Draw strength and courage …from your fears

Do you often lose sleep over niggling fears and worries? Or are you generally confident and only ever rattled by the major setbacks in life? Either way, experiencing fear can be super uncomfortable – and something that most of us would gladly live without.

But is fear really a ‘bad’ thing? Perhaps if we learnt to look at fear differently, it could become a source of courage for us instead of an obstacle to overcome. And those things in life that get our heart pounding in an unpleasant way – be it public speaking, boarding that aeroplane, driving down the freeway or blushing in public –  might cease being barriers to living our life to the full.

Fear you’re a little sceptical? Let us explain…

1. A friend in disguise?

How easy life would be if we were completely fearless! Or would it? No matter how uncomfortable fear is, we experience it for a good reason. Fear is a natural response to potentially dangerous situations (without it the human race wouldn’t have survived for very long).

Of course, sometimes our fears are disproportionate considering the situation at hand. A job interview can induce a full fight-or-flight response in us even though we’re not in any sort of physical danger.

But even in those situations we can choose to view fear as an ally. And with that choice, comes power. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal speaks about stress and the power of looking at it from a positive angle: stress seems to be only as detrimental to our health as we believe it to be. We can apply the same wisdom to dealing with our fears. Every time fear comes knocking, think of it as an ally helping you rise up to the challenge – Light-headed? Know that oxygen is pumping round your body to help you face any situation; Pounding heart? Hello adrenaline that will help you think faster…. And watch for the shift.

2. Channel your inner Susan

Few books have been as influential in helping people achieve their full potential in life in spite of their fears, as Susan Jeffers’ best-selling ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’.

One of Susan’s core messages is that fear is inevitable. And she believes that this is a key to our liberation: If we can accept that experiencing fear is just a fact of life, we can start seeing the many fear-inducing situations as pointers to the areas of our lives where there’s room for growth, rather than barriers to our success and happiness.

So what would Susan do when faced with a fear? That’s right: she’d do it anyway – and trust that she could “handle it”. Doing the thing that terrifies us is the quickest way to tame the fear and stretch the limits of our comfort zone.

3. Use body language to harness fear in a positive way

We know that body language influences how others feel about us. But it may come as a surprise that body language (even faking it) can also change how we feel about ourselves. According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, taking just a couple of minutes to stand in a ‘power pose’ before a stressful event can significantly boost our confidence.

About to give a presentation or go on a first date? Why not test it out… Like Amy says, find a private corner (a good time to nip to the loo) and stand tall and straight with your arms stretched out… or go ahead and pretend that you’re Wonder Woman for a moment; we won’t judge!


[For a double dose of TED Talk inspiration, watch Amy Cuddy’s talk on body language here and Kelly McGonigal’s talk on rethinking stress here.]

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