Strong people know how to overcome fear in life. How? They learned. And it’s something that we should all learn. That’s why I’m about to share with you the absolute best ways how to overcome fear in life.
Life is full of fear.
Soldiers know the feeling of fear when they head into a warzone, that electric pulse of adrenaline in their veins. Surgeons know fear when they take that scalpel and cut into a living person’s skin in the hope of saving them. Mothers know fear when they see their kids in danger, when they’ll do anything to protect them.
We are all burdened with fear from time to time. So if you have ever admonished yourself for having fear, stop. Your fear is natural. It’s what you do with it that counts.
What matters is whether we know how to overcome fear in life. Because when you overcome fear you cruise through life.
Some people face fear head on. some people run from fear. Which are you?
Weak people feel fear and scurry away with their tails tucked between their legs.
Strong people know how to face fear in life, and even though they feel fear, they face it, head on, beat it, and come out even stronger than they were before. They don’t just overcome fear, they know how to completely stop fear and even grow out of it.
The strong remind us of that quote. “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Which is, of course, the title of one of the best books about fear ( Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway on Amazon )
But how are strong people able to overcome fear, and why do weak people run from it?
Some people might tell you they have a fearless heart, but is that really true? Or is it more like the Buddha quote says, “Even death is not to be feared by those who have wisdom”.
Buddha gave the world some truly amazing ways to overcome fear (many of which you can learn about in this guide to using Buddhist meditation to conquer your fears.
Buddha knew that fear is natural, and that the right way to overcome fear is to learn how to deal with it.
When you know how to handle fear in life, everything gets easier.
When You Know How To Face Fear In Life, Everything Gets Easier
When you know how to face fear in life, everything gets easier. You’ve just got to know how to handle the fears in your mind. As Sunada Tugaki says on WildMind, “Fearlessness isn’t the absence of fear, but the ability stay with one’s fear and use its energy wisely.”
If only I’d known how to “stay with fear and use its energy wisely” earlier in life, so much would have been different.
Back in school, aged sixteen, I spent all day staring at the floor, never daring to raise my eyes to look people in the face, because I was so shy that anytime I spoke to someone I felt sick in my stomach.
I had severe social anxiety. I had the fear of other people.
Anytime someone tried to speak to me my lips would clamp shut and it literally felt as though I didn’t have the strength to open my mouth and speak. So that was another fear: fear of speaking (which many people share. Fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears in the world).
And I got angry at myself for being so weak (had I known back then how to practice Metta Meditation, things may have been different, but hey, I was just a sixteen year old kid back then).
I was literally cripplingly shy.
Shyness is fear. Fear of speaking. Fear of socialising. And honestly at this time I had zero clue how to face those fears in my life.
At its most fundamental level, I had severe fear of rejection, and I was terrified that if I spoke to people they’d laugh at me and ridicule me. Basic, old fashioned fear of rejection.
That fear of rejection manifested physically, in the clamping of my lips and in the reddening of my cheeks—the classic symptoms of shyness.
Years past. Years of loneliness and isolation.
Then one day it struck me. I suddenly realised that the problems in my life were caused entirely because of fear. That one feeling, fear, was ruining my entire life. And there was no way anything would change until I learned how to conquer fear. I needed to learn how to facefear in life.
Lots of people are in similar situations. Your fear might not be about social anxiety. It could take any form.
Have you ever experienced these various fears:
- Fear of animals (dogs and spiders being the most common)
- Fear of flying
- Fear of the dentist
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of dying
- Fear of illness
- Fear of doctors
- … it goes on.
Whoever you are, whatever you do, you have fears. You could be the single bravest person on God’s green Earth but you will still be afraid of something. Anyone who says otherwise is either painfully self-unaware or a liar.
But of course, different people experience different levels of fear, and the more fear you have in life the worse things are.
The more fear you have in life, and the more pronounced those fears, the more limited your life will be. Thankfully, there are some great ways how to overcome fear in life.
For me, back in school, I had one major, very powerful fear, and it made it absolutely impossible for me to live a happy life. My fear meant loneliness and isolation. It meant that every lunchtime I’d take myself off to the school library—just because there was no one else there—and stay there, tucked away. It meant anytime I saw a girl I liked and she started talking to me (which lots of girls did) I would be too shy to chat to her.
I knew I wanted to hang out with other kids, date girls, going to parties, and have a great social life. And the only way in which I would ever get there was to overcome the fear in my life.
That’s when I realised something:
Fear tells you what you need to do to make your life better
The fear that I experienced told me if you can just get over this one thing and start talking to people, your entire life will be better.
Fear is a marker. It’s a beacon that says “You’re heading into uncharted territory. Be cautious.”
