Fear Revisited: How to overcome the F word

When we feel fear it is our minds way of warning us that we are about to embark on something that could harm us either emotionally, physically or both. Fear is a learned survival system which typically evokes the infamous fight or flight response in us. However fears can be unnecessary and so it is important to challenge those that we feel are getting in the way of us achieving our business and personal goals. Is fear getting in your way? Well you can overcome this brick wall by developing a new approach to fear and reducing its hold over you.

Flights, Heights and Rejection

In many studies done on this topic it has been found that among things such as flying and heights it is common for people to fear social rejection and failure. Therefore the coping mechanism employed by most people, either consciously or sub consciously, is to avoid situations where these feelings may be triggered. The only problem with this approach is that for us to move forward, have and achieve what we want in life, we have to put ourselves in situations that may feel a little uncomfortable. The consequences of remaining stifled by fear can be enormous. As human beings we have a need to feel in control of our own destiny so if a fear is getting the better of us it can eat away at our self worth. Also it can mean that we limit our potential by staying within our comfort zone and remain merely daydreaming about what we could do or be.

Public Speaking – Should it become an extreme sport??

Another thing that features highly when people are asked about their fears is public speaking. Let’s explore this further with a character I’ve made up called Susan. Susan runs her own cake making business and is keen to attract more customers. Whilst at a local networking event Susan is selected for an opportunity to stand on stage and talk about her business for 2 minutes. The only problem being that public speaking is right up there as one of Susan’s biggest fears. Why? Because she believes she is no good at it and fears being rejected by those who have to endure her ‘nervous dribble’. When approached by the Event Host with this proposal, Susan instantly freezes as her worst fears consume her. One of 2 scenarios then follows…

Scenario 1. Fight

Susan takes a deep breath and approaches the stage. Trembling a little she approaches the microphone and begins to introduce herself. As her heart races she can feel her voice breaking as she speaks. She manages to smile through the knots of embarrassment in her stomach whilst trying to convey the key features of her business. After her 2 minutes is up, Susan leaves the stage feeling a little hot and bothered and very pleased the ordeal is over with. As she gathers her thoughts back safely amongst the crowd she begins to reflect, “Ok my pitch wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t bad either, I can’t believe I just spoke to a room full of people!” Suddenly somebody approaches her. “Excuse me Susan, I really like the sound of your business, I run a Catering company and am looking for a new cake supplier. Does this sound of interest to you?”

Scenario 2. Flight

Susan begins to panic as she feels the Event Host usher her towards the stage. Overcome by fear and feeling out of her depth Susan explains to the Host that she is terribly sorry but was supposed to leave half an hour ago as she is meeting a friend. “Thank you so much for a great event, I must be off now,” Susan says quickly as she backs away towards the door. As she pulls her coat on and scampers up the street towards the train station, feelings of disappointment and inadequacy begin to build within her and she wonders whether she is really cut out to make her business the success she dreams of.

In Susan’s case you can see what effect letting fear control you can have on you and on your goals. The decision and consequence cycle creates a self fulfilling prophecy from which fears become invisible boundaries in our lives, determining what we do and what we do not do.

Susan’s example reminds me of that great film. ‘Sliding Doors’. The premise of this film, i.e. the outcomes of cause and effect, could be an interesting way to consider the key decisions you make in your life. To do or not to do, that is the ultimate question! By the way, Susan chose scenario 1 and faced her fears. Are you proud of her? I know I am.

Be an Explorer – The Learning Perspective

Adopting an explorer type outlook on life frees you from the constraints of having to be master of all you try. As an explorer you enter into new situations with intrigue and flexibility as to what the outcome will be. You are after all out to discover, investigate and learn from your new surroundings. Therefore if you come away from the experience having learnt more about yourself or with ideas as to what you could do next time, then you can feel proud of the fact that you are moving forward. This eyes & mind wide open approach shifts how you feel in a daunting situation as the focus is on what you are learning and not on how perfect you are. Just as Susan bravely gave her 2 minute elevator pitch against all odds, although it wasn’t perhaps as polished as she would have liked, she undoubtedly benefited from exploring the situation even though it was incredibly daunting for her. Would she give another presentation now that she has got the first one out the way? You bet she would.

Success or Failure – Where’s your line?

Another way of overcoming your fear is to open up your parameters of what equals success. Following on from taking an Explorer approach to situations that fill you with fear, decide for yourself what you would like to take away from the experience, regardless of the outcome.

Again using a public speaking scenario as an example, a restrictive view point would be:

  • Stumbling over my words = Failure
  • Sounding a little nervous = Failure
  • Butterflies in my stomach as I talk = Failure

In comparison, a more productive view point would be:

  • Stumbling over my words = Success, I am speaking in front of people and so will learn from it
  • Sounding a little nervous = Success, I am speaking in front of people and so will grow from it
  • Butterflies in my stomach as I talk = Success, I am speaking in front of people and so will move forward with my business

Go 4 It

Taking yourself through a process to help you calm down and think through situations clearly is extremely helpful when you are consumed by fear. Here is one I made earlier…

G: Gather Your Thoughts – Unless you are being thrown to the lions take comfort in the fact that really you are OK and that you will come out the other side of this situation, wiser and stronger.

O: Open Your Mind – Remember it is not about being perfect, it is about being passionate about what you are doing. Let go of trying to achieve 100% and enjoy the new experience.

4: 4 Reasons for Doing It – Remind yourself of why it is important you see it through by identifying 4 reasons for going ahead. How will taking the plunge benefit you?

I:Inspiration – Recall why you were inspired to go after your goal in the first place. Is moving one step closer to your goal worth feeling the fear and doing it anyway?

T: Take the Jump – 3, 2, 1, jump!

  • Not Jumping = No Growth
  • Jumping with Explorer Perspective = Growth

Make Fear Work for You

As fears are learned from past experiences it is both possible and beneficial to learn from them. The key point is that you are in control and can choose on what scale to listen and act upon a fear and in so doing can make a fear work for you. If you are feeling a fear around a certain area in your business or personal life, then you can view this as the fear giving you insightful clues as what you can do differently the next time you enter this situation. In Susan’s case her fear of public speaking could motivate her in preparing a business pitch that she can use at the drop of a hat, or take up public speaking classes. Recognise fear, assess what you can learn from it but do not let it rule you.

Be Your Own Biggest Supporter

I believe self worth is the starting point to happiness & success in life and so the more time you spend building upon and valuing who you are, the more you will get out of your life. For ideas on how to build your self worth please see my previous article for Women Unlimited – Knowing Me Knowing I

Venturing into unknown territories and growing as a result is addictive. The more comfortable you get with stepping outside of your comfort zone, feeling the fear and working through it, the more freedom you will have to seek what it is that you want. There’s no such thing as ‘crashed and burned’ just ‘explored and learned’. What are you waiting for?

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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