Yesterday, I was talking with Michael Nichols, and as we were discussing something I’m a bit fearful of in my business he reminded me that we’re only born with two fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned.
Stop and think about that for a minute. Some learned fears are good, like the fear of large carnivorous animals who want to eat you or the fear of strangers we put into our kids, but what about most of our other fears?
I was terrified of spiders as a kid, it was a horrible fear that caused me to lose sleep. When I started to have children, I was determined to not let them become fearful of spiders. In order to do that, I had to learn to not be afraid anymore. I used to be so afraid I couldn’t even squash a spider with a shoe, but then the time came for me to get rid of a spider when I had a little one, and since no one was running to my rescue to get rid of the pest—I had to do it.
So I did.
So many things we’re afraid of are overcome out of necessity, or we grow up. But far too many fears stick with us and can prohibit our growth and success in life. I am happy to say that none of my children are afraid of spiders…although I may have gone a little too far as my son won’t stop collecting them in jars! The good news is, I don’t freak out when he brings them inside and shares his latest find with me.
Whether I’m procrastinating because of fear, hiding behind normalcy, or I’m sabotaging myself because I’m afraid to fail; it’s obvious I still have some fears of my own to overcome.
Here are a few things that have helped me significantly handle my fears better as I learn to overcome them, finally conquering fear once and for all!
Journaling — this simple technique will allow you to dig in and see why you have that fear in the first place. If the fear is deep and really troublesome, journal everyday and see what you discover. Anytime you find yourself contemplating your fear or you can’t seem to easily push the invasive thoughts out of your head, pull out your journal and start to write through it. If you don’t already know why you have a fear, journaling is a great way to uncover what happened to make you fearful in the first place.
Not only can it help you uncover the when and why, but it can help you begin to work through your fears, especially if they are emotional.
Journaling about what’s the worst that can happen can be beneficial. If you’re afraid of failure, then writing all the things that can happen if you fail will help you put the situation and fear in perspective and you will realize that failing isn’t so bad after all.
Talking — being able to confide in a trusted friend or family member is helpful, just make sure that they aren’t fueling that fear! Very similar to journaling, talking through your fears is a great way to uncover the why behind your fears in the first place.
I have “white coat hypertension.” At home, or anywhere else for that matter my blood pressure is perfect, but put me in a doctor’s office and my blood pressure is through the roof! It always bugged me as to why, why did doctor’s offices make me so uncomfortable? At a recent midwife appointment we got talking about my blood pressure as it’s always a bit high during my checkups. It hit me that when I was 12 or 13 I went to urgent care because of a stomach bug, the doctor who saw me was concerned because he could feel my aorta pumping when I was laying down, he was convinced it could burst at any moment and I would die—he wouldn’t let us leave until they called in a pediatrician. The pediatrician looked at the doctor like he was crazy and said, “She’s a young skinny girl, you can almost always feel a child’s aorta pumping.”
Since then, I have been terrified of going to the doctor because they might tell me I’m about to die! Guess what, my blood pressure has been fine after remembering that experience and having a good chuckle about it.
Gratitude — By turning my focus to positive things, I’m better able to talk myself out of rationalizing my fears. Take public speaking for example, if I’m fearful of getting up in front of a crowd, telling myself all the good things that will come from the experience is helpful—encouraging others, learning from others, and being grateful for the experience even when I’m anxious is a BIG help.
Are you still struggling with some fears? What have you done to help eliminate them?