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Coping With Fear: How to Overcome It and Make Fear Your Ally

by A Hospidales
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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

“The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.”

John C. Maxwell

Do you ever feel like fear is constantly holding you back? That it’s a barrier that stops you from achieving your goals and dreams?

That’s because it is!

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we experience, and it can keep us from doing things we want to do or becoming the person we want to be.

But what if fear could become our ally instead of our enemy?

In this blog post, we will examine how to make fear work for us instead of against us.

“Fear has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours.”

Zig Ziglar

We’ll discuss how to understand fear, own it and use it to move beyond our limitations.

We will explore what it is, how it affects our lives, and some strategies for overcoming it.

When you understand fear and learn to use it to your advantage, you can move beyond the limitations it imposes on you.

Let’s get started!

Dealing with Fear

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Marie Curie

Fear. 

We all feel it.

Nevertheless, it’s something we’d go to any lengths to avoid. 

It doesn’t occur to us to acknowledge that it exists or to dig deeper into it in order to understand its significance.

The way in which you respond to your fear, however, dictates whether you stay stagnant or if you can move on to achieve your goals.

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.”

Japanese Proverb

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

I bet that you’ve heard this saying your whole life, but never really thought about it in depth.

This quote and the man himself have a lot to teach us. 

Although we can disagree with much of what he did, he led the United States during the Great Depression.

During that period, everyone was rushing to the bank to get their money out.

The nation was in the grip of a financial crisis. FDR replied to the people by saying, “hey, your fear is making everything worse.”

“What you are afraid to do is a clear indication of the next thing you need to do.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In order to stop the flow of money, he closed the banks for a few days.

The President called a special session of Congress in order to calm the country while they began to develop recovery plans.

As FDR realized that anxiety and fear were crippling effects, he acknowledged them, calmed the situation, and took appropriate action.

When you are faced with fear, you should do exactly that.

The first step to resolving this issue is to acknowledge its existence, then calm yourself down so that you can act decisively.

That sounds so simple, but it’s not.

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Babe Ruth

Most of us are unaware of anxiety, and we don’t understand how to cope with fear.

So, how are we able to handle anxiety and fear effectively if we can barely recognize them?

When you reflect on an anxiety-provoking situation or fear-causing event in your life, you may find that the outcome was far less traumatizing than you thought.

Catastrophizing is a common human trait.

Things usually seem much more pessimistic in our heads than they actually are.

It is unlikely that even the worst-case scenario will come to pass.

Dealing with it differently or sooner would have saved you a lot of time and energy.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

What is Fear?

Whenever you feel threatened, your primal fear takes over.

In simple terms, it’s the feeling of being under threat, under pressure, or in a bind.

You experience fear to protect yourself from harm, which was derived from your ancestors’ ancient brain part that kept them safe from beasts in the bushes.

Normally, fear comes with physical manifestations like a fast heartbeat or sweaty palms.

It’s fight or flight.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

In this day and age, we seldom have to worry about hungry tigers flying towards us.

Despite its usefulness for our ancestors, the fight or flight syndrome hasn’t proved equally useful for us.

Fear can be a powerful ally.

The feeling of being scared will keep you safe. 

Typically, though, these situations are not actually dangerous.

Prolonged stress can exaggerate your fear.

It can be healthy to feel low levels of anxiety for a short time.

It can motivate you.

Nevertheless, if you allow it to continue, it can destroy your life.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Yoda

Fear often finds its way into places it shouldn’t be.

  • This is impossible! If I fail, what will happen?
  • “No way! What if I lose my job?”
  • “I can’t risk it! What if I’m called a fool for doing it?”
  • My savings are too critical to risk. What if I lose them?”
  • I can’t ask, what if I’m turned down? 
  • What if they say yes? I can’t ask.

The last two are great examples of how fear works.

Two opposite reactions to the same situation, but fear plays a role in holding you back in both cases.

What-ifs are simply that: they are not facts, they are not events, they are imaginations about the future.

You see, when you set out to begin something new, whether it’s a brand-new project, a slight pivot, or otherwise, the picture you have in your head of what the outcome will be is what could bring you to your knees.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

Paulo Coelho

It’s not supportive, energizing, or healthy to be constantly stressed or distressed because of this fear and anxiety.

