How to Step Up to the Plate and Kick Fear Out of Your Life

Phil’s Note: This is the first post by new TFGL contributor Ginger Kern- enjoy :) 

It was my birthday.

The first email I opened that day was entitled, “Wanted: Co-Pilot for The Feel Good Lifestyle.” 

This one guy named Phil was looking for a person to get on board with The Feel Good Lifestyle website.

I read his email from start to finish and felt an immediate pull to respond. I figured I could help out with the site by contributing articles, which would free up some of his time and give me a fantastic opportunity to hone a passion of mine.

Then a hesitation kicked in.

What if I write crappy posts and his readership goes down? What if people think I’m a shitty writer?

And then the counter-reaction I’ve been practicing for the past three years, the conscious decision to kick fear out, came next.

I’m afraid of doing this, so I actually have to do it!

I wrote my application and sent it off to Phil. After a thorough interview on Skype I ended up in a small team of enthusiastic individuals, and now I’m writing this post, which almost never came to be!

The story above is just a quick example of how I kicked fear out when it was stopping me from moving forward on something I actually felt great about. Now let’s do the same for you: I want you to replace “what ifs” with “why nots” and step up to the plate every time it counts.

Here’s how…

Acknowledge the Foundation of Your Fear

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear. ~Gandhi

Think back to your childhood or your early teenage years. You were probably taught to fear certain things at a young age, whether it was out of self-preservation (e.g. the neighbor’s rabid dog) or out of social self-preservation (e.g. that girl in your class who could crush your self-confidence with a single scathing comment).

At some point, you were taught to fear more consequential things, situations that could potentially affect years of your life…failing college entrance exams (or getting less than spectacular grades), losing your job, etc.

You probably even said no to something out of fear for what it might mean for your future. This might have been an opportunity, or even a relationship, where you saw value and potential, but felt something internally that was holding you back…

Start to Confront Your Fear Head-on

Last week, Phil included the following quote in his newest post:

“Your fear is always about what’s going to happen next, it means that your fear is about what does not exist. If you’re suffering the non-existential, we call that insanity.”  ~Sadguru

Think about that for a second.  Your fear is about what does not exist.

Luckily, that means you’re perfectly normal. Everyone feels fear. If an idea or a thing induces fear, it’s because it takes you out of your comfort zone, into uncharted territories and possibilities.

The thing is, when fear of what’s about to happen next becomes the thing that’s holding you back from actually doing what’s going to happen next, you have to think of it as your enemy, as Gandhi did. You want something, but fear (often rooted in that social self-preservation instinct) is stopping you from getting it.

So how do you defeat this enemy? Confront it. The conscious realization that YOU ARE AFRAID is the first step towards freedom from the fear itself.

Kick Your Fear Out and Let Your Greatness Grow

Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out. ~Karl Augustus Menninger

Let’s go back to the difference between self-preservation (a.k.a. doing/not doing something because of your instinct to stay alive) and social self-preservation (when you’re doing/not doing something because of your instinct to save face, no matter how unhappy it actually makes you).

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably well-fed, reasonably educated, and not really a person who is put in truly life-threatening situations on a daily basis. (Unless you’re a firefighter or a deep-sea fisherman or something. In that case, mad props to you.) So don’t worry, you can do this. Confronting your fear won’t kill you!

It’s time to do some self-brainwashing. You’re going to override the hesitant, fearful response in your brain, and make yourself do something outside of your comfort zone. It’s going to be GREAT.

Check out this mantra, and burn it into your memory:

I am afraid of _____. But it’s holding me back from being/doing something AWESOME. I’m going to ______ anyway, because I’m afraid of it.

Follow up: double-check the motivation behind your decisions

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Okay, I know, what El-Roo is talking about is easier said than done. But here’s a super-useful tool that you can use to check if you’re on the road to greatness…

In whatever you’re currently doing, in whatever you’re wavering on, for whatever decision you’re trying to make, is it

FEAR-based

or

LOVE-based

?

