How to Use Courage to Conquer Fear

Conquering fear is a learned skill that requires courage to face your fears as a way to see your way through them. Many people experience fear as an unsettling habit that threatens to limit their ability to make decisions, deal with situations, or even move freely from one place to another.

A mind focused on fear itself, rather than the situation at hand, constantly battles troubling emotions like panic and worry, diverting your attention from the task at hand. Physical ailments such as confusion, muscular tension, or an upset stomach may soon follow, adding real misery to the things you imagine.

The path to mindfulness recognizes that you are what you think. It makes sense then, that a person who allows anxiety and fear to dominate their thinking will be more stressed, less productive, and frequently disturbed. It’s even possible to project your fears onto other people, even subconsciously. This is not the kind of life you want to lead.

Most of the time, what we fear never comes true. Fear is an inhibiting emotion seldom based in reality. Only you can give it the energy it needs to survive. Progress grinds to a halt and success becomes less likely, while we needlessly suffer through feelings that take time to resolve.

Geoffrey James, contributing editor to Inc.com and author of the award-winning blog, Sales Source, summarizes this point in a 2012 article. “Fear is the enemy of success,” says James. “If you’re ruled by fear, you’ll never take enough risks and never achieve success you deserve.”

A better strategy involves facing your fears to see the way through them. A few simple suggestions may help create your own personal toolkit to conquer your fears, to enjoy the deep breath that a fearless heart enjoys at the end of a challenge.

Use Courage as a Weapon

Real progress and change only happens when you’ve mustered the strength to conquer your fears and take action. In fact, that’s what courage is all about – doing something you’re afraid of.

Geoff Thompson knows all about this. He graduated from the mean streets of London as a street fighter to become a successful martial arts instructor, writer, and BAFTA award-winning playwright for his short film Brown Paper Bag (2003). Geoff spoke at Leamington Spa in 2016 for TEDx about how he listed a pyramid of things he feared, from the least to the most unnerving, then conquered them one by one.

This accomplishment allowed him to live the life he’d once dreamed of, no longer subject to the depression and anxiety that plagued his life and once caused him to consider suicide. His is a model for managing fear by using courage to change the way you think, deflating the energy that keeps fear alive.

Give Yourself a Break

Criticizing yourself for being afraid does nothing for your self-esteem. It buries your confidence and willpower under blankets of second-guessing that make it hard to make rational decisions. If your personality tends to see life as an absolute that sees everything as “all or nothing,” you’ll never allow yourself the time and space to achieve what you want.

Robert Leahy, clinical professor of psychology at Weill-Cornell Medical School, also cautions against using a self-critical voice to motivate yourself. Leahy writes that “self-criticism can demotivate and demoralize you, siphoning off the creativity and energy you need to get things done.” Treat yourself as gently as you might a close friend, and use self-support and rewards as better motivation tactics against the fear of failure.

Challenge Your Notions

It’s more common to imagine the worst outcome than assume the best one. For instance, you know the odds of a tornado or hurricane striking your area are minimal, but during a bad storm you may think to yourself, “It could still happen, right?” This irrational fear increases your awareness of and sensitivity to bad weather, keeping you on alert more often than necessary.

The University of Florida’s Counseling & Wellness Center advises students and patients to assess their fears in more constructive ways. Their preferred mindset involves deflating the strength of our fears by first realizing that “the world couldn’t possibly be as bad as your imagination can make it.” After a short, possibly humorous bout of “catastrophizing,” a person armed with more rational expectations could then visualize themselves engaging with and overcoming feared activity in their mind before doing it “for real.”

Consider the fact that Geoffrey James welcomes a little trepidation as a sign of impending change. “Today, I’m actually really excited whenever I discover something that I’m afraid to do, because I know that something wonderful is going to happen,” he says. Having the courage to take action is what makes this attitude possible, and leads to more time spent in satisfaction, less time in misery.

Focus on Your Fear, Until It Fades

It may seem counter-intuitive, but focusing on fearful emotions may actually help diffuse their strength on your consciousness. The more often you face your fears, the less powerful they become over time.

Think of the routine tasks you learned through repetition, like tying your shoes, learning to drive, making home-cooked meals, or learning how to play an instrument. Your first experiences with these learned behaviors surely included periods of nervousness, anxiety, and physical stress.

In a similar way, it’s only when you begin to “sit” with the uncomfortable emotions that fear generates that you begin to focus on the task or situation itself. If you’re anxious about being in a confined space, for example, repeating to yourself, “I am in a confined space,” enough times can help you relax about it. You may actually get bored with the idea and stop thinking about it altogether.

 

References

James, G. (2012, July 30). 4 mental tricks to conquer fear. Inc.com. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-conquer-fear-4-mental-tricks.html.

Leahy, R.L. (2014, September 10). Why you deserve a break, from yourself. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-files/201409/why-you-deserve-break-yourself.

University of Florida Counseling Center. (2017). How to handle fears. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.ufl.edu/cwc/how-to-handle-fears.aspx.

 

My Favorite Videos: Coda from And Maps And Plans

The world is full of wonderful, talented people, and part of the beauty of living is finding them, seeing the strange and wonderful things they have to share.

And Maps And Plans is one of those special talents that inspire with few words. Check out this massively awesome short film on Vimeo, an award-winning film called Coda that was a 2014 Academy Award finalist, and let your thoughts take wings.

Why Affirmations Are Important

Affirmations are powerful statements that can affect your emotional state and, some would say, your relationship with yourself and with reality. How so? In the best of situations, affirming something to yourself, whether silently or aloud, affects how your react to it and increases the likelihood it will come true.

 

In short, some people, including myself, believe you can will your greatest hopes into reality by thinking, saying, and ultimately doing things to make them come to pass.

 

This can be a blessing or a curse, but the point is this – you are what you think. Believe in what is possible and you shape your own reality. If you believe it is, it is.

 

Modern pop culture often shows us how to doubt ourselves and compare ourselves to others, allowing self-defeating thoughts and emotions to dominate our consciousness and limit our potential as human beings. In this context, adopting The Little Engine That Could’s notion of “I think I can, I think I can,” matters, in terms of emotional balance, self-worth, and success.

 

An April 2015 article on the personal wellness website mindbodygreen.com talks about a study on why affirmations work so well in power-based situations on the job. One quote from lead researcher and University of Toronto professor Sonia Kang stands out. “Anytime you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations.” “Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat.”

 

This is huge for someone who’s claustrophobic, for example – convinced they won’t be able to sit quietly with a large crowd of people at a concert. They might easily develop a negative mindset towards going to that event, snuffing out their confidence long before the thrill of attending outweighs the fear of dealing with momentary discomfort.

 

This leads to an important equation for rational thought – affirmation creates learned behavior, which then affects your reality. People can do amazing things and make it through a number of potentially stressful situations by separating themselves from the anxiety, tension, and stress they experience “in the moment.” There are a number of specific ways to do this, if you care to research them further.

 

The human mind is a powerful instrument, capable of experiencing great pleasure and extreme pain, whether real or imagined. People can program or condition themselves to do things they might think impossible. Using affirmations effectively allows a person to overcome self- imposed limitations and conquer things like shyness, anxiety, depression, fear, and self-doubt.

 

If you believe that affirmations work, you’ve already taken the most important step to making them come true for you. The possibilities, alone, are worth the effort to make something amazing happen, to “pay it forward” to yourself. Who knows what we might achieve, if we give ourselves the chance.

youarebeautiful