This is similar to slamming on the brakes as you drive down the highway.

It will cost you eventually.

Even though it seems obvious now, so many of us live like this.

We’ve become accustomed to it.

In a world where one side races into blind optimism and the other lags behind paralyzed by fear, it is imperative that we find a balance.

You can be positive and use facts when making decisions.

“The less you fear, the more power you will have and the more fully you will live.”

Robert Greene

Acknowledging and confronting your fear are part of being positive and using facts.

You will be consumed by fear only if you let it cloud your thinking.

It can negatively impact your physical health if you let it continue for too long.

In the end, it isn’t the fear itself that keeps you where you are.

The problem lies in your inability to acknowledge your fears and anxieties.

This keeps you stuck in your current situation.

Can you describe how this looks in action?

It’s possible that you have unrealistic limits on a risk that you want to take.

Fear leads to turbulent emotions of discomfort or humiliation as you begin to move forward.

Novelist Tom Robbins said, “Danger is to adventure what garlic is to spaghetti sauce. Without it, you just end up with stewed tomatoes.”

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.”

Tony Robbins

Fear Versus Worry

Worry is not something we experience in the moment.

We worry about future experiences we may have.

It is natural to worry about the negative emotions we might experience in the future and to avoid them.

That kind of worry has a lot in common with fear.

Unfortunately, the results are similar.

You might feel hesitant, indecisive, and tempted to hide yourself from the world.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Plato

It’s a challenge to decide whether to go for it, or if you should hold back for fear of appearing foolish.

Worry and fear are both components of anxiety, so it doesn’t matter which one you’re experiencing.

As well as draining mental and emotional resources, it also drains energy and stamina.

As a result, you realize going forward, you have to make fear your ally.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you did something every day that scared you?

With so many precautions and regulations to follow between washing and sanitizing our hands, fear has become a part of our everyday lives.

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Pema Chödrön

We want to live comfortably, we want to feel protected, but the fear that keeps you away from contagious diseases is not the same as the fear that keeps you from getting out of a dead-end job.

Keeping you safe and alive is the first fear’s job. I find that to be an excellent example of how fear can serve you.

In spite of our best efforts, fear does not always follow the rules.

It may stray from its proper place and interfere with other aspects of your life.

Observing the news gives you a distorted view of the world we live in.

In reality, the world is more safe now than at any time in history, even though there is plenty of danger all over.

Chances are, you’ll live to a ripe old age.

”You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

There is, of course, a catch.

If you want to find true happiness, you’ll need to overcome your fear of failure.

There’s no value in always feeling safe.

If you stay comfortable, you won’t grow.

You can stay comfortable if you want to be single-minded in life.

But what about developing yourself as a person?

You need to familiarize yourself with fear.

Death is inevitable for everyone on this planet.

No one can escape it.

Therefore, by hiding yourself away to be protected, you are only able to live a sheltered life.

Your attempt to avoid danger is clear, but your hiding from adventure is also plain to see.

Taking precautions does not mean you are complacent.

When we view fear as an opportunity to develop ourselves, we are opening our eyes to the soul.

Fear is a manifestation of power.

Power is the foundation of growth. 

”Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love. And most importantly, be kind to others, even if you don’t like them.”

Stacy London
dangling feet over city

The Faces of Fear

Here’s another way of looking at fear.

Fear is a condition that occurs when we don’t know what will happen.

You feel fear as you look ahead to your future.

Fear comes in two forms.

On the one hand, it’s light and shadow, and on the other, it’s internal and external.

”We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The first thing to understand is that fear exists in the mind and in the body.

Those are the places where fear lives. Understanding that fear exists only between your body and mind is the first step toward facing it.

Let’s imagine that you are crossing a border.

Having spent some time in Iraq, you are now trying to enter Syria.

Those who plan to visit the Middle East know they will need a fixer, someone who will take them wherever they want to go and make their passages as smooth as possible.

Your fixer reminds you what to do at every checkpoint.

Passport in hand, you’re ready to cross the border.

”If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

Sun Tzu

A member of the border security force approaches you, shouting in Arabic at you as he approaches.

You cannot think; all you can see is the gun he carries and the stares of everyone around you.

This has attracted the attention of other officers.

Suddenly, four men are hanging over you, waiting for you to answer questions you don’t understand.

