Fear is a common human experience. You don't have to let it keep you from doing what you want to do or living a full life, though. Once you learn to face your fears, you discover the courage of moving forward in spite of them.
Identify the Cause
One way to confront your fears is to examine where they came from. Most of the root causes of fear fall within one of three categories:
- Unpleasant or harmful past experiences that you are loath to repeat can trigger fear in the present. For example, if you are attacked by a dog as a young child, you may be wary of other dogs for a long time after the incident.
- Positive experiences that you view as undeserved or simply lucky can also hold you back. Even if you have no negative background with a particular stimulus, it can still provoke fear if you feel unprepared for or uninformed about it, such as the dream job you don't apply for because you don't feel qualified, despite the fact that you easily landed the job you have now.
- Lack of experience in a certain area can produce uncertainty and thus hesitation. For example, you may need to give a presentation that will help you raise money for one of your church's ministries, but if you don't have any public speaking experience, the fear of the unknown can be a powerful hindrance.
It may be helpful to record your reflections in a journal. Unpacking your fears and their causes in writing gives you a tangible analysis of the problem so that you can work toward a solution.
Imagine Yourself Successful
Many people often fall under the lure of the worst-case scenario. In some ways, this is a self-protective action. It allows you to examine what could go wrong so that you can weigh the risk you are taking to determine if the potential benefit is worth it. It's just as easy to use it as an excuse to let fear win by not taking any chances, though.
Instead, balance the negative thoughts you may be having with mental images of the best possible outcome. Imagine yourself facing and overcoming your fear. For example, if you are scared of confronting your friend about a drinking problem, consider how good it will feel to finally convince him or her to get the necessary help for recovery. If you are terrified of asking your boss for a promotion, list all the ways you would be an asset in the position and mention them confidently when you broach the subject. No matter what your fear is, overcoming it is a possibility. You just have to figure out what that looks like and sharpen your focus on it.
Seek the Support of Others
A common side effect of fear is how isolated it often makes you feel. It's easy to add shame to fear by keeping it to yourself. The good news is that you don't actually have to face it alone, though. The more open you are about how you are feeling, the more opportunities you give the people who care about you to build you up.
Support can take on many forms. Friends may give practical advice by taking you step by step through an unfamiliar process. They may offer to accompany you if there is something difficult you have to face, such as receiving test results from your doctor. Even well-timed text messages on a challenging day can help to minimize concerns.
Everyone experiences fear at some point in their lives. The key to overcoming it is not to ignore it but to address it in productive ways.