How to Overcome Fear: Fearlessness & Understanding Fear
Fear is something we can all relate to and have felt before in our lives - fear of failure, fear of what others think, fear of being judged, fear of missing out, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of transition, fear of speaking on a stage...the list goes on. But, once we know where that fear is coming from, the purpose it serves and our "why" behind it, we can begin to live more fearlessly and go about our lives more authentically.
is fear a friend or foe?
Really, what is fear and what’s the basis of it? Of course, on a biological and evolutionary level, it's to protect us from harm and it got us to where we are today. The truth is, without fear, years of conditioning us onto what is dangerous and what isn't, our amygdala's and our instincts onto what scares us and what could potentially be harmful, we wouldn't have even survived as a species. We are all very highly equipped to avoid pain, suffering and danger. For a reason. Back then. Not now. In today’s World, fear doesn’t serve much of a purpose anymore. 99% of the time, it's not even real.
Let me explain: fear is simply just the product of our thoughts and perceptions. Danger, is however, very real - they're two completely different things. We can all agree that we don’t have a cheetah or lion running after us trying to hunt us down for its next meal, right? There isn't really a survival instinct going on when we say we are scared to do something nowadays is there?
So, fear was a friend and still is an old friend trying to watch out for you -but today, we make our own fears a foe, enemy and barrier in achieving our greatest potential.
The thing is, life has become too and too convenient for us. Which is a good thing in terms of convenience, technology and advancements, but not such a good thing when our brains haven't caught up to how fast we've advanced what's around us. In a sense, our brains have scaled down what’s actually fearful or scary. The threshold is a lot lower now. And, neurologically, our brains don't know the difference in terms of a reaction to an animal chasing us (a real threat or dangerous situation) and us being afraid of delivering a speech in front of thousands of people. The fight or flight response and cortisol release is nearly the same.
Now, I am not saying that there aren’t people in the World who live in true and real fear. I don’t know your personal situation or story and I'm not in any way trying to downplay REAL fear of survival and safety. That’s a very serious thing, and I do not want to undermine or belittle that. Having been around the World and seen all sorts of conditions, I do not want this being taken out of context. I am not talking about that kind of danger and fear - what I am talking about today and focusing on though, is what most of us are talking about when we talk about fears (when safety or danger isn't a concern). That is something, that nobody should ever take for granted - safety from real danger, because there are people living in real fear. Which is why, putting things into perspective really helps us in challenging our own thoughts and rationale behind real fear. Sometimes, we just have to get off of our reigns and see things for what they really are.
Most of us, when we're talking about fear, are talking about something that either, we aren't looking forward to, something that will inconvenience us or that we didn't have planned or feel unprepared for, or something that makes us feel a bit nervous, uncomfortable or anxious. Now, I don't know exactly what you're fearful of, so I may not be able to help you work through the exact thing you're fearing in your life, but I can give you some general insight onto fear and how you may be able to befriend it and work through it for yourself :).I mean, I’m assuming that if you have the ability to listen to this podcast, you have a wifi connection, phone, internet access and a laptop maybe? I’m going to presume you are in the top tier few lucky ones in the World who have these things in the big span of things - being able to hear people talking in your headphones on topics wherever and whenever, that’s pretty nuts to me! Imagine: 100 years ago, there was no such thing as blogging. Or internet. Things have become comically easy. But when things get too easy, it can sometimes breed laziness or a lack of perspective. Because, there’s not a lot we really have to work super hard for in order to get. You could go to the grocery store and get your next meal right now, or even go to the closest restaurant I'm sure.
our perception is everything
Anxiety, fear, nervousness and discomfort...all of this, can easily be combatted if we think about the "why" behind why we are feeling the way we do about something, where it stems from and if, the worst case scenario or outcome was to happen that we are so very scared of, what would actually happen? Most things are so extreme-ified (I swear I'm just making up words now) in our heads, and then when they actually happen, we are like "wow, that wasn't so bad!" Things are always going to be scary the first time you try or do or create or realize something - but, when you do it again, and again, and again, it isn't so scary anymore, right? If we think about how we would deal with _______ (fill in the blank), say it did actually happen, how would you take it? What would happen? Would you figure it out? You would! You know how I know that? You've figured it out this far in life! And, you'll do it again! You must have belief in yourself, above all. No matter what happens, what obstacles get thrown at you, what things scare you, you must believe you'll figure it out and that you'll cross that bridge when it happens.
