Breaking Through The Fear Barrier

Advice to overcome your fears and percieve them as growth opportunities

Fear is one of the biggest barriers you’ll encounter in your life. It’s the wall separating you from your potential, and anyone on a personal growth journey will need to face it sooner or later.

We all experience fear to some degree. When kept on a leash, it can even do us some good. However, the problem occurs when people allow fear to dictate their lives, so they never do anything out of the ordinary. They never get out of their comfort zone or take a risk.

You might believe that living cautiously is a virtue, but caution becomes a handicap when it’s rooted in fear.

As someone who has now spent many years traveling the world, my life would never be what it has become if I didn’t embrace the possibility of things going wrong. Despite what I’ve achieved, I am constantly facing fears, and life has become an act of navigating them.

Let’s look at some approaches to overcome the fear barrier and move forward in your life.

What is the fear barrier?

Man afraid to ask woman out due to fear

The fear barrier is the perceived wall between you and your envisioned reality. It’s that little voice telling you it’s not worth the risk, or you would be a fool for trying.

We all have different approaches to tackling this wall. Some people burst through it in a single attempt. Some slowly chip away at it while others simply step through it.

Then there are the people who look at this wall and turn back. The wall is too high. It’s too daunting. It’s not worth the risk. They never even attempt to break through this wall, because they’re scared of what could happen.

Unfortunately, this uncomfortable sensation is often misinterpreted, and this is where avoidance arises. Although doing something you’re afraid of can be daunting, the consequences of failing are usually highly exaggerated.

This is why it’s important to discern what is a threat to the ego, and what is an actual threat. Instead of being impaired by fear, become aware of what you fear and take appropriate steps to neutralize it.

Acknowledge your fears

In the past, I could barely hold a conversation, let alone travel indefinitely by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel fear regularly. I still shy away from good opportunities sometimes because I am afraid, but I’ve developed a deeper understanding.

The regret that ensues after caving into fear is always much worse than the pain of failing. There have been many instances where I didn’t overcome a fear barrier, and I always regretted shying away from something I knew I should have done.

The best adventures in my life have been the result of acknowledging my fears and doing it anyway. Yes, I may fail. It might end up disastrously. But I am willing to go through that pain if it means avoiding the pain of backing out and being a colossal disappointment to myself.

The point is not to pretend fear doesn’t exist, because it does, and it always will. You need to acknowledge your fear, feel it deeply, and do it anyway. When it’s acknowledged, then you can use it as a mechanism that serves you.

Using fear as a compass

When your gut instinct tells you to do something you’re afraid to do, that fear is a compass pointing you toward growth. You’re always going to have some fear around certain things, but repetition helps you get used to the activity that triggers the fear response.

For example, if you’re nervous about going on a date, you might need to go on many dates until the fear response subsides. Even after many dates, you will still feel nervous sometimes, but now you know how to manage that feeling better.

The fear surrounding doing something new is a compass. It’s telling you that if you push forward and do it anyway, you will grow. You will gain the associated competence, and your life experiences will become more expansive.

Over the years, I’ve learned to look at fear in a way that instills opportunity rather than dread. I now associate feelings of fear with growth by using each opportunity to chip away at this barrier.

This is the perception you need to adopt. Fear can be a very useful tool as long as you see it for what it is – an opportunity to expand yourself.

Why you need to overcome your fear

Person watching a sunset by the ocean

I think we all know the feeling of disappointment when we cave into fear. I’m sure you can think back to at least one instance when fear got the best of you, and maybe you still regret it today.

Fear itself can be uncomfortable, but the feeling of being bound by it is unbearable. When you allow fear to dictate your choices, you close doors to potentially life-changing opportunities.

Sometimes it’s easier to avoid going to an event by yourself because you may not make friends. Sometimes it’s easier to turn down invitations because you don’t know how it will turn out. But are you ever glad that you skipped these opportunities? Imagine where previous opportunities you forfeited could have led you. How would your life be different today?

Fear confines you within your comfort zone which might feel safe, but it’s where dreams go to die. If you avoid public speaking because you’re afraid of embarrassing yourself, this avoidance will prevent you from building the essential skills and experience, needed to succeed in that area of your life.

The mental toll of living in a constant state of fear is grim. When you’re experiencing fear, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and self-worth issues if not kept under wraps. If you regularly cave in, that fear can have some pretty big repercussions on your self-esteem.

How to break the fear barrier

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Fear is your friend because it indicates a growth opportunity, as long as you aren’t in real danger.

When you feel fear about meeting someone new, traveling by yourself, or giving a public speech, this feeling illuminates an area in which you don’t feel competent. That feeling of fear indicates that if you push through the barrier and do it anyway, you will become a stronger and more capable person.

In this sense, fear is a prerequisite for growth, because growth doesn’t occur when you don’t challenge yourself. Every time you leverage fear to step out of your comfort zone, the more your quality of life will improve.

