I remember growing up, terrified of everything and everyone. My shyness, turned into an extreme bout of self-consciousness (for the first 3 1/4 decades), which in turn, had me desperately hanging onto any comfort that made me feel safe. This meant that social invites, doing things I had never done before, and any other activities that forced me out of my bubble, had the word “no”, stamped all over it. Yes, I was living a negative lifestyle, full of fear and regret.
Oftentimes, when the world around us feels dark and empty, creating a sense of loneliness and an inability to achieve things, we tend to turn to what is KNOWN, versus the path less traveled. This limiting behavior is what prevents us experiencing LIFE.
I remember my first breakout from my fears. I was about to travel to Europe with someone who has extreme anxiety, which meant it was left up to me to make sure the trip was 100% planned with travel routes, places to dine, things to see, costs, understanding the basics of the language, etc. It was my first time traveling to Europe having to be in control of the trip in its entirety, in order to minimize any issue for my friend. The planning was so overwhelming and more so, the panic of going to a country that was non-English speaking, of which I didn’t speak the language. For a minute or two, I thought about not taking this trip but told myself I needed it – that I could do this. All the planning paid off, the trip was a blast, and it led to other fears being conquered, over the last six years!
Fears are REAL and are super hard to overcome – this I know well. But over the years, I’ve realized that the more fears I conquer (although you will never catch me petting a tarantula, enjoying any sort of other bug, watching a horror movie, going into a haunted house, etc.), the more I realize how capable I am, the more addicting it is to see what fear I want to conquer next (excluding the above list in parentheses). I learned WHAT works for me in conquering a fear and I suspect, it will work for you too. Below are the three steps I take:
- Do your research, to the point you feel like an expert. Since that one trip, I’ve traveled to other countries by myself, or at least went on expeditions without a buddy. While I can’t always recommend it (pending where you are traveling), there is something freeing about the experience of overcoming the fear of feeling exposed, alone, and in unfamiliar territory (not recommended for first-time fear conquerers, but you can certainly ease into it by planning out a buddy trip like I did). The point though is that education is EVERYTHING. Whether it be presenting in front of a group, traveling, partaking in an activity you have never partaken in, etc., knowledge of the topic is 90% of the battle (with the other 10% dedicated to the skill, where it applies). It should be comforting to know that EVERYONE has to go through something for the first time – they don’t walk out of the womb, capable of knowing and doing everything.
- Be like Bob from “What About Bob“, “Baby-step” everything for the first time. When conquering a fear, don’t take the whole thing on at once. Being overwhelmed IS the fear. Instead, break it down into baby steps. If you are familiar with “What About Bob”, he is trying to overcome his fear of germs and in order to assist in his therapy, he stops at nothing to see his therapist, which means he has to leave his apartment. He discovers that through taking baby steps (as well as meeting the love of his life), he could conquer his fear! While it’s just a movie, the concept is very real and a great mantra!
- Celebrate even the smallest of conquers. You know that feeling you get when you conquer something – that feeling of elation, empowerment, and”freeness”? Yes, you want to relish in that – take it in, mentally remember it, and tell yourself you want to feel it again. THIS is the feeling that will carry you through more and more fears, to the point that you are living the life you were meant to live!
The more I put these steps into practice (along with my meditation practices), the more I became fearless. Skydiving? YES! Zip lining at one of the highest zip lining places in the world? When can I go?! Traveling to countries I previously would have been too terrified to visit? I’m down! My mantra went from, “But what if something happens…” to “If it happens, it was meant to happen”. I am confident enough to now embrace the unknowns, realizing that life’s surprises are MEANT to be there, and nine times out of ten, there will be a great outcome! It’s all about the perspective you give yourself.