In this article I tell my personal experience of overcoming fear successfully. There are plenty of things that you can do to get yourself out of paralysis and be able to take action from an empowered position. Sometimes it feels hard, but here I will suggest a few fun things that can help you see how taking action and overcoming fear can be done easily.
Overcoming fear can be fun!
Fear is a primary emotion that our survival can sometimes be dependent on. Thanks to fear we run away from danger. But it is also what keeps us stuck and can rob us of wonderful possibilities and experiences.
For instance, you are afraid to tell someone you need space because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. And you are stuck in a situation of resentment or at the very least discomfort. Importantly, this situation isn’t healthy for either party and requires action. But fear of confrontation has you paralysed and you keep avoiding taking action. Normally, you wait for the fear to go to then be able to take action. But get that: Fear doesn’t go away before you take action. It goes away AS you take action. So when you are afraid, in order to overcome your fear you have to take action. You have a fear of saying No? Say it anyway and the fear will go away. If you never say No, your fear will stay with you forever.
So where does fear come from? Normally it comes from an assumption that you have made about the outcome of a certain situation. Interestingly enough, that assumption is often times wrong. Consider the fear of confrontation again. You may think that being honest with the other person will cause confrontation but you may be wrong. For example, I am a dancer (apart from being a BodyTalk practitioner). And I used to feel uncomfortable saying NO when people that I didn’t want to dance with asked me for a dance. The result was countless horrible dances for me and for the people I didn’t want to say NO to. Until one day I got the courage to “reject” someone, and he actually thanked me. He said there was so much freedom in the NO, both for me and for him, and that he’d much rather deal with what’s so than go through fake motions.
Granted, the next time I “rejected” someone, I didn’t get the same “highly spiritual” reaction. On the contrary, I needed to deal with someone’s hurt, and my guilt for making them feel rejected. How arrogant of me to think that I can make anyone feel anything! It would be nice if we had that power but that’s only an illusion. People feel whatever they feel not because we make them, but because of their beliefs and expectations. That’s why the same behaviour on my part caused two different reactions in two different people. And neither reaction had anything whatsoever to do with me. I can’t take the credit for the first positive response to me rejecting a person, and therefore I can’t be blamed for the second, negative one either.
Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour but no one is to take credit or feel guilty for other people’s feelings. The more you understand that you have little to do with your mum’s, your partner’s or your children’s happiness (i.e. the less credit you take for it), the less fearful you will be that you may cause unhappiness and upset. Acting with integrity is the only thing you need to worry about. Making people happy is not your job, nor is it ever going to be in your power to do so.
Now, intellectualizing about how to deal with uncomfortable situations is all good, yet the conversations about fear don’t always help us overcome it. Remember: taking action equals overcoming fear. It is important to understand that taking action is a muscle. The more you exercise it, the less fear comes up as an issue for you. You come to say to yourself: “I’ve done it before, I can do it again.” Interestingly, for those who can’t talk themselves into taking action, an alternative way to exercising this very important muscle is by performing physical activities that push you out of your comfort zone: tree climbing, sky jumping, abseiling, paragliding, etc. The physical and the mental always go together, therefore overcoming your fear of heights for instance will easily translate into overcoming fear of changing your job, fear of setting boundaries, fear of moving to another country, fear of investing money, etc.
I recently did the Adrenaline Forest Adventure in Tauranga and the following day I was able to confront some big life changing decisions and push through the discomfort with unbelievable confidence. I definitely didn’t possess the strength and the courage to deal with my challenging situation before I did this tree adventure. But while I was up in the trees trying to go through obstacles, confronted with fear time and again, I kept jumping ahead. And every time I took a leap in spite of my fear, the fear gave way to excitement and then confidence. When I finished the whole adventure, I thought to myself “If I could do this, I can do anything.” And that very muscle kicked in the following day when I had to go through a decision making process that I had previously been fearful of.
While hopping through the trees in the Adrenal Forest, I came across a girl that was sitting up there, completely paralyzedand waiting for someone to rescue her. We were on course 4 and most of the tracks on course 4 are similar to those on course 3, except higher. So she had already gone through those obstacles once but now she couldn’t do it again because of the perception that extra height adds extra difficulty. I moved forward (not exactly fearlessly, yet with determination) and yelled out that the track she was afraid of was in fact easier than some of the ones she had already done. But she had already made an assumption that it was going to be difficult and was too afraid to take action despite of what I was saying. She said she was scared that she might fall, completely forgetting the fact that she was wearing safety gear that wouldn’t permit her to fall. And that’s precisely what happens to most of us faced with fear. We forget that we are actually safe.
So, here are three things to take away today that may help you take action in order to overcome fear. Number one, if you are going to make assumptions about how people might react, assume the best (you get what you expect). Number two, review the worst case scenario and realize that you are actually not in REAL danger, you are safe. And lastly, remember that you can exercise the muscle of taking action by performing physically challenging activities and adventures. It works and it can be fun too!