When we have our monthly Group Therapy discussions, many issues that come my way are based in fear. Often the writer wants a better job or situation and is stuck trying to figure out what to do or having the courage to do it.
I’m sure we can all relate, as fear is one of the most common obstacles we all face in life. It keeps us from taking risks, pursuing our dreams, and stepping out of our comfort zones. But what if you could conquer your fear and live life to its fullest potential? When you let fear hold you back, you limit your potential and miss out on valuable opportunities to learn and grow.
It is important to remember that conquering fear takes time, practice, and patience. You may experience setbacks and failures along the way, but each step you take toward stepping out of your comfort zone will bring you closer to your goals.
To conquer your fears and move out of your comfort zone, we need absolute clarity on what we are afraid of. Sometimes, our fears are obvious, such as a fear of heights or public speaking, but specifically, what are you afraid of when speaking in public? Are you afraid of forgetting what you were going to say, being challenged by a participant, or looking incompetent in front of your peers? If you are afraid of heights, are you afraid you will fall off and die or lose your balance and needlessly endanger yourself? However, other fears may be hidden and require some self-reflection to uncover. When you say you are afraid of taking a new job, what specifically are you afraid of? Are you afraid it will be worse than where you are now? Are you afraid that you won’t get any of the jobs you apply for, which will undermine your confidence or confirm your fears that you aren’t as good as some people think you are?
Once you have identified your fears, it is important to understand the root cause behind them. Are they based on previous negative experiences or conditioning? Are they related to a lack of confidence or self-esteem?
However, understanding your fears isn’t enough. I’m afraid of bungee jumping. There isn’t enough tea in China to make me jump off a building into mid-air (and I love my tea!). If I look further at this fear, I’m not afraid to die. I’m worried I would be so afraid I would publicly throw up or do something to embarrass myself (like wetting my pants) that I could never outlive it.
There is no root cause. I’ve not had a previous experience (although I truly despise the feeling of falling, which causes me to avoid roller coasters too). It could be conditioning, as I’ve been confident that I have no desire to bungee jump all my adult life. The feeling of falling makes me want to throw up. It’s clear why I’m afraid. It’s also not enough to help me get over this fear. Your fears are real, and feeling them is 100% okay.
However, if you want to get past the fear, there are things you can do to help.
For example: Assume you want to go back and get your certification/degree but are afraid you will fail, confirming your suspicions that you aren’t “good enough” for the certification/degree or that you are “too old” or whatever beliefs we have developed holding us back. You know you could invest the time to study, but part of your inner self is holding you back from taking the risk because you are afraid. You understand the fear but have the desire to get past it. You can follow these steps:
- Break it down into smaller steps: Divide your goal into smaller, more manageable steps. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and make the process seem more achievable.
Instead of saying you will get your certification/degree, take one college course instead. See how it feels. See how well you do on the assignments, find the time to study, and do well on the final exam.
It might not be as bad as you were afraid. It likely won’t be easy, but you might prove to yourself that you can do it.
- Visualize success: What does it look like to see yourself achieving your goals? How do you feel?
We know that goal-setting principles tell us to be specific in our goals. If you want a new car, we used to cut out a photo of that car from a magazine and put it on the fridge. If you want letters after your name, visualize what your email signature will look like with the new designation or credentials.
Imagine what it would be like to have that new job, a better title, and the experience of delivering a workshop to your peers. How good would that feel?
- Hold yourself accountable
If your plan to conquer your fear is something you aren’t sharing with anyone, there is no accountability or motivation to get past it, nor will you feel the support that motivates you to continue. Find a trusted friend with whom you can share your goal and who will hold you accountable by just checking in with you. That same friend will make you feel supported regardless of what happens in your quest to conquer your fear.
If you can complete your goal with a friend, it makes it easier for joint accountability and support. I’m figuring out what retirement means for me even though I’m years away. But I’m afraid of just setting a date and then stopping work. I have a friend who chats with me about retirement regularly as she is also trying to figure out what retirement means. We don’t know what it looks like yet, but together we are creating a process, imagining it, and holding each other accountable for our commitments.
- Celebrate success: Celebrate each success, regardless of how small.
This will help keep you motivated and encourage you to keep going. Celebrate that you registered for the college class, booked the day off to attend an important workshop, or bought the shoes you will need to learn to play pickleball.
Every step in the direction of conquering your fear is worthy of celebrating.
- Stay positive and keep going: Stay positive and maintain a can-do attitude. Believe in yourself and your abilities; don’t let self-doubt hold you back.
Don’t give up, even if you experience setbacks or obstacles. Keep pushing forward and stay committed to achieving your goals. Remember, every step counts towards progress.
Let’s assume you attend your college class, study every spare minute, hand in all assignments, give it your 100% effort, and don’t pass the final exam. Is all lost? No! Look at what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Perhaps your nerves got in the way – it happens.
When I took my driver’s license when I was 16, it was standard that everyone failed the first time. They practically told you that before they started the test. It was expected, but I wanted to be the only person who didn’t fail. I wanted success the first time. I was afraid that not only would I fail, but they would ban me from driving for life (not a reasonable fear, as you can tell).
I failed on my first attempt. I was so nervous as I had unreasonable expectations of my performance. I didn’t give up, though, and passed the next time. My friend Jeannie failed nine times. We all had a good friendly laugh at her consistent failures, but she kept up her positive attitude and kept trying. We supported her; we knew she could do it, and she realized she had nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing to try for her license, and she eventually got it. I’ll bet she is glad she stayed positive and kept going all these years later.
Once you’ve done what you’ve been afraid of, no one can take that experience away from you.
However, not all things are as perfect as we expect, and sometimes, the very thing we are afraid of happens.
Let’s assume you want a new job, apply and get that new job, and then decide you don’t like it. You know you can apply for another job and perhaps this one will make you happy. You are not unhireable, and you know you can do it. Stay positive and keep going.
Embrace failure and turn it into a learning opportunity. Failure is not the end but merely a stepping stone to success. Embracing failure and turning it into a learning opportunity is key to conquering your fear and achieving your goals.
Conquering your fear and moving out of your comfort zone is not easy, but it is essential for personal growth and development.
Remember to surround yourself with positive influences, take time for self-care, and learn from your mistakes.
So go forth with courage, conquer your fear, and embrace change in all aspects of your life. Growth and development await those who dare to take the first step.