“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Throughout my life, I’ve been stifled by fear. It has mentally, emotionally and spiritually suppressed me to the verge of suffocation. It’s gripped and roiled me, resulting in a physical decay and a degradation of my motivation and inspiration to achieve anything worthwhile. But that’s the thing the about fear. It’s powerful and all-consuming. It can take hold of you and not let go, forcing you to spend a large majority of your life deeply immersed in those potential what-if scenarios.
I’ve never liked fear. I’ve never liked the physical feeling that fear can bring on. Fear-based thoughts are one of the most disempowering thoughts that can pass through our minds in any given day. They can seep in and permeate every last neural pathway in our minds, making it hard to concentrate on the proverbial tasks ahead. And that’s one of the most disheartening upshots about our fears — it’s a cataclysmic spiral down to a very deep, dark hole that’s difficult to reemerge from.
But there are ways to overcome your fears in life. There are ways to take back control of our lives so that we’re not left swimming in a sea of despair and hopelessness. Fear is just one type of the upwards of 60,000 thoughts running through our minds in a given day. It is the antithesis of love-based thoughts. But fear, or any other type of negative thought, can be overcome. We can usurp the supreme power of these kinds of thoughts with a little bit of conscious attention and action.
You see, I have lived in fear. I’ve come to know it as much as I know my very existence. It’s been around at every bend and turn, clawing and eating away at me. I have had to overcome salient fears my entire life. I had to do it constantly as a child. Of course, as a teenager, fear was also prevalent in almost everything I did. And as I came of age, into adulthood, fear persisted, calling to me, telling me I wasn’t good enough to get into a certain college, get a good enough job in the future or achieve anything notable in life.
As an adult, I’ve had to overcome fears when I failed at numerous things. Fear was there when I failed in marriage. Fear was there when I dropped out of law school. Fear was there when I failed in business, repeatedly. Fear was persistent when I traveled or entered a room full of strangers. And, today, fear still rears its ugly head from time to time about my future, the opportunities for my children, and the health and well-being of my wife, my friends and family, all the while producing worries, anxieties and stress when it’s least appreciated.
But I’ve also learned how to wrangle fear. I’ve learned how to lasso and tame it, using the sheer power of my thoughts to batten down the hatches, and reduce its grip over me. In fact, no one can run from fear. What we must learn to do in order to overcome it, is to embrace it. We can’t cower from it, running away with our tails between our legs. We have to welcome it into our arms, consciously becoming aware of its existence, but then to fight tirelessly against it.
It’s not easy. I know. I’m not going to sit here and insult your intelligence by telling you that it’s simple by any means. No. It’s not. It’s downright difficult to overcome your fears. But, these strategies for keeping your fears at bay get simpler to implement over time. Sure, at the outset you’ll find it hard. But as you work through your fears, over time, as long as you stick to it, it does get easier. I promise.
A Story About Fear…
Before discussing some of the ways we can go about overcoming our fears, I wanted to share a story with you. Decades ago, there was a man who struggled with fear. I highlight his particular story because it’s a powerful rendition of the human spirit and our ability to overcome even the most trying circumstances.
This man had a vision. He wanted to make something of himself. The son of an Italian-immigrant father and Russian-immigrant mother, he was born and raised in New York City. During birth, when the doctors used forceps to force the labor, a nerve was accidentally severed in his face, causing partial paralysis to the lower-left side that included his tongue, lip and chin, subsequently resulting in a speech impediment that he would carry with him for his entire life.
But this man wanted to make something of himself. After his parents divorced at the age of 9-years old, he moved to Washington D.C. with his mother before attending college in Miami. Afterwards, he returned to New York City, his home, where he wanted to pursue his dreams.
For years he struggled. For years he lived in fear. Fear that he wouldn’t have enough money to pay the bills. Fear that he would never amount to anything in his life. Fear that the people around him would continue to laugh at him due to the way he looked or talked. He had a hard time overcoming his fears, especially in those early days.
There was a time when his electricity was cut off. He didn’t have the money to pay it so he had to sell his dog, one of the most traumatic experiences of his life, for $25. Yes, a measly $25. He was rejected over 1,500 times by the same talent scouts and media personalities in the business, all saying that he looked, talked and acted funny.
For 3 weeks he was homeless, living in the New Jersey Port Authority bus station. Homeless. But ultimately, he didn’t give up. Sylvester Stallone overcame his deepest, darkest fears and prevailed because he refused to admit defeat. He would rather have died pursuing his dreams than to relent to a life of mediocrity.