Let’s look into some ways that you can push through the fear barrier, and leverage this uncomfortable feeling for growth.

Desensitize fear via repetition

Make a habit of recognizing fear and take small steps towards it every time you feel it. By repeatedly doing something you’re afraid of, you’ll begin to desensitize from those uncomfortable feelings, and the less daunting it will become.

I used to be terrified of introducing myself to people, so I avoided it at all costs. The cost was to live in a lonely bubble with a major fear of missing out, so I worked on it.

At bars, I would make an effort to talk to random people. I started doing it more and more in social settings, even if it was strange or awkward because I didn’t know what to say. However, I knew that I could spend the whole night thinking about it, and it wouldn’t get me any closer to the result.

Sometimes, you just need to jump into the deep end to sink or swim.

When I started traveling, I pushed myself to meet people because otherwise, I wouldn’t make connections. I had to meet people in every new city I arrived in. Over time, I became pretty good at it.

Many people now think of me as an outgoing person. Even though I still feel that fear, I’ve gotten used to it. I know that if I mess up, it’s not the end of the world.

Doing something you’re afraid of frequently doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience the concomitant fear again, but it will become easier because you gain the associated competence.

Feel the failure

Failure can be a big source of fear and prevent us from attempting to succeed in the first place. Worrying about negative outcomes is a fear barrier, and when you’re contemplating doing something or not because you’re afraid of failing, sit with that sensation.

Envision yourself failing and going through the motions. Maybe you feel shame, guilt, embarrassment. Play out the situation in your mind’s eye and sit with those uncomfortable feelings.

The more you acknowledge failure and sit with the feelings you’re afraid of, the more you’ll realize that failure isn’t such a big deal. We tend to drum up failure to be much worse than it is. Therefore, it becomes daunting and acts as a fear barrier.

Failure helps you learn via trial and error, and become better at any given thing you do. It’s important to see the learning curve with anything you do because you must get used to failure – at least if you want to taste success.

So get used to the idea of failing and sit with the feelings that come up when you envision failure. This is how you will recognize failure as a core ingredient for success.

Use mental rehearsal techniques

Envisioning your success in vivid detail can help you build a roadmap to it. Of course, sometimes you just need to do it. Other times, knowing exactly what you’re going to do can ease the nerves.

This is where mental rehearsal techniques can come in handy.

Mental rehearsal is a technique where you visualize the process of doing something successfully. In this sense, you’re mentally preparing yourself for a positive outcome, and setting yourself up for success.

I often use mental rehearsal techniques when I’m feeling quite nervous about something. I’ve used it to envision myself arriving at an event – playing out in detail how I can talk to people and have fun. I’ve mentally rehearsed podcast episodes and videos as a way to prepare myself.

I’m not saying you should be reliant on this technique. However, if you’re nervous about something that’s coming up, mental rehearsal techniques can be a good aid.

Follow your gut instinct

When you’re feeling fear about something, your mind will play games with you. You may be conned into believing that you should back out. During these moments, it can be hard to discern when fear is speaking, and when the true self is speaking.

This is why you need to draw a line.

Your mind will play games with you, but your heart will never deceive you. If you focus on your intuition rather than the fear coaxing you out of the opportunity, a deeper wisdom will shine through. This wisdom will know what the right answer is.

When I felt confused about making big decisions in my life that I was afraid of, I learned to tap into the wisdom of my heart. During these big decisions, even though scary, I found I had no option. A part of me would never forgive myself if I backed out, because I knew I would not be fulfilled. 

If you feel lighter thinking about doing something that you don’t want to do, then you should do it anyway. Trust the wisdom of your heart, and you instinctively know what decision is right to make.

Apply some pressure

Nobody likes the feeling of pressure, however, pressure is a powerful tool.

Too much pressure can cause you to melt down and stifle your progress. Having no pressure at all leads to complacency because you have no incentive at all. It’s best to find a middle ground where you have some pressure to propel you, however, it’s not overbearing.

Think about it this way.

If you’re in a desperate situation with no money, you’re not going to be productive due to the overwhelming stress. If you have a passive income and don’t need to make money, it’s easy for you to stay in the same position.

However, if you are in a subpar situation and you’re tired of living this way, you may start pushing yourself to actualize and create something because you have an incentive. This is where you will get out of your comfort zone, but it’s not so daunting that it will cause a meltdown.

Therefore, apply some pressure to yourself, and understand what you miss out on if you never try to better yourself.

Be patient with yourself

Part of pushing through the fear barrier is having patience. Getting to a place of competence can be a long journey, and often it takes a lot of failures to get there.

Expect that sometimes you will back out. You will mess up. You will blame yourself and feel like a failure. This is a natural part of the process, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Learning to overcome the fear barrier 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 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.

Recognize that overcoming a fear barrier can be a long journey, one you need to constantly chip away at. But as long as you’re stepping in the right direction, the quality of your life will improve.

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