I clearly remember my first step on the path of self-improvement: I was 6 years old, alone in the dark, refraining from rushing inside my house, just standing in the yard at night, terrified by what could be lurking in darkness, but determined to stay where I was, determined to fight my fear. And that's just what I did, for maybe 5 seconds the first time, 10 seconds the second one and so on until I could feel comfortable walking in the dark.
You might wonder how a 6 years old boy, came to take this decision but it doesn't really matter1. The important thing in this story is that I found at 6 the method I'd use my whole life to overcome my fears.
The best way to overcome your fear is to face it.
You must realize that what you fear will probably never hurt you as much as the fear itself.2
How many times have you been bitten by those spiders ? How many times did that mouse jump on you ? How many times did something horrible pop out of the darkness ? How many times have you fallen from a high position ? And yet you waste hours of your life, opportunities, welfare, freedom, worrying about it…
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius
As soon as you start facing your fear you envision that the worse could not happen. The more you face it the more you realize that in fact it's very unlikely to happens. If you keep confronting your fear eventually you'll get accustomed to it, you will never like it, but it won't dominate you anymore.
You don't need to be fearless, courageous or whatever you call it. You only have to constantly face your fear to make it disappear in the end.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert - Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
You CAN do it
Most of the people think ““I can't do it”", It's plain wrong: It's just a matter of progressiveness:
If you fear talking in public, you will be unable to start by giving TED talk of course, but you can probably deliver one speech in a family meeting, then follow a theater course, then maybe propose a toast at a wedding and so on…
If you fear mice, you can start by looking at mice pictures, then TV documentary (from the beginning to the end), then don't turn your head when you see a real one, then get closer (and see her flee)…
Whatever your fear, just chose the tiniest effort you could do to confront your fear, and do it. If you really want to get rid of your fear you'll make that first step. And when this first step is done, do it again, and again until you can make a bigger one. Celebrate every accepted confrontation, each step toward your fear and before you can even imagine, your fear will be gone.
You SHOULD do it
If you read this and don't feel the need to try. It's ok, you can choose to live your life with your fear (and all the limitations that come with it). Your fear is probably not that unpleasant. But if you feel miserable, if you really want to be delivered of your fear, face it!
“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
It's not about those spiders, people judgment, snakes, mice, plane, darkness or whatever your fear:
It's all about your freedom. It's all about your welfare. It's all about being almost limitless3.
And do it again
And When you'll think you're done with your biggest fear, get rid of another one.
You have probably many fears that limit you, but once you've overcome a fear, you know you can make any fear disappear.
That's why your first ridiculously tiny step fighting your fear is so important: it's that first step that make you realize that you can overcome most of the things that affect negatively your life.
Because all negative feelings that ruin your life, are based on your fears.
“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” – Gandhi
Now that I have done bungee jump, eaten insects, willingly failed, step onto a Thai boxing ring to get my rib broken, ditch everything to start a new life, make fool of myself in public, climbed without a rope, trained with live blades, touched snakes and scorpions; I can assure you that the hardest part will be this easy tiny first step you'll take to face your fear.
Overcoming fear is probably one of the most liberating task you can achieve; A daunting task, but an easy one in reality. All it requires from you is the will to face your fear. I really hope that you'll take this step, and I'd be glad to hear about it, help you do it or just get your feedback. As usual all you have to do is to leave a comment or send me an email to arhuman (at) gmail (dot) com.
For the curious pride was my reason: I just didn't want to be scared all my life. ↩︎
Even death, if you think about, will affect you less than the fear of death (which will cause you to waste years worrying and not living fully) ↩︎
Seriously, imagine what you could do if you were without any fear. ↩︎