Has there ever been a time when you grew frustrated with yourself because your fears got in the way of your ambitions? Maybe you’re lacking courage or maybe you’re being faced with a truly daunting task. Either way, your fear is getting the best of you, and you’re suffering because of it. So how do we get past that anxious voice in our head when we know the pros outweigh the cons? To face our fears, first we need to know why we have them.
Why Do We Experience Fear in the First Place?
Being afraid is actually a normal emotion. Fear is a natural born instinct that works as a survival tactic. Without fear, we’d be unable to stop and weigh the risks and consequences that could come from doing something dangerous. With this in mind, there may be situations that you perceive as being less risky than others. Therefore, you would be a little less scared to experience those things. For example, on a normal day, you may be more likely to go for a walk than to go skydiving because there is less risk involved in the latter. There are more dangerous situations to consider in skydiving than simply taking a walk. Still, if skydiving is a goal of yours, but you’re hesitant to do it, you would need to understand why it scares you in order to work your way up to doing it.
Assess the Risks
If you have ever done something you were nervous about, there’s a chance that once you did it, it wasn’t as bad as you assumed it would be. Or the outcome was so positive that it was worth the bout of nervousness. When you’re faced with something that scares you, the biggest step is deciding that you want to pursue it despite your reservations. A great way to do this is by assessing the risks of the activity or task.
Creating a list of pros (positive reasons for doing this) and cons (negative consequences if this is done) is a common solution when you’re teetering between options. It could also be helpful to take a step back and ask yourself the obvious questions, “Will this harm me?”, “Is this benefitting me in any way?”, “Could I get in trouble for doing this?”. Your answers to these questions will put the realities of the activity into perspective. It would also help to identify which of your fears come from real risks and which come from perceived risks you’ve created in your head. A way to differentiate the two would be to talk with someone, or multiple people, who have done it before. They can provide their experience and how they felt afterward. You can draw your own conclusions from someone’s firsthand knowledge rather than playing a guessing game with yourself. Talking with someone you trust can also help ease some anxiety if you’re trying something new.
Creating a Plan to Face Your Fears
To begin doing the things that scare you, you could try doing a similar activity that has fewer risks than the main activity that’s causing distress. Going back to the skydiving example, you could try indoor skydiving first. Since there is much less risk involved, this would allow you to feel the sensation of the main activity without facing the consequences if it turns out you’re not quite ready for the main activity yet. This could also show you if this activity is truly something you’re interested in before you go through all the trouble of doing it. Once you’ve done the smaller activity, it may allow you to see which of your fears remain and which are manageable or have become completely irrelevant.
With anything that scares you, you may never be 100% clear of all anxieties surrounding the task. Trying to wait until you have no fear could result in missed opportunities or regrets. It’s ok to do something if it scares you a little, because you’re actively opening yourself to new opportunities. Eventually, the fear will fade away, and you’ll be more willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone more often.
Every struggle is different, but we can all help prevent suicide. If you or a loved one is struggling, please do not hesitate to call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 (1-800-273-8255 can still be used as well). The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources, and best practices for professionals in the United States. You can also visit their website.
Please feel free to contact me if you need help on your journey. I offer in-person appointments as well as HIPAA-compliant virtual options.