Overcoming Unnecessary Fears
by Ron Kurtus (6 October 2000)
Fear is a natural reaction to danger or the threat of injury. If suddenly confronted with a huge dangerous animal, most everyone will turn and run. Likewise, if you are given a choice of doing something you perceive as harmful, you will usually avoid the danger. The problem occurs when the danger is not real or the fears are not rational.
You can overcome irrational fears by confronting them in a safe--but yet scary--environment. Small successes over danger can build up your confidence and bravery. Sometimes you can also do this by following the example of others.
Questions you may have include:
- What type of fears are there?
- How can you overcome fears?
- What is the result of overcoming fears?
This lesson will answer those questions.
There are two major types of fear in humans. One is the fear of physical harm. The other is the fear of looking foolish in the eyes of your peers and being ridiculed because of it.
Fear of injury
There are many situations in which you can actually get hurt. Humans, as well as animals, have a built in fear reflex to react to physical danger. The problem occurs is when the danger is not all that bad, but yet the person enlarges it, such that he or she will not do certain activities. Often these are called phobias.
Some examples of such fears of injury are the fear of insects, fear of height, and fear of water. They are usually exaggerated beyond the actual threat or danger.
In some cases, those phobias can be corrected by slowly building up your confidence by having small successes in dealing with the threat. But, in general, it is very difficult to overcome any irrational fears.
There are many fears of injury people have that are completely normal and rational. You may fear stepping on hot coals, because you know they will burn you. You may fear jumping out of an airplane with a parachute, because the consequence of failure is death.
In these cases, you can learn to overcome the natural fear, provided someone shows you that there is nothing to fear in the specific situation.
Fear of being ridiculed
Certainly if you fail in front of other people, there is the possibility of being ridiculed. This is probably the greatest fear people have. It can cause you to lose confidence and esteem, as well as to be looked upon as not valuable or desirable, no important and certainly not powerful.
There are many cases where people hesitate from doing something they want to do, because they fear of consequences of failure or some impending disaster.
- A young man may not ask a girl out for a date, because he fears rejection.
- A manager may avoid giving a presentation at work, because she is afraid of speaking to a group. She fears the possibility of looking foolish and being ridiculed by her peers.
Such fears are great and very real to the person.
You can overcome fears by gaining confidence in your ability to do such a task. That is usually done by doing something difficult or dangerous and seeing that the consequences of failure are not so bad or that the chances of failure are not so great.
Overcoming fear of injury
There are many activities that are truly dangerous. There are some that seem dangerous, but really are safe. For those activities, you must be brave enough to give it a try. The rewards are great.
Walking on fire
Walking on red-hot coals seems very dangerous, but if properly done, it is relatively safe. By being assured it is safe and seeing others do it in a controlled environment, you can overcome your natural fears to literally walk on fire. An example of such an experience is in I Walked on Fire (and lived to tell about it).
The consequence of failure in jumping out of an airplane with a parachute is death. Even when properly trained, the fear can be great. The percentage of ski-divers that actually get killed is small, but it still is quite a risk. The thrill-seekers that do it, get a tremendous rush of confidence.
A person who is afraid of drowning can be very fearful if required to swim--even if he or she has been properly taught and can easily swim in shallow water. Taking a jump into deep water and actually swimming, despite the perceived threat of drowning, can be a brave move. That person will be confident to do it again, and that confidence can reflect in other activities.
Overcoming fear of being ridiculed
Most people can overcome the fear of ridicule by getting a track record of successes in the specific activity. The most common activity where people fear being ridiculed is in speaking to a group. The fear of public speaking can paralyze even a person who has been brave under extreme physical danger.
The champion attitude about this is to make sure the ridicule never happens--or at the very least, to minimize the potential for ridicule. This does not mean to avoid the activity that has the potential consequence of ridicule if you fail.
For example, in giving a speech or presentation in front of a group, you should prepare well enough that you are sure of doing a good job. You should also have some safety net in case your mind goes blank and you forget what you were going to say. And finally, have a demeanor that will not accept ridicule from others. For example, see Overcoming the Fear of Speaking to Groups.
Benefits of overcoming fear
Certainly, when you complete what you perceive as a dangerous task, you feel great about your achievement and about yourself. You have the confidence to be able to do activity again. You can sky-dive again or speak to the assembly again. you still may have some anxiety, but you are sure you will be able to succeed again.
Your confidence from overcoming your fears can rub off in other--unrelated--areas. Being confident from jumping out of an airplane may rub off in being confident about cold-calling a potential customer.
People fear physical harm or ridicule. Sometimes the danger is not as bad as it seems. Taking a little step in overcoming the fear can go a long way in increasing your confidence and erasing other fears.
Better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all
Resources and references
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