One of our biggest hurdles in life is fear, getting out of our comfort zones. Learning to overcome your fear is a skill and a habit and anyone can learn it. Fears are all unique and based on your life experience. Every fear you have is based on what you have been taught throughout your life. We are born with only two fears: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. The rest come from how you are shaped to perceive the world.
The fear response comes from the part of our brain called the Amygdala. It detects a threat and generates the fear response and we have various reactions based on the situation and based on our personalities. This part of the brain is also known as the Lizard Brain. The problem lies where our brain does not know the difference between a real life-threatening situation and a perceived threatening situation and will generate the same response either way.
The lizard brain is wired into your survival instincts. Where it can get in the way of you making changes in your life is that it can take any situation that makes you slightly uncomfortable and perceive it as a threat. Which in turn will motivate you to choose the “safest option”. This comes in when you are trying to build better habits.
You decide you are going to live a healthier lifestyle, tonight after work you are definitely going for a run but when you come down to it, you watch Netflix instead. This can be partly due to the amygdala, your brain does not know what is actually happening, it just knows you have a choice to struggle or to not struggle and it will always opt for the option to not struggle, that feels safest and easiest in the moment and keeps you inside your comfort zone.
You are trying to move yourself to some big goals in your life and you are riddled with self-doubt and find yourself always stopping yourself from moving forward? This is due to the perceived fear that your lizard brain thinks it needs to protect you from. You will hear a lot that going outside of your comfort zone generates fear because of the unknown. I disagree, it is not the unknown that is holding you back, it is the fabrication of all of the, what if it doesn’t work, and the stories you are telling yourself that you are fearful of. Fear is created by the merry-go-round of stories circling through your mind.
Next time you find yourself caught up in not being able to take action because you feel like the unknown is too scary. I would encourage you instead to, listen in to what you are actually saying to yourself and all the reasons you are giving yourself of why it is a bad idea. You then write them down on a piece of paper, all of the stories you have playing. The purpose is to get down to what you are perceiving as the worst-case scenario. Write down exactly what you are afraid of, and how it makes you feel. Then I want you to write down what are you missing out on because of that fear.
Overcoming your fear can happen in a few different ways. First, you do not try and eliminate your fear response in your brain, it just will not work. When you try and push your fears away and tell yourself you should not be afraid as your only strategy, you will amplify the feeling as well as add shame to the mix, making you feel worse and paralysed. It is not helpful.
Once you have an idea of what stories are playing in your mind. What works best for me is starting to think about them logically. First, put it into the perspective of if a friend came to you with the same fear. How would you respond? If you knew they were just being too much in their head? Now, you say the same thing to yourself. Next, be honest with yourself about the odds of that fear actually happening. Then you are going to force yourself to relax, get out of your head and into your body. Stretch, take deep breaths, release the tension within your body.
Finally, take action, fear is only going to get smaller the more you expose yourself to the situation. Think of your fear as a challenge for you to face, one that is going to bring positive benefits on the other side. If you struggle to build yourself up, then think up in your mind of who you would need to be, to be able to take the action without the fear. All you need is 10 seconds of that courage to push you into taking the first step and you will likely continue to go through with it once you are in it.
Overcoming fear is a practice and can take time. Some things are deeply ingrained within our neural pathways and can take a while to rewire. Take very small steps if you need to. Call in the help of the people around you when you need that added support. What is one step forward you can take this week to move you through the fear you are feeling?