How I Conquer My Biggest Fear and How You Can Conquer Yours

Confession time: I’m a people pleaser and I share one of women’s top three fears — the fear of not being liked. It’s enveloped into the fear of failure, the fear of not reaching others’ standards and my own unrealistic ones, and also the fear of judgment and criticism.

Any fear strips away your confidence and prevents you from achieving career success, so make it a priority to continually work toward overcoming your fears. The goal is not necessarily to conquer your fears once and for all; as Mark Twain once said, “courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear,” so I conquer my fears daily by using one of two strategies, depending on the situation:

  1. Distraction: Focus on Others
  2. No man is an island and Dr. Dan Siegel, author and award-winning professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, explains the importance of generosity in the following video:

    YouTube Preview Image

    Dr. Siegel mentions that, “it’s as if you actually become a larger person by focusing on another person.” The longer-lasting eudaimonia that’s produced from acts of social kindness is a kind of happiness associated with a sense of purpose that outshines our self-absorption.

    I hit an all-time low in Japan when I was assigned to conduct therapy with a teenage girl diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Not only did I feel like an amateur with only six months of training, but I was also the only foreigner at a campsite isolated from society and I didn’t feel comfortable speaking Japanese yet. I lay in my mattress every evening with tears rolling down my cheeks, wishing I could escape somehow, until I realized that this wasn’t about me or my fears. The camp was about helping people with developmental disabilities, so I rode that wave of giving and left feeling empowered by all of my patient’s improvements and all I had learned.

    Focusing on others takes the attention and pressure away from yourself to help you gain perspective on life. You and your fears are just a speck on this earth — you can let your fears consume you and implode or you can give back to the world and set off a chain reaction of positivity. One of the core beliefs of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley is that doing good is essential to happiness and it’s exactly this happiness that can give you the boost you need to face your fears head on.

  3. Dialogue: Play Devil’s Advocate
  4. Day-to-day fears are often exaggerated or downright irrational. These are the fears that disintegrate in the face of logic. Be realistic as you play out what would actually happen if you faced your fears, and continually question your assumptions.

    The following is a snippet of the conversation I had with myself before I decided to come to Peru to live indefinitely:

    • Everyone will be really disappointed in me if I move to Peru.
    • What are the consequences if they’re disappointed in me? They may talk about me negatively, but those are just sticks and stones and the people who judge often move on with their lives.
    • What’s the worst that could happen? I decide I want to move back to Canada.
    • What if I change my mind? I’ll save a little extra money for a plane ticket back home if I need it.
    • What happens if I don’t go? I could miss out on an a key opportunity to continue searching for my passion.
    • What really matters to me? A simpler and more relaxing lifestyle.

    Eventually, I reached a point expressed best by the basketball star, Michael Jordan: “There was never any fear for me, no fear of failure. If I miss a shot, so what?” I always pick myself up if I make a mistake.

    The questioning and conversation can go in circles and that’s okay because the idea behind this tactic is not to find a solution, but to diminish your fears. It’s a strategy used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a common psychotherapeutic treatment for anxiety, panic and fear. The more you question your fears, the more you come to realize that they’re illogical and the more realistic you can be as you decide on what action to take.

What other strategies do you use to conquer your fears?

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  1. Vinny t
    Posted June 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I’d recommend total immersion therapy for conquering fears. That is, facing them over and over again instead of avoiding or running away from them has proved an effective means of reducing and overcoming ones anxiety.It can take a lot of courage to do this, but who says life has to be easy? And this method really works for conquering anxiety:)

  2. Posted June 13, 2011 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Immersion therapy works for a lot of people, Vinny! =) It neutralizes the fear. =) Sounds like you’re an expert and maybe this is one of your secrets to success? =)

  3. Posted June 14, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I believe all women fear a loss of security! Enjoyed!

  4. Posted June 15, 2011 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    Great post Samantha. I’ve always found that once I finally talk myself into doing something I’m afraid of,or normally wouldn’t do I come out of it feeling more accomplished and sure of myself. Brings the self esteem up a notch and makes me want to try new things and “think outside the box” more, so to speak.

  5. Robyn C. Jackson
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    this is great! Especially for someone who like me who has recently started her journey to stop living in fear. Thanks for suggesting it!

  6. Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    *Phew!* Thanks so much for identifying with me, Carolyn! =)

  7. Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Yes! That’s exactly the feeling, Sandy! Somehow, the feeling of overcoming fears is unmatched and sure gives us a confidence boost! Thanks so much for commenting! =)

  8. Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    YAY! I’m so glad it could somehow be an extra supportive piece for your new and exciting journey, Robyn! =) And thanks so much for commenting! =)

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