Over the years the world has chronicled numerous disorders and epidemics that have threatened the well-being of humanity. But with the passage of time, all of them have tended to wax and wane. While we might regard obesity, given its widespread nature, as the latest addition to the now endless list of plagues we’ve had to deal with. Still, like all previous plagues we’ve conquered, there’re now countless articles with detailed guides on how we can tackle the menace of obesity.
In comparison to other recent plagues, the rampancy of fear in the human mind is proving to be a far more formidable threat to our collective well-being and even more.
In a world of boundless potentials, unending possibilities and dream-come-true, our fears are reason so many of us are not living our dreams. As a specie gifted with wonder-working imagination and genius level creativity, we might think and plan but often when it comes around to pulling the trigger, these mental monsters bombard our minds with threatening improbabilities and we retreat tail in between legs. And as we’ve waned in might and grown in self-doubt, these monsters have spawned in numbers. As is evident in the frightening body of literature acknowledging phobias. From monophobia (fear of loneliness) to zoophobia (fear of animals), to anthropophobia (fear of people), it seems there isn’t a thing anymore without its own phobia. Maybe there’s even a phobia for your smartphone!
If you’ve wondered why they even bother to exist, there’s a credible explanation. In line with the flight or fight response, they were originally well-meaning sentries assigned to stand guard over us and warn us of any perceived threat to our life or survival. But somehow they’ve gone rogue and turned on us. As a result, we now find ourselves in situations that in no way threaten our well-being.
Now let’s get down to the hard part. How do you build confidence and stop living in fear? Read on for more.
(1) Live In the Moment.
While some of our fears will result from past experiences, the most however are the consequence of an inherently, forward-looking, futuristic thinking pattern. When our thoughts are always centered on what might happen (the future) than what is (the present), this stirs anxiety and soon enough other frightening and paralyzing thoughts might creep in. In addressing this issue, Jesus once admonished his disciples warning them about not thinking too much about the future in the Bible book of Mathew 6:25, 27 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
From here on out, stop worrying about things that won’t be. Look less ahead. Your responsibility isn’t with what lies dimly in the distance but with the present. Focus your thoughts on the present. If fear or worries about the future emerge, take a deep breath and relax. Bring your wandering thoughts back from the future to the moment.
(2) Write Down the Benefits Of Conquering Your Fear.
For those of us who are not in the know, a reward system could be used to build confidence and conquer fear in just the same way it can be used to promote self-discipline. It’s a proven strategy I’ve used to overcome most of my fears. All this technique takes to work is just a little shift in thinking – call it a paradigm shift. It works like this: If you’re having fearful thoughts about doing anything, get a paper and write down the fear precisely and the benefits you’ll gain from overcoming this fear. What this does is that it helps you take your mind off the source of your fear to what you really want. And as you do this, you’ll realize you stand to gain more overcoming the fear than avoiding it. The result, it builds your confidence and provides the motivation to do that thing you dread.
(3) Isolate The Fear
Let me illustrate this point by telling you a short witty story I picked up from Africa. This story took place in Lagos, Nigeria, to be precise. On a certain day, while some pedestrians were walking down the busy road somewhere along the Lagos Lagoon from nowhere, came people breathlessly scampering in different directions as if being pursued. And these passerby’s startled by this sudden flight, and the imminent threat in the air, without asking thing, also took to their heels. And some in this frenzy and panic, jumped into the Lagos lagoon. However since they couldn’t swim, they drowned in it. But later on as events unfolded, it was discovered that this commotion was caused by an explosion when a car at top speed burst it tire. But when the initial passerby`s heard this explosive sound, they didn’t bother finding out what it was but assumed it was that of highway robbers in operation and took to their heels. Hence this needless running and resulting deaths by drowning. Takeaway: never react to a fear unless you know what’s causing it. If something frightens you, isolate the fear and then use action to cure the fear. Start by getting more information on the fear.
(4) Visualize The steps Involved To complete The Dreaded Task
I’ve said it before in the amazing brain hacks but is worth emphasizing again. Your mind is like a genie, with extraordinary powers to help you realize your dreams. And that includes the ones you dread. But this particular genie isn’t the type in Alladin, whom you could just command to do “just anything” and it does. Your genie mind (especially the powerful subconscious mind) works with pictures. I mean you have to show it the steps involved in getting the designated task done. You have to visualize the processes involved in completing the task and see the task as done. It’s the only way your mind carries out commands. If you can apply this same technique to the things you dread doing, then you’ll see yourself doing them. And before you know it, your fears will be water under the bridge.
(5) Use Action To Cure Fear.
As soon as you sense fear springing up in your mind, root it out. Fear left unchecked germinates like unwanted weed and soon chokes up your confidence. And once this fear takes control of your mind, it’ll spill over to every aspect of your life like a cancerous cell, snuffing out whatever residue of confidence there might be left.
No matter how intimidating the fear all that really stands between you and the defeat of that fear is a bold and uncompromising act of defiance. Postpone or be indecisive and it dominates your life. Don’t give your fears such power. Afraid of heights? Go sky diving and jump out the plane. Afraid of failing an exam? Hit the books. Afraid of people? Attend that party. Whatever your fear, just do it and it wouldn’t be as intimidating. Always ask yourself the question “what kind of action can I take to conquer my fear?” Once you have the answers, act on it fast. Feel the fear but do it anyway!
