Occasionally, fear is awesome. Occasionally, it keeps us from doing really, really stupid things. But more often, fear keeps us from doing really, really awesome things.
I was afraid to quit my lawyer job, move to the beach and start a business (what if the business failed which, by the way, the first business did, spectacularly). I was afraid to have a baby (I can’t even begin to list my becoming-a-mom fears). I was afraid to speak on stage in front of 500 people (because, well, public speaking). Oh, and I’m afraid to fly and afraid to grow old and don’t even get me started on my fear of death.
And yet I do all of these things (except the death thing, but sadly, one day apparently I’m going to have to do that too). Because here’s the truth: bravery is not about being unafraid, it is about taking action even though you are afraid.
If fear is holding you back, here are four tactics to try.
First, honestly consider what it is you are afraid of. Rejection? Making a mistake? People seeing you fail? Yes, we are hard-wired to crave acceptance want to be part of the tribe, but when we allow fear of other people’s opinions to hold us back, we are giving them power of our lives that they simply don’t deserve. This is your life, your journey, your dreams. Own them.
Second, it is often helpful to allow yourself to consider the realistic worst-case scenario. Often, we catastrophize our fears and our what-ifs, blowing the possible downsides out of proportion. What are the real risks? Emphasis here on realistic. Sure, a meteor could wipe us all out tomorrow, but by focusing both on the real risks and those that you can control can help keep things in perspective.
Third, consider your own version of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy has been shown to be effective in helping people overcome their fears. In its simplest form, it involves slowly, gently and incrementally exposing yourself to the things of which you are afraid. Afraid of public speaking? Contribute something at the next PTA meeting, speak to a group at your local library and slowly begin speaking in front of bigger groups.
Finally, if fear is really truly keeping you from doing the things you love and chasing the dreams you want, consider professional therapy. Because this, right now, is your one chance, your one opportunity to chase the life you want and fear should not stand in your way.