5 Things You Can Do Now to Overcome Fear
FEAR. It’s a small four letter word that likes to whip us into submission and convince us that the life we are living is better than the life we want to live. It likes to tell us what we can’t do and why we can’t do it. How does such an itty bitty word rule our mind and keep us from grabbing that bull called life by the horns, saddling up and riding the bumpy ride into the sunset? How can we overcome fear?
Let’s examine fear a little bit.
Fear is a primitive response to an event that we perceive as danger. Fear is what keeps us from engaging in an act that we think may harm us. When we are in full out survival mode, fear can be what keeps us alive.
But we can break fear down even further to this one true statement, and stick with me because I know at first this may sound a little crazy but here goes:
Fear is just a feeling or a meaning that we give to a thought.
At its very core, that is all it is. Fear is our minds’ way of associating some type of feeling towards a thought that we have. We have a gazillion thoughts every single day from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. Thoughts come and go like clouds in the sky. But it is only when we attach feelings or meanings to our thoughts that they become true for us. You see, fear is a feeling that we have about something that COULD happen. It is not a feeling that we have about something that is actually happening. For this reason, fear lives in the future. It is not a feeling that we have for a situation that is happening now, the present.
You guys, my life CHANGED when I realized that all I needed to do to get the life that I wanted was to stop thinking the way that I was thinking. I’m not saying that you can control your thoughts and stop them from ever happening, because that is not true. You will always have thoughts but here is the spoiler alert: you can CHOOSE how to react to them. You can CHOOSE what meanings or feelings you give those thoughts.
Mind blown. Literally.
“To think what you want to think is to think the truth, regardless of appearance”-Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich
For the longest time, I had a fear of snakes. It got to the point where I would let out a high pitched shriek if I just happened to be flipping through the tv channels and caught a glimpse of a snake on the screen as I was clicking past the Discovery channel. Just one glance of them with their beady little eyeballs and crusty-looking scales would conjure up thoughts of them creeping in a tree watching me go past so they could sneak up behind me, tap me on my shoulder and say BOO.
One day, I was hanging out in snake heaven, aka Florida, when this 8 inch grey snake came gliding on by me in front where I was standing, crossing the driveway to get from one patch of the grass to another. I froze but the snake didn’t do anything to me. Didn’t try to bite me or suffocate me or anything like that yet I nearly crapped myself at just the sight of it. So what was really going on here? Clearly, it was not the snake that was freaked me out, right? Here is what I realized when I finally started to hash out why I am so afraid of snakes:
I let other people’s opinions shape my very own opinion about snakes. My mom has an insane fear of snakes and since she’s the greatest mom ever, as a child, when I would watch her flip out over the snake on the medical symbol, I internalized that snake=scared. I made the fear of snakes and made it true for myself as well. I thought that because SHE had a fear of snakes I had to have a fear of one too
It wasn’t the actual, physical snake that I was afraid of. It was my THOUGHTS about what the snake COULD do to me should I encounter it. Bite me, poison me, strangle me, eat me whole and spit me out covered in snake goo. Do you remember the movie Anaconda? I have JLo and Ice Cube to thank for that lovely imagery. This leads me to my next point…
I watched, listened to, absorbed all kinds of grim news stories about snakes and all the dangerous things that could happen to you if one graces you with its presence. Snakes on a plane, snakes getting wrapped around your car’s engine, snakes climbing into the house through the doggie door, snakes in the toilet… You know what happened when I encountered that snake in Florida? Nothing. It literally wiggled from one side of the grass to the other.
Now, all that being said, does this mean that I go frolicking around the backyard barefoot, dangling the tail of a mouse while turning over every big rock I could find and taunting “here snakey-snakey-snakey?” NO. But now I acknowledge that whatever could happen to me, should I find myself alone and barefoot in the woods, is just a thought that I have about an unknown future. You see, when I crossed paths with that snake, the perceived danger (the fear) was that I could get bitten but the reality was that the snake continued going about its business in trying to get from one side to the other.
How often do we do this with our fears? I know you guys have some real fears and not some petty “I’m scared of a garter snake” fears. But think about this:
How often do we latch onto our fear-driven thoughts and think that the worst outcome will happen?
How much more powerful could we be if we simply recognized that our fear is just a feeling that we have allowed ourselves to associate with a thought that we have about a situation that may or may not even happen?
What if we just let the thought be a thought, like all the other thoughts we have?
We can choose to let the thought be a thought and focus on what is really happening. We can choose to focus on our present state, what is actually happening. And even better, we can CHOOSE to attach positivity to the thoughts that we have.
Remember, fear lives in the future.
The bible says that the Lord has not given us the spirit of fear, but of peace, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). This, to me, sounds like we have a choice and we can CHOOSE to bombard our thoughts with positivity, faith, goodness, love, peacefulness.
So what are some ways that we can whip our fear into submission? Here are 5 things you can do right now to overcome your fears:
1. Become more aware of your thoughts.
Take note of your thoughts, especially the ones that make you feel incapable, inadequate, doubtful, worrisome, defeated, fearful. The next time you start to feel some kind of way towards a thought that you have acknowledge it, say what up and ask yourself is this thought true? Does this thought describe something that is currently happening to me right now or is this thought just a feeling about something that could happen in the future? Allow yourself to think the opposite (positively) of what your mind wants you to feel about the outcome.
2. Remember how you conquered past fear(s).
Think about all the other times in your past when you were scared to do something but you did it anyway and it turned out to be okay or better than how you thought it would be. I guarantee you can think of at least one time in your past where you have conquered your fear. No? How about that time way back when you were a baby and you crawled until you were given the thought that you could walk. You tried to get up and fell on your butt. You tried again and stabilized. Got up and took one step. Fell. Got up again and tried to put one step forward. The other foot did the same thing and pretty soon you found your parents had to chase you to keep you from running through the airport gates before your plane ticket was accepted.
