Living in fear is like carrying a heavy burden that restrains our every step. It constricts our potential, limits our experiences, and prevents us from fully embracing life’s beauty. Fear can manifest in numerous ways, such as fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, or even fear of success. If we permit it, fear has the ability to confine us within the confines of comfort and predictability, ultimately hindering the realization of our fullest potential. The experience of living in fear creates a perplexing dilemma: a sense of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs coupled with an apprehension to pursue anything superior. Nevertheless, fear possesses a potential for profound value, offering a means to shatter the barriers of frustration and attain the life we authentically crave. Yes, you read that correctly – fear can, if harnessed correctly, serve as a potent instrument for uncovering true contentment. But it’s important to remember that fear is just an emotion, not an unbreakable barrier. In this short guide, I want to explore with you actionable steps, personal anecdotes, and additional insights on how to stop living in fear and start living a life driven by courage, resilience, and joy.
The Different Types Of Fear
To embark on the journey of breaking free from the chains of fear, we first need to understand our basis and hence I find it crucial to delve into the intricate psychology underlying this powerful emotion. And I say powerful because look at what has happened around the world during the last 3 years. Fear and anxiety, to some extent, hold a legitimate place within the spectrum of human psychology. Acute fear (in laymen terms often referred to the “fight or flight” response), in particular, is to me a primal emotion that serves as a beacon, signaling potential threats to our physical or emotional well-being. Picture yourself in a situation like an unexpected accident, feeling like you’re being followed by someone, or confronted by an immediate danger – during such moments, your heart races, adrenaline courses through your veins, and your senses are heightened. This visceral response is a survival mechanism that enables swift action, geared towards self-preservation or safeguarding others. Acute fear is an inherent reaction that echoes the evolutionary legacy of our ancestors, facilitating survival in the face of danger – hence as I previously mentioned the fight or flight response.
However, there exists another facet of fear that emerges when the acute fear response becomes overly sensitive. Termed as chronic fear or indirect fear, this variation surfaces when we are persistently exposed to low-level yet stress-inducing circumstances (in other words this is when we are in a persistent and prolonged state of anxiety, or unease which arises from exposure to ongoing or recurring stressors, even if they are not immediate threats.) Think about the what has been going on. If you consume excessive news about conflicts, political divides, or emerging diseases (in other words you are constantly being told how deadly they are) this can trigger this form of fear, leading us to irrationally anticipate negative outcomes. Unlike acute fear, which bolsters our innate life-preserving instincts, chronic fear operates in an opposing manner. It gradually erodes our natural response mechanism and fosters a perception that we are in need of external intervention for salvation. Think about this paragraph and reflect. So important for a healthy mind and rational thinking without having chronic fear take over.
In essence, understanding the nuances of these distinct types of fear empowers us to actively counteract their effects and reclaim command over our emotional and psychological landscape. Through this understanding, we gain the insights necessary to redirect fear’s influence and channel it towards personal growth and empowerment.
The next question that comes into my mind then for someone who lives in any form of fear is:
Why Do I Always Feel Afraid?
Delving into the depths of fear, many of us ponder: why do we find ourselves ensnared in its clutches? I tried fishing out something way before the recent three years and have a look at this research conducted by Harvard University unveiling that slightly over 19% of the U.S. population has grappled with an anxiety disorder within that past year (speaking 2010). I find that this staggering number underscores the prevalence of anxiety-related issues, making them (in my perception) amongst the most widespread psychological challenges encountered in the United States. And if I started digging deeper we would probably find similar data for other parts of the world.
It is often chronic fear that acts as the catalyst for these profound feelings of anxiety. In our fast-paced world, a myriad of factors contribute to the cultivation of this persistent fear, with influences ranging from the omnipresent media to even the caffeine coursing through our veins. Yet, it’s vital to acknowledge that assigning blame seldom offers a solution to our predicaments. Instead, a transformative approach is needed– a stance wherein we seize control of our emotions and embark on a journey of self-mastery. The journey we as renegades are on.
So, how can we navigate the tumultuous waters of fear most effectively? The answer lies in mastering the art of coexisting with fear itself. Hermann, say what?
Picture fear as a dance partner – an unexpected, often intimidating companion that we must learn to waltz with. Rather than allowing fear to wield dominion over us, there’s an opportunity to harness its energy to our advantage. As we confront fear head-on, we set forth on a path to reclaim power over our lives and emotions. By forging this symbiotic relationship with fear, we not only diminish its debilitating effects but also harness its force to propel us toward greater self-awareness and empowerment.
Warning Signs That You’re Living In Fear
Can you imagine how many people live their lives in fear without ever realizing it? I’ve talked to many people who would claim they are not living in fear, but often the underlying issue is exactly that, a form of fear. Comforts we have become accustomed to are frequently entwined with the complexities of fear. After a while, we feel a feeling of satisfaction that makes us believe we are happy and fulfilled. The need for stability, predictability, and assurance is one of the basic human desires. Yet, paradoxically, this very craving for comfort can inadvertently ensnare us.
The complex relationship between comfort and anxiety frequently conceals the fear that lies underneath the surface. A false sense of security develops as we become accustomed to our habits and patterns. This comfort, even if it may appear unimportant, has the ability to turn into a barrier that prevents our development and potential growth.
