Fear talks to people. And when they listen, this is what can happen:
Sheila loved to dance but she wouldn’t go out on the dance floor with her fiancť because she thought she’d look clumsy and ridiculous…
Fear is that nattering voice inside our heads that says, you can’t, you shouldn’t, what if….
Fear keeps us from taking risks that might enrich our life or holds us back from doing some things we need to do. Experience new and exciting challenges? Accomplish something really great? Fear says, “Not on your life.”
This isn’t to say that fear is all bad. At its best it’s an instinctive, natural ability to help us survive. Without fear we might attempt to stroll across motorways or scratch behind a lion’s ears! But given the upper hand, fear can dominate our life and make even the innocuous things —taking a walk or answering the phone—a daunting experience.
99% of what we worry about never happens, according to Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. “There’s a voice inside our heads that’s always heralding doom and disaster even before we get started on something,” she says.
On its own, fear won’t disappear. Following are some strategies to help you deal with fears that might be holding you back from something you really want or need to do.
Get information. In an information void, fear clicks in to do what it thinks is its job. But when you find out about what scares you, you replace fear with knowledge. Knowledge is powerful.
Learn how to do it. If there’s something you’d like to do, but you’re afraid to try, take lessons. We’re not born with instructions for everything! Just give it a go.
Find models. Let someone who’s not afraid model courage for you. Just as fearful behaviour breeds the jitters, courageous behaviour invites confidence. Who do you admire?
Talk about your fears. Keeping your fears bottled up inside magnifies them. Taking them out into the light can shrink them. Find a good listener who won’t ridicule your fears or make judgments. Remember a problem shared is a problem halved.
Talk to yourself. Self-talk filled with positive messages can change fear energy into positive energy. Eliminate the can’ts, shouldn’ts and ought-tos from your self-talk vocabulary. Fill them with positivity, I can, I will ,I must, I am able
Use your imagination. Before you arrive at the party, imagine the other guests are as frightened as you are. Or see your audience as people who really want the information you have. Visualize yourself doing what you are afraid to do; see yourself as graceful, strong and capable.
Expand your comfort zone. Take a small risk each day. Make one phone call, ask for one thing you want, go to one new place. Little by little your confidence will expand, too.
Relax and breathe. Sometimes the physical response to fear creates even more fear. Physically relax your body and breathe in and out to release tension.
Ask for help. If your fears are pervasive or severe, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, in which case you should definitely seek help. If your fears are not debilitating, but still get in the way of doing what you need or want to do, asking for help can make all the difference.
By Gertrude Lawler
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