We are naturally fearful. Then society compounds our sense of fear through harmful myths.
Remember the last time you felt afraid? Was it before a presentation? When you thought your child had been harmed? Or perhaps you were going somewhere and anticipating getting made fun of by other people?
Many of our deeply rooted fears are real. Others are caused by harmful social myths about who we are and who we should be around others. These myths can come in instructions about who we should be based on our gender, our race, our jobs, and have been put in pace by teachers of all sorts.
We’ve been taught that we are all in perpetual conflict.
Fear is limiting, not liberating.
We also know that survival of the fittest is not a statement about individual survival. In fact, those of us with a strong support group, however small, find it easier to survive and thrive.
Failure is inevitable
Reject the fear of failure. Instead, embrace it.
Life is not a competition where you have to win every time. In fact, you can learn and grow in important ways from failures.
Our bodies are primed for fear. When we are afraid the amygdala triggers the fight or flight response, which gets our hearts and minds racing, and causes sweat and rapid eye movement.
These moments of panic, however, are related to our creative outlets too, perhaps because our mind is forced to be more creative when looking for a solution to a potentially life-threatening problem! We’re clever when facing lions, apparently, just as we can be exceedingly hard working when staring down an important deadline.
We are constantly scanning for threats. Sadly, our minds often lump ALL threats together, before your rational brain can step in and say “hey that honking horn is NOT a threat to you.”
When under the influence of fear, you get a little more stupid. Your IQ drops, your look for immediate answers, and you grasp at solutions that might not be especially effective in the long run. We also reject help by becoming more isolated and resistant to others.
Fear does not have to be incapacitating
Prepare for frightening suggestions, including those that you know are coming up.
If you are planning to give a big presentation, you have two options for how to approach it.
First, you can fear it, do the minimum amount of planning, think about it as little as possible.
Or, you can anticipate the fear, name it, plan for the presentation and for how to deal with the fear.
Obviously, the second approach is much better.
By planning for the known fears – those moments that are certain to come up because you have scheduled or anticipated them – you take the edge off. You reduce the variables, because you have planned for many of them. You already know how you will respond when one co-worker responds to your presentation by looking at their phone the whole time, or when a particular co-worker asks several questions at the end.
Perhaps you even prepped for this by telling a couple of co-workers how they can support you before, during, and after the presentation.
By planning for all the possibilities you can imagine, you give your brain a head start. Now your amygdala does not have to react instantly to every stimulus.
You can calm your thinking.
The book Fear Less by Dr. Pippa Grange looks at many ways that a person can approach the fears that limit our success. Perhaps you suffer from imposter syndrome, with your mind always telling you there are people out there who know more than you so the world does not need your input. Or perhaps you have a crippling fear that your spouse will betray your secrets or your relationship in one of several different ways.
You can learn to anticipate and plan for your fears. Doing this helps you meet your fears head on. This releases their hold over your amygdala, and reduces your fight or flight response, preparing you for greater success in managing your life every day.
Fears are very real. Learn which ones are protecting you from harm and which ones are harming you.
Do you sometimes find yourself afraid of something that might happen? Does it prevent you from taking steps that you know will help you in the long run, or from doing things that will benefit your family?
Talking to a licensed therapist can help you anticipate and plan for these moments.
Hit the red button on this page to set up a free no-obligation consultation with Sakina Issa today, and find out if therapy can help you manage the fear that has been holding you back.