One day, when I was 19 years' old I headed for the self-help section in a well-known book shop. I looked through various brightly-coloured books, each promising to "change my life". Then, I came across a rather unassuming book. It didn't particularly stand out and it was smaller in size than the others, so it was almost lost on the bookshelf.
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
The book that I chose sticks in my mind to this day, even though I no longer have it. It was called "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers and I suspect that most people have heard of it.
My anxiety is something I've had to keep in check to ensure that my negative thoughts don't take over. The lessons I learnt from Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, as well as those from my client work, have played a huge part in how I approach my own anxiety and face my fears now.
Here's a few ideas of how you can go about mastering your fears:
It's not the situation, but your thoughts about the situation
I've talked before about the power of negative thoughts and how we can challenge them. Remember, the way we feel about any situation is not related to the actual situation. It's related to our thoughts about the situation. A
A thought is not a fact.
Example: You have to give a presentation in front of a few hundred people at work or school/college. Here are a couple of different ways of thinking about the situation:
Thought 1: "I really hate speaking in front of people, I'm bound to muck this up and look stupid".
Thought 2: "I get nervous speaking in front of people, but I'll do my best and it'll probably give me more confidence to do it again".
So, which thought do you think is more likely to trigger feelings of anxiety, and fears about going through with the presentation?
Hopefully you answered with Thought 1! Even with Thought 2 the anxiety and/or fear may not be completely absent, but that's okay. It's natural for new situations to make us feel nervous. The difference is, Thought 1 is more likely to make you feel far worse and possibly pull-out of doing the presentation altogether.
Can we be totally free from our fears?
You might be thinking: "But surely, if we're challenging these negative thoughts then we want to try and get rid of our fears completely??".
In an ideal world, yes, it would be wonderful to be free from fear. Or would it? Actually, fear is a healthy emotion. It protects us; keeps us alert to danger, even psychs us up for something important (e.g., a competition). What we don't want, is for our fear to reach such levels that we avoid experiences which are good for our growth and personal development.
Is mastering your fears about being courageous?
It's good to try and challenge the thoughts which trigger our fears/anxieties, so that you get into the habit of challenging them more. Our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative, so we have to effectively retrain our brains to think differently.
However, that there are times where we just have to take a huge breath and walk straight through our fear. Sometimes we have to do this to prove that we can do it and come out the other side.
As Mark Twain said, courage isn't about being free from fear; it's about moving forward despite the fear.
What sorts of things have you done where you've faced your fears? Tell us in the comments!
Watch our video about mastering your fears