Your fear is like your shadow. It's scary because it looms over you. Yet it doesn't have power over you.
By Nila Sweeney
Once upon a time, we were all fearless creatures who believe we can do anything we want. We were not afraid to do things, say things and push our limits. We were convinced we can do anything. And we did, most of the time.
And then one day, we did something and suffered some unpleasant consequences.
Maybe we got punished. Maybe we got told it’s too dangerous. Slowly, little by little, we lost this gift. We learned to be cautious. We no longer want to take risks.
We were afraid to try new things for fear that we would fail and make mistakes. We’re afraid to say what we think for fear that we would be judged harshly and won’t be accepted by others.
So we started to put up appearances, overcompensating for the things we’re really afraid of by doing the opposite in excess.
And so we go through our own lives taking the safe route and living an average life. We never dare to stand out for fear that we’ll be ridiculed. We try to hide behind a facade to cover up our fear of not measuring up, of making mistakes and looking stupid.
I’ve lived like this for the longest time in my life. I was always afraid of rocking the boat, so I would always agree to do things no matter how much I wanted to refuse.
I’d say the “right” things even if I don’t really mean them, just to be accepted. I didn’t take many risks such as investing because it’s too “dangerous”, I could lose my life’s savings. So, I’ve let many great opportunities passed me by.
Yet I know in my heart that the gutsy girl who used to ride motorcycles and do deep ocean dives is still in there somewhere. All I needed to do is to reconnect and awaken her from her long slumber.
After many attempts at confronting my irrational fear, I’ve finally made some progress. Have I eliminated them? Of course not. That wasn't my goal. My aim was to subdue my fears so they no longer control me.
I know now that my fear is like a shadow. It never leaves me. But like a shadow, it has no real force or power over me unless I let it run wild.
So how did I tame my fear? Here are a few techniques that helped me. It may help you too.
Know your enemy
You may have a clue in your head about what you’re really afraid of, but unless you write them down, they’re just nebulous ideas.
By crystallising these irrational fears, you’d see what’s triggering them, which in turn help you to deal with them.
Say hello to your fear
Acknowledging that you are afraid is an important step in confronting your fear. Trying to pretend it’s not there will only make it more potent. Getting your fear out in the open and facing it squarely will lose its impact.
Remember that your fears are like shadows. They’re scary because they loom over you, but once you turn around and confront them, you’d see they’re nothing but a feeble threat, with no ability to hurt you unless you allow them to.
Assess the potential damage
What’s the worst thing that could happen if this irrational fear materialises? The reality is, the imagined future is scarier than what happens in real life.
For example, we may be afraid of losing our jobs and unable to provide for our families and pay off our debts.
Yet if push comes to shove, we will find a way, no matter what, to earn a living to support our families.
Assessing the worst case scenario goes a long way in putting things into perspective and subduing your fears.
Take a small step out of your comfort zone
For some people, the only way to confront their fear is to go all out and stare it in the face. There is nothing wrong with that. It can be cathartic and effective.
In my case, I had to take it slowly. Making changes in the way I do things in small doses were more manageable for me than to go full on straight away.
Arm yourself for battle
If you’re afraid of speaking in front of people, get trained. Practice a lot.
If you’re afraid of investing, educate yourself so you know what traps to avoid.
If you’re afraid to fail in your project, have a game plan to follow and mitigate the risks.
As one wise person once said: