Thanks to psychology, feelings such as fear often get over-analyzed. That can help, but it can also hurt. When fear trips our triggers it also maxes out all the available emotional bandwidth and we fixate on relief. At that moment, the one thing you must know to overcome your greatest fear…is that you are doing everything right.
Let’s explore that.
Fear and Safety
Fear isn’t a pleasant emotion, but it has a very useful purpose: fear keeps us safe. If the hairs on the back of your neck are standing up, there’s usually a good reason. Imagine what could happen if our insulation against fear was so powerful that we never felt afraid. Fear is the invisible guardrail that makes us lean toward the mountain instead of out over the cliff, makes us grip the handrail a bit harder on steep stairs, makes us look both ways before crossing a street.
We like to think that some fear is irrational. That is, if someone is afraid of something that wouldn’t scare most of us, we blame the scared person rather than the scary thing. If my child is afraid of the dark, it just won’t help to say how silly I think that is. What my child wants is comfort and if I discount my child’s very real feeling all I offer is harm. Much better is to say “The darkness can be a scary place but together we can learn how to overcome that fear.”
Fear: the Motivator
There’s a lot of energy in fear. Powerful responses are energized by fear, from world wars to retirement plans. Fear of darkness has energized movies, novels, plays, art, and music. Fear of falling energizes base jumpers, skydivers, wingsuit flyers, cliff divers, and trapeze artists. And, fear of being old and broke energizes us to save for retirement. Looked at this way, fear doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
Over time, we generally learn to take the advice fear offers us.
But what about your greatest fear…the one you just can’t overcome, even though you’ve tried all your life up until now?
Your Greatest Fear
Whatever it is, it’s your greatest fear. It’s so scary that you choose the safety of avoiding its triggers in any way you can. You avoid talking about it because other people – even friends and family – tell you that you’re being irrational. And, as much as you’ve tried, the only motivation you can get from your greatest fear is the energy to do your best to avoid it.
Avoid, avoid, avoid!
That fear we try to avoid is our greatest fear. No one can force us to face it. Lots of other things don’t scare us, but this one? This is the fear that overcomes us completely, locks us up in a freezing cold sweat, paralyzes our bodies, makes our hearts race, short-circuits our minds.
That’s not irrational. It’s just terrifying. Thinking about it makes my skin crawl as I write this.
It’s supposed to.
But this is all good. Really. Here’s why.
Your Greatest Gift
It is a great gift to be so completely overcome by an emotion. How happy have you ever been? How sad? When you feel joy so fully that it takes over your entire physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being…how wonderful is that? When grief finds you in such a place that you weep for hours…what a cleansing that kind of sadness brings. It’s the same for anger…and fear.
Doing the thing that scares you most – facing the greatest fear you know – is a core self-care practice. Always has been. You can give yourself the gift of complete and utter joy, abject, inconsolable sadness, thrilling rage, and terrifying fear to whatever degree you feel ready to accept. Your built-in superpower is just waiting to do this: human beings are hardwired for it.
People practice this all the time. Gratitude practices have become a popular way to practice acceptance of joy. Meditation practices help us process sadness, anger, and fear. Whole industries exist to practice charity, and that involves all of the primary emotions in various ways. This is how human beings leverage our feelings: we put them to work.
Your greatest gift is the awareness of your feelings. Feeling triggered? How does that feel? Happy? Sad? Angry? Afraid? Let’s use that.
Overcoming Your Greatest Fear
We like to think of overcoming our greatest fear as a one-shot deal, but, once it’s overcome, some other fear will take its place as your Number One Greatest Fear. Sure, the fear once known as your greatest will still be scary – it’s supposed to be – but it will have lost its debilitating hold on you.
Precisely how you choose to overcome your greatest fear is a part of your personal journey only you can discover. There’s plenty of help available from people who have done so, and plenty of inspiration from fictional characters who illustrate the ancient mythology of overcoming their fears.
You Are Not Alone
You aren’t on your own in fear facing. Like much of life, we must train and practice to prepare for the really big stuff, and our greatest fears tick every big stuff box. This is vital to your safety and sanity: reach out for help. A battle buddy can help you learn skills, drill with you, and bring you right to the point where you’re ready and willing to face the fear.
Help could be a life partner, a friend, a therapist, a healer, a colleague, a minister, a sibling. It could be a person, or it could be an app. What this means, for example, is that you don’t necessarily have to jump out of an airplane to conquer the fear of heights; instead, there’s virtual reality, or a free-fall simulator, or standing at the top of the stairs.
The point is that you are not alone in your quest. You may find that simply telling someone you trust that you are actively working to face your deepest fear is enough to unlock what you deserve.
On The Other Side Of Your Greatest Fear
I promise you that life on the other side of your greatest fear is amazing. Trust me: you want what’s there. Fictional heroes inspire us because they always gain the reward of facing their greatest fear. There’s a reason for this: that’s how it happens in real life. We idolize martyrs for similar reasons: Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King Jr, 300 (a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae). Giving one’s life to stand boldly in the face of society’s greatest fears is overcoming them for the rest of us by proxy. Even little Kevin McCallister (in the movie Home Alone) was able to prove that!
The boldness of the example your hero/heroine gives you can give you the courage to overcome your greatest fear. That inspiration, combined with the energy in the fear itself, is enough to make you victorious.
The first victory over your greatest fear is the best! You know now that that fear won’t go away. But as you prove yourself its master over and over again, it will become like an old friend that helps guide you in your life, gently rapping your knuckles from time to time, but always there to lead you on the road to your life’s purpose.
Reminder: You’re Doing It Right
For whatever reason, if you live life without fear, you might be missing out. Fear, like all the primary emotions, is a guardrail for us, keeping us safe, productive, dialed in. Instead of suppressing or ignoring the energy fear brings with it, use it for good.
And remember this: if you’re scared, you’re doing it right. If you’ve identified your greatest fear, you’re really close to a big self-care bonus. You’re ready to cash in on that scary feeling, and this practice – overcoming your greatest fear, then the net one, then the next one – pays off handsomely.
Stuck? Let Us Help.
We all could use a little help now and then! None of us become masters of our greatest fears without inspiration, whether from a parent, sibling, friend, colleague, fellow warrior, fictional character, a real-life hero, or real-life martyr. Building confidence in your fear-busting practice sometimes takes accountability and a fellow traveler. You can do this. And you’re not alone. You can work alongside us to help supercharge your process. Contact us here.
The One Thing You Must Know To Overcome Your Greatest Fear