As in, when you think about whatever your current situation is, whatever you’re dealing with, are you doing what you are doing because you’re afraid of something? Or are you doing it because you are passionate, hopeful, and love doing it?

When you do a mental check-in while you’re making a decision, you’ll start to recognize the difference between your own fear-based actions and your love-based ones.

Why is this so important?

Because you know this: when you get scared or insecure and say NO, what you’re left with are pesky “what if’s”, regrets, and a feeling that you didn’t step up…You miss out on the opportunity for growth, and just get left with stagnation and a funky feeling in your chest…

When you do step up and say YES, you open yourself to unthinkably awesome experiences, learning, and possibilities…Phil and I agree: something good pretty much comes out of it every single time!

Your turn:

What decision have you made lately that led you to unhappiness or disappointment? Was it something that you didn’t do because you were afraid? Or something you did because you thought you had to / you were afraid of what someone else would think?

Here’s your task: the next time an important situation arises and your confidence or decision-making power wavers, think: am I making this choice out of fear of something that might happen? Or am I doing it because my (insert: brain/heart/soul) feels positive, fulfilled, passionate?

This was my first time writing a post for The Feel Good Lifestyle…I’d love to hear your thoughts! How have you stepped up to the plate lately? What fears have you been kicking out? What advice would you give someone whose greatness is being held back by a little bit of fear?

Please leave a comment below or send me an email at ginger@feelgoodlifestyle.com and fill me in!

Cheers :)
Ginger

About the Author

GingerGinger is a Peak Potentials Coach and the Feel Good Team’s resident nomad. Through her coaching, she helps you navigate major transitions, whether to new locations, new jobs or to new phases in life. Ginger also coordinates with writers for The Feel Good Lifestyle so that you have fresh, inspiring content.

Twitter: @ginger_kern

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Posted on : 26, Jun 2012

29 Comments

  • “I’m afraid of doing this, so I actually have to do it!” – I love this!

    The moment we start associating the feeling of fear with OPPORTUNITY, everything changes.

    Thanks for the post Ginger & I’m excited for you to share more of your wisdom in the months to come!

    • Phil, you’re the one I have to thank! It’s a fantastic feeling to be involved with something that mirrors my lifestyle and pushes me to do even greater things!

  • Yay Ginger! So excited to see your first post on here. You did an amazing job! I love your writing style, and you had some great tips to share.

    Applying for the Co-Pilot position was probably the last time I faced my fear too. Like you, I was filled with doubt before I replied to Phil’s email. I was certain that he’d never choose me, so what was the point in trying?! But then I told myself that you never get anywhere in life if you don’t try. Not applying would be a sure-fire way of not being chosen for the role! So I went for it, and now look at us :)

    I came across the following quote recently that really hit home. Your point about fearing things that don’t exist brought it to mind again:

    FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real

    When I realised that my emotions are actually under my control, it was like a lightbulb had been switched on inside my head. It’s such a revelation to realise that the only things keeping us in fear are our thoughts, and we can change them in an instant.

    • “…my emotions are actually under my control…” Yep, that’s an amazingly important revelation and gives you a good dose of perspective whenever you feel like something is getting out of hand. It’s cliché, but hey, just take a deep breath and you’re right, you’ll be back on track :)

      I’m excited to be working with you (and looking forward to some more great acronyms)!

  • Congrats for being brave enough and becoming a part of TFGL!! :D Love this article! And it’s a very important topic for everybody today.

    I also get caught often in some kind of fear-based moments, sometimes it’s a small fear like doing some new trick in parkour, going on exams, doing something new, going out of my comfort zone… but sometimes it can be a bigger fear like: “did/will I make a good decision about something important”, will I find a job I love, will I find out/become who I wish to be, will I survive in this world…
    it’s not always easy, well ok, it rarely is…but our wish to succeed, to become, to achieve what we want – HAS to be stronger than the fear that stops us. In other words we have to be more afraid of not doing what we want, not becoming what we want, than doing it.