Subtle yet profound, the signs of residing within the clutches of fear often go unnoticed. Here are a few indicators that fear might be orchestrating the trajectory of your life:
- Stagnant Comfort: When your routine becomes monotonous and you cling to it with unwavering dedication, fear might be at play. Fear of change or the unfamiliar can lead to an unchanging and unfulfilling existence.
- Suppressed Desires: If you find yourself suppressing your dreams and aspirations due to self-doubt or apprehension, fear might be the silent orchestrator. Fear can coerce you into settling for less than you deserve.
- Overwhelming Anxiety: A recurring undertone of uneasiness that occurs when making decisions or starting new endeavors may be a warning indication of underlying fear. This fear of the unknown can create an overwhelming sense of unease.
- Avoidance of Risk: When the mere thought of taking risks paralyzes you, fear might be inhibiting your potential for growth. Fear thrives on avoiding the unfamiliar and untested.
- Resisting Change: An unwavering resistance to change, even when circumstances warrant it, can indicate a fear of stepping out of the comfort zone.
The first step towards regaining control of your life is recognizing these warning flags – and being honest with yourself about them. The strategies to escape the confines of fear are to accept change, face self-doubt, and challenge the status quo. We want to peel back the layers of comfort that conceal fear’s grip, only then can we embark on a transformative journey toward self-discovery and empowerment. And I’ve said that numerous times now.
Stop Living In Fear
Imagine a world in which fear isn’t just a passing thought; instead, it becomes a continuous companion, woven into every fiber of your existence. This is the region of chronic fear, when the fear response transforms into a way of life. Fear has an unbreakable grip on all of our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Fear’s relentless presence feeds a loop of immobility and disappointment, maintaining an apparent unrelenting pattern of defeat.
Fear, paradoxically, contains an unexpected content of optimism. The accompanying emotions – discomfort, anxiety, and annoyance – are all technically powerful enough to push you beyond your comfort zone. While overwhelming bad, these emotions contain a latent force that can drive you to seek alternatives and ignite change.
Nevertheless, fear’s power to dictate your life is not immutable. You hold the key to wresting control from its grasp. There are numerous strategies from self care to physical activity to seeking professional help that will hopefully allow you to break free from fear.
I don’t want to give you a list of what you need to do to break free, but rather a few tools that may help you cope with your specific situation better and help you understand, through reflection, of how to let go of the fear holding you back.
Confronting The Demons Within
Be honest with yourself. I mentioned it above. Fear often thrives in the shadows of our subconscious, feeding on our insecurities and doubts. Confronting these inner demons is the first step towards liberation. And that means taking a good hard look at yourself, being honest and not sugar coating any of the crap you think puts you in a good place because you do not want to face the demons.
Embracing Vulnerability: Acknowledge that vulnerability is not weakness (because society teaches us otherwise), but a pathway to authenticity. Brené Brown, a renowned vulnerability researcher, suggests that embracing vulnerability can lead to deeper connections and personal growth. Remember, vulnerability is an act of courage.
Rewiring Your Thought Patterns
Our thoughts can either be a source of empowerment or a breeding ground for fear. Learning to rewire negative thought patterns can significantly impact our perception of fear.
Practicing Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help anchor us in the present moment (I use the term anchor here because I recently watched a movie where one of the characters crosses his fingers to anchor himself as to why he does the job he does). Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program around mindfulness is interesting. I have not done it myself or do I promote it, however, I came across it a while ago and have done some reading around his work. I do not agree with his Covid stance, as to me ultimately he goes along with the fear, however, in regards to practicing mindfulness this is potentially an interesting place to start aside from other apps or texts.
Embracing the Power of Failure
Fear of failure can paralyze us and prevent us from pursuing our dreams. Yet, failure is an integral part of growth and success. Society teaches us that failure is not okay and that we must succeed at all costs – amazing job titles, higher salaries, part of the “club”. That all is BS, and the reverse of what we as humans actually need to strive for. So accept that failure is part of your game plan and make that work for you.
Redefining Failure: Instead of viewing failure as a dead end, see it as a stepping stone to success. Many successful individuals, such as Thomas Edison and J.K. Rowling, faced numerous failures before achieving greatness.
Resilience is the armor that shields us against fear’s arrows. Developing resilience equips us to bounce back from challenges and setbacks. Many of the problems we face in society today, in my opinion are due to the “everyone gets a medal” mentality with which my generation has grown up with and now translates into diversity, inclusion, acceptance, and so forth. Develop a resilient mind!
Building a Resilient Mindset: Psychologist Martin Seligman’s concept of “learned helplessness” explains how people can become trapped in fear due to the belief that they have no control over their circumstances. Developing a resilient mindset involves recognizing your ability to influence outcomes.
From Fear to Action
Taking action is the ultimate antidote to fear. Stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to profound personal growth and empowerment. Visualize it and do it.
The 5-Second Rule: Mel Robbins’ “5-Second Rule” is a simple technique to counteract the brain’s instinct to avoid change. When you feel fear holding you back, count down from five and take action immediately.
Freeing yourself from the grip of fear is a rewarding adventure. I’ve been there in many instances. The countless projects I have been involved in to sports to stepping away from high paid roles. Remember that while fear is always present, it does not have to dictate your life. You can live a life of courage and purpose by confronting your inner demons, rewiring thought patterns, embracing failure, fostering resilience, and taking courageous acts. IT really can be done.
Make it happen.