Since starting this blog, I’ve talked a lot about fear and in turn faced a few and also thought a lot about what my approach to facing fear is. In this post I provide you with my tips for facing fear and an approach that stems from dealing with my childhood fears and serves me well in adulthood.
1. Identify and acknowledge your fears
Sounds simple but actually it’s very easy to find ourselves denying that we’re actually feeling fearful about something not only to others but also to ourselves. This is perfectly understandable since fear is often perceived as a weakness so admitting to it can often be scary in and of itself!
One great way I’ve found to identify the fear, that I might otherwise remain in denial about, is to spot when I am avoiding something. That can be avoiding doing, thinking about and/or discussing something. If there is something that I know I should do but I keep avoiding it, then it’s highly likely that there is some fear to be found in the situation.
2. Arm yourself with the facts
Once you’ve identified the fear then I think it’s really important to establish all of the facts surrounding that fear. Sometimes fear can be based on a lack of information, or at worst irrational thinking. The fear is around what might or might not happen and can be rooted in complete untruths, hearsay or incorrect assumptions. If you can really establish the facts, and you may need to seek advice from others to do so, then in my experience the fear is likely to diminish.
3. Getting comfortable with the worst-case scenario
What knowing all the facts can help with is establishing a true and realistic worst-case scenario. I think we avoid looking at or thinking about the worst-case scenario in any detail because that in itself feels too scary so instead we keep the notion of the worst that can happen as unclear and as vague as possible, thus making it even more scary. If you can force yourself to really define the worst-case scenario and look at what that would mean for you, often you’ll see that either you could actually live with it (i.e. it’s not the end of the world) or that it is so unlikely that you needn’t worry about it anyway.
4. Establishing the likely outcome
In many cases, the worst-case scenario is the least likely outcome. I’ll give you some examples:
- If you are scared of flying then the worst-case scenario is death, which is highly unlikely (You actually have more chance of dying driving your car).
- If you are concerned about spiraling debt and feel too scared to call your creditor, the worst-case scenario is bankruptcy and/or repossession but again in most cases this is pretty unlikely (unless you avoid dealing with it out of fear).
So if the worst-case scenario is, more often than not, unlikely to occur, then it’s importance to establish what is actually the most likely outcome of the situation. When you do that, you’ll find that more often than not it’s not as bad as you think and in many cases the likely outcome is actually a positive one. Using the examples above likely outcomes would be arriving (unharmed) in a foreign country for your holidays and coming to a mutually acceptable payment plan for your debt. Neither things to be fearful of.
Fear lives in the unknown
The key point I’m trying to make here is that often our fears live in the unknown. It’s in not being sure of what will happen or assuming really bad things will happen when the actual likelihood of that is very slim.
Fear can be an unpleasant sensation but one that we can live with and therefore the tendency to avoid dealing with it is all too common. But in fact, sometimes that unpleasant sensation, slight nagging feeling or mild anxiety can be stopped in its tracks by simply taking a long hard look at the facts of the situation.
Knowing what’s under the bed
Do you remember when you were a child and you were terrified of what lurked beneath your bed. Late at night when you needed to pee, it wouldn’t matter how much you told yourself there was nothing under there but the fact that it was dark and you couldn’t see clearly, meant that your imagination ran riot. For me it was sharks (probably as a result of watching Jaws) and crocodiles and I imagined that the minute I put my feet on the floor they’d be snapped off by a huge pair of sharp teeth.
When the situation got desperate which it inevitably did and I braved it enough to make a dash for the light switch, all fears would dissipate as I calmly examined the toys and boxes that I knew all along lived there. What created my panic was the unknown, even as a small child I remember telling myself that it was simply toys under the bed but the fact that I couldn’t verify that in the dark led to nothing short of terror.
Knowing the facts is a key part of my approach to fear as an adult. I believe it’s really important to turn the light on and take a long hard look at what’s under the bed because it’s never as scary as your imagination!
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