There is a verse that tells us that we need to keep the mindset of a child to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). The root meaning of this verse tells us that we need to identify with children, meaning that like children depend on adults, we need to depend on God and navigate this life with full faith in Him, not in fear. Babies don’t have fear because remember, fear is the feeling that we attach to the thoughts we have. Babies have thoughts and not fears because they have not learned to associate fear with their thoughts. They put their mind to doing something and they do it without thinking of any of the consequences. We, as adults, have been conditioned to stop and think of all the possible outcomes that could happen and before we know it, we have convinced ourselves that our desires, dreams, wants, are not worthy of having because it is scarrrrrry. We have conditioned ourselves to just accept the way things are.
So take note of the thoughts that you have. Acknowledge them and get good and comfortable with them because they will always be there. But that does not mean that you have to believe every thought and that does not mean that you cannot believe that a positive outcome will come from the thought that you have.
3. Snapback to the present.
Remember when I said that fear lives in the future? Whenever that fearful thought comes whispering, telling you that you can’t possibly ask your boss for a raise, or how dare you think you can recite your lines in front of all those people, or she’s gonna say no if you ask her to dinner- ask yourself is this what is really happening, right now at this present moment? Or is this just a thought that about what could happen (that you don’t know for sure WILL happen) that is freaking you out? Then snap out of it. Literally, snap your fingers and bring your thoughts back to the present moment. Listen to me and listen to me good: These thoughts are just thoughts. These thoughts only become real when you give them power. Don’t give fear power.
4. Change your #squadgoals.
Stop hanging around folks that bring you down with their own negativity. Stop hanging around folks that crap on your dreams by telling you what you can’t do and why you can’t do it. Stop listening to them. They may seem like they are helping you but really, all they are doing is projecting the fears that they have for themselves onto you. You know who I’m talking about. These are the friends who:
When you tell them you really, really, really (!) want to go zip lining through the jungles of Costa Rica they tell you about all the people that have cracked their skull during excursions while honeymooning in South America
When you tell them about your big dreams to quit your 9-5 job to start a hipster ice-cream shop selling exotic flavored ice-cream like fried scorpion bananas foster, they tell you about the Baskin Robbins that just closed on 5th and Jefferson.
When you tell them that you would like to try online dating, they tell you about the story on the news about a woman that was murdered and her bones were made into a lampshade, kept in the basement belonging to the person she met online.
[Insert another story you telling friend your dream and friend stomping on them with her Uggs]
On the surface, it may seem like your family and your friends are just trying to help you out and trying to help you make the “right” decision for yourself. But if you dig a little deeper, you will find that all they are doing is imposing their truths onto you. Could something bad come out of your leap of faith? Sure. But since we have the choice to focus on either a negative or a positive outcome, how about we focus on a positive one? This is why I say that fear is a choice. It is easy to allow our fear of what could happen keep us from taking any action on what we really want to happen.
I know that some of you are thinking, “But Cef, we’ve been friends for 18 years. I just can’t throw that away.” Okay, okay, okay. Because I know that it is difficult to just toss friendships and ditching them isn’t a simple DIY fix so how about instead of dumping these friends, find new, like-minded, positive friends? Ones that will encourage you and motivate you when you tell them your dreams and aspirations.
So if I may interject with a quick but totally relevant tidbit about me, I am like a walking jukebox. Songs just come to my head all the time. And right now, as I write this, I am reminded of the song, “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child:
“After all of the darkness and sadness, still comes happiness. If I surround myself with positive things, I’ll gain prosperity.”
Surround yourself with the positive. Pray and be on the lookout for folks that lift you up and encourage you to live fully aware that God has got your back and if “God be for me, whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1; Romans 8:31)” God has GOT YOU. So relax. He’s got your back, yo.
5. Change the Channel.
By this, I mean stop watching the television programs that you have no business watching. One of the programs that I had to force myself to stop watching was the news. Most news outlets have a tendency to feature more negative reports that promote fear. Terrorism, police brutality, murders, theft, robbery, all of that. Some may argue that I am doing myself a disservice by wearing these rose colored glasses, refusing to engage in worldly reports and instead choosing to see the world as good. I don’t need to constantly hear/read negativity to know that the enemy is alive and well. I believe that I do myself a disservice when I watch the news because most of the stories make me feel defeated, depressed, scared, worthless, devalued, unmotivated…So I traded in the news for the Good News.
Choosing to focus on only the good news did not make me less compassionate or ignorant to the world’s needs and in fact, it did quite the opposite. I am happier, stronger, motivated, eager, more positive, energized, loving, hopeful, at peace and because of all this, I am a better person to others. So if you, too, find that watching the news sends you into depression and makes you fearful to step even one foot outdoors, then please stop watching it.
Turning the channel was one of the hardest things that I had to do but one of the best things that I have ever done because I realized how much that stuff got into my subconscious and kept me from enjoying life the way God intended for me to enjoy it. For real.And this goes for movies, tv shows, reality tv, blogs, books, podcasts, anything that is pumping negativity into your subconscious and allowing your mind to believe that you are limited by your circumstances.Just like I said you should get a new squad, you should also get new influences. Your mind, both consciously and subconsciously, takes in a lot of information. Fill it with the truth. Fill it with information that makes you feel excited about life! The bible is a great place to start, by the way.
Whew, okay, I think I am done, y’all. I have said this before but I want to make sure that I reiterate it for all you, skip-to-the-bottom dwellers:
Your thoughts are just thoughts. Fear is the power that we give to our thoughts about something that may or may not even happen. Instead of choosing to have fear, you can choose to have faith.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Until next time, love like Jesus.