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We Have Been Told to Face Our Fears But How Do We Actually Do It

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

by Ika Sulastri. |

Everybody has their own fears. Fear of committing to that side hustle, fear of leaving that toxic person, fear of saying “no” to people and the list goes on. Throughout the course of our lives, we are told to face our fears. Quit that job, leave that person, just say “no”. But we often find ourselves hesitant to take the much-needed action.

People tell you to face your fear, but nobody tells you exactly HOW to do it.

It’s a fact that fear is part of our built-in mechanism to ensure better survival. Our brains love what-if games so much because it's a natural instinct and what we've thought all our lives, in school and at home. It continually weighs various decisions and looks for the most stable and secure choice. Your brain would love for you to stay on the path of least resistance.

Having a secure job feels better than rowing down the unknown path. Having someone to call is better than leaving that person, no matter how toxic the relationship gets. Your mind will do its best to convince you to take the safe choice—at least you can anticipate the outcome, who wants surprises anyway? This always-prioritize-safe-choices mindset has made us so afraid of the unknown that sadly most of us do not fight it. You could’ve been destined for a much bigger thing, but you let it go—fear got to you first.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain got this right. The fact is, most of your fears won’t even happen. When was the last time your fear came true? Almost never. It only occurs in your mind.

The thing is, we are just too quick to agree with our fears.

What if you can’t pay the bills if you quit that job?

What if you will be lonely and sad if you leave your toxic partner?

What if no one cares about your passion and there’s no market for it?

I get it. It is scary, the worst-case scenario might come true. You are afraid that you can’t handle the rough situation. The thing is, you’ve never sat on it long enough to see that there are many other options.

We are an emotional species; we are more easily swayed by our emotions. You can’t really see that if the worst thing happens, you could take a barista job to keep you afloat while you work on your dreams. Elon Musk, the billionaire of our time, in his early years while working on his passion, lived on $1 every day for quite some time.

“My threshold for existing was pretty low, so I figured I could be in some dingy apartment with my computer and be okay and not starve.” - Elon Musk

This is what he said. He realized that he can do anything he wants because it doesn’t take much to live and turn his dream into reality.

Elon Musk is human, and so are you. You should realize that you can almost do anything you want too.

Chances that you will become homeless are close to zero. You’re going to be okay. If you leave that toxic person, you might be emotionally scarred in the first few months, but you’ll be fine after a while. Time heals. As for any passion, if you’re passionate enough, people will pay attention to your craft—given that you do it well enough and with your utmost effort. So, what are you afraid of?

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” - Seneca

You don’t need to fight the fear at once. Facing fear can be a step-by-step confrontation.

Professor Albert Bandura of Stanford University calls it guided mastery. In 1969, he designed an experiment to help people overcome their snake phobia. In the test, the subject was told that there was a snake in the next room. Then, the subject was asked to watch the snake through a one-way mirror that was connected to the room where the snake was. After a while, the subject was asked to enter the room, gradually bringing themselves closer to the snake that was in a glass cage. Lastly, they were asked to wear a glove and touch the snake. The result? Most of them cooed about how beautiful it was. Not only did they banish their fear, but most of them also reported that the experience had increased their confidence in overcoming problems. This guided mastery can be applied to other fears too.

You might be hesitant to leave your day job and work on your side hustle. Start by taking a week off and imagine yourself doing your side hustle for a living. Perhaps you might want to try that part-time job, in case that’s the only way to get more time to work on your side hustle. Take a step-by-step confrontation of your fear, until you can really feel that there is nothing scary about it.

Define your fear and conquer it. What you need to do is:

1. List down your fears. Objectively, think of the worst thing that could happen.

“It is the fear of unknown outcomes that prevent us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it and do it.” -Tim Ferriss.

2. List down the possible antidote for each situation. Instead of succumbing to your fear, look at the problem rationally instead of emotionally. Instead of thinking about fear, think of a solution.

3. Imagine if you do not take the steps to do what you need to do, what would happen in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years? Would you be okay standing still, or would you rather see where it goes?

“What we fear doing the most is usually what we most need to do.”

– Tim Ferriss

In the end, you’ll realize that the price of inaction is far higher than that of taking action.

Know your fear, acknowledge it, then conquer it.

You may find out more about Ika on her Instagram too.

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