How to face your fears and take charge of your life
We live in an age of anxiety, worry and stress – where the challenge to face your fears could be an extraordinary feat to ask of us. After all, I’m rewriting this while we’re currently in lockdown due to Coronavirus. A life-changing pandemic which has rocked many of us to our very core. It’s forced us to slow down, to sit at home without distractions and turn inward. But in addition to this, it has built a culture of paranoia and fear in the UK. The flip-side to the positivity which overflows on social media is the darker anxiety-inducing aspect. This has led to many fearing to even leave their homes as the regulations are somewhat relaxed.
But even long before Covid-19 struck, fear was a primary emotion for the human mind. It’s one of the most basic instincts we have to protect ourselves and our sense of fear can be a powerful one if we know how to harness its power. This applies to everything – whether it’s a fear of flying, a fear of the unknown, a fear of commitment. Anything that gives you that feeling where you freeze up and your stomach lurches. We’re all guilty of letting our own fears – or those of others – prevent us from taking action in our lives. Unfortunately being social creatures can sometimes be detrimental to our quality of life when we let the fear of judgement stand in our way. That’s why I wanted to re-share this blog post as a means for supporting you to face your fears and take back the control of your life.
Why am I talking about fear?
But you’re probably wondering why I’m choosing to write on the topic. Well the truth is – I spoke with an old friend the other day, and we were talking about fear. They said to me that the one thing they’ve aways admired about me is that I’m fearless. If I want something, I go out and get it, I don’t worry about what people will think or what might happen – I just focus on the positive. Hearing this was such a huge compliment – but it made me realise how differently other people view others, compared to the way we view ourselves. The truth is – I’ve let fear stand in my way many times in my life – my own and the fears of others. But it was when I finally snapped that I realised if I wanted to live a happy life, I had to stop giving my fears power and instead focus on all they good that could come into my life.
My story with fear
Nearly seven years ago, my life looked very different. I was in a nearly 10 year relationship, I was working a full-time job and I was doing everything that I should have been doing in my early 20’s. But I wasn’t happy. I was exhausted, unappreciated and overworked. But the truth is, my fear of being alone, and facing the unknown were too great. I knew nothing of life without this relationship as an adult, we had met when I was 15, I didn’t even know who I was. I was worried about leaving my job as we were still feeling the aftershocks of the recession and I had been lucky to get the job straight out of university. It was only when I stepped outside of my situation and left, that I realised fear was controlling every aspect of my life.
Several years later, after I had managed to break the cycle, I met someone and was in what started out as a very happy relationship. Unfortunately, the person I was in a relationship with started to change and I saw a much darker side to their personality. He became emotionally and physically abusive and manipulative and I knew I had to get out. It took six months for me to escape that living hell and while that’s a very short time in reality, it was the longest six months in my entire life. But the reason it took six months to escape, was because of fear. Fear that he had manipulated and capitalised on without my realising – but it boiled down to my fear that I couldn’t cope with life without him.
Why am I sharing these experiences?
No matter how many years go by, it doesn’t get any easier to write about these experiences. But sharing them and voicing them is an important part of my process to face my fears. Not only does it make me feel stronger when I harness my fears for good, but it makes this story a hell of a lot more relatable for you guys. After all – we may not admit it but at times we’ve all felt lonely and feared always feeling lonely. We’ve all felt that pull to another person – often a person who wasn’t good for us – and feared that life would never be the same without them.
We’ve all grown up in a society that capitalises off our worst fears – that’s how capitalism works. It’s why we have an entire industry for online dating – for those who fear being alone. It’s why we have a beauty industry with an emphasis on hair removal and losing weight for women. We’ve been socialised to believe that we have to be and act a certain way – after hundreds of years of conditioning. When the truth is, people just want to make a profit off us and the easiest way to do that is to use our fears against us.
How did I overcome my greatest fears?
So now let’s focus on the fun part – how did I face my fears? How did I emerge from my cocoon and become this “fearless” gal you see today? Okay – confession time. I’m not actually fearless – the truth is no-one is! Fear is a natural instinct – it’s fight or flight – and we need it to survive. If you get rid of your fear – surely that just makes you a plant? I’m not ready to be a houseplant so instead, let me share with you the ways I managed to harness the power of my fears into motivation to achieve my dreams.
