What if I told you that the very thing you dread can be used as a stepping stone to incredible growth? Fear is one of the biggest roadblocks you’ll encounter that stands between you and your full potential. You might think that living cautiously is a virtue, but caution turns into a handicap when it’s rooted in fear.
As someone who has now spent many years traveling the world with nothing but a backpack, my life would never be what it has become if I didn’t embrace the possibility of things going wrong. I’ve been challenged to say the least, but I’m so glad that the fear barrier didn’t stop me, rather I learned to use it as a compass towards personal growth.
This is really the perception you need to adopt. Fear can actually be a really useful tool, as long as you use it in the right way. Here we’re really going to look at healthier ways of looking at the fear barrier, and how you can use it to improve the quality of your life.
What is the fear barrier?
The fear barrier is the imaginary wall between you, and accomplishing something that invokes a lot of fear. Some people burst through this wall, while others chip away at it. Then there are people who just never cross it because they believe it’s not worth the risk.
In most cases, the latter is garbage. Fear prevents you from doing what’s necessary to make the changes you need for your own personal growth. Unfortunately, this uncomfortable sensation is often misinterpreted, and this is where the problem arises.
If you’re in a dangerous situation, fear is an appropriate response. In most cases, there’s no actual danger, but the fear is still there. When fear is something that is perceived rather than a real threat, it needs to be seen as a guidance mechanism. It’s illuminating something that you don’t have much experience with, which is why you worry about it.
In this sense, fear is not telling you to escape the situation that’s causing it, it’s telling you that if you move towards it, you’re going to develop competence, which will benefit your life in many ways. As people make a habit of avoiding situations that cause fear, they never end up pushing themselves to achieve the life experience that they’re capable of having.
The truth is that anything worth having in life will require some challenges to attain. There will be failures, upsetting moments, and difficulties. But when you decide not to do something out of fear, you’re sabotaging your own growth by avoiding a potentially uncomfortable situation. Obviously, this isn’t the way to go.
Below is an article about expanding your comfort zone, and why it goes hand in hand with overcoming fear.
Defining the fear barrier
Your mind associates the loss of ego with death. Something that potentially rubs your ego the wrong way can provoke the same reaction as if you’re in a dangerous situation. That’s because your ego sees an attack on itself in the same light as someone actually attacking you.
This is why it’s incredibly important to discern what is a threat to the ego, and what is an actual threat. By drawing the line, you’ll know exactly where the fear barrier lies, and how to get through it. Instead of being impaired by the limitations of fear, it’s in your best interest to become aware of what you fear and take appropriate steps to neutralize it. Learn more about the ego here!
Can fear be overcome?
Fear of a physical threat likely won’t be overcome, and shouldn’t as it serves an important function. Psychological fear on the other hand can mostly be overcome, depending on the situation.
You’re always going to have some fear around certain things, but repetition helps you get used to the particular activity that triggers the fear response, meaning that over time it doesn’t become such a big deal.
For example, if you’re really nervous about going on a date, you might need to go on many until you don’t really get the same fear response. At this point, you have built a strong level of competence in this area of your life, so you feel more in control and can loosen up.
Why is it important to overcome fear?
Anyone who’s on a personal growth journey needs to make a habit of overcoming feelings of fear. The truth is that there’s always going to be fear in life. It’s an unavoidable emotional response to something that’s new or daunting.
You shouldn’t be thinking about how you can stop feeling fear. That’s out of the question. What you should be wondering is how you can manage it, and turn it into something that actually benefits your life, rather than takes away from it.
With that said, here are a few reasons why it’s important to change your perception of fear and overcome those unpleasant feelings when they arise.
Fear limits your personal growth
When you let fear dictate your choices, you close doors to opportunities that could lead to a better life experience. Sometimes it’s easier to say you’re not going to an event by yourself or trying a new hobby because you don’t want to risk feeling a certain way, or it being a waste of time and money.
The thing is that fear keeps you confined within your comfort zone, which might feel safe but is ironically where dreams go to die. If you avoid public speaking opportunities because you’re afraid of embarrassment, this avoidance of doing something that’s scary could prevent you from building essential skills, advancing your life, and discovering new opportunities where these skills are needed.
Read the article below to learn why it’s so important to jump on new opportunities when they present themselves, and how you can beat those devious feelings of hesitation.
Fear is the true joy-killer
Let’s face it, fear just overall isn’t a pleasant feeling. If it was, you would be running towards it, not away from it. Fear robs you of the joy that comes with new experiences, relationships, and achievements. When you’re constantly worried about what could go wrong, you’re not fully present with the experience you’re having.
If you’re going to give a talk, you might be worried about all the things that could go wrong rather than just speaking from the heart and enjoying the moment. Of course, allowing yourself to enjoy life instead of constantly worrying about it is a pretty big part of your emotional well-being.
The surprising health risks of a fearful life
If you live a fearful life, it’s not going to be good for your mental, emotional, or even physical well-being. On one hand, fear stresses your body out. If you’re always worried about things instead of just doing them, you can imagine that you’re putting a lot of stress on your body.
The mental toll of living in a constant state is even more grim. When you’re experiencing fear a lot, it can lead to things like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. For example, the fear of failure can create a constant state of stress, leading to long-term health issues that could have been avoided by confronting and overcoming the fear.
Now that you know why fear doesn’t serve you, let’s identify some of the most common types of fear, so you know what to keep an eye on.
What are some common types of fear?
Everyone faces fear, in one way or another. One person might fear being in awkward social situations. Another person might not have that fear but worry about failing in life. Fear comes in different forms, here are some common types of fear that people face on a regular basis.
