“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~Pema Chodron
Though there are many events outside of our control, we do have the power to change our own lives. So what's stopping us?
In a word: fear.
Fear is a great survival instinct. It helped our ancestors survive the rigors of daily life. But nowadays, fear holds us back from achieving what we want to achieve.
I grew up living in fear. In school, I tried to win the approval of other people by letting them bully me. I was terrified of being disliked, and this constantly worked against me.
When I was 15, I suddenly came down with Crohn's Disease, a painful autoimmune disorder. It was the beginning of a new journey; a journey that would permanently enroll me in the school of hard knocks.
I believe the biggest fear I am in the process of overcoming is the fear of going against society's expectations. One example: Society expects you to be gloom and doom when you're going through a tough illness. Not me.
Before I even started learning about personal development, I tried to lighten up the days of the doctors and nurses in the hospital with a smile and positive demeanor. This completely cut through expectations, because “sick” people aren't supposed to smile.
When I started feeling better, I decided to work on my fears even more. I went to online school, where I worked on the fear of being a self-disciplined learner.
I started a daily stretching routine, and posted a video of myself doing a full split online. I sent it to my old ballet teacher, and she invited me to come to dance in her studio.
That idea had never even crossed my mind. A swirl of irrational thoughts went racing through my mind:
- What if I'm not good enough at dancing to be in the studio?
- What if I get sick?
- What are all of the people going to think of me? I have an NG tube in my nose that makes me look weird!
I was terrified, but I did it anyway.
I ended up dancing in a ballet recital last May. It was incredible, and I never would have done it if I didn't work on overcoming my fear; and, of course, if I didn't have an encouraging teacher to support me through my fears.
These days, I work on my fear in many ways. Some of them include:
- Sending a friendly e-mail to one new person every day
- Speaking Japanese, a language that I am very far from fluent in, with a native speaker on a regular basis.
- Conducting interviews with people who are doing amazing things
- Keeping in touch with new friends, and getting back in touch to reconnect with old friends
I make sure that I am doing something every day that scares me. And I know the tools will help you do the same!
1. A daily routine
This has been the foundation for overcoming fears in my life. I start my day off with a glass of water, reading, stretching, visualization, and meditation. I've been able to achieve great results by constantly doing this routine every day, without fail.
Little things, done consistently every day, have big impact over time. The daily routine gets you started on the right note, giving you greater strength to tackle your fears.
NOTE: I started this routine with just stretching and reading, and added on more as time went on. I recommend the same strategy to avoid overwhelm.
2. The Fear Crusher
Every night before I go to bed, I write down a brief overview of some of the work that I want to accomplish the next day.
Then, I write down one task that I will achieve the next day, and label it: The Fear Crusher.
Can you imagine doing this one thing every day, for 365 days straight? Can you imagine how strong you will be after one year, if you do “The Fear Crusher” every single day?
It has to be something that you feel a little scared or apprehensive about. Things that make you feel uncomfortable. This could be something small or big, like
- Writing a hand-written note to a friend
- Calling someone you haven't spoken to in a while
- Writing an article
- Writing a public speech and reaching out to local organizations for an opportunity to present it
- Outlining your favorite book chapter-by-chapter, and summarizing the key points
- Reading a book in an unfamiliar area/topic
- Studying higher math or another topic that makes you feel uncomfortable for fun, just to keep your brain sharp!
- Walking around with a “Free Hugs” sign, giving free hugs to strangers, or doing other acts of social courage
As you keep working on overcoming fear every day, you can gradually progress to bigger challenges. You know what you fear. The problem is that another layer of fear often disguises the fear itself.
Fear is insidious in that it hinders your awareness. Fear wants you to forget that it’s there. The act of writing down the fear crusher the night before, or whenever you're most mentally sharp, will keep the fear from stopping you.
If you spend some time in self-contemplation, the right thing to do will come up. The more apprehension you feel about the task, the greater of a fear you will be overcoming.
What if you set aside just 30 minutes each day, sometimes more, sometimes less, to tackling a fear crusher? Do you think it would be the most valuable 30 minutes of your day, in the long run? I believe so.
And one day, sooner than you think, you'll look back on the things that used to scare the living daylights out of you, and think triumphantly to yourself: “I can't believe I used to be scared of doing that!”
When we're physically fatigued, all of the concepts that I'm talking about go right out the window. Our willpower gets drained. How could you tackle a fear crusher task when you're not feeling very good?
Nutrition is key here. Now, I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist, but there's one thing that I'd like to share: I can't see how processed food is good for your body or energy levels.
The best things to eat are just what common sense ordered, like fruits and vegetables.
I find that broccoli and cucumbers help out my energy levels. If you eat meat, you can experiment with different types and see which ones make you feel good. You'll also want to take a break day once a week. Life can get stressful if you try to cram yourself into a rigid box.
If you tell your brain, “No more potato chips for the rest of your life,” it will go into panic mode; but that “cheat” day will give you the cognitive leeway to follow through on good eating habits.
Look into different diets (Paleo, Vegan, pH Miracle, etc.) and experiment to find the right one for you. This aspect of your life is too important to leave to chance.
Do what you fear. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's the right thing to do. And don't worry about that one percent when it's the wrong thing to do, as long as you survive it.
You'll grow stronger, and strength will lead you down the road to a life of wellbeing. The solution to your problems is often hidden underneath the fear.
That's why the fear crusher will help you out tremendously!
The toughest part is having the courage to follow through. But because you read sites like Tiny Buddha, that puts you in a group of people who take action on their fears, and work to make their lives better through conscious action.
Photo by h.koppdelaney