As children, we’re all taught not to use “four letter” words. They were all bad. The word “fear” however, snuck into most conversations without any retribution. Yet, it is the four letter word we should have been warned about. In the world of four letter words, it is the leading culprit for smashing and stealing dreams, ending careers prematurely, diminishing self-esteem, and creating a host of other conditions.
But why do we experience fear?
I’ll start off by sharing my own experience and what I have learned about myself, and my own fears. When I look back over my childhood, fear was certainly present. As a kid, I was terrified of the dark. I was certain that at any moment during my slumber the Boogey Man was going to leap out of the darkness and grab me. Of course this childhood fear wasn’t even close to existing, but at the time it was so real that I would sweat myself to sleep.
I grew up in foster homes, and I believe the fear of the Boogey Man came from my unmet need for security. But over the years, I grew up, and grew confident in my ability to protect myself. And after gaining more proof and knowledge that the Boogey Man didn’t exist, I stopped being afraid. The Boogey Man was a small and easily conquerable fear.
After the Boogey Man, I became afraid of physical and mental bullies. “Mental Bullies” are people who make fun of you or attempt to break your mind. This too was another fear that over the years proved to be nothing more than what I allowed it to be. My fear of metal bullies could be conquered by changing and controlling the people I allowed into my life.
My biggest fears—the ones that controlled my decisions, my reactions and everything in between—also stemmed from my childhood. My fear of being inadequate stemmed from growing up in a foster home and knowing that my mother didn’t want me. This fear was a doozy, and it was later reinforced by my father’s decision to allow me compete in the Special Olympics at age 11—despite the fact that I possessed no intellectual disabilities.
These are only two examples, but I experienced both of them when I felt inadequate, and they stuck with me for most of my adult life. It was almost as if those memories from childhood scarred my spirit. Whenever I attempted to push myself toward something new, the little child inside me would silently scream out, “Hey! Don’t you remember we’re not good enough to do that? I’m afraid!”
I believe fear stems from two origins. The first is the mind’s natural reaction to something that appears risky. Our innate survival instincts want to keep us safe, and fear is the warning signal our minds send out when we embark on an unprecedented journey that has no concrete (undeniably harmful) outcome. The second comes from information that we have received in our life. As children, we can experience an event that negatively influences how we view the world, and it hinders us. Later in life when we encounter a similar situation, we connect it with the previous situation and become afraid.
So how do we overcome fear? How do we stop its ability to take control of and paralyze our lives?
I have found a few things that have worked for me that I will share with you.
The first thing is to think about fear in a different way. I learned a couple of different acronyms the word fear can represent:
“False Evidence Appearing Real”
I can personally agree with this one. As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, most of my fears turned out to be nothing more than false evidence upon careful re-examination.
Another acronym I’ve learned is:
“Forget Everything And Recover”
I use this one often. I believe being disabled by fear is a mental sickness that can only be overcome by the individual facing it. I often say to myself: Eric, is it acceptable at this moment not to follow through with the plan? Is it acceptable for Eric not to recover?
In my program, Pyramid of Empowerment, I teach people a method of discovering exactly what they’re afraid of, and how that particular fear is preventing them from committing and/or fulfilling their dreams. Usually what’s preventing people is a form of fear. The outline for overcoming fear is this:
- Determine your fear. Once the fear is determined, try to investigate what you will gain if you can overcome it.
- Ask yourself: will I gain more by giving into my fear, or by walking away from it?
- Last (but certainly not least) ALWAYS be careful what you tell yourself, and how you talk to yourself.
Now I will leave you with this question: will you allow yourself to overcome your fears?