Like anger, sadness, and disgust, fear is one of those emotions that gets a bad rap. Most people try to avoid these four feelings in favor of happiness – the pursuit of which is written into our country’s constitution, but learning how to face your fears is an important life-changing skill.
Avoiding these unpleasant emotions, which are an essential part of the human brain, can leave you feeling turned inside out. When it comes to fear, as the saying goes, the only way out is through. Facing your fears, instead of denying them, is the only way to understand why they exist – and how they can help you to grow.
Fear Is Your Teacher
What are you afraid of?
Everyone has different fears, and different experiences that trigger them. For me, I would rather bungee jump off a skyscraper than go on a first date with a cute guy –- and I would rather do both at the same time than go to the dentist. Like many people, my fears are born from personal trauma that occurred in my past, namely romantic betrayal and an insufficient dose of Novocain.
Only you know what your deepest fears are, but many fall under a few these categories:
- Fear of the unknown, change, lack of control, and new things – including death.
- Fear of pain and chronic illness.
- Fear of failure, of disappointing other people and yourself.
- Fear of being alone or being irrelevant.
- Fear of being rejected or ridiculed (they’re all gonna laugh at you!).
- Fear of losing your freedom or becoming dependent.
Popular fears fall under these categories. A fear of public speaking, for example, is really fear of rejection and ridicule, while fear of spiders – and dentists – is really fear of pain and the unknown. I am scared of the first dates because I fear rejection, emotional pain, the unknown, becoming dependent, and that I will disappoint myself (again) with my choice of men.
What is your biggest fear? Are you ready to face it? Start with baby steps, and do one thing each day that scares you:
Biggest Fear: The Unknown
- Spend five minutes researching a travel destination where you haven’t been.
- Go out on the town for the night with no plans whatsoever.
- Go to a new restaurant without reading about it online beforehand.
- Leave all of your lights off this evening, and just use a flashlight to get around.
- That creepy crawly creature that you hate? Google “why slugs are awesome” or read a positive article about your animal nemesis.
Biggest Fear: Pain
- Schedule that doctor’s appointment that you’ve been putting off.
- Imagine what it would be like to be terminally ill.
- Visit a friend who has been sick or is in the hospital.
- Volunteer at your local nursing home.
- Stock up your first aid kit.
Biggest Fear: Failure & Disappointment
- Sign up for a class in something you’ve never tried, like Zumba, painting or yoga.
- Try performing daily tasks with your non-dominant hand.
- Visualize failing at one of your most important goals. What factors caused you to fail?
- Read up on famous failures – like Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and J.K. Rowling.
- Respond “no thank you” to an invite that you feel you should say yes to – but really don’t want to.
Biggest Fear: Loneliness & Irrelevance
- Do something noteworthy, charitable, or simply amazing – and don’t post about it on social media.
- Go out to dinner by yourself.
- Deactivate your Facebook account for one day.
- Turn off your phone for one hour.
- Set a new goal that will inspire you even if you never tell anyone about it.
Biggest Fear: Rejection and Ridicule
- Sign up for a dating service online.
- Send a message to a person that you like.
- Start a conversation with a barista, cashier or clerk.
- Say hello to a stranger.
- Smile at a cute guy or girl that you don’t know.
- Ask a co-worker to lunch.
Biggest Fear: Loss of Freedom
- Ask a friend for their help with something.
- Commit to something – a class, relationship, volunteer program.
- Adopt a plant or herb garden to take care of.
- Make future plans with someone and commit to them.
- Help a friend without them asking you to.
For me: I just made an appointment at the dentist, and sent a quick message to that cute guy who keeps messaging me. I faced my fears and now I need to go lay down for a while.
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