figuring out your why
When you take time to figure out your “why” behind the fear you're having, things start to lighten up a little bit and you’re able to move on with more ease. Fearlessness is nothing but a heightened sense of rationality and objectivity when perceiving things that may be fearful to you. If you see things, in terms of statistics and probability, you'll stop getting in your head about the fears you're having. For example, if you're afraid of starting a business and quitting your job, you're fearful of the potential loss you could gain. You're fearful of a loss of control or security in pay checks coming through every two weeks, you're fearful of how others may perceive you when leaving your comfortable lifestyle, you may be fearful of what if the business fails and you can't get that job back? There are so many worries that enter our minds before doing anything, but, once again, have belief in your ability to figure it out. Everything is manageable and doable and crossable and figureoutable.
Our brains are extremely curious and we need to know why and what ignites our fear first, what stems it, rather. The only way to get over your fears, is to do what scares you! And the only way to really program it into your brain that it isn't scary, is to process what’s going on internally as to why you feel the way you do in the first place. To have that lasting change and build that fearlessness within you, you must simply ask yourself "what would I do, if I could not fail...?" or "if this did happen (the thing you're fearful of), would it be the end of the World?" Instead of focusing on everything you may lose, or all the things that could go wrong, why not think about everything you could gain and what could go right? Say, you quit your job, and you lose the security of a pay check coming in every 2 weeks, you lose maybe, status, you lose, your coworkers and the comfort of routine - but say, with your business, you gain autonomy, you gain, creativity, you eradicate an earning ceiling, you gain a lifestyle you've always wanted! Imagine if so many people you look up to right now, didn't take the leap, didn't go walk straight into their fears, didn't have the courage and belief that they'll figure it out as they go? We wouldn't have and know so many influencers, icons and things we enjoy today!
I’ll give you a silly example that happened literally yesterday. Me and my man were blending up some homemade almond nut milk, and the blender top blew off the top, and the milk went everywhere. It was pretty comical actually, and he replied with “man, that’s been my worst fear since getting this blender, I knew that would happen one day!” where I replied “yea, but, it happened, and was it really THAT bad?” Nobody died, it was hilarious and it took 5 minutes to clean up. Now that’s a tiny example but really, most fear are fears of inconveniencing ourselves. It would suck if…..fill in the blank. We often fear losing things that make us comfortable, we fear change, we fear how people will change around us if we do x, y, z. Taking on the new job, starting a diet, losing the weight, losing the comfort you get and have adapted to when doing something that you know is a bad habit and bad for you but it serves the purpose of comfort or a conditioned feelings. We all know what we should do, but do you LIVE it? Whatever it may be for you - instead of being scared of what could happen or what you could lose, focus on what you’re going to gain! I like to write this out, I literally write out, what I could lose and gain. A pros and cons list pretty much and once it’s on a sheet of paper, it’s not so scary anymore.
In order to move on and make change, you must let go of the fear of what could be lost or happen in a negative way. What about all the good that could come out of it?! What could you gain? Focus on gain AS WELL as loss when making decisions. Don't leave gain out (we tend to do this, so catch it next time if you can!)
I love this quote from Charlie Brown…
“Charlie Brown says to Snoopy “One day, we will die Snoopy,” and Snoopy replies “Yes, but every other day we will live…” so simple but so good right?! Once you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
I heard this acronym one day on FEAR and I loved it, it just stuck - think of FEAR as standing for: false evidence appearing real!
5 Steps in Working Through Fear
1. First ask yourself, why you’re fearful and where it comes from. What is your personal "why" behind the fear? If it's fear of loss, focus also on gain when calculating it.
2. Decide if it’s objectively (take yourself out of it for a sec) a real or rational fear. We’ve advanced quicker than our brains could keep up - our surroundings have become less scary, but the same fight or flight response and stress response takes off. Our brains can’t really tell the difference in terms of a biological reaction (releasing cortisol & amping up our heart-rates, entering fight or flight etc) between if you’re scared to deliver a speech on stage in front of crowds of people or if you’re being chased by a cougar.
3. Ask yourself these questions:
If this thing happened, could I figure it out?
Would I manage?
Have I managed before?
How did I deal with something similar prior to this?
Did I survive (hint: yes)?
Would I survive (hint: yes)?
Would I be okay?
What would happen if the worst case scenario did happen?
