When you’re trying to move your life forward and set some personal development goals, one of the obstacles you will likely face is fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing control, fear of the criticism of others.
No matter what your fears are, these techniques will work to help you learn how to let go of fear, be free from your stress, and live a life you love
What is fear?
Fear is the emotion that triggers our stress response. It tells us to fight or flee (although somatic therapy tells us it’s much more complicated than that), and it’s something everyone experiences in life.
Why do we experience fear?
Fear is primal, and back in the olden days of “outrun that tiger or die,” fear served us very well. Our “lizard brain,” as they call it, helped us decipher our environments and kept us alive. This kind of biochemical fear is hardwired into every one of us.
But we humans are sitting pretty at the top of the food chain. Most of our fears are from our egos, not from our lizard brains.
These fears are things like fear of judgment or criticism; fear of failure. I’m talking about living the same year for 30 years in a row and calling it a life because it’s easier to do the same old thing than it is to step outside our comfort zone. And unfortunately, our brains can tell the difference between “I’m going to be eaten by a tiger” and “My boss hates me and is going to fire me.” These fears stress us out just the same.
Some common fears
Many people experience fear and anxiety about both actual and potential things. Here are some things that people fear:
- losing their job
- losing money
- getting cancer
- losing our health
- losing someone close to them
- being alone
- feeling trapped
- disappointing others
Many of these fears are related to feeling secure and safe and feeling like we belong with people we love.
(It is also worth noting that fear and phobias are quite different! If you want to learn to let go of a phobia, you may find more success seeking out therapy.)
Is fear bad or good?
Fear is an emotion that, and all emotions, both positive and negative ones, help guide us. Often, our fear is related to things that happened to us in the past. Perhaps we lost something important to us. Whatever it was, we worry that it will happen again in the future.
The problem becomes when our fears and worries take root and prevent us from living in the present moment. We focus on how we feel that we lose our sense of reality and, in some cases, our sense of self.
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So why should we let go of our fear?
Letting go of our fears is essential. Worrying about the future or letting our anxiety does not serve us. It prevents us from really living life to the fullest.
This requires courage, honesty, and focusing on the present moment without worrying.
You’ve heard the stories about Oprah, JK Rowling, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Edison, among others, and how they failed time and time again before they found success. Their stories would be significantly different had they let fear overcome them and given up on their dreams.
Controlling Your Fear is a Myth
We don’t control fear. Not even close. If anything, fear controls us. At its worst, it makes us feel awful and forces us to do things that can hurt others. At its best, it helps to guide our decisions.
But we can’t even control it. As humans, we will always experience fear. We have to have the courage to say “that’s okay” and stop ourselves from holding onto our fear.
Beware Philosophies that Claim to Not Experience Fear
Sometimes, we attempt to bury our fears so deeply that we pretend they don’t exist. There are all kinds of groups globally, from alt-right, hyper-masculine groups to hippie spiritual groups who claim that they don’t experience fear.
Please, whatever you do, do your research and look for the truth when you feel tempted by these groups. They will not deliver you from fear! They might claim that you will be free from pain or fear, but this is not possible.
The ultimate truth is that fear is a part of the human experience.
Search for the reality of what’s exactly true and look for a deeper, more positive focus for your attention.
An Example: My Story of Fear
When I was in my 20s, I worked my dream job as the Head Choral Director of an affluent suburb high school in Ohio. I thought I had made it in life.
But no matter what I did, I could not fit in there. I had no friends, was consumed with anxiety and worry, and had no sense of personal power. I couldn’t focus, and I kept making stupid mistakes.
I felt stuck and alone.
I could not let go of this job because it was my security, my only support system (my husband at the time was unemployed).
Life had me in a pickle. I wanted to stay in this place I loved, but I had no happiness or inner peace.
But I moved beyond my fear… after a good push.
Sometimes, life finds a way to push you into courage anyway. It turned out my boss was as unhappy with me as I was with the job. I was asked to leave.
I had to find the power within myself.
At that point, I had no choice. I could cling onto the last thread or move forward, into the unknown, with dignity.
My pride was hurt. Leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. But I faced my fear. I finally took steps to apply to graduate school and realized that my future held so much more for me than my past ever had.
