If you don’t want to face your fears, you aren’t alone. And really, there are a lot of fears you never have to worry about or can avoid if you want to. For example, I’m not interested in tightrope walking or scaling tall buildings any time soon.
So, we can avoid a lot of fears if we want to. But we get into trouble when fear gets in the way of doing the things we really want to do.
Fear creates uncertainty: “What if I can’t handle it? What will happen to me? Well, I might try to face it, but only if I know that it/I/they/ will be ok.” Understandably, we try to avoid uncertainty.
However, when we resist exposing ourselves to our fears, we also resist experiencing a fuller life – by avoiding the potential “bad,” we avoid the potential good too.
I don’t want to face my fears any more than you do, but they’re not going away.
“But Tess, maybe they’ll disappear or get quieter the longer I ignore them. Or maybe if I actively fight my fears, I’ll learn to control them.”
Nope. They’ll get louder.
We can try to resist it, but what we try to avoid will keep coming back stronger.
That sounds scary but stay with me here because it’s gonna get better. The crazy paradox is that when we address what we are afraid of, our fears get quieter.
YOUR 6 STEPS TO FREEDOM FROM FEAR ARE COMING UP BELOW
But Before We Dig In…
I want to acknowledge those who don’t want to face their fears at this time (but are bravely reading this article anyway).
I don’t want to give anyone the impression that they are letting themselves down or doing something ‘wrong’ if they don’t face their fears.
If you don’t want to face your fears, then you should not. You are doing exactly the right thing by honouring your preferences, whatever they are.
I trust you. You are the expert on yourself. You never need to do anything that doesn’t feel right for you.
My intention is always to build you up where ever you are in your journey. If this or any article doesn’t feel like the right thing for you – SKIP IT.
In that light – this article is for those of you who feel ready to explore this idea of fear-facing, whether it’s one, two or many of them:
THE HOW & WHY OF FACING YOUR FEARS:
1. Running is (eventually) More Painful.
Like I have, you might have noticed that it’s far more uncomfortable to run from our fears. Eventually, we all get into a situation when we have to face our fears. Avoiding the fear makes it stronger & causes suffering in the meantime.
Long-term avoidance creates a trap.
It is like an insidious poison or the frog in the pot of water. The water temperature is increased so slowly that the frog doesn’t feel the change till it’s at boiling and too late.
Avoidance doesn’t feel directly horrible at any given moment. It’s only over time that the weight of the thing we’re avoiding eventually becomes so heavy we get crushed under it. It’s harder to get up once you’re crushed. The fear is easier to deal with while you’re still upright.
Avoidance is also a long-drawn-out affair. It is a long road of pain & suffering on which you don’t create helpful change. On the other hand, facing your fear is scary at first, but is shorter in duration & creates a small, helpful shift in your thinking each time you do it (as you’ll see in a minute).
2. Face your Fear without trying to “beat” it.
When I say “face” your fear, I mean simply look at it to see if you can tolerate noticing it without reacting much to it. You’re not trying to beat it or eliminate it, just stand still for a moment in its presence & observe it.
If it’s public speaking, imagine yourself giving a speech. Become aware of what thought or feeling it is bringing up in you without judging that thought or feeling. Just noticing them.
You Are Building Strength.
Looking at fear without trying to remove it helps you realize you actually can look at it. It’s not going to turn you into stone. That action builds strength in you for the next time you have a fear to face. You’ll feel discomfort, but you’ll start building an idea about yourself that you can handle some discomfort when it shows up. Over time, that will cause you to be less fearful of future exposures to it.
The Fear Is Less Scary.
In many cases, you’d be surprised how much less scary the fear is once it’s exposed to your gaze for a little while. How much smaller it seems to get. Even if your fear gets just a fraction smaller – that counts.
Value Each Change.
Avoid the temptation to under-value your helpful changes whatever size they are. You only get up a mountain one small step at a time, same with reducing a fear response – it’s not going to happen all at once, but it will happen with diligent, small steps. You just made some forward momentum, my friend!
This is not a one-and-done. Imagine facing your fear in as many contexts & durations as often as you can.
Start small. Don’t pick something that has an element of trauma. Pick a manageable “smaller” thing you’ve been avoiding. In so doing, you’ll practice the skills (that you’re going to learn here) in a more conducive space to learning.