You see their comrades laughing in your peripheral vision as they watch.

At that moment, you realize that fear has overcome you.

You keep your gaze fixed on the initial man, calm your fear, hide your feelings, and accept that fear is real and that it is your friend.

”The eagle has no fear of adversity. We need to be like the eagle and have a fearless spirit of a conqueror! “

Joyce Meyer

After offering some cheap cigarettes to speed up the process, you pass safely and securely.

It was the most terrifying moment of your life.

Anyone would be scared at that moment.

It was only a matter of looking fear in the face (and coughing up those cigarettes) that you needed to do in that situation.

Despite the feeling that you were in danger, there was no real danger that day, although you might have felt that way at many borders.

Instead, they were just showing off for their friends and enjoying themselves.

Though you didn’t know that, you won because you made fear your friend. 

Physical Fear

”Living with fear stops us taking risks, and if you don’t go out on the branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit.”

Sarah Parish

Our discussion briefly touched on the physical changes that take place when the body kicks into fight or flight mode.

Let’s take a minute to understand that physical response before we go further.

It works the same way it did for your ancestors.

We mentioned before, however, that your ancestors had to contend with hungry animals.

Fear kicks in.

It triggers your body’s response to stress.

This area of the brain regulates your memories and emotions, and it also contains hormones and neurotransmitters.

Among them are adrenaline and cortisol.

”Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”

Jim Morrison

You experience spikes in blood sugar and a boost in heart rate as the sugars pass through your bloodstream.

You also experience changes in breathing patterns and your immune system!

Those are what cause fear, our experience of fear.

This is the body’s reaction to stress, in medical terms.

Fear is psychological, meaning it exists only in your head.

Scientists believe that fear is really just cortisol oversaturating the body’s systems with stress hormones.

This can have long-term health consequences if it is a chronic issue.

Your memories are also managed by the limbic system, as noted above.

”I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

Rosa Parks

Therefore, the memories you associate with fear create a vicious cycle.

Your mind and memory are filled with ideas, thoughts, and images, all influenced by irrational feelings.

I’d like to briefly touch on some helpful practices now, even though we will cover many tips and advice on how to befriend your fear in the future.

  • Take note of your stress
  • Regulate your breathing
  • Become detached from the situation
  • Practice yoga, meditation, or exercise daily.

”Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.”

Bear Grylls

We don’t need to be afraid.

Not truly.

It is fully possible for you to befriend fear so that you can overcome it.

Starting now, let’s acknowledge that fear is nothing more than a mirror.

Looking into it, you can see your most profound wounds, your deepest weaknesses, and your darkest shadows.

In confronting and befriending your fears, you are actively choosing to learn more about yourself in order to develop and grow as a person. 

Make Fear Your Friend

Own It

”The key to growth is acknowledging your fear of the unknown and jumping in anyway.”

Jen Sincero

It is critical to understand that fear has a role to play.

This is why you have to look both ways before crossing the street to avoid getting hit by a car.

It prevents you from making stupid decisions such as getting the name of your crush tattooed on your body.

Fear distorts our perspective when we allow it.

There is no need to be paralyzed by fear.

Getting to your destination shouldn’t be hampered by it.

”If you go deeper and deeper into your own heart, you’ll be living in a world with less fear, isolation and loneliness.”

Sharon Salzberg

Fear will take control if you let yourself feel it unquestioningly.

However, taking a step back and acknowledge that fear is part of your development process.

If you overcome it as you develop as a person, then it becomes your friend and you overcome it.

When you let your fears keep you from taking action, you are procrastinating.

This is time you could have spent more wisely, like getting ready to do whatever it is you decided to be afraid of.

Get ready, practice, and prepare for when the moment arrives!

That’s what you should do with the time you spend in fear.

”I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

J. K. Rowling
climber on mountainside

Use It

As with best friends, fear can serve a purpose beyond friendship; it can be a motivating tool. 

Take a moment to stare into the abyss. 

Visualize what your life would look like if your fears were realised.

Use that as a motivator to draft an action plan that ensures both your fear and its reality are avoided.

”The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.”

Brian Tracy

As you move forward, remember that every day offers you the chance to make positive choices towards a healthier, more fulfilling future.

Here’s a way to look at it.

We talked about how fear manifests physically and what it feels like when all that cortisol kicks in.