How would I deal with it?
Reflect on how you've come so far and how much you've done that did scare you, and how it felt after the fact.
Did you feel proud?
Was it really, that bad?
Did you come out stronger because of it?
Did any growth come out of it?
A little note about extreme risks: I'm not telling you to just go ahead with anything! Life-threatening dangerous things, extreme sports and risk taking stuff that could result in serious physical injuries...please use your common sense and your own discretion, of course. This is more of a checklist to go through for things we fear where there is really no dangerous consequence in terms of physical injury. I highly recommend weighing pros and cons when it comes to that stuff, but also, live a little ;)! I like to look at the probability or statistical analysis of potential accidents and what the likelihood of me surviving is before taking those things on (think: sky-diving, scuba-diving, intense treks and hikes, etc just as a few examples) Not saying they aren't okay to do, just do your research y'all :). Okay! Back to the blog post.
4. Think about and visualize the worst thing you fear about this particular fear actually happening and occurring. Really think about it. Visualize the worst happening, the struggle, the emotion, the potential losses, risks, etc. Are you still alive? Please say yes. Because most likely, you still ARE.
Envisioning the worst happening prepares you for when it actually does happen and a big reason why we fear things is because we have a feeling of loss of control - and we humans, hate the feeling of not being in control. So, take your control back and prepare your brain for the worst - but hope for the best :). To take it a step further, envision figuring it out and how you would cope and work through the fear if it actually happened (and then gut check yourself and know that 99% of the worries/anxieties/fears we have prior to doing something are irrational and don't even ever come to fruition)!
5. Be curious about your fear! When we’re curious about it, we disconnect the emotional attachment to it and start to turn on our rationale and critical thinking a bit more. Curiosity can over-rule emotional responses to things and gets us in realization of the essence of why we feel fear anyway.
1. Think of why you fear the thing and where it comes from.
2. Ask yourself, if it's a real fear or if it's just in your head.
3. Ask yourself if you'll make it out alive if the worst happened (hint: you will).
4. Envision the worst happening and envision yourself figuring it out.
5. Be curious about it.
Think like an astronaut
When we take the time to really think about why things come about and reason with them, we have an easier time dealing with them when they come up. It primes our brain to know to expect it, to expect the worse. Y' know, hope for the best but expect the worse - it’s not so far off. For example, astronauts, are taught to expect the worst and to be so prepared for failure if things go south. They go through rigorous training so that when things actually do go wrong, they've got it covered and they start problem-solving instead of responding emotionally and getting stuck there (frankly, they don't have a moment to spare - their lives literally depend on it)!
They don't live in fear, they live in preparedness. Despite there being an unsurmountable amount of danger and potential of serious implications (and death) - they prepare themselves and do the work prior in becoming competent enough to figure it out. They know the exact steps to resolve problems if they happen, as best they can and as efficiently as they can. That very preparedness allows them to think through and problem solve the situation if it does ever go wrong. Preparedness combats fear and gets you out of your head. So, if you're afraid of public speaking, prepare the heck out of it! Think and be like an astronaut ^
Now, some fears are just irrational and flawed in our heads - for example, the fear of flying on planes. That is simply inaccurate information you're feeding into your brain. Time and time again, statistics prove you are much more likely to die in a car accident than ever in a plane - yet, people are much more afraid of flying. Ask yourself, is my fear based upon real probabilities and stats or just based in my head?
A note on therapy: Fear and Anxiety is a real thing, a real physiological response and a real problem for some people - but it doesn't have to be so hard and so scary. Demystifying why we feel the way we do and doing the hard mental work, really does wonders and pays off huge. If you are really struggling big time, seek therapy. We go to a dentist if we have a tooth ache right? Why would it be any different with the mind and brain? There should be no stigma associated with therapy and tbh the world's most successful people see life coaches, success coaches or therapists on a regular basis - because, you do not have to be "crazy" to see one, you have to be sane to know how insane it is not to. We all have our own baggage and things we go through, seeking professional and expert help is where it's at. Things are shifting now more than ever - most of the time, it's just that people can't afford it. If you can't, seek support from your social relationships or online resources/podcasts/books/blog posts etc. There's tons of information out there to help you out!
I sense a shift happening already in that department, can you feel it? Let me know in the comments below if you can!