Fear of failure
Failure can be a big fear for some people who feel pressured to succeed. This pressure could have been caused by your parents or peers when you were young. This fear can create a lot of stress, and make you much less content with your life situation for what it is. Regardless of why you fear failure, failure is a big part of life, and it’s something you need to get used to.
Fear of success
Like the fear of failure, quite a lot of people also have a fear of creating the life that they deserve. This often comes from deeper wounds of unworthiness. People who harbor this fear are afraid of being cast into the spotlight. Usually, they’re comfortable in an unsatisfactory life condition, which can be a problem in itself.
People who fear success aren’t going to reach their full potential because they’re always holding themselves back.
Fear of the unknown
Some people fear the unknown. Actually, most people fear the unknown. Since most things in life are unknown, and a big part of this whole life thing is finding out along the way, this fear prevents people from putting themselves in new situations. They won’t expose themselves to the wonders of the world, or do anything that they’re not already familiar with.
Fear of losing control
For people who are conditioned to always have control in their life, they may dread the feeling of losing it. Due to this fear, people may shy away from situations that they don’t think they will have control over (which is most situations in life), such as embarking on a new adventure or taking a risk.
Fear of commitment
Some people are afraid of settling down or getting too close with someone, under the pretext that they need to be free. As there’s a lot of beauty in falling in love and committing to a partner, this fear can prevent people from having some of the most wholesome experiences available.
Fear of rejection
Many people have an exacerbated fear of rejection. This is because the ego plays games, and takes it as a personal assault. People who have this fear rarely put themselves in situations where they can be rejected, and prefer to not try at all. The result: No cake.
Fear of public speaking
The fear of public speaking really comes down to the fear of being judged. We have this deep longing for approval, and public speaking is exposing yourself completely to others. Like the fear of rejection, it’s a primitive fear of survival, and nowadays it prevents people from having a real voice in the world.
How to break the fear barrier
Fear is your friend because it indicates something important, an opportunity to grow. When you feel fear about something like meeting a new person for the first time, traveling by yourself, or giving a speech in front of hundreds of people, this indicates potential growth.
Fear is the strongest indication you have, which says if you push through and do it anyway, you will become more competent. It’s a prerequisite for growth because growth doesn’t occur when you remain in comfortable situations. Every time you use the sensation of fear to step out of your comfort zone, the more your confidence, self-esteem, self-love, general competence, skills, and abilities improve.
This is a very important and powerful mentality to adopt, to see fear as an aid rather than an enemy. Fear can very easily restrict you, but it can also serve you in your path to betterment. When you start to capitalize on this aid, it will help you evolve into a more fearless, competent, and capable person.
Here are a couple of resources to help you out.
- Why you should take a leap of faith
- Starting a new chapter in life? How to embrace life change with open arms
Desensitizing fear to broaden your comfort
If you make a habit of recognizing when you feel fear and take small steps in the right direction every time you do, you will find that the act becomes easier with time. By repeatedly doing something, you begin to desensitize from those uncomfortable sensations as you develop competence and comfort.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience an uncomfortable sensation again, but because you associate fear with improvement and do it anyway. Desensitizing fear is a series of practices until it becomes less daunting, and each failure becomes less painful.
Focus on being a failure
Failing the things we go after is a big source of fear. Think about it. You don’t fear what could potentially go right, you fear what could go wrong. In that sense, you fear failure.
So by not only allowing yourself to fail but by encouraging it, you’re going to realize that failure really isn’t the end of the world. Failure actually helps you learn via trial and error, and become better at any given thing that you do.
Accept the worst-case scenario
Something that I find helps a lot when I need to break the fear barrier is to accept the worst-case scenario. By playing the worst-case scenario out in your head and feeling it out, you’ll begin to realize that it’s really not the end of the world.
When you actually push yourself through the fear barrier, even if it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s probably not bad compared to the scenario you already accepted!
Use mental rehearsal techniques to help you
Mental rehearsal can be a helpful technique to break the fear barrier because it mentally prepares you for the outcome. Often, a big part of the fear comes from the uncertainty of what might happen. So when you play out every potential situation in your head and feel into it, emotionally, you’re going to be prepared to experience it.
Below is a resource I suggest reading to learn how to properly do this technique so that you can mentally practice any activity before you do it.
Listen to your heart
Your mind will play games with you, but your heart will never deceive you. If you silence the mind and focus on your intuition rather than the little voice in your head taunting you, you will know what feels right because there will be clarity through the smog of fear.
Even if it makes you uncomfortable, if you feel lighter thinking about doing something that you don’t want to do, then you know that you should do it anyway. Not knowing if it’s the right thing to do won’t be an excuse anymore. Not sure how to tap into your heart? Read the article below.
Apply some pressure
Nobody likes the feeling of pressure, but it’s actually a very powerful tool. When you place some pressure on you, it acts as an incentive. Pressure forces you to push yourself, try new things, and really stretch your capabilities.
Without putting some pressure on yourself in the form of timelines, schedules, and pushing yourself to jump on opportunities when they’re presented, it becomes all too easy to miss out. As an animal would never evolve if it didn’t have some sort of pressure to do so, your consciousness won’t evolve unless you have some pressure to expand it.
Be patient with yourself
Part of pushing through the fear barrier is having some patience with yourself too. Expect, that sometimes you will back out. You will mess up where you will feel shame. You will blame yourself or feel like a failure. It’s okay. It’s normal.
Learning to overcome fear is a continuous act of recognizing when new opportunities arise, and pushing yourself to act on it when they do. There will always be more opportunities, but you don’t want to use that as an excuse to just never do it either.
At the end of the day, don’t make the mistake of taking the easy route because it always leads to a dead end. Don’t look back on your life ten years from now and wonder what could have been, because you never had the guts to try.