I knew it had to be done. The writing was on the wall that it was the end. But, I had tried to deny it and held out hope there was a possibility things could still work between the two of us. With my heart beating out of my chest, I had to tell her it was time to let her go. Sadness, grief, and a sense of loss overwhelmed me as I said those words.
The feeling of someone so close to you no longer being yours was disconcerting and confusing. Just an moment ago, we were still technically together. Now, it was time to go our separate ways.
In the end, this experience made me into a stronger version of myself. It was worth it, and it had to be done.
In life, there are moments where we must step up and face our fears. These moments of courage shape our future and make all the difference in the world.
Upon reflection, I realized everything I wanted in life always lay through my fears. The ability to act in SPITE of fear was crucial to my growth and achievement.
Fear is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.
As a child and adult, I suffered from low self-esteem, OCD, toxic shame, social anxiety, and panic attacks. After intense reflection, I realized the root of all these issues were the same: fear. For some reason, I was scared of something and it became a state of being.
Fear made me scared of looking people in the eyes.
Fear made me scared of talking to women I found attractive because I thought they would laugh in my face and call me ugly.
Fear made it almost impossible to get out of my dorms in college because I thought everyone would see how “ugly” I was and point at me.
Fear made me try to control everything in my life via my OCD because I was scared that things not going according to plan would be beyond what I could bear.
Rampant fear caused unwarranted suffering in my life. After going through all these experiences, I realized how much of a stranglehold fear had in my life.
And I fucking hated it. I hated feeling captive to a sensation that turned me into a whimpering mess of myself. I hated the idea of playing small in life and not accomplishing / experiencing what I wanted.
I refused to be a man that lived a life of quiet desperation.
In all areas of my life (i.e. career, dating, relationships, health), I faced my fears one-by-one. I refused to run and let things take ahold of me.
Facing my fears took me from making $29k / year to making close to 6-figures in a few years.
Facing my fears took me from being hopeless around women to now being in an amazing relationship.
Facing my fears took me from being a doormat to someone people respect.
How to deal with fear: Why we have fear
Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being exposed. Fear of rejection. Fear of the unknown.
All these fears stop us from really stepping into who we want to be in life.
From my experiences, a lot of fear is ultimately rooted in a sense of shame. Shame is the feeling that we are fundamentally inferior or unworthy.
That’s why we fear failure: We believe that the failure will be “proof” that we weren’t good enough.
That’s why we fear success: We’re scared we actually don’t actually deserve the success.
That’s why we fear being exposed: We’re scared it will mean our true nature (i.e. being inferior) will be shown to others.
That’s why we fear rejection: We believe someone’s rejection of us is evidence we’re not good enough.
And that’s why we fear the unknown: We’re scared we won’t be able to handle something so vague.
It’s all bullshit. At the very core, no human being is inferior to another.
How to deal with fear: The Solutions
Dealing with fear isn’t just a matter of being told how your fears aren’t real and to just face your fears. I facepalm every time I read a shitty article that has that message. Most people know they’re supposed to do what scares them, but the difficulty is in developing the courage to face their fears when their entire body is shaking in terror.
Here are ways you can practice courage and learn how to step up in face of your fears:
How to deal with fear solution 1: Mind tactics
As mentioned above, a lot of fear is rooted in shame. Shame sets in when we think of the situations we fear. Deep down, we feel a primal fear that we aren’t equipped to handle whatever comes our way.
Most people use avoidance as a coping mechanism for dealing with fear. We resist thinking of the worst-case scenario. But, this actually makes our fears grow into an even bigger monster. What you resist will persist.
Here’s how to use your mind to deal with fear: Let the scary thoughts in, define them, and then think your way around them.
When we’re faced with something that scares us, we usually think of the worst-case scenario:
- If I speak up during the meeting, I’ll get fired and have no income. I’ll be living on the streets!
- If I talk to that pretty girl, she’s going to laugh at me and tease me in front of everyone!
The whole point of this framework is to plan out how you would pick yourself back up if the worst-case scenario happens.
In the examples I mentioned above, here are ways you could deal with the fear:
- Fear: Getting fired for speaking up.
- Defining the fear: If I get fired for speaking up, ultimately I’m scared I won’t be able to pay my bills. If I can’t pay my bills, I’m scared I’ll be homeless and starving on the streets.
- Think your way around it: If I do end up getting fired, I will first start by living with friends. In the meantime, I will apply for other jobs and start going on job interviews. If I do happen to get homeless, I will live in a homeless shelter and live off of soup kitchens.
- Fear: Pretty girl laughing at you
- Defining the fear: I’m scared she’ll laugh at me and then everyone else would laugh at me. That would hurt.
- Think your way around it: If she laughs at me, then it would hurt. But that would mean she’s a mean-spirited person and I don’t want to be with a woman like that. If other people laugh, it would hurt also. But, that would mean they’re mean-spirited and I know I wouldn’t die from it.
The whole point of this framework is to really define your fears so you can see they as they are, and to shift your mindset into one of empowerment.