Yes, this is the story of Sylvester Stallone. Someone we all know and love. The person who brought us Rocky. Did you know he lived like this? When I first heard this story, I was shocked and dismayed. But I instantly connected with the man and saw him in an entirely new light.
Overcoming Your Fears
I relay the story about Stallone because he’s someone that nearly all of us are familiar with. Yet, he’s not the only one who’s battled with adversity and fear to achieve his dreams. Much of the world’s most successful and famous people have failed the most times. How much do you think fear played a role in their lives during those failures?
These people overcame failure, just as you can overcome it. They pushed through using a few simple techniques that allowed them to gain perspective on their lives and refocus their efforts on their goals. These strategies for overcoming failure are simple and often overlooked, but powerful when they’re leveraged the right way.
But just like with anything else in life, you have to pay careful attention to your thoughts. You have to be aware of the things you’re thinking about or the stories that you’re telling yourself. Our lives are a direct reflection of the thoughts that we experience on a daily basis, so we have to work to overcome them, otherwise we’re doomed for eternity.
#1 — Consciously become aware of your fears
Before you can do anything about overcoming your fears, you have to become aware of them. Acknowledge to yourself that they do exist. Don’t try to avoid them, run or cower away. That’s useless. In fact, that will only further propagate the fears rather than allowing you to contain them.
If you’ve ever heard the saying that knowing is half the battle, no truer words have been spoken regarding our fears. When we can first admit to ourselves that we’re afraid, whatever it is that we’re afraid of, we can work on overcoming those fears. But without admitting it, there’s virtually no way to win that battle.
#2 — Gain a clear picture of what specifically you’re afraid of
I know that there’s a tremendous amount of pain associated with our fears. However, next to acknowledging their existence, we have to actually gain a clear picture of them. What are you so deathly afraid of? What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to you?
Get clear about the fears, but don’t obsess over them. Write them down, but look at them objectively. Write a single paragraph of what that fear is, why it exists, and possibly where it stems from. Do this so that you can further move it out of your subconscious mind and into your conscious mind.
#3 — Identify all the emotions associated with your fears
Once you’ve painted a clear picture of your fears, identify all the emotions associated with them. Do you feel angry or sad when you think about those fears? Do you feel physically sick, as though you were about to throw up? How does it make you feel? Yes, it’s hard to relive your fears consciously, but it’s an important step in the process.
By identifying all the emotions associated with your fears, you can better understand the ones that are fueling them on a daily basis. What are you most associating your fears with? This is a powerful driver of our actions and behaviors and must be addressed in order to better understand why we do the things that we do, and to better appreciate what holds us back in life.
#4 — Detach yourself from the emotions by admitting that you’re powerless
Once you’ve identified the emotions associated with your fears, you have to detach yourself from them. For example, if your fear makes you feel sad, instead of saying “I’m sad,” say “I’m feeling sad.” When you identify yourself with a specific feeling, such as angry or sad or nervous, you become closely associated with that feeling, further drawing you closer into it.
Admit that you’re powerless over the emotions, but detach yourself from identifying with them. When you do this, the emotions will pass, but your identity will remain intact. You won’t be the sad person anymore, you’ll be a person that feels sad because you’re human. And it will eventually pass and wash over you. Don’t allow it become who you are.
#5 — Call upon your higher power and your faith to overcome your fears
God is a powerful force in my life. It is because of my faith in Him that I am who I am. But you might not call Him God. You might call Him Allah, Buddha, Mohammed or anything else. You might even call Him the spiritual oneness that connects us all. Whatever your views on a higher power, turn to Him or It to overcome your fears.
There’s something about faith that’s so powerful that it allows us to move past even our darkest and deepest fears. And “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…” Your higher power is one of the most powerful tools for overcoming any fear.
#6 — Understand the core of the emotions associated with your fears
Sometimes, we need to get to the core of the emotions associated with our fears. It’s not enough to simply identify the emotions and detach from them, but we have to understand their origin if we’re going to overcome anything. When you begin to trace back the origin of your fears, that’s when the real transformation begins.
Trace back the emotions. Why do you feel angry or sad or scared when you’re in a fearful situation? What’s the true origin of that fear? Every fear-associated emotion can be traced back to a point in our lives. Often, those emotions are associated with our childhood, before we were conscious of the thoughts or memories. Ask for help from others if that’s the case.