After all – I went from that long-term boyfriend and full-time job to travelling the world solo for over six years, living abroad all over the world and living my dream life. I went from a rural town in the UK, to backpacking through Asia, living in Australia, travelling Central America and living vanlife in Europe. In the last six years, I realised that no-one comes along to save you in this life. You have to be your own Prince Charming and make your dreams come true – otherwise you will wake up one day and wonder where your life went. My one hope with this post is that it inspires you to stop sleepwalking through life and face your fears.
5 ways to turn your fear into motivation
Don’t deny your fears or try to ignore them
Recognise your fear for what it is – don’t avoid it or try to hide it under the rug. This avoidance only fuels your fears and gives them power over yourself. Acknowledging your fear means accepting that yes, you are human and it’s okay to be afraid. But realising that fear doesn’t have to prevent you from taking action. If anything, it can inspire you to take great life-changing action – but this doesn’t come without a risk. And that risk, is where lies your fear. That feeling doesn’t disappear when you face your fears, but it does become smaller and a lot more manageable. In short, you get back the power of your mind, and your life.
Living in your “comfort zone” is actually just “settling”
It’s a harsh reality – but so many people in this world settle for less than they deserve. They do this because they’re afraid to take a risk, because they don’t think they’re worthy of more. Whether it’s relationships or careers. So many of us stay with people when we’re not truly happy, “because it’s better than being alone” or we don’t try for a new job because we’re afraid we won’t get chosen.
So we just never put ourselves out there – we never really know what it’s like to be alone, or to strike out and hope for something better. Between you and me – I’ve done the “alone” thing for several years now and it can be truly amazing, if you allow yourself to truly be. Just like taking a risk for a new career – it might not pay off, but the confidence boost of putting yourself out there is worth it. Don’t settle – you’re worth so much more.
How will you ever know what you’re capable of – if you don’t try?
You know the difference between a push up when you put all of you energy into it, and one where you don’t even try. Well it’s the same with life. It’s obvious when someone isn’t really trying, when they’re not living their best life and when they’re not putting themselves out there. Unfortunately if you don’t put the effort in – other people will recognise this in you and you’re less likely to be chosen for relationships, jobs, opportunities. But even worse – how will you ever recognise your potential? How will others see what you’re capable of if you never even try to show them?
Half-hearted attracts half-hearted
Linking with my previous point – if you’re only ever giving 50% in your life. Well, you’re only going to meet others who do the same. I’m a big believer in energies and manifestation – if you’re putting negativity or half-hearted energy into the universe. What do you think you’re going to attract? That’s probably why you keep meeting guys with no dating prospects, or ending up in jobs that you hate. If you’re only showing the world a shell of yourself – if you don’t value yourself enough to give more. How can you ever expect more from the world?
Realise that failure is part of the process
No-one who is wildly successful got there overnight. There is a lot of work involved and you’re going to face challenges along the way. Some of them you might smash and see huge success – others might knock you down. But it’s important to realise that failure is an important part of this process. It’s how we learn and grow – you learn more from doing something wrong once than for doing it right a hundred times. Whether this is in business, life or relationships. I consider the mistakes I’ve made over the years as my greatest teacher in life. Those mistakes have shaped the person I’ve become. Having that attitude towards failure means that even when things don’t go to plan – it’s a positive and a learning opportunity.
6 ways to face your fears today
All fear is just fear of the unknown
One great way to face your fears today is to realise that all fear is essentially a fear of the unknown. Humans are creatures of habit and we thrive off routine and what we know. It’s a safe zone. A comfort zone that protects us from predators or anything that could harm us. Unfortunately for us – most of our happiness lies just outside that comfort zone. We’ve spent our lives being told to be careful and don’t risk it but the truth is… The only way to grow and change is to take risks and step outside what we know. It’s how we’ve evolved over millions of years. By trying something different which causes the very world we live in to shift and change.
Write a list of your fears
You guys know by now that I love a list. They’re so therapeutic for me and really help get my thoughts in order. Writing a list can be a great way to minimise and face your fears. Start by writing down your greatest fears – then ask yourself what you’re really afraid of. What’s the worst thing that could come out of the situation? Then ask yourself – is it really your fear, or a fear that society has projected on to you? Breaking down your fears like this can make you realise how small they are in the grander scheme of things. It can show you that actually you have nothing to be afraid of. That actually the risk is worth it to face your fears.
