“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” Dorothy Thompson
Fear is the body's alarm system — it’s an innate emotional response to a perceived personal threat. These are natural feelings that often help to keep you alive by alarming you to danger.
Imagine this: you are sitting on the beach watching the sunset as waves lap the sand as you bask in the glow. A book lies in your lap as you lose yourself in thought of how wonderful you feel at this moment.
Now imagine what the reality is: You’re dreaming of traveling to the beach, sitting on the sand watching the sun set. But instead of taking the steps to go, you feel fear. What if you’re needed at your job, by your family or any of your other obligations? What if the plane crashes? What if you get lost? What would happen if you let down your guard? What if…?
Living in fear, keeps you form taking the risk to go for what you truly desire. It keeps you from realizing your true potential. Getting over a fear is an active process that requires retraining the brain. Essentially, you are re-wiring higher-level brain areas to overcome signals from areas like the amygdala (the fear center in your brain) that you can put threats into a more realistic context.
Fears lead to insecurities. When it comes down to it, people fear the feeling of fear. That’s the most scary part – the way you feel when something makes you really afraid. This leads to avoidance, which then leads to more avoidance, which leads to a progressively smaller, more limited life.
So how can you live a life free of fear?
When you find yourself weighed down with too much fear that’s preventing you from realizing your true potential, it’s time to get familiar with your fears and find ways to work through them.
Face your fears whenever you can. Notice the powerful urge to avoid, and don’t give in to it.
While avoiding the situations you fear might make you feel better in the moment, avoidance can cause increased fear based responses in the long term. When you completely avoid your fears, you teach your amygdala that you can't handle the situation, thereby keeping you stuck in the fear.
When you take the time to actually define your fears, you learn to separate fact from fiction. This is an important distinction. Some things you’re afraid of will be valid, but many will be mental "worst-case scenarios" that have simply spiraled further in your mind than they ever would in reality.Sometimes, naming your fear gives you the strength to deal with it. Say your fear out loud, write it down, and focus your mind on it. When you try to ignore your fear, it grows. When you face it, it shrinks.
There is wisdom that comes from the experience of working through fears. Some of your fears may have even come true. However, the silver lining of these experiences is that you learn from them. Wisdom comes from all of life’s experiences, but the fearful experiences in particular teach us great lessons. Wisdom is always the by-product of facing your fears, and that’s an important quality to develop.
The key to facing your fears is to take one small step at a time. Going too fast or doing something too scary before you are ready can have the opposite effect, and increase your fear.
But it’s also important to keep moving forward. A moderate amount of fear is fine. Don’t wait for your fear to dissipate before taking a step forward, or you may find yourself waiting for a change that isn't going to come on its own.