#7 — Fill your heart with gratitude and appreciation for what you have
At the opposite end of the spectrum to fear-based thoughts, you’ll find love and gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful way to overcome fear because it makes you focus on the things that you do have rather than living in fear for what can be taken away or happen in your life.
Fill your heart with an utter gratitude for even the simplest things in life. The air that you breath. The heart beating inside your chest. The ability to read or speak a language. The food on your plate. For being six feet above ground. Literally everything. When you focus wholeheartedly on gratitude, little by little, your life transforms over time.
#8 — Physically cleanse your body of toxins for at least 90 days
Toxins can quite literally destroy you. As much as you don’t think they can, they do. They alter the neurochemistry in your mind and release neurotoxins and stress hormones into the body that adversely effect our health. Physically cleanse your body of toxins for at least 90 days. Yes, that long.
I’m talking about a hiatus from everything. Prescription drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, recreation drugs. Everything. Your body is your temple, and the more you abuse it with toxins, the less likely you’ll be able to overcome your fears. But if you worship your body and treat it like the temple that it is, some extraordinary things will happen in your life.
#9 — Cut out refined sugars from your diet entirely
For much of the world, this one is difficult. Sugar is everywhere and in virtually everything. But if you’re careful enough, and you plan accordingly, you can cut out all refined sugars from your diet. This includes soda, white rice, chocolate, candies, pastries, pastas and so on.
These have an enormously adverse effect on your health and well-being. They give you a rush and a subsequent crash, taking up a large portion of your body’s energy to process. Avoid refined sugars and you will alter your entire state-of-mind, body, and ultimately, your life.
#10 — Contribute your time and energy to a good cause
Contribution to your fellow man, woman and child, moves you away from fear-based thoughts. You focus on giving to others rather than worrying about your own financial or emotional survival. As much as pain and fear can do a number on us, contribution can do exactly the opposite.
I’m not referring about contributing your money. I’m talking about giving your time to those that are in need. How can you contribute your time to help others around you? If you seek, you shall find. And it’s through that very same contribution that you can shift your focus and realize the importance of other things out there in life rather than your own fears.
#11 — Use breathing exercises to overcome your fears
The way we breathe, can dictate the way we feel. Shortness of breath relates to a depletion of oxygen to our blood. When there isn’t enough oxygen circulating into the blood, a number of things can occur. The fact is that, as we age, our oxygen levels drop, and much of this has to do with poor breathing habits that we develop through times of stress, anxiety and fear.
If you want to avoid a great deal of stress that’s associated to your fears, use a number of breathing exercises and make them habitual. Use the 4-7-8 breathing technique for this. Touch the tip of your tongue to the ridge of the top of your mouth. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7, and exhale for 8 counts. Continue to repeat this until your fear and stress subsides.
#12 — Write down and catalog your thoughts to gain perspective on your fears
Journaling your thoughts is a great way to get a handle on your fears while gaining some perspective at the same time. By journaling, you’re analyzing your emotions in the present moment, but reflecting on how they’ve come about. You can do this through stream of consciousness or through careful pondering.
Simply don’t overthink it. Write down how you’re feeling in this present moment. If you’re fearful, describe it. It helps to get it out on paper in front of your eyes. It moves from the abstract into the real world where you can dissect and dismiss those fears easier than when they’re hidden in the subconscious layers of the mind.
#13 — Leverage the Law of Attraction by embracing love-based thoughts
The Law of Attraction is a powerful force to be reckoned with. It weighs in carefully on the pure thoughtful energy that binds us all and either repels or attracts things into our lives. What most people chalk up to pseudo-science is real and exact, and quite powerful for those who know how to hardness this energy.
You can use the Law of Attraction to overcome your fears by leveraging love-based thoughts. Like attracts like, and if your vibrational energy is emanating love and acceptance, then you will naturally attract those things into your life. Do the opposite, and watch as you repel anything good and continue to wallow in your fears.
#14 — Rely on the support of others close to you for help
Sometimes, we just can’t do it by ourselves. We need the support of others. Don’t be afraid to find a shoulder to lean on. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone who can offer a guiding light to you. There’s nothing wrong with it, and although your ego might seem bruised at the moment, it will be thanking you after the fact.
As human beings, we rely on the love and support of others around us. We are emotional beings and we require the love of those around us. So why not lean on them? Others can help to put your fears at bay and give you further perspective from an outside looking in, which can oftentimes make all the difference in our lives.