This is your most destructive emotion — here’s how to take it back
No one enters adulthood unscarred. We’ve all been burned, gone through shit, been in situations we had no control over. So as adults, we all live with fear. We believe the stove is still hot which makes us hesitate and live in our own little bubbles. The difference between a fulfilled life and a stifled one is whether you are in control of your fear, or your fear is in control of you.
If fear is responsible for your decisions, you’ve made your potential conditional on what fear will let you do. You’ve robbed yourself of all the possibilities that were intended for you.
Until you overcome your fear, whatever it is, you will be limited in your ability to share your gifts, to love, and to make the world a better place. So, don’t spend another day trapped in that prison, both jailer and jailed.
To help you on the journey, I’ve identified six steps to removing fear from your decision-making process and freeing yourself to be the person you were intended to be.
1. Commit to it.
When it comes to deeply engrained habits, saying you’ll change is exponentially easier than actually doing it. You’re busy, you’re going through a hard time, yes — but it’s never going to get easier. It’s only going to get harder. Start today, and don’t look back.
2. Imagine the worst-case scenario.
A lot of people engage in catastrophic thinking and it paralyzes them. But that’s because they let the fear remain nebulous. If you actually complete the scenario, it stops seeming so scary. Write down what you fear happening, and what that would mean for you. Putting it on paper makes it feel contained.
3. Name your fear.
I don’t just mean “heartbreak” or “betrayal.” I mean, call your fear Gregory or Steve or whatever you allows you to see it as an annoyance, rather than a monster. If you saw your 4th-grade bully now, I bet he or she wouldn’t seem so scary.
You remember the way someone or something made you feel the first time you experienced it. You remember Gregory the way your mind recorded him the first time he bullied you. But you aren’t that same, scared little kid now. You have myriad tools and assets at your disposal to face this bully on your own, and come out on top.
4. Reframe the situation.
Say your most crippling fear is failure. Associate that fear with the idea of learning. Every failure is an opportunity. It teaches you so much more than success. Whenever you imagine an outcome that you’d consider a failure, take the time to reimagine it from the perspective that to fail is to learn.
Over time, you can replace the word failure entirely. It’s not a word that serves you. You don’t need it. If the business you’ve always wanted to start ends in failure, it will really end in learning. And that’s not so bad, is it?
5. Just do it.
To change your instinctual response to a certain possibility, you eventually have to prove to yourself that you have no reason to be afraid. If you fear intimacy because you’ve been betrayed, part of the process of conquering that fear is to experience intimacy in a new, healthier, better way.
You can’t ever guarantee that you won’t be hurt, but you can go into a relationship aware of the possible outcomes, choose someone with integrity, and take comfort in the fact that even if the relationship ends, you’ve taken a step closer to owning your life again.
6. Raise the stakes.
If you see your fear as something that only affects you internally, and really won’t have a lasting, detrimental impact on your contribution to the world, or on the people you love, you’re much less likely to prioritize your commitment to beating it when things get hard.
Think through all the ugly parts — the same way you imagined the worst-case scenario for doing the thing that scares you, imagine the worst-case scenario for not doing those things, ever. It may not be as dramatic as the worst case scenario when you take a risk. It just means your life will be more of a whimper than a bang.
Think of fear as the thing that’ll keep you from changing the world, from loving to the fullest extent of your capabilities, and from leaving an indelible mark on the world. I think there’s no greater motivation than that.
You can never be who you are meant to be if you are afraid.