Overcoming Your Biggest Fear


Author: Sheilah Overman, MS., Marriage & Family Therapy Intern, IMF #71336

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of fear is: “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

I am driven to write this article after spending the weekend with a good friend whom I have known for several years. She is at an interesting point in her life, wherein she is not quite content at her job and wants to relocate to a new city to be closer to her family. She knows what she needs to do in order to feel more content with her life, yet she attributes fear as being the culprit that keeps her idle. She fears that she won’t be able to navigate a new and bigger city. She fears that she won’t make new friends fast enough. She fears that she won’t find her ideal job. She fears that she won’t be able to sell her home. She fears that she won’t be able to afford a new home. And the list kept growing…

These fears may touch base with many of you because many of you may have held similar concerns at some point in your life. Fear is a universal emotion, and depending on one’s perception, can be used to either motivate or cripple.

When our fear is perceived as something that is too lofty to overcome, we learn to become familiar with it and unintentionally accommodate it into our lives. Once someone has internalized a fear, their confidence associated with certain tasks may plummet.

For example, If someone believes that their fear of public-speaking will never go away, they may begin to believe that public-speaking is simply not for them, they will constantly avoid speaking in public, turn down job offers that require speaking at meetings, and begin to understand one’s self as “someone who will never be good at speaking in public”. Bottom line, fear has won because you have subconsciously allowed fear to determine what choices you make.

Choosing to be motivated by fear takes a bit of effort. If someone is afraid of public speaking, rather than allow fear to hinder them, they could opt to take small, manageable steps in effort to combat that fear. I.e., raise their hand in class/ at work meetings to offer ideas or ask questions, take a free public speaking course at a community college, join a group (like a book club), which meets regularly and allows an opportunity to share opinions and ideas in a group setting.

To overcome your fear:

  • Specifically identify what the fear is. I.e.: being alone, speaking in public, failing a class, moving to a new city, never loosing weight.
  • Imagine your ideal. Try to imagine life without the fear. How would your life be different? How would you feel? What benefits would come from living without the fear?
  • Imagine your future with the fear. Now, imagine your life in 5, 10, or 20 years still living with the fear. How would you feel? What are the consequences of living that way?
  • Create an Action Plan. Make a list of things that can be done today, this week, this month, and this year in regards to overcoming the fear. I.e.: You want to move to a new city, yet you are scared for various reasons. Begin researching where you would live, look into jobs in the area that you would want, and search local hobbies and interests that you might want to partake in.
  • Revel in Discomfort. Often, we tend to box ourselves into routines that feel safe and reliable. Any deviation from those routines could cause anxiety because we fear the unknown. Make sure you do something every day, or every week that is uncomfortable.

It is in discomfort that we grow the most. When we stop pushing ourselves to learn something new, experience something novel, and feel something different is when we begin living on autopilot. Instead, consciously choose to break free from limiting yourself to your comfortable routines and embrace the unknown with curiosity.

  1. I think this article can resonate with many readers – especially during this current winter Holiday season. “…imagine your life in 5, 10, 20 years still living with the fear.” Now THAT’s scary.

    • Dr. Brigitte, Thanks for visiting SDRelationalWellness! Sometimes, the motivating factor that gets me to make changes in my life is envisioning myself in the future still struggling with the same issues. That image makes me realize, “Whoa, I need to make changes NOW, or nothing will change!”

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