I knew that no matter what might happen, that I would always believe in myself. I’m not the same person I was then.
How to Let Go of Fear: 7 Steps
You might feel like you need to move towards something new in your life. You might feel like you need to let something go. But these things can be scary.
As you learned, our brains are hardwired for fear and threat. You may be thinking to yourself,
“I can’t do this! It’s new, and I’m going to fail.”
But like Jan tells Pam in an episode of The Office, “There’s always going to be a million reasons not to do something.”
In the process of freeing yourself from your fears, you might feel confused, frustrated, and still feel fearful. This is normal! When you work to let go of fear, you’re challenging your instincts and your coping mechanisms that you’ve had your whole life. This isn’t an easy process, so give yourself plenty of patience and grace.
Here’s how to find the power within yourself and practice letting go of fear.
1) Accept what’s happening.
Stop and be honest with yourself.
Denying what we’re genuinely feeling will get us nowhere. When we begin to honor our feelings, it might be scary at first. But accepting what we’re feeling helps us observe our feelings from a more objective place.
That puts us in place to be present and support ourselves in our pain. When you feel upset or fearful about something that is happening or might happen in the future, accept your fear as part of what makes you human.
2) Move to connect with your body and complete the stress cycle.
Experiencing fear means our stress cycle is starting. We want to fight or flee, or fawn, or “fit in.” But when the stressor is gone, we need to reset our bodies back to the status quo. This means we’re helping our body complete the stress cycle.
You might want to get up and move, shake off, dance, or go on a run. What your body wants is okay, but sitting and eating Cheetos while scrolling Facebook is NOT completing your stress cycle.
Let your body lead the way, but something physical is best. The best book I’ve read about completing the stress cycle is Call of the Wild by Kimberly Ann Johnson.
To overcome our fear means moving through it, not hiding from it. When you think you’ve let go of your fear, you might realize that you still need to breathe or move to stop feeling stuck.
3) Breathe or meditate to get into the present moment
As Lao Tzu said:
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
The present moment is powerful because it allows you to handle problems as they arise instead of worrying about them before they happen.
Your breath connects you to your physical body. Find somewhere to sit and breathe. By focusing on our breath,
4) Talk with a person you love
Once you’ve made peace with your fear, you can finally realize that it doesn’t have a hold on your life. But you might still be worried or concerned for the future. This is when you want to sit with a person you trust and talk with them.
Whether it’s a friend or family member, bouncing ideas about the future off others means that you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself. Your friend or family member can offer advice or support, can relate to your story with other examples, or might just happen to help you accept and release your fear a little more.
Leaning on another person can not only give you a deeper understanding, but it can also make you feel a little less alone.
5) Live without expectations
When we live with no expectations, you might think you’re setting yourself up to fail. But this isn’t true at all.
For example, if you set a goal for yourself, it would make sense to hold onto the end result you’re trying to achieve. But what if you get so focused on achieving this result that you don’t see a better opportunity when it comes by?
When you allow yourself to let go of your expectations, you begin to see more paths and more choices for yourself. You might realize that there’s something else better waiting for you out there in the world.
Living life without expectations allows us to feel a little more free, which can help us in letting go of our fear.
6) Practice compassion
Compassion is the most crucial step towards peace. Compassion is defined as the ability to understand the emotional state of another person or oneself.
This means that we assume the best in others. (And self-compassion is assuming the best in ourselves.) We meet others where they are and allow them to act from a place of love rather than a place of protecting themselves (fear).
To live life this way can lead us to make connections that strengthen our community with others which can, in turn, lead us to have less fear because others are looking out for us.
7) Whenever you feel afraid, stop and repeat this list.
Letting go of your fear isn’t impossible. It just takes a little know-how and self-awareness. When you begin to feel stress in your life, chances are, you’re holding onto fear.
Go through these steps again to release that fear and free yourself from what happened to cause you fear and stress. Write down what you did, what worked, and what didn’t so that you can go back when it happens again.
You can live in happiness and love. You can be free from your fears.
If you’ve read this, I assume you’re dealing with fear right now. I hope that you can stop the cycle of fear in your life.
Drop me a comment and let me know if these 7 steps helped you let go of your fear.