My fear said “You don’t often speak to people. Be careful here.”
That’s what my fear had been trying to tell me. It wasn’t saying “Run away.” It wasn’t saying “You’re in trouble.” No, it was just saying, “Hey, you don’t have any experience of doing this so just go slowly.”
But I didn’t know, back then, that fear was sending me this message.
The problem with fear is that we mistake it for a stop sign. Lots of people actually never learn how to overcome fear in life, because every time they feel fear they run from it.
As with all emotions, fears are deceptive. But you can control fear just like you can control all emotions.
It’s not like your brain says “Hey, I’m putting some cramp in your chest right now to make you go slowly.”
Fear is much more illusive than that.
What did it mean when a girl approached me and my chest tightened and my lips clamped shut?
As a sixteen year old I didn’t know. I just knew I didn’t like the feeling of fear, so I tried to avoid it.
But avoiding the feeling didn’t help. Feeling that cramp and immediately running away meant that I couldn’t talk to anyone. Clearly that wasn’t the answer.
What I needed, and what we all need if we are to beat fear, is a way to say to ourselves, “Hey, I’m feeling some symptoms of fear here, but that’s okay. I can proceed anyway.”
Problem is it’s hard to think clearly when you’re experiencing the symptoms of fear.
That’s why I needed to train myself to react to fear differently. Because, as MindfulMuscle says, “Once we realize that fear is just a state of mind, and not a fact, we can begin to make different choices.”
I needed a way to deal with fear differently. I needed to know how to face fear in life. So I decided on a strategy.
I would find my weakest fears and use them as a way to train myself to be stronger when facing fear.
But what were my weakest fears?
I noticed that fear has a hierarchy.
All fears have a hierarchy, and it’s a hierarchy directly related to desire and needs
The more you want, need, and desire something, the higher the chance that you’ll feel fear.
What would mean the most to me, back in school, would be to be able to talk to a cute girl and to feel confident about it. That was my highest desire. And because it was my highest desire it was also my greatest fear. Although I felt fear when talking to anyone, I mostly felt fear when talking to cute girls. More desire, more fear.
The problem is that the fear we feel often prevents us from achieving our desire. As Ash Blankenship on TinyBuddha says, “I came to realize that my desire to meet the person I would potentially spend my life with had manifested into a fear that drove away any hope of building something real and lasting.”
So what can you do about this? There’s one effective way how to face fear in life.
The way to handle fear in life is to treat fear as an exercise and to build up your mind-muscles so you can take on bigger and bigger fears.
Start on your weaker fears before you take on your primary fears.
Back in school, I wasn’t ready to face that big fear. Most people aren’t able to face their greatest fears.
But no sweat. Do what you do when you go to the gym: work on the weakest weights, get stronger and then work on bigger weights. Take on your weakest fears, get stronger, and then take on your biggest fears.
That’s what I did when I was sixteen. I started with my weakest fear.
I felt a little bit of fear when talking to adults, but it was a weaker fear. Adults weren’t going to reject me. They weren’t going to bully me. They weren’t going to mock me.
I could start on my weakest fear. I could start talking to adults, and that would make me just a little bit stronger. And then I’d face a slightly greater fear, and so on.
Same with your fears, whatever they might be.
Afraid of heights? Hey, no sweat. Go to the height you feel a very light fear at. Stay there. When you’re comfortable go one step higher. Keep going. Go slowly. Higher then higher. Before too long you’ll be at the top of the CN Tower feeling comfortable.
I worked on my minor fear and started talking to adults. I felt that weak fear, faced it, overcame it. It made me a little stronger. Then I started talking to people I was slightly more worried about, like male kids my age who were also shy. Then I spoke to confident kids my age. And before long I was speaking to cute girls. Sure, I was nervous, but I was getting used to it. The redness in my cheeks wasn’t so bad. The cramp in my chest became a mild numbness.
Step by step I faced the fears in life and trained myself how to react to fear differently.
Before long I understood that I could feel nervous and proceed anyway. And it’s the same with all fears.
Afraid of the dentist? No problem. Start by educating yourself about dentistry. Then talk to a dentist when they’re outside of work, when they’re not being a dentist. Proceed gradually. Before you know it you won’t tremble when you think about root canals. Because pretty soon you will have learned how to handle the fears in life.
Psychology is just like physical exercise. Lift the 5 lbs weight. Then the 6 lbs weight… keep going. Soon your mind will be jacked-up and you’ll feel as strong as a warrior.
And that, in my view, is the best way how to face fear in life. (Though you could also try these techniques to stop all fears and live fearlessly).
So what about you? Do you have fears? Do you have strategies for facing them? How do you face the fear in your life? I’d love to know your thoughts on this. Leave a comment below.