How to Overcome Fear of Anything (Failure, Rejection, Height, etc)
Let’s face it, we all have fears, and we don’t like them.
Looking at myself, I can enumerate the following fears without thinking, and I so wish that I don’t have them:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of height
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of public speaking
Believe it or not, fear is actually a good thing. It’s an innate bio-mechanism that keeps us safe before the modern times. When we are fearful, we venture more cautiously, and that often can be the difference between life and death in the jungle. If fears weren’t useful, evolution would likely have bred them out of our gene pool. Wouldn’t that be nice? 😉
In the modern world, fear is no longer as useful, but it still remains a powerful mechanism that drives our behaviors, often toward unwanted outcomes. What we need is instead a way to face and manage our fears. We still want fear to help keep us in check, but we don’t want fear to inhibit us from achieving our desires and goals.
It turns out that the best and surest way to overcome fear is to face it… a lot.
This is known as systematic desensitization. Basically, you want to create situations in which you’ll face your fear, but start with a level of intensity that you can stand. Once you get used to that intensity, then increase the intensity to the next level, and then rinse and repeat.
Repeated exposure allows you to get used to the fear. Gradual increase of intensity gives you an achievable ramp. Systematic desensitization is a technique that works for any fear for anyone. The only drawback is that it’s not a quick fix, and we know that people usually have a hard time to commit to something long term.
Wait – don’t people want to overcome their fear? Why would they not commit to something that’s known to work? If it’s something this effective, why aren’t more people doing this, and why do we still have so much fear around?
It’s because doing this is hard work, and most people don’t have enough motivation. Few people’s fears are life debilitating, so most people just live with the fear without trying to improve their situation. It’s a motivation thing. Face your fear? That’s so much work.
However, if you have desires to improve your life, including becoming more successful, earning more, finding better jobs, becoming well known and respected, and attracting others (like potential mates), then your ability to overcome and manage fears of failure, rejection, public speaking will be critical.
These fears will guide us toward not doing anything, so we don’t “risk” ourselves to criticisms and ridicules. However, without taking risks, we will never be able to get to where we want to be.
Sure, taking risks doesn’t mean we will get there, but not taking risks guarantees that we won’t get there.
Not taking risks is the biggest risk of all.
If you want to overcome these fears in order to get to the next level with your life, you will need to start by acknowledging that you have these fears. Without acknowledging them, it’s like hiding them in the closet so you don’t see them, and you can’t confront and overcome them that way.
Once you acknowledge them, and commit to overcoming them, you can then devise a plan to give you that gradual but frequent exposure, so that you can systematically desensitize the fear. Rinse and repeat, voila. The world is your oyster.
Sounds too good to be true? Of course, this is just a high level description of the process. For you to walk through it, it’ll be blood, sweat, and tears on your part. It won’t be smooth sailing. There will be setbacks, and disappointments so large that you’d just want to quit. The people that succeed are the ones that would go on in spite of the setbacks.
Only you know whether you will keep going despite the obstacles. But rest assured, the effort alone will be worth it, and you will thank yourself for making yourself go through the journey, even before you get to your destination.