Break your routine and do something different
I spoke about how we are creatures of routine and we like to live in our comfort zones. Well one great way to start facing your fears is to break that cycle and to start changing up your routine. It’s the reason why I appear so fearless to others – and why I feel it a lot of the time. Travellers don’t have a routine. Each day is completely different and you have to always be prepared for anything to happen. It’s one thing I really love about travel and it’s one reason why not everyone can live this lifestyle. Not everyone can cope with the constant change – and that’s okay, we’re not all built the same.
But if you do start to mix up your routine at home, I can assure you that you will naturally adapt. Start small and face your fears, then gradually work up to the bigger fears. By exposing yourself to change and lower amounts of risk each day, you will grow more resilient to cope with your greater fears. Try walking a different way home, or go to the cinema by yourself. Challenge yourself to do something different.
Challenge people when they project fear
Before I even started travelling – I seemed to attract opinion. Sadly as a solo female traveller – I think people will always feel within their right to offer comment simply because you choose to step outside the norm. Never mind that the “norm” is based on hundreds of years of oppression and abuse of women. I was told it wasn’t safe, that I would be robbed, attacked, that I couldn’t do this as a woman alone. Six years later and I’m the living proof that yes, you can travel solo as a woman and actually have a damn good time.
In the last six years, I’ve made it my business to voice this and to speak out when people start to project these fears. Asking them why they believe it’s unsafe – usually it comes from the media and propaganda. As someone who used to work as a journalist. I know exactly how the media manipulates the news to instil fear and to fuel reaction. Challenging these ideas and beliefs is important to make people wake up to these facts. Even if it is a family member who tries to project fear that you haven’t met a man, settled down and had kids yet. Ask them why they believe you can’t live a full and happy life without those things? Ask them what is the rush.
Stop exposing yourself to fear-inducing tactics
Realise that you have the power over the media, advertising and content you consume. While it may seem like we’re constantly bombarded by these fear tactics. You always have a choice. An important part of your mental health and wellbeing journey, is ensuring you cultivate an environment that supports you along the way. This means looking at what you consume – whether it’s the news, TV programmes, Netflix, social media. Look at what you’re watching.
If you suffer with paranoia and the fear that the world is a dangerous place. Start to cut down on the news content. If your fears are around body image and weight – look at social media and advertising. Stop following people who make you feel bad about yourself. Fill your newsfeed with body positivity and representation of all sizes. Afraid of being alone? Stop fuelling it with programmes about marriage, babies and finding your other half. Instead fill your screen with things that inspire you to be a whole on your own. Realise that you are enough and anyone else just adds to your life.
Ask yourself what you could be missing out on
Instead of focusing on the negatives – bring some positivity into your life. Think about what you fear the most – and instead of telling yourself what could happen if you do it anyway. Ask yourself what could happen if you do it anyway. Instead of filling your mind with all those negative thoughts of failed relationships or failure to get the job. Focus on the positive potential outcomes. You might get an amazing new job that challenges you, or you might find a wonderful man who loves you. It’s easy to think of a million reasons not to do something. But forcing yourself to think of reasons to do something will change your mindset and really motivate you to face your fears.
Was it worth it?
Abso-fucking-lutely. Facing my fears was the best decision I ever made. I chose a life outside the norm and it was worth all the risks I took to achieve it. Never did I think that I would still be travelling full time over six years later. Never did I think I would have lived abroad in several countries and I could find love along the way. By taking those first initial risks to break off a relationship, to quit my job and leave the country, I set the wheels in motion. It gave me an opportunity to become the designer of my own life, instead of merely a bystander watching as my life crept past me.
It hasn’t all been a bed of roses – there have been tough, lonely and hard times as well. But you can’t have the rough without the smooth, as my best friend always used to say. Life is a balance of light and dark. When you take a risk, you hope for the light but it’s impossible to have one without the other. The key to a happy life, is not letting a fear of the dark stop you from reaching out to switch on the light.
Have you overcome your fears? How did you manage to get past your worries and achieve something great? What is your greatest fear?