Everybody is afraid of something. Common fears include fear of embarrassment, fear of speaking in front of a group, fear of not measuring up to the expectations of others’, and fear of change.
Fear brings about one of three results. It motivates, it provides safety, or it results in paralysis. The best way to respond to fear is to determine what exactly the fear is, how the fear is affecting you, and what you need to do in order to deal with the fear.
These 3 steps are what will give you control of your fears:
1. Defining your fear
Defining your fear requires more work than simply naming your fear. For example, let’s say you have a great new idea for a modification to one of your company’s products. You want to bring it up to your boss, but you know he will ask you to give a presentation.
The idea of doing that makes you break out into a cold sweat. Clearly, this means that you can define your fear as fear of speaking in public, right? Maybe not. Do you always fear speaking in front of others? Maybe you are afraid of your idea being rejected, or that it won’t work?
Your fear could be defined as fear of rejection or fear of failure. Nobody can figure this out for you, it is just something you have to determine on your own. Once you define your fear, you know what you are working with and you are ready to move on to the next step.
“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford
2. Determine how your fear is affecting you
Right now, what is your fear doing for you? Is it paralyzing you? Is it keeping you safe? Is it motivating you? There is nothing wrong with fearing things that are dangerous. If a fear keeps you safe from actual danger, that is a healthy fear.
However, it is very easy to confuse fears that truly keep us safe with fears that paralyze us. Here is a trick that may help you determine if your fear is keeping you safe, or simply holding you back. If you stop doing something, based on fear of a legitimate danger, you won’t question yourself. You won’t feel guilty.
However, if you stop doing something or refuse to do something based on fear, and then find yourself full of doubt and regret, chances are you are letting fear paralyze you, and that is unhealthy. The only thing this leaves is motivation. Is your fear motivating you to challenge yourself and improve yourself? This is a great thing.
3. Dealing with your fear
If a fear is leaving you stuck and hindering your success, it needs to be dealt with. This means taking control of the fear and turning it into a source of motivation rather than a roadblock. You’ve already done a lot of great work if you’ve defined your fear and determined the way your fear is impacting your life.
Now you can determine what to do with it. Ask yourself this question? Why do I need to turn this fear into something positive? Let’s go to the example of the presentation that was discussed above. Maybe your fear would be rejection and failure.
That’s fine. That is your definition. Maybe you’ve determined that the impact your fear has is unhealthy avoidance (paralysis). This is also fine. You know how your fear impacts you. Now is the time to make change.
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell
A few extra action steps
Let’s begin with the one thing that you should not do. You should never belittle or ridicule yourself over your fears. It is unhelpful and you don’t deserve it. Here is a positive step that you can take. You can think of the negative results that you may face, and then figure out ways to turn those into positives.
Let’s say that your presentation goes badly, and the marketing department doesn’t go forward with your idea. Yes, that is a bad thing, but their rejection also means that you made it through your presentation. It is a well-known fact that presentation skills are vital to success, and you’ve just improved your presentation skills a bit. This doesn’t take away the rejection, but it does put it into perspective.
Another thing that you can do is to look externally. Who do you admire? How do other successful people deal with fear? Is there someone else who has dealt with a similar fear as yours and turned it into a point of motivation?