t be a victim of your surroundings.
A very simple and bit silly example, people who constantly complain about Supermarket A not having product X. Instead of empowering themselves and doing something that will meet their demands, in this case choosing to go to supermarket B. They become a victim of their environment.
”Fearless” people have the attractive quality of being confident, self-determined and powerful. They themselves control how they see the world and how they react to certain situations. By transforming your attitude and taking actions you can do the same.
A fear will no longer pose a problem if we take action in the right way. ”I am not happy with this job” > it’s up to you either be a victim or choose to take action (either quit the job or find ways to enjoy it anyway). If I want product X, I go to supermarket B. Simple as that.
A great way to transform your attitude is by changing the way you speak about things, both internally as externally. Therefore practicing positive affirmations being a key point in your journey to overcome fears. The language we use has an unimaginable big effect on our subconscious, as it registers what it’s fed (I can’t, I won’t, I’m incapable) instead of what is actually true (you can, you will and you are capable).
3 Expand your comfort zone
Your comfort zone is a place or situation where you feel safe or at ease and without stress. A very comfortable place to be. Logically, anything involving your fears is beyond your comfort zone.
Your comfort zone strongly influences the actions we take and the choices we make in life. And therefore also influences how to respond once we’re faced with fear. By expanding your comfort zone, you change your perspective on what you are capable of doing. Again, your self-confidence rises and you’ll feel more empowered to face and overcome your fears.
This sounds all wonderful, I know :), but how do you expand your comfort zone you’re asking?
Well, simply by doing something at least once a day that feels uncomfortable. Social anxiety? Challenge yourself to talk to someone at the next party you go to or at the bus stop. Fear of heights? Go the top floor of a building and gaze out of the window for a minute or two. By doing so you can prove to yourself that you are capable of handling it and it won’t feel as uncomfortable the next time.
So say you step out of your comfort zone and it doesn’t even slightly ease you at all? In that case, you can be satisfied you went out of your way to try and that you took action. Expanding your comfort zone is not going to be easy, but it will result in becoming more active and independent. The more unfamiliar and frightening things you try, the more confidence you will acquire.
In other words, by expanding your comfort zone you empower yourself to deal with fear.
4 Take responsibility
What if I had more money? And, what if I break up with my spouse? Or, what if I move to another country?
Wishing for a better life is not going to bring you anywhere, in a realistic sense of life at least. Taking full responsibility for your current situation means you do whatever it takes for you to be happy. This also means you don’t blame others for how you feel, good or bad.
A great starting point is to fully understand and accept that the negative aspects of your life are just another learning process you have to face. And by fully embracing that you are in complete control of your own life. In other words, if something is bothering you, it’s up to you to change it. By either changing it aggressively (moving to another country) or by choosing to focus on the positive aspects instead of the negative ones.
Making active choices improves your life quality and empowers you. And that sense of empowerment makes you feel you can handle anything life throws at you, fear or no fear.
5 Learn how to give freely
To be free of fear, we need to learn how to truly give.
A noteworthy step towards overcoming our fears is to let go of the distress of not having enough ourselves. Only by practicing giving you enable yourself to transform into a truly generous person who does not expect anything in return.
How? First, by becoming aware and learning to appreciate your life as it is, to really see how abundant it is. It helps to keep a record of everything that is good in your life and to write down the things that you are grateful for. Secondly, by giving in itself. Giving thanks, time, effort, personal investment, and even money if you have it.
Experiencing the positive effect of giving will remove any concern you had about not having enough for yourself. Empowering you, making you a more generous and positive person igniting your lionhearted self.
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6 Be a warrior of light, not a worrier of darkness
Ultimately, our goal is to lead a happy life whatever the circumstances are. Worries are an example of negative thinking that brings doubt and even literally weakens us. If you look at your life, realistically and honest, how often do your worries become reality? How beneficial was it for you to worry about it?
And like we mentioned before, using positive language (in spoken word and internally) influences how you feel and how life manifests. A worry is a form of distrusting the outcome of a situation, furthermore, it’s 9/10 negative. Worrying you won’t be on time, worrying that people don’t like you, worrying you don’t have enough money etc.
Positive thinking is not at all denying the negative (problems and so forth) in life, it rather gives you the strength to deal with it. Becoming a positive thinker requires commitment and practice, but is definitely worth it. Not only practicing positive affirmations to rewire the brain is effective, also reading self-help books and creating the habit to be grateful.
Being positive empowers you and helps you to shape your own reality, resulting in fewer worries, wipes out fear and therefore enables you to live a more blissful life.
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7 Surround yourself with strong and supportive people
Taking responsibility and the required steps to change yourself for the better is such a wonderful gift to yourself (and the world!). However, regardless of your well-meant intentions, people surrounding might not welcome your change as much as you do.
If they (family, close friends) are resistant, be wary to not directly go into a defense mode. Rather acknowledge their concern and ask for their support, like this you include them. In your journey of change, while your confidence grows, most likely their confidence in you will grow too. Win-win!
However, this also means letting go of toxic relationships that are holding you back from developing. If you have done your best to include them but they keep resisting it there is not much more you can do. Developing a negative relationship is not going to help you either, as this will only encourage negative feelings such as resent, afflict, frustration, crushed and discouraged.
This brings us to the following, to change your life for the better, you need to surround yourself with strong and supportive people. Just as you let go of toxic relationships, you should also be open towards letting new people into your life who support and inspire you. Surrounding yourself with people who are more advanced, you are opening up to new forms of inspiration and they can give you advice when you are struggling.
8 There are no wrong decisions
If the root of all fears is not being able to handle what life throws at you. Then similarly, there is a fear of making a ‘wrong’ decision. Many people have the tendency to approach decision making from a negative perspective, they focus what could go wrong if they made the wrong decision…
But the truth (at least for most of us) is that we can’t predict the future, so it’s time to let go of the belief that there is both a good and wrong choice. How? By accepting there are no wrong decisions, just opportunities to learn and grow. Whatever we decide, life will provide us with new experiences and room to learn about ourselves, despite the result of your choice.
By saying goodbye to the possibility of there being a wrong choice, you will liberate yourself from the fear of making one.
9 Master commitment
A big fear of many people is that if they lose [X], they lose everything.
For example, say, Sam is convinced if her relationship ends, she’ll fall into a pitch black hole. Most likely because she has committed herself fully to her partner alone. The result of the fear of losing her partner results in clinging to him.
But what if you sketch the life of your dreams and commit yourself to every aspect that comes along with that? So you commit fully to your social life, your family, your hobbies, your work & your partner? The fear of losing your partner won’t be as painful, because you still have the other committed areas in your life to fall back onto.
If you struggle with commitment, you can trick yourself by acting. Like we’ve discussed in our post about fighting procrastination. Acting as if you are assertive, can ignite the feeling of the true feeling resulting in a good outcome. Likewise, if you act that you are committed, fully stand for your importance that the ”job” you’re working, you will experience that sense that comes along with being committed soon enough.
By mastering commitment, you empower yourself to be independent and able to handle anything life throws at you.
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