When I was 20, I was afraid of everything. What people thought, the universe, my feelings, speaking, failing, succeeding, and just being alive. Everything felt like a boundary, and I had nowhere to move.
The thing about fear is, if you face it in one area of life, the wisdom you gain will bleed into other areas. Knowing that you can face a fear and handle the consequences proves that you can face other fears too.
You have to become a master of hurling yourself into the abyss. Because some say, there’s a feather bed down there. Here are 8 strategies for dealing with fear in the moment:
1. Conquering Fear Through Brute Force
I’m not talking about hurting anyone. I’m talking about walking toward your fear without a second thought. This works, even when it borders on reckless.
Example: You have to give a presentation. You’ve endlessly rehearsed it. Instead of playing out scenarios and trying to get everything perfect in your head, trust that you know the plan, and open your mouth.
Overthinking holds everyone back. Fear is alleviated through action. And sometimes, the best thing to do is to act, even when you can’t create the perfect strategy and you don’t know what the outcome will be.
2. Break It Down
Facing a big fear can often be too overwhelming. So, break it down into smaller chunks and warmups to get you ready.
Example: Say a woman is trying to overcome her phobia of spiders. A therapist might have her start by looking at images of spiders online. When she gets comfortable with that, she moves on to sitting in the same room with a spider. After that, she can face her biggest fear, having a spider crawl on her arm.
You don’t have to bite off more than you can chew. You can break your fear down into manageable chunks to get to your end goal. Do what you know you can do first, and every little success will motivate you to keep moving forward.
3. Explore It
Fear is an intense experience. Most of us would say fear is negative, and it usually is. However, anyone with meditation skills will say that exploring your feelings is an important step in dealing with them.
Example: A man is experiencing intense anxiety. He knows that anxiety passes on its own, so instead of fighting the feeling, he observes it. This awareness allows him to not get overwhelmed, and he can act more rationally.
Feel your fear. Feel how hard your guts are bubbling. Notice how you feel elevated and alive, even if it’s unpleasant. If you look at fear like this, you might even start having fun with it.
4. Conquering Fear Is Conquering Resistance
Resistance is a concept created by author Steven Pressfield. Pressfield believes that Resistance is the internal barrier between you and your highest potential. People get sabotaged by Resistance whenever they run from their fears or succumb to their bad habits.
Example: A woman wants to be a writer, but she is afraid of success. She knows she could be great, but the idea of becoming a New York Times bestselling author and having everyone look at her differently stops her from writing. She overcomes Resistance when she chooses to write anyway.
Resistance might sound a little new-agey, but I feel it hits the nail on the head. Especially because Resistance almost always manifests as fear.
5. Be Willing to Do Poorly
“Perfect is the enemy of good.” When we realize that we can’t do something perfectly, we often don’t do it at all. The answer to that is to be willing to make a mess.
Example: You want to talk to your crush. You feel like you need the perfect line, the perfect attitude, and the perfect reason to talk to them. You spend so much time trying to perfect your approach that they end up leaving. Opportunity missed.
Instead of shooting for perfection, shoot for action. Just like with #1, make facing fear more about acting than strategizing. Dive in and dance with the awkwardness. You’ll be more authentic that way.
6. Ask Why
What are you really afraid of? What is it about your worst fear that messes with you most? Discovering the reasons behind your fears leads to deeper levels of self-understanding.
Example: A man has a fear of letting people down. His therapist helps him realize that this neediness is rooted in shame, and once he starts valuing himself and addressing his past, he becomes less concerned with others’ opinions.
Your fears are rarely simple. Understanding how your fear could be serving you in the moment can help you see why it’s holding you back. This type of introspection leads to personal progress.
7. Refuse to Rationalize
We all do this. We all come up with reasons not to face our fears. And some of them might be good reasons, but that doesn’t mean they should be our excuses.
- “It’s not a good time.”
Are you sure about that? Does that mean you’re going to start conquering fear later? Is it going to be easier later? Will the stars align more closely later? Are you absolutely sure you can’t do this right now?
- “There’s always tomorrow.”
No there is not. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Any stoic will tell you that.
- “I’m not ready”
Are you really not ready, or do you not feel ready? Does feeling ready to you mean not feeling scared? You aren’t going to stop feeling scared until you do it.
You know when you’re bullshitting yourself. You just have to call it out.
8. Conquering Fear Is Tough, Be Easy on Yourself
Sometimes it is too much, and you can’t bring yourself to rise to the occasion. This feeling is painful enough without having to deal with your self-torture.
Example: A woman wants to confront her friend about her rotten behavior, but after imagining how uncomfortable the conversation is going to be, she shies away from it. Instead of beating herself up, she resolves to have the talk the next time she sees her. She now has more time to prepare what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.
Self-belief is what overcomes fear in the moment. If you’re always torturing yourself for running away, your self-belief will suffer. Forgive yourself, and try again.
You Always Have a Choice
We get to choose how we act. That’s our gift as humans. When our emotions tell us to go one way, we can choose to go another way, even when it’s enormously difficult.
The more time you spend conquering fear, the more vibrant, interesting, and meaningful your life becomes. So go out and do something that scares you.