Practise at an ideal time when you aren’t already afraid or you are particularly rocking your world to check out your fear. You’ll show yourself that it is possible to look at that thing you’re afraid of & that you can handle being a bit uncomfortable. Show yourself you can do it with these baby steps!
4. No one Died.
Notice that after you looked at your fear, you came out of that experience alive?
Guess what? You’ve just shown your brain that you can stand up in the presence of the thing that you’ve been avoiding & it won’t take you down. Maybe it was uncomfortable. But no one died.
It doesn’t have to be a dramatic beat down!
I’m not downplaying the discomfort of fear but trying to help you see that you can choose another way of facing it. We often up-level our reaction to our fear to the point that the reaction becomes scarier than the stimulus (the thing we’re afraid of).
Your exposure should not become suffering.
Facing your fear (exposure) and not dying (kind of the ultimate price to pay) shows you that you can handle your discomfort, but don’t suffer in it. Always back off of the fear exposure if it gets overwhelming.
Take a day off of it. Or take a smaller first step next time. Keep asking what it is you need in the process & respect the answer. With some guided, gentle & mindful exposure, you’ll find that discomfort can’t take you down the way you thought it could.
5. Face Your Fear of “I can’t handle that.”
It’s completely natural to avoid the thing that scares you or causes anxiety. The trouble happens when we use avoidance as our method of coping; that’s when it eats away at our self-confidence too.
Avoidance literally removes our courage; it “dis”-courages us. We tend to feel a sense of failure or disappointment in ourselves because avoiding something covertly suggests to our brains that we can’t handle dealing with that thing.
Everything new is a bit scary to our minds. Once we expose our minds to something a few times, however, it “habituates” to that stimulus.
As long our fear is novel – like it is when we never expose ourselves to it – we never give ourselves a chance to reduce the intensity of our response to it. We deny ourselves the opportunity to let it get kind of boring (eventually) to our brain.
6. Fear is almost always perspective.
Unless a truck is barreling down the road at you, most fear is a learned reaction, not reality.
I DO NOT downplay the genuine feeling you experience when facing your fear.
I DO want to expand your idea about that experience.
An example of perspective.
Take driving as an example (if driving IS your fear, then this is not the example for you, but go with me on the purpose of using this analogy and use a different one):
Every time you get in a car, there is a risk that you could get into an accident. You are aware of that risk, but you don’t focus on it to the point that it keeps you from driving. You trust that the odds are in your favour that you won’t get in an accident today. So you get in the car & drive.
On the other hand, someone who has just been in a car accident has a genuine fear response to driving. That risk of an accident happening is the same as it was before their accident. The difference is; now that risk is front and centre in their mind.
What used to be a normal activity now “feels” like a high-risk one because of their experience. The odds are the same, but they don’t trust the odds anymore. Their shift in perspective causes them to fear something they didn’t before because they are focused on it from a skewed possibility.
Ok. It’s freaky at first. But once we’ve faced our fears, we look back with:
- Increased self-confidence: We get a; “Hey, I did that!” moment. We think of ourselves as more capable and stronger than we thought we were. That builds our confidence.
- Increased resiliency. We use that strength as evidence that we can handle what comes our way in the future. We build a structure to stand on for when we have to face our fears again.
- Freedom from living in avoidance. It becomes less scary to try new things & we have an opportunity for more experiences in life.
- Directing your life experiences. Fear stops driving the car & your choices. You stop running from what you don’t want & start running toward what you DO want.
- Goal-Directed Behaviour. You are building GOAL DIRECTED behaviour as opposed to reacting to situations. You’re directing your behaviour, not being directed by your circumstance.
- Appreciation for Change. When everything goes our way, we don’t change. But when we have a challenge, even a really hard one, that’s when we stretch and grow.
- STARTING SMALL:
What fear would you pick to look at today? How does it feel when you do? What approach can you take that would produce a response you prefer?
🎁 A GIFT:
If you want to stay connected & learn more ways to produce thoughts that heal not hurt you; click the link here to: Unravel Your Negative thoughts: An 11 Step Guide to Direct Your Limited Thinking. 🎁