Seven tips to overcome fear

“You’re so brave,” a friend said. “How do you overcome fear?”

fearWe, as humans, have this tendency to build up the unknown into some kind of great big monster out to slay us. We look ahead into the vast expanse of indefinite spread out before us and see it as something too big, too immense for us.

We look at ourselves and see a tiny inconsequential being lost in the enormity of the dream. We’re inadequate against the colossal hurdles we need to leap over to get to that dream.

And so we cower in the corner. We’re scared. We’re inadequate. We’re too small and unworthy of such a dream.

I think otherwise. I think each one of us is perfectly capable of surmounting those fears that paralyze us.

How do I overcome fear? I just start walking.

People tell me all the time that I’m brave for riding a bike to the ends of the world, but I disagree. I don’t think I’m brave at all. I just trust in providence and go.

all of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue themWhat I’ve found is that the closer I get to what I feared the most, the more that fear vanishes. It’s like there’s some kind of massive mountain “out there” off in the distance and I’m terrified of climbing it. But when I get closer to it, I start to see that it’s not nearly as scary as I thought, and most often not nearly as big as I thought.

I wish I could say I’m brave. I wish I could look at a thing like riding my bike from one end of the world to the other and not be afraid. But, truth be told, I was terrified.

I was scared of the mountain passes higher than the highest peaks in Colorado. I was scared of the Patagonian winds so strong they would blow me off my bikes. I was scared of the searing heat of Central America and the bitter cold of the high Andes in winter. I was scared. More than scared – I was petrified.

decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it Ride a BIKE the length of the Americas? That was crazy talk. That kind of journey was for real adventurers, not the likes of me. Only big strong men with muscles bulging from their calves could make such a journey. Not an ordinary wife, mother, and schoolteacher.

When I actually took time to dig deep and figure out exactly what I feared, I realized I wasn’t afraid of the mountain passes; I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get over them. I wasn’t afraid of the heat or cold, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. In other words, I was afraid of failure.

Once I had identified my fear, I was able to start working on it. You know what they say:

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

That’s exactly how it is with fear. Identify your fear and figure out exactly what it is that’s making you uncomfortable. Once you’ve given your fear a name, you can face it and overcome it.

You simply can’t defeat the unknown. Make it known and you’ll be able to stare it down. My basic plan of attack is to identify the fear, figure out exactly what it is about that fear that scares me, then head out anyway. It works.

Seven tips to overcome fear

  1. Identify your fear. Exactly what are you afraid of?
  2. Analyze your fear. Is your fear rational? Will it hurt you? Fear is a good thing if it keeps you safe and prevents you from getting eaten by a wild animal or burned by a fire. Most fears, however, are of things that won’t harm us. Those are the fears we need to banish.
  3. Use gradual desensitization. Start small. Take baby steps to gradually melt the fear away. If your dream is to travel, start traveling in a “safe” way with someone to hold your hand until you’re ready to stand on your own.
  4. Consider what others are doing. If they can do it, why can’t you? What do “they” have that you don’t? Chances are: nothing.
  5. Change the way you think and you change the way you act. You can control your thoughts. Whenever you find yourself dwelling on the things you’re afraid of, change your thoughts to think positive thoughts about the good parts of your dream.
  6. Be on the offensive rather than defensive. The vast majority of those things you fear will never happen. What you imagine is nearly always worse than the truth. Just start walking and face the fear.
  7. Go public about your fear. Somehow there is power in letting it out. Tell everyone how scared you are and, chances are, the fear will dissipate.

It's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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4 Responses to Seven tips to overcome fear

  1. Curtis B March 11, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I’ve found the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head on…

    I know it seems crazy, but it’s true, at least for me. I was afraid of heights for my whole life, but decided to face my fears and went bungee jumping. I’m still a little scared of heights but not as much as I used to be!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Curtis B, I so agree. Just walk toward it and it isn’t as scary as you thought. It’s just that it takes a lot of courage to even begin to walk toward it.

    [Reply]

  2. Ian and Wendy March 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Well said! SO true – the unknown sounds scary. So many people have told us they would be scared to go to the countries we’ve traveled through. But they wouldn’t be – if they were there! They’d see it wasn’t really all that different than being at home, and the things that are different are what make travel fun!

    [Reply]

  3. lisa March 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    what great tips!

    [Reply]

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