Do you know what?

When you’re excited, your body responds in many of the same ways – your blood pressure rises, adrenaline rushes through you, making you hyperactive.

Therefore, I encourage you to consider changing your perception.

”He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Instead of seeing it as something to be feared, why not flip the script and start seeing it as something to be excited about?

Believe in yourself.

We’re not here to endure, we’re here to enjoy.

Move Beyond It

How familiar are you with confirmation bias?

Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that occurs when people favor information that confirms their existing beliefs or hypotheses.

”Kill the snake of doubt in your soul, crush the worms of fear in your heart and mountains will move out of your way.”

Kate Seredy

This can lead people to ignore evidence that contradicts their beliefs, or to interpret new evidence in a way that supports their existing views.

Confirmation bias is often cited as a major factor in a variety of real-world problems, such as racial discrimination, political polarization, and the spread of misinformation.

Confirmation bias can have consequences for both individuals and society.

For example, confirmation bias may lead people to vote for candidates who share their political beliefs, even if those candidates are less qualified than their opponents.

In the workplace, confirmation bias can cause managers to make poor decisions by disregarding information that contradicts their preferred course of action.

”I have a very positive attitude in life. My insecurity, fear and need to know about tomorrow has fortunately eased. What is going to happen will happen anyway. So why break my head over it?”

Katrina Kaif

What do we do when we want to confirm our existing ideas, whether consciously or unconsciously?

We are encouraged to find evidence of what we already believe by looking for information that supports our beliefs.

It blinds us.

It can be challenging to find alternative explanations or solutions, and this only robs us of our ability to see the big picture.

To move beyond fear and make it your friend, challenge your confirmation bias.

Whenever you experience fear, consider whether it is accurate or a belief from an external source.

”Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.”

Louis E. Boone

Let’s say you have a big presentation coming up, for instance.

You will need to make the sales pitch of your life in front of a room full of people.

You feel terrified because it reminds you of when you were 13 and fumbled an oral book report in front of your class.

The sweat dripped from your forehand and landed on the paper below, smudging the ink just enough that you could not read what was written.

It felt like hours passed before the teacher was able to control your classmates’ laughter.

Your humiliation was overwhelming.

Despite the fact that you’ve moved far beyond that moment, that moment has touched this moment.

As a result of your fear of humiliation, you have been unable to concentrate on your work.

You will simply perpetuate self-fulfilling prophecies for the rest of your life if you let this happen.

Rather than letting your fear paralyze you, you could harness it and perform your best. 

”Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

Bertrand Russell
"Do not give up spelt" out on tiles

Make Fear Your Ally

Take this next step and make fear your ally.

Befriending fear isn’t enough.

Fear is a powerful tool for changing the game.

”One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”

Henry Ford

The simple act of recognizing fear when it rears its ugly head and finding a way to move forward can change your life.

The process is empowering.

Here are some ways that fear can show up in your life.

The Extreme

The fear you feel is rarely as bad as you imagined it to be in reality.

When you take a risk, venture into the unknown, or take a big step, your mind wants to keep you safe.

You might be avoiding change because your mind wants you to do so, even if there is no real danger or if the fear no longer serves you or merely holds you back.

”Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear.”

William Congreve

Change is unpredictable.

You never know what’s going to happen next.

While the unknown can be frightening, change occurs so often in our lives that we can’t afford to be afraid of it all the time.

When you are faced with a new opportunity or change, break the task up into actionable steps and start small.

It doesn’t matter how small.

The Signal

When you’re constantly stressed out and afraid, your body is trying to tell you that there’s something more going on.

Take some time for yourself!

You probably need a vacation if you find daily life overwhelming.

”Failure isn’t an option. I’ve erased the word ‘fear’ from my vocabulary, and I think when you erase fear, you can’t fail.”

Alicia Keys

Give yourself a proper break by taking a day, the weekend, a week, or even longer if you can.

Better still, I would like you to find new ways to renew and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

Ensure you never reach this point again by managing your time and energy more effectively.

Growing Pains

Fear can make you more prone to risk in certain situations.

The greatest opportunities are, however, often found on the other side of the coin when you examine things more closely.

You must be brave enough to act against your fear. You must be comfortable with discomfort. It’s liberating and empowering, but it’s not easy either.