    I always remember one of Brian’s Philosopher’s notes where it was said something like: “To turn fear into excitement all you need is a deep breath” -those two feelings have the same root, and if we take control of it and bring our awareness, fear will turn into pure adrenaline excitement.

    Thanks for this post and from now on I will check every time if my moment or decision is a fear-based or a love-based one. It will help a lot.

    ;)

    • Hey Ivor, thanks for your thoughts! I really like that note — “To turn fear into excitement all you need is a deep breath” — it puts a good spin on the idea of fear as a motivational tool. It’s all a matter of perspective!

      Of course you’re right, it’s not always easy to make those decisions, but hey, easy is boring ;) I’m glad you’ll be using the fear/love check from now on and I hope it helps every time!

  • Great first post, Ginger! I had sent out a random ‘hello’ to Phil a while ago because for whatever reason, he came across my path. And this site will continue to bring value to me with the great team he seems to have assembled. I look forward to your future posts. Well done!

    • Hi Michelle, I guess we did the same thing then, because I also sort of just found myself on the site one day…it’s worked out well so far! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I’m already looking forward to putting together the next one! Thanks for reading :)

  • No offense to Ghandi, Ginger, but I think Yoda said it better: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

    Through examining virtue ethics we learn that Aristotle’s promise is that we become courageous by performing courageous acts. Asking or praying for love or courage or strength is an exercise in futility. What you’ll get instead are OPPORTUNITIES to love, to be brave or to be strong. You can ask or pray for those opportunities but I’m pretty sure life provides plenty trials without the need for divine intervention to assist.

    And as long as I started down the nerd trail with Star Wars and Aristotelian ethics, I might as well top it all off with an exchange from Game of Thrones.

    “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
    “That is the only time a man can be brave.”

    • Hey there, little brother ;) Nice to see that you read my stuff too!

      I like the nerdiness — those references have a lot of value. Trials are the very best ways to prove to yourself that you can do something you previously thought impossible. When the opportunity arises, it’s up to you to show yourself you can and learn from it to prepare you for the next one…

  • I find it so hard to get over that initial reaction to say “no” to something you fear. It’s something that I’m working on, but it’s hard. For example, I was recently asked by a new roommate to go surfing with her and some friends. I’ve never surfed before. So when I was asked, my initial thoughts were along the lines of “I can’t surf”, “it will be embarassing”, “I’ll have to wear a wetsuit and I’m so skinny!” (lol), and so on. But then I thought, no, I HAVE to say yes. This is a great opportunity. It’s outside my comfort zone. When will I get to do this again? This will be fun! Unfortunately, the fear was still there though. So, while I didn’t answer no, I didn’t answer yes either. I basically put off giving a full commitment for a few days. We ended up not going because her other friends had something come up. But I regret not answering her. If I had said yes, the two of us might have went anyway. Or at least I would have said yes. I think it’s good that I at least recognized why I wanted to say no and tried to overcome the fear. Next time, I WILL overcome it!

    • Awesome feedback, Greg! You’re already well on your way to overcoming your hesitation and fear with what you’ve written. I’m confident that you’ve done half the work already by being conscious of your mental process when something intimidating comes up. Next time, you’ll overcome it, and it’ll definitely be worth it! If you want, let me know what happens — just send me an email at ginger@feelgoodlifestyle.com :) Good luck!

  • Hey, Ginger, nice post!

    Wish you the best on your new endeavor! :D

    • Thanks, Ricardo! Great to hear from you, and I hope we get to dance salsa again soon :) In the meantime, there will be more posts coming for sure!

  • Hey Ginger,

    Thanks for the post! I am facing down alot of fears at this point in my life and any positive info and/or feedback is helpful.

    I appreciate your comments and will take them to heart and implement what I can in dealing with my fears.