If you need an extra kick in your ass to do something you fear today, here’s a thought experiment I use every time I’m scared: “One of these days I will be dead. Will I regret not doing this when I’m on my deathbed?” Thinking of death immediately gives you perspective on how you only have 1 life to live and to make the most of each moment. I used this thought experiment countless times when I was a single guy trying to talk to a pretty girl I saw. This always gave me an extra boost of motivation to seize the day and act in spite of my fears.
How to deal with fear solution 2: Body tactics
The mind is the body. The body is the mind.
When I suffered from extreme anxiety and panic attacks, I was deathly afraid of everything. I was scared of talking to people. I was scared of dying. I was scared of rejection. I was scared of being out in public, and basically everything in life.
It wasn’t a pleasant state to live in.
It felt impossible to relax my body. My heart would beat 1000 beats per minute, and my muscles would always be tensed up. Being able to relax and sleep was near impossible.
It’s so difficult to act in spite of our fears even though logically we know there’s nothing to fear because the feeling is so visceral in our bodies. From research I’ve read, fear literally hijacks the body and makes our body feel numb and mind go blank.
Think of a time you had to confront someone where you feared. How did you feel in your body? I bet your heart was racing and maybe even you trembled a bit.
Now, think of a time you had to confront someone you weren’t scared of at all. How did you feel in your body? Overall, you probably were in a relaxed state of mind, right?
When the body is in a state of fear, it is in a hyperaroused state where the body’s flight-fight mechanism is firing off. While it’s okay to have the flight-fight mechanism fire off periodically, being in a constant state of anxiety is damaging to our health long-term.
If mental exercises for dealing with your fear aren’t working, then you should address the body. The key is to induce your body overall into a greater sense of relaxation so you literally feel more empowered and relaxed to handle any stressors that come your way.
Here are different ways you can move your body from a more hyperaroused state to one of greater relaxation:
- Exercises (cliche, but it’s true)
- Massage therapy
- Deep, deep breathing (counts of 10) – this is something you can use immediately when you are feeling fearful to calm your body down.
How to deal with fear solution 3: Action
You must do what you fear in order to overcome your fears. No exceptions.
Every single one of the fears I conquered required me to face them and take action in spite of them. After repeated action, I started to realize how little power my fears held over my life.
If you disregard all of my advice I listed above but still take consistent action in spite of your fears, then you will be fine. This is THE most important point.
Taking action is the most important point to get over your fears due to the following:
- It shows your mind that your fears were unwarranted.
- It shows your mind that you can act in spite of the fears and don’t need to be a slave to them.
- Your body starts to calm down when faced with situations you used to fear due to the above two points. This makes it easier for you to continue taking action when you’re faced with a fear.
At the very core, taking action in spite of your fears raises your self-esteem and makes you truly feel in your heart that you can overcome what scares you. This is a great place to be in.
I get what you’re thinking: “Taking action works, but I can’t even take action. I’m still too scared.” How do you even take action when you’re too scared?
There are two methods I use:
Just do something
Hesitation and overthinking kills action when you’re faced with a fear.
For example, let’s you see a pretty girl at a bar and want to talk to her. How often have you thought the following thoughts:
- I’m going to wait until her friends leave her so I have an opening to talk to her.
- She’s super hot….maybe I shouldn’t approach her because she’s probably a bitch.
- Did she come with a guy? I need to make sure because I don’t want to get confronted by another guy.
- She’s not the hottest girl in this bar, maybe I can approach someone else.
- and more excuses….
All that overthinking and you standing at the bar doesn’t help you go and talk to her. It freezes you from taking action because you’re so deep in your head and letting the fear grow into a monster.
The “just do something” principle hijacks overthinking by just having you take action and gaining momentum. Once you get your feet moving, it becomes easier for you to take the action you want despite your fears.
In the case I mentioned above, using the “just do something” principle would be as simple as walking over to the girl you want to talk to. From my experience, walking over to the girl I was scared to talk to and knowing I was going to put myself in front of her gave me a sense of “no return”. This ended up with me always going up to the girl I wanted to talk to and striking up a conversation.
When people get motivated to overcome the fears, quite often they jump too quickly into the deep end of the pool at once (i.e. trying to speak in front of 100 people when they’re already scared of speaking in front of 2 people). While this “flooding” technique can work, it usually traumatizes the individual because he / she is given too much at once. A traumatized individual is a lot less likely to take action and face their fears.
The key is to break your fears down into baby steps.
When I was single, I would often try to “go for the gold” when I was meeting women. However, that put enormous amounts of pressure on myself and it ended up with me being frustrated.
To remedy this, I broke things down into baby steps:
- I would resolve to say “hi” to the woman I was interested in.
- I would resolve to say “hi” to the woman I was interested in, and ask her how her day was going.
- I would resolve to say “hi” to the woman I was interested in, ask her how her day was going, and try to talk to her for 5 minutes.
Breaking things down into bite-sized chunks eased the pressure, and raised my motivation. In addition, I was able to track my progress in a step-wise manner.
One important point: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when taking action (no matter how small or big the step). I recommend having little to no expectations when doing something you fear. Having high expectations only raises the stakes and makes the fear grow bigger.
Fear often seems to be a bigger monster than it really is. By targeting the mind & body as well as taking action, you’ll learn how to see your fears as they are: False. Evidence. Appearing. Real.
Go out and get them!