Clarity rarely happens when we think about doing. It usually happens when we do, or even when we engage.

”Limits, like fear, is often an illusion.”

Michael Jordan

If you find that you have taken the wrong action, adjust, change, and reverse.

We have a natural tendency to feel fear when learning new things, especially when we want to grow beyond our current limits.

Consider fear as an ally instead of an enemy that will bridge the gap between you and your goals rather than impeding you.

”To overcome fear, here’s all you have to do: realize the fear is there, and do the action you fear anyway.”

Peter McWilliams

The Practice

Here is an example of a common fear.

Many people are afraid of failure.

You probably know a dozen (or more) people who have failed throughout their lives and yet found success regardless.

Am I right?

It seems reasonable to fear failure.

Are there any of us who fear failure because we have failed in the past?

Of course, we all fail because we are only human. 

How do you handle failure?

That is the essential question.

”No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

Edmund Burke

How have you made it this far if you are afraid to act because you’re afraid to fail?

Look, you’ve failed before, but here you are still standing.

No matter how bad it feels, you can bounce back.

Despite your pain, you are still alive! This is only a temporary setback, a fleeting feeling you can harness for your benefit.

Whenever you mess up, or when you fail, you should be able to say that it’s not that bad.

Getting back up and trying again is an option, but this time you have plenty of lessons.

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be”

John Wooden

As you face your fear, visualize yourself delivering the speech, publishing your book, starting your own business, etc.

Imagine yourself going through every step and imagining how you might deal with the different scenarios that could happen.

As you make mistakes, laugh at them while you learn from them.

You need to consider the worst-case scenario in order to gain a better understanding of it.

The more you focus on the likely outcome, the easier it might be to move beyond your limitations and boundaries in the future.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

Robert F. Kennedy

The Friend

It is inevitable that everyone will experience moments of fear or anxiety throughout their lifetime.

We’re not talking about removing fear, as that would lead to an unhealthy response.

Eliminating fear would not be helpful to you.

Some fear is necessary, healthy even, because it’s always wise to remain alert and aware, whether you’re hiking alone or starting a new business.

Too much fear, however, can wear you out physically, mentally, and spiritually.

It’s like constantly being on high alert.

It drains your energy and saps your resources.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas A. Edison

Because you are too stressed or overwhelmed to consider the details, you ignore or miss red flags, making it difficult to make a decision.

Whenever fear manifests, you need to acknowledge it and find ways to learn from it.

Breathe through it, walk it out, whatever.

Try to calm yourself down and use your inner voice to help you make a good choice and move forward. 

Final Thoughts

”Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.”

Karl Augustus Menninger

How would your life be different if I offered to remove 15% of your fear right now?

What kind of changes would you make at work?

What would be different?

This is not something I can offer you because I am not a genie hiding in a lamp.

However, you don’t need to worry about your fear, because you are able to reduce it by yourself! 

If you’ve been unable to pursue your dream because of fear.

It’s time to end fear’s grip on you and make friends with it if it has been holding you back.

”Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”

Dorothy Thompson

What can you do to embrace fear in your life?

What can you do to make it work for you?

Whether it is a difficult conversation, a business-building action, or a major project on the horizon, how can you use fear to do what you want to do?

Empowerment can be found directly on the other side of fear.

Facing your fears can be the most powerful catalyst for learning about yourself and developing as a person.

Face your fear and you will become a stronger person.

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.”

Richie Norton

The only thing left for you to do is get a clearer understanding of where all of your fears originated so that you can empathize with them and determine what it will take to overcome them.

“Sometimes, when we want something so badly, we fear failure more than we fear being without that thing.”

Many people speak of courage. 

Throughout the ages, we have come to believe that courage means the absence of fear.

In reality, this is not true.

It is courage that empowers you to face fear head-on, regardless of how scary it might seem.

“True success is overcoming the fear of being unsuccessful.”

Paul Sweeney

The first step to achieving personal growth and achieving success, happiness, and pursuing the life you dream of is to make fear your friend.

When you face adversity with fear, it can motivate you to be courageous.

When you’re facing fear, it’s a friend who can inspire you to greatness where it once held you back.

Once you deal with fear, the only thing standing in the way is… well, guess what?

Nothing is standing in your way now. 

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

H. P. Lovecraft

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