Fear is paralysing. Every now and then it rears its ugly head and pollutes our minds, convincing us that we are incapable of achieving bigger things.
Fear plants negative thoughts in our minds causing us to doubt ourselves. Ultimately, it makes us lead smaller, less fulfilling lives.
We battle fear on a daily basis, be it at home or work. But are we actively trying to defeat it or merely running away?
Do we have the necessary “armour” to win this battle against fear?
These were some of the issues I struggled with during my first few weeks as an intern. I had to face a whole new environment and my fear of failure held me back from performing.
However, my supervisor and boss were very supportive. Through my conversations with them, I gained invaluable insights about managing my fears.
These insights were about communicating, acknowledging and deconstructing fears as well as having a trustworthy support group.
Communication is important
“The pen is mightier than the sword.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Words are more effective than weapons in accomplishing a given purpose. In the battle against fear, there are virtually no physical weapons that can help us. However, communication can help.
Initially, when I faced troubles at work, I was adamant to try and solve matters on my own. But I soon realised that I was getting nowhere and finally discussed my struggles with my supervisor.
Though a small part of me was ashamed to admit my shortcomings, I was glad that I did. By communicating, we realised how different our working styles were.
We managed to find a middle ground whereby we could both work together more effectively.
Communication is essential. Especially when we are unable to manage our fears alone. Through communication, we allow others to grasp a better understanding and help us manage our fears.
Remember, fear is an inherent part of human nature. And no one should suffer in silence. Therefore, take courage and voice out your fears!
Face fear head on
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Voicing out also helps us to address our fears instead of avoiding them.
Before opening up about my fears, I had inadvertently pushed them aside and tried focusing only on the task at hand.
However, my worries and fears continued to loom over me like giant daggers. Since I did not address them, they hung over me ominously and prevented me from doing my best.
Once I had identified the root cause, i.e. fear of failure, I was better able to deal with it. Strangely, knowing what I was afraid of gave me a comforting feeling.
At least I now know what was contributing to my lack of productivity instead of constantly bullying myself about not being up to par.
While I addressed my fears by talking it out, there are other ways that can be utilised for those who have trouble articulating their fears. An example is the AWARE method:
- A: Acknowledge it. Recognise that it’s a normal reaction.
- W: Watch it. Observe your emotions from a third person point of view without passing judgment.
- A: Act normally. This tricks your subconscious mind into thinking that everything is alright.
- R: Repeat the above steps where necessary.
- E: Expect the best.
Feel free to experiment with either method and find out which one best suits you.
Think of the worst case scenario
Analysing our fears is probably the best way to bring them down. More often than not, we tend to exaggerate our fears. However, when we take the time to deconstruct them, we will probably realise that what we were afraid of wasn’t that scary after all.
This was one of the most honest advice I have ever received. While I spoke about my fears and worries, I was constantly asked, “Why is that a bad thing?”
Initially I had all sorts of excuses for that question. Little did I realise that I was merely justifying my fears and completely missing the point.
My boss patiently steered me in the intended direction by repeatedly asking me that question until I realised that the worst case scenario I had envisioned wasn’t so bad after all.
By repeatedly answering that same question, I was able to view my fears in a different light and ultimately realise that what I was afraid of could actually be overcome.
Therefore, whenever you are fearful, try asking yourself these questions to deconstruct your fears:
- “What is the worst thing that can happen?”
- “Why is that a bad thing?”
- “Can I overcome this?”
Have a strong support system
“No man is an island.” – John Donne
We may be able to overcome fear on our own but having a support group of friends will definitely make the battle a lot easier.
While struggling with my fears, I really appreciated the presence of my family and close friends. They encouraged and reminded me that I was more than the sum of my fears and that I had overcome similar situations before.
Their kind (and sometimes not so kind) words helped me see my fears in a different light. Often times it is easy to get caught up in a spiral of doubt until we forget to think rationally. Here is where our select group of personal cheerleaders play a role.
Sometimes all that is needed is for them to knock some sense into us and change the way we view our fears.
Watch: The Little Albert Experiment I Overcoming Fear
“Remember, the only thing to fear is Fear, and – well, don’t even fear Fear, for he’s a cowardly chap at the best, who will run if you show a brave front.” – William Walker Atkinson, author of Thought Vibration
To sum up, fear is an internal battle which manifests itself outwardly in various negative ways. Thus, we must actively fight to overcome it. Do not let your fears take up permanent residence in you to the point that they prevent you from trying at all.
I have shown you some of the necessary tools. So, friends, put on your armour and hold your heads up high. Smile and put your best foot forward onto victory. If I can do it, so can you.
Caroline Regina is an aspiring psychologist. She loves to volunteer and experience myriad things but is often hampered by the fear of failure. However, she is taking baby steps towards overcoming her fears by utilising the abovementioned tools with much success. She welcomes everyone who is in the same boat to jump in and vanquish the battle of fear with her.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 14 March 2015