Overcoming fear precedes all growth
Most of us don’t think about how we would fix it or deal with it if it went wrong. We just stop at the, "omg! I’m scared of this happening, freak out and move on!" Thinking about how you would work through it though, brings out confidence within yourself. When you realize that just about everything can be figured out, and you have a belief in yourself that no matters what happens, you’ll deal with it, you’ll figure it out, even if you don’t know what it is yet, (the fear of the unknown), your fear will become a friend. It’ll be a challenge more than something to be afraid of.
reprogramming & reframing fear
Now, fear will never go away, it’s built into us. But, you do have the power within you to convert your fear of certain things, into excitement! For example, if you’re about to go on stage and deliver a speech and if you don’t feel ANY physiological reaction, that means you don’t care at all about what you’re about to do - not a good sign. Your heart should be racing and you should be a bit jittery if you're doing something that you deeply care about or are passionate about. The stakes are high when you're serving and doing something you love! Your body lays out the same physiological reaction but you decide if it's fear or nervousness or if it's excitement and anticipation!
If you’re comfortable all the time, are you really even growing?
Our bodies don’t know the difference between nervousness and sweaty palms and our hearts racing, in terms of fear, anxiety or nervousness and the difference between being pumped and excited. Convert that energy into excitement and know that, 99% of the worries or fears we have never even happen! And the 1% they do happen to occur, you got through it this far right? You made it through right? You’ll make it through this one too.
Really think to yourself, how many times did the thing actually happen? Did the person actually tell you you sucked to your face? Did they laugh at you? Throw things at you and boo you off stage? Did they say “no” to your request or sales pitch? Big deal! It rarely happens, but think back to when those things did happen, it didn’t shatter you did it?
We grow stronger with criticism, with things going wrong, when things happen out of the blue that we didn’t predict - we grow closer in our relationships too.
Have belief in yourself to figure it out, have confidence, and build up competency in knowing and preparing for the worst. Don't just focus on loss or how things could potentially negatively change, focus on all the things you'll gain by overcoming, through it, by taking the leap of faith.
Visualize it: visualize the fear happening and visualize how you’d deal with it and problem-solve it through. Write it down if you want - a pros and cons list, what could go right and what could go wrong.
Once we think things through, that's the only way we can fully overcome them - by reframing it in our brains. Reframe nervousness and fear/anxiety as excitement/growth/challenge, as a biological marker that your body cares about what you're about to do (that's good - Ii means you care and are alive!) We want to avoid pain - we’re built to avoid it. But, when we realize we can flip it in our minds and become the master of our fears, we can start to live a life that’s more authentic to us!
We rarely take time to really think about why we have the thought loops we do, but man, is it worth it. I hope this blog post helped you with fear and know that fear isn’t your enemy, it’s there to protect you, but, statistically and objectively speaking, there just aren't real threats anymore to be fearful of (assuming you're safe - see beginning of post for clarification).
Know that most fear is just a lack of reasoning. The neuroscience is so clear and has been in on this for years: we have prefrontal cortexes y'all! Hello! We have an impeccable ability to critically think through things - don’t allow your primate brain to take over when it’s not a real threat or emergency. Put it in perspective, and go fearless into the World. Fear is a friend, it got you here. Be curious about it. Thank it. Express gratitude towards it.
Then, put it into perspective in today's World and go crush it!
Sending you BIG love today & always!
My whole heart, ♡
The Happiness Approach Podcast
Want inspo-on-the-go? Listen to the audio version of this blog post here ♡
In this podcast episode, I share with you my take on how to overcome fear, where fear comes from and what you can do to reframe and reprogram your mind/brain to live more fearlessly!
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Today's QT's: Quote-ables & Takeaways from today's podcast episode & blog ↴
“We don't have or own happiness, we cultivate it.”
“Never let your dreams stay dreams.”
“One day or day one?”
“Pick up the phone to your calling and answer it.”
“You don't have to get worse to get better.”
“You made it this far, you'll make it this time, too”
“If the worst case scenario did happen, believe in your ability to figure it out and work through it.”
“Focus on what you are going to gain as well as lose - don't leave the gain part out”
“Psychology says - Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.”
— Psychology Today
“If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough.”
“All greatness lies on the other side of fear.”
“If it scares you...good. It means you're alive.”
“Take the leap before you're ready and figure it out on the way down!”
“Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst”
“Fear is an old friend who's sole purpose is to look out for you and make sure you're safe”
“If you don't feel anything, you aren't doing the right thing”