(6) Ignore The Fear
This strategy is a last resort. It has to be done after you must have followed through on the five earlier. Its lot easier to overlook you fear when you’ve debunked it and realized there’s nothing to it. Ever seen one of those surfers on the beach tunneling through waves the size of 5 story building with their backs turned to the waves? You’d think it’s because they are fearless but it’s not quite. The fact is that they too fear the waves; violent behemoths that can inflict terrifying and catastrophic injuries but instead choose to overcome the paralyzing fear with their backs turned to the waves. All of them learn to ignore looking at the impact zone where the waves crashes because that would automatically cripple them with fear.
This strategy adopted by surfers can be adapted for overcoming any other kind of fear. Instead of focusing on your fears and allowing them to cripple you, choose instead to ignore them. Develop aphorisms that encourage you to act and downplay the impact of your fears. Say things like:
It’s not a big deal
I’m more than capable to deal with it
I’m going to really enjoy doing this.
(7) Surround Yourself With Positive People Who Can Encourage You.
One of the reasons mountaineers climb in groups and rope themselves as they ascend is to keep the guys at the rear from feeling overwhelmed and going home. It’s an extreme sport but still they are all surrounded with seasoned climbers who encourage the amateurs among them to stay put till they reach the summit. In the same way nothing beats fear like a united and well-coordinated assault. Find people sharing the same fear with you and together, you can encourage yourselves and take on the fear together.
(8) Share The Experience With Others.
The biggest mistake you can make in life is thinking your troubles are unique. But they aren’t. And neither are your fears. As a matter of fact, there’s nothing new under the sun. Chances are, there’s someone out there who has faced the same fear as yours and conquered them. All that you need to defeat whatever fear you’re facing, be it the fear of death, the unknown, failure, loneliness, rejection, aging etc. is to acquire the unique perspective of others who have “been there, and done that”. It always helps to see your fear from a different view. This comes only by sharing whatever fear you feel with friends and family. Besides your loved ones, you can share your anxiety and troubles with anyone you trust. That’s liberating and sure reduces the effect of your fears. Plus, they can motivate you in ways you never imagined.
(9) Imagine The Worst Case
Has fear has gripped your heart? Does it looks so scary and overwhelming that all you want to do is turn and run away? Then just this once, stop in your tracks and imagine the worst case. What would doing it cost you? Would it incapacitate or more to the point, cost you your life? If it won’t kill, don’t you think you’d become stronger getting it over with already? Definitely, if you ask me! Most fears we have are disappointingly baseless. And whatever threats we think they pose to us might exist only in our heads. In this wise, imagining the worst case scenario to our bête noirs could be a powerful technique to launch against the paralysis of any looming fear and galvanize us forwards. And even when such threats really exist, with this powerful technique, we could start taking pre-emptive action. Any fear will lose its power over you as soon as you can picture the worst case scenario in your mind’s eye. Often they are not as bad as we think.
(10) Start Small.
At times, taking the baby steps approach it’s a far more effective strategy to building confidence and overcoming fear than doing “somersaults”. Many of us think the better approach to conquering fear is taking on the whole enchilada all at once, in big, bold, and giant steps. This might mean we’d start out from points where the chains to our fears are strongest and hardest to break. But this is exactly where we might get overwhelmed and chicken out. Attempting to conquer your fears whole hog could prove to be quite an act of self-sabotage. While not take small but gradual steps towards it and build momentum and confidence on the way up. Begin from the bottom where you can face your fears from the lowest level of intensity. For instance, if you’re afraid of public speaking, that means starting with an audience of 1 and moving on to 2, 3…till you eventually get to speak to a much larger audience.
(11) Create An Anti-Fear Playlist
Think I don’t have fears of my own just because I’m writing this? You’d be surprised at just how many I’ve to confront each day. Yes, I’ve half a dozen things (and maybe more) that give me the goose bumps each time I flirt with the mere thought of doing. For one, I’ve a pathological fear of heights, so much that I swore I’d never live in a high rise building growing up as kid. Maybe “a bungalow!” I thought. I got the vertigos peering out windows of high-rise buildings. And even now as an adult, I still haven’t gotten this fear. Though I’ve reached a little compromise and I’m a lot more willing now to live on the first floor than I was back then.
Besides heights, I’ve many other fears but my one and only source of inspiration for conquering my fears has been music. Over the years I’ve managed to create such a bad ass playlist that allows me “chest out” than “chicken out” and to go answer the door whenever these fears come knocking. Just as music does it for me, creating your own inspiring, bad ass playlist could provide all the motivation you need to overcome any fear in your life. There’re lots of songs out there whose lyrics will give you that definite call to action on overcoming your fears. To give you a few, Super Chicks Go One More, Susan Ashton’s You Move Me, and Moriah Peter’s Brave are songs in my anti-fear playlist. I think Eminem’s I’m Not Afraid also hits the dynamics here. You’ll feel massively bolder humming the lyrics to your favorite bad ass song as you prepare to take on any fear you’re facing.