The struggle with fear: some simple tips for overcoming your fears

Struggle with fear: Wrecked ship

I’m in the thick of a struggle with fear right now.

The fear, in a somewhat abstract sense, is the fear of what’s coming next, the fear that comes with stepping out of my comfort zone and into the unknown.

More directly it’s a fear of embarrassing myself, a fear of being judged and, most fundamentally, the fear that my plans will fail and my family will be hurt as result.

I may be wrong, but there’s a chance you could be struggling with fears of your own too.

So how do we fight these kinds of fears?

I’m certainly no invincible fear-conqueror, but it’s a good idea to start by looking closely at what your fears really are.

You can work with some fears by changing the way you think about them. You defuse their power by coming to the realisation that you’re overplaying the consequences in your mind (this is called de-catastrophising).

Asking questions like ‘what’s the worst that can happen?‘ or ‘how likely is it really that this will go badly?’ can help here.

But in other cases, where there are unquestionably big, scary, consequences if things don’t work out, pretty much all that you can do in the moment is embrace the fear, accept the discomfort and trust that you’re doing what you’re doing for the right reasons and with right intentions.

Another way of looking at, once you’ve de-catastrophised your thinking, it is to realise that the fear is just an indication of how important this thing is for you.

It’s usually a sign that you are confronting something that can move you forward a long way.

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Pema Chodron says that “fear is a natural reaction of moving closer to the truth.” She says that if we confront our fears rather than running away from them, “then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.”

Of course, having the courage to confront our fears is really what our struggle is all about.

And since, in many cases fear springs from a lack of confidence and self-doubt, we need to work hard on overcoming the inner voices of the self-criticism that undermine us.

As Pema Chodron (again) says, we can find the path to courage by cultivating a genuine appreciation of ourselves, by developing self-compassion and by recognising our potential for love, generosity, kindness and goodness.

For me, daily meditation helps with this, as does having a values-based plan for where I’m going and what I want to achieve.

But I think the reality is that it is a life-long struggle.

Maybe recognising that is another important step in the right direction.

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