    • Hey Greg, you’re very welcome! It’s seriously encouraging to hear back from you and everyone else that my ideas can help in some way. If you have any insights yourself, feel free to send me an email…

      I’m proud to hear that you’re facing the fears — keep it up, and let’s see what great things develop!

  • Nice post! I think it is important that you move WITH the fear when you notice it. You welcome it closer and have attitude of acceptance towards it. This way you dont struggle with your mind which creates friction and feeds the fear. When you think “Okay Im scared, but Its totally normal and I let it do what it wants” the fear loses momentum and you see it was a hoax. Observe and embrace so to say :)

    • You hit the nail on the head, Roy. Your thoughts reminded me of Phil’s post on “being like water” – move with the fear, go with the flow, and it’s much easier in the end.

  • It’s wonderful to see you understanding fear and helping others! You are a great communicator.

    Do you remember the phrase “Scarey fun?” I used to use it with you and Richard when you were young. Hence, the energy and excitement you experienced from that phrase propelled you two forward into what you are doing. Most excellent adventurer you are!

    When I was thinking about starting my theater school, I had fear. What if it doesn’t work, what if I can’t do it. How am I going to do this working part-time, going to school-part time, raising children and with mom dying. Then I found on mom and dad’s coffee table “Who Moved My Cheese”. That book is all about moving forward. The phrase that helped me then and helped me with my most recent new job direction was “Do what you want to do AS IF YOU HAD NO FEAR”. That phrase puts the focus on problem solving, moving forward with strong resolve, excitement, committment, imagination and energy.

    Oh yes, even when we age, we have fear, but we recognize its face sooner and turn our backs to it more quickly.

    Keep up the great writing Ginger. I’m so proud of you! Love, Mom

    • “Do what you want to do AS IF YOU HAD NO FEAR.” I love it Deborah. Everyone has fear, the difference in the end is whether we use it to propel us or if it stops us in our tracks. I’ll keep that motto in mind, it’s powerful!!

    • Thanks mom, and I second Phil’s response :) Sometimes pretending can make things true…the practice of pretending not to be afraid actually can help you become unafraid.

  • I find it hard to start something by my own.fear has been holding me back from my childhood,I have good qualities I know,but I am always afraid of people,situations.I am stuck,I don’t know what to do,please help me

    • Hi Edwin,
      If you’ve tried to overcome these deepset fears for a long time and still aren’t able to do so by yourself, perhaps it is really time for someone else to step in and help you navigate this challenge. Please think about sending Phil a message — he does coaching sessions and is, in my opinion, top-quality. I believe he can help if you are open to it.
      Thanks for reaching out – and keep on building up those good qualities :)
      -Ginger

  • Fabulous job, Ginger. What is courage? Being afraid and doing it anyway. Congrats on being courageous enough to overcome your fears and go for it! Wishing you much success. Liza

    • Hi Liza, very cool to hear from you – thanks for the comment! It’s been a fun journey – going for it – and though that initiative has taken a slight dive lately, I can feel it starting up again :) -Ginger

  • Very nice Intro post for TFGL Ginger, welcome!

    I recently kicked fear in the teeth by travelling half way round the planet to make amends with someone I thought I’d never see again!

    And you know what when it came down to it it wasn’t scary at all. The fear of not doing it, of not knowing “what if” is a thousand times worse. In the end it turned out fine :)

    • Totally! The ‘what ifs’ are so much worse — I’d rather try it and fail than regret not trying at all :) Awesome that you kicked your fear out, and for a great reason too! Hope all is well with that person…they’re lucky to know you :) -Ginger

  • Hi Ginger!

    What email can I send my response to? I keep getting it kicked back. Thanks!

    • Hi Anne, feel free to send it over to ginger@feelgoodlifestyle.com (that’s the right one).
      Sorry for the delayed response – we don’t get notifications when someone comments :/
      Otherwise you can find me on my website http://www.gingerkern.com and use my contact form :) Hope to hear from you soon!

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