If you have anxiety, fear is always close by. You worry and fear about what might happen, what others will think, about all the possible ways you can fail. When you have anxiety, fear is your constant companion.
Fear can keep you stuck in situations. Suppose you aren’t happy with your job but the idea of going on interviews scares you. Instead of sending out resumes, you resign yourself to being unhappy. You would rather stay there than face the fear of sitting in an interview. Or, you might have a fear of talking to people you don’t know. You accept being alone because it is easier than facing your fear and meeting new people.
One of the typical responses to fear is avoidance. You avoid eye contact with others in the hopes of avoiding conversation. You don’t send out the resumes because then you don’t need to go on an interview. You keep to yourself at work, talking to your co-workers only when necessary to avoid facing the possibility they won’t like you. You always stay close to home to avoid the possibility of getting lost. Avoidance tends to make situations look even scarier than they really are.
Facing your fears and acting despite your fears is the best approach but this is very difficult, especially if your fears have driven your behavior for many years. The following are some tips to help you get started facing your fears. Remember, everyone is different - some ideas might work for you and others may not. Choose one or two approaches to try. If you find they don’t work (be sure to give it time to work), try a different approach.
Write down your fears. Be specific. Sometimes seeing your fear in writing gives you control over the fear rather than the other way around. Choose one fear to confront at a time. Some people find it helpful to start with the fear that most disrupts their life. Other people might choose a lesser fear, something that is more easily confronted to help build their confidence. Choose the way that works best for you.
Review your expectations for the situation. Do you believe a situation, or you, is a failure if everything doesn’t work out perfectly? Do you worry that one mistake will make you a failure? Many people with anxiety are perfectionists and become paralyzed with the fear of imperfection. Modify your expectations to more realistically fit the situation.
Develop an action plan. Sometimes you can overcome your fears one step at a time. You don’t have to face a fearful situation all at once. Break your action plan into small steps, for example, if your fear is going on interviews, start by reading about successful interview skills then ask friends or relatives to practice with you. Making progress doesn’t mean you have to conquer your fear all at once.
Remember that bravery and courage doesn’t mean fearless. Many people see those who are brave or courageous as people who have no fear but bravery and courage come from having fear and doing anyway. Take that first step despite your fear and you are also brave and courageous.
Rewrite the story in your mind. Fear often appears because of the scary stories you make up in your mind. You create these stories and you have the power to change them. Rewrite the story giving yourself confidence to take the first step. Imagine your success.
Be mindful. Fear comes from reliving past failures or imagining future failures. Take a few moments to bring yourself back to the present moment. Focus on where you are right now. Take a deep breath and remember that in the current moment you are fine.
Think about your past successes. When you live with a fear of failure, chances are you focus more on times of perceived failure in your past. You probably have many successes that you choose to ignore. List ten successes from your past and focus on those when you are feeling fearful.
Track your progress****. If you wrote down your fears, keep track of the steps you took to overcome each fear. Write down how you controlled the fear or whether you took action despite the fear. As you start to notice that you can overcome your fears, they hold less power over your life.
For more information on overcoming anxiety and fear:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.