Research conducted in the 1960’s uncovered an interesting finding — humans are born with two types of fears. The fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds.
These seem like evolutionarily good fears. Falling can hurt or kill us and loud sounds can indicate impending danger or attack. Both of these fears have kept our species alive.
What is even more interesting is that this and other research findings also show that many of our fears are actually learned. It follows then that you can also unlearn your fears and live a bolder life.
I claim that one of the key difference between those who live a great, impactful life and those who do not is how individuals in both categories manage their fears and view their vulnerabilities.
To be sure, everyone feels fearful on any given day…
Fearful about making a fool of yourself.
Fearful of being turned down.
Fearful of failing.
Fearful of doing it wrong.
Fearful of becoming too successful.
Fearful of being found out.
Fortunately, you do not have to be stuck in your fear or allow your vulnerabilities to keep you from progressing.
Here is how to live your best and boldest life in spite of the fear:
Invite fear, feel your vulnerability
In her book Feel the Fear… and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers explains that it is acceptable to feel vulnerable and fearful; everyone has fears.
What sets the brave ones apart from the rest is their choice to put themselves in the way of fear, to expose their vulnerabilities anyway. Scientific evidence shows that exposure is the most effective way to overcome fear.
Here is the thing: fear will always be an existential phenomenon. Yet allowing yourself to feel the fear numerous times eventually opens you up to the truth—you have the capacity to handle things even in the worst-case scenario.
So what are you fearful of? What vulnerabilities are you afraid of exposing? Public speaking? Cold-calling? Changing careers? Dating? Asking for assistance? Take small steps that expose you to these fear-inducing conditions. Gradually expose yourself to more of these situations until fear is no longer a hindrance.
Borrow inspiration from others’ success stories
Self-identification with others can be a powerful way of motivating yourself to move forward in spite of fear (and in so doing overcome your fear) and to go after your dreams.
Identifying with other people who have been successful in their life allows you to see that if other mere mortals have overcome obstacles, you can do it, too.
Read books about successful people and their success journey. Interact with people who are a living example of the possibility of living a bold, brave and fulfilling life. Surrounding yourself with positive energy and inspirational narratives helps to shift your mind from fear to possibility.
This is not about trying to copy another person or comparing yourself in a negative way. This really is about nourishing your mind and your spirit with images and narratives that attest to the fact that it is possible to create and live the life you want.
Continuously surrender to acceptance
A large part of fear comes from battling with reality; a failure to fully accept what is, so you can pave way to finding solutions.
In many ways, overcoming fear and facing your vulnerability are about accepting yourself for who you are, warts and all.
Acceptance is in fact a first step to building self-confidence and with self-confidence comes the ability to feel fear, be vulnerable and still forge ahead. And the more forging ahead you do, the more your self confidence will build. It is a self perpetuating cycle! So take a little step and then another and another.
Accept your strengths and weaknesses in equal measure. Accept what is possible for you and what is not. Accept the challenges in front of you for what they are. Just try to go with the flow and you will be surprised at how your mind starts to perceive fear—no longer as a monstrous, terror-inducing experience but rather an opportunity to stretch yourself and do things you (and others) never thought possible.
Focus on what you can control, let everything else go
When you allow your mind to run amok, it can really entangle you in passivity, anxiety and terror. Yet you can actually learn to control your thoughts or their impact on you. You can control where you want to focus your attention, what you want to spend more time on and what really matters to you. You can choose to dismiss unhelpful thoughts like negative self-talk.
The problem with fear is that it can give you a false sense of loss of control. Yet the truth is that you can always be in control of yourself by becoming mindful and choosing your actions and responses.
If you are fearful of taking that big leap in your life, why not focus on the things that you can control like planning your next step or determining the right people to link up with to make that big leap. There is really no need to worry about anything else that is truly out of your control.
For most of us, the only thing separating us from our ideal life is fear— fear of making the next move, of dreaming big, of actually succeeding. It is not easy breaking free from years of fear and feelings of vulnerability but by doing so you’ll create the life that you know you truly deserve.