Facing your fears: Overcoming the things that scare you the most
Medically reviewed by Tonia Cassaday
Everyone has something they’re scared of, even the strongest, bravest people do. Fear is a natural part of the human psyche, and though it’s not entirely possible to completely eliminate fear, it is possible to master your fears. Learning your fears involves confronting them head-on and working to understand them. If you practice facing the things that scare you, you’ll develop better ways to manage that fear in your daily life, no matter what scary thing arises. This is the true goal of overcoming your fears, identifying them, understanding them, and managing them in a healthy, productive way.
Why facing your fears is good for you
When it comes to fear, most people’s initial response to facing the thing they’re afraid of is to continue avoiding it! It’s a natural reaction to want to avoid contact with the thing or situation you’re afraid of. After all, that’s how fear works! But, if your fear is of something that doesn’t make logical sense (i.e., you’re not in imminent danger), then facing your fears can help you build your confidence and live a fuller and more fulfilling life.
One of the most significant advantages of facing your fears is that you’ll develop courage in all areas of your life, and not only when it comes to facing the thing you’re afraid of. Whenever something happens that’s concerning, or that touches on other fears, no matter how major or minor, you’ll be better equipped to deal with your emotions and physical responses to the fear (or anticipation). Also, when you face your fears, you’ll cultivate compassion. When you recognize and confront your own weaknesses and fears with love and respect for yourself, you’re more likely to start working with other people in the same way, whether it be a loved one, employee, boss, or even just a person on the street.
So how do you begin to face your fear? If you’re afraid of something, there’s going to be resistance! You’ll have to develop a well thought out plan for facing your fears, and it never hurts to have the support of those around you. This article explores some of the best ways to overcome the things that scare you the most.
How to face your fears
There are many, many ways to begin overcoming a fear. The way that each person approaches the overcoming of fear is different and very personal. However, there are still a few specific methods and techniques that are particularly useful. Let’s take a look at some the best, most effective ways to confront a fear:
Actively engage with or think about the fear
Depending on the fears, this may be more or less difficult to actually do, and depending on the intensity of the fear, you may need to start by approaching the fear for only 2-3 minutes at a time. As a more tangible example, someone with a fear of spiders might read a book or a web article about spiders. In contrast, someone with glossophobia, a fear of public speaking, might sit and imagine being in front of a large group of people while presenting on a topic. A study published in Science in 2019 demonstrated that mice had to be re-exposed the thing they were afraid of to overcome it once and for all; this study indeed advocated for the need to actively engage with a phobia to be able to successfully overcome it.
There are some essential things to remember when you’re actively engaging with the thing, though or situation that scares you. First of all, remember that you can always take a step back from the fearful situation to take a break. Second, remember to reward yourself after confronting your fear by engaging in a pleasant and enjoyable activity that will help you relax. This could be taking a bath, reading your favorite book, spending time with loved ones, or even something like cooking or baking
Have a sense of humor
So often, the reason why our fears rule us is that we fail to see the humor in our fear or in the situation in general. Being able to laugh in the face of fear is simultaneously a form of self-acceptance as well as a remedy for phobias. One practice is to think of the worst-case scenario or to blow a fear way far out of proportion. Frequently, the fear is already out of proportion, and extending it to include ridiculous scenarios can help encourage humor and a more lighthearted approach toward management of the fear. Many ancient mythologies and cultures had demons or monsters that were warded off simply by a peal of honest laughter, owing to the idea that humor goes a long way when it comes to overcoming your fears.
Learn from your fear and anxiety
One thing that’s commonly overlooked regarding fear and anxiety is that, often, the fears have something to teach us. Many people who suffer from phobias have some core, underlying set of beliefs, life events, or thought patterns that fuel the fear. By taking the time to try and honor the fear by learning about it and trying to understand it, you’ll not only learn more about yourself and how your brain works, but you may also have some powerful revelations in the process. Ask your fear what it has taught you and what it can teach you in the future.
It’s important to have courage in dealing with fear and approaching the fear from the standpoint of wanting to learn about it and understand it is a form of courage and strength. Being able to acknowledge that the fear can be instructive and also that you’re strong and wise enough to learn what it has to teach you is a powerful thing. Although it might seem counterintuitive to honor fear in this way when you give the fear the respect it deserves and try to learn from it while you overcome it, the fear is no longer in charge. You and the fear become equals, and suddenly, you’re back in control of your life and your situation.
Explore the fear with courage, and you might be surprised by what you find!
Give yourself the care you deserve
While you’re working on overcoming your fears, it’s vital to continue a healthy routine of self-care. Facing your fears is difficult, and you may need a bit of extra time each day to nurture your mind and body. The human body manifests a physiological response in the face of fear of any kind, so it’s only natural that after facing your fears, you may need to wind down and relax. At the same time, though it’s essential to give yourself a proper amount of restful time, it’s also important to get enough exercise and movement during the day! Exercise releases endorphins and helps your body and mind to feel good. Create a routine that works for you.
Talk to a therapist
Lots of people believe that only people with severe phobias need to go to a therapist to resolve their fears. Still, in reality, anyone with a fear of anything can benefit from talking to an expert in the subject. There are many kinds of therapists who work with phobias with great success. Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves a technique called “desensitization,” more often referred to as exposure therapy, to treat and manage fears by gradually exposing the patient to the fear over some time. Hypnotherapy is another popular method for understanding and overcoming fears that’s become more well-known over the past decade.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves regular talk therapy as well as other specialized techniques that target the fear directly; hypnotherapy, in contrast, works with the patient’s innermost thoughts, feelings, and experiences to find the root cause of the fear and reframe the situation so that the fear doesn’t exist anymore. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy are effective in treating phobias, and it’s up to the patient which method they choose if they decide to get therapy to overcome their fears. Most often, with either therapy, the patient will need to attend more than one session.
Facing your fears is tough, and for some people, it can be a long journey. But the journey is well worth it because the lessons you learn and the courage you gain will stay with you for life. Overcoming a phobia is a powerful and rewarding experience with many rewards along the way. It’s okay to have fear, but it’s also okay to realize that you’re in control and that you have the power and strength to overcome it!
If you’re currently struggling with a phobia, contact us at BetterHelp to get started. Our team of licensed therapists work with phobias regularly and can help you overcome your fears more quickly and effectively. Send us a message today to set up your first appointment!**