Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will. – W. Clement Stone
I remember many times when some of my relatives used scare tactics to make me behave as a kid:
The monster’s going to come and get you if you don’t quiet down
You can’t go out at this time of the night. It’s too dark—there are too many places where the headless killer can hide.
If you don’t take a nap this afternoon and the rest of the week, you’re going to stay short for the rest of your life!
Don’t want to finish your vegetables? That’s fine with me. But don’t blame me when your bones get brittle and break on you when you play with your friends tomorrow.
It’s a good thing that my dad was always around to correct the fears that came out as a result. As an adult, however, I have developed a new set of fears that affects me from time to time.
Fear of the Unknown
Stage fright, for instance, creeps up whenever I have to address a group of people even if they are my relatives (I felt a jolt of it when I was made to speak as my brother’s best man in his wedding). A fear of the deep sea sometimes keeps me from going near a ship’s railings.
Fear of the unknown also used to occasionally prevent me from doing well in important things, like facing interviews.
Depending on how deep the fear is, we might have to resort to great lengths to overcome them. The same factors usually come into play, however, no matter what kind of fear we have.
I believe that the following tips that I developed from trying to overcome my own fears can help you overcome yours:
- Ask someone to help you.
I appreciate my dad for helping me overcome my fear of the dark when I was much younger. I didn’t exactly ask for it, but he took it upon himself to help me. I think the fact that I respected his authority over my fear-mongering relatives’ also contributed greatly.
He came up with many ways to get me to “step into the dark.” Sometimes he used subtle approaches like inviting me to go constellation-hunting at night. At other times he resorted to more direct methods like accompanying me to dark portions of the house which we illuminated with a couple of flashlights.
The most comforting approach was when he admitted that he also once felt scared. While visiting his childhood neighborhood one late afternoon, he took me and my brothers to a very old house that, according to him, spooked him a lot when he was a boy. We walked around its perimeter while he told us about his scary experiences.
It didn’t necessarily make my own fear of the dark vanish, but it helped me learn to stand up to it.
Overcoming your fears can be much easier if you have someone to walk with you. Ask a person you trust and respect to help you conquer your fears.
- Psych yourself out.
I once thought only extremely crazy persons who were constantly detached from themselves could successfully psych themselves out. I proved myself wrong, however, when I was invited to a graduate school admissions interview in one of the top universities in my native country.
I prepared for the interview as best I as could, including asking advice from my college professors. As the day of the interview approached, however, I started panicking; all I could think about were negative things.
About 30 minutes before the interview, I calmed myself down by saying positive things to myself.
By the time I faced my interviewers, I felt pumped up and completely ready for their questions. Unfortunately I didn’t pass. But I believe that psyching myself out helped clear my mind and enabled me to answer all the questions to the best of my abilities.
If you’re about to face a tough challenge and fears are plaguing you, try psyching yourself out by vocalizing positive thoughts. It would be best if you could counter each fear with a positive thought. By the time you’re done, you’ll realize that you have no reason to be afraid at all.
- Fake it.
When we have no solid reason to be confident, the best thing we can do is to fake it. Whether facing an interview or preparing for a public speech, feigning confidence preempts any fear that might pop up.
Say this to yourself, “I have nothing to lose so I’m going all out!”
- Use a lucky charm or a memento from a loved one.
Your friends might mock you for being “superstitious”, but just ignore them because they won’t be confronting your fears for you.
Lucky charms are physical tangible reminders of our inherent ability to do something (surprise! It’s already there; we just don’t know it), while mementos are reminders of our loved ones’ support for us. In my case, I keep a small photo of my parents in my wallet that I look at whenever I get nervous before I do something challenging.
- Take it one step at a time.
In dealing with most kinds of fears, any progress is good progress as long as you don’t fall back. Patience is key.
I was about 18 years old when I developed my fear of the deep sea. I really don’t know what caused it, but I was resolved to conquer it. My fascination with dolphins was my primary motivation.
I began prepping my mind by watching TV documentaries about deep sea creatures. Whenever I had the opportunity, I also went on island trips with friends and family. I tried sea gliding once too.
I am now in control of my fear of the deep sea, although I still get nervous when I travel by ship or boat at night.
Our fears may sound silly to other people, but to us, they are paralyzing emotions that prevent us from enjoying our lives to the fullest.
If you are struggling with some kind of fear, please know that you have it in you to overcome them. Start by believing that you can do it!