When I first created this post it was titled “When fear is not your friend,” but the whole point is to make fear your friend because we can’t essentially, and sometimes unfortunately, eliminate it. Fear is this weird emotion that sometimes serves you but can also hinder you… if you let it.
I always looked at fear as something that needed to be conquered or something that I needed to get rid of. I have often talked about this idea of “becoming fearless” and would wonder why no matter how many presentations I have given I still get nervous to give the next one. I often question when does that feeling go away?
It wasn’t until I saw a Ted Talk given by Trevor Ragan on How to Overcome Fear that I learned something that I will always use when it comes to fear. I learned the goal was never to try to get rid of fear but as Ragan puts it , to dance with it instead. Fear is there to protect us from potentially dangerous situations, or situations that can lead to embarrassment and failure such as going to that job interview or presenting a training on new information . The challenging part of those situations is what scares us. In those scenarios, fear can actually be robbing us of an experience and ultimately growth.
If we try to beat fear there is a great chance we will lose because in some cases it’s useful and we are better off accepting that it is always going to be there. When I first became aware of this I felt discouraged thinking “wow, so I can never beat this thing.” I quickly realized that dancing with fear is beating it. Even though I realized there was nothing I could do about the actual fear itself, I had a choice to not let it control me. Fear can lead us not to apply for that position, get on that plane, procrastinate on things that may be important to us. So now that we know the key to overcoming fear, how exactly does one dance with fear?
Identify and explore your fears
Ask yourself, am I really afraid of public speaking or getting embarrassed? Am I afraid of love or am I actually afraid of getting hurt? Really examine yourself and figure out the core of your fears.
Create a name for your fear
It may seem childish at first but giving an actual name to your fears such as the monster or as Ragan introduces it , the lizard, gives you the opportunity to take back control of the unknown being that at one time had control over you. You are free to give it whatever name you choose but giving your fears a name puts you back in charge. It also helps you acknowledge that this fear is a real thing and work towards overcoming it. If you are a more tangible experience person, I would even recommend buying a cheap stuffed animal and right before you face a challenge leaving the stuffed animal in a car or a closet to serve as a physical representation of leaving fear behind. Hey, whatever works right!
Do the opposite
If you are entering into a new challenging situation and your fear shows up for you do the opposite of what it tells you to do. If you are not in imminent danger and you experience fear, more than likely an opportunity to grow, learn and experience has presented itself . This tells your fears “thank you for trying to save me but I don’t need you right now. “
I understand that overcoming fear isn’t easy and will be a consistent challenge. The goal is to be able to feel your fear and do it anyways . Cheers to the challenges that come your way, and I hope you enjoy your dance!