How to Be Fearless — Courageously Meet Challenges Head On
Public speaking…heights…revealing true feelings…snakes…what do these have in common? They all generate fear in the hearts of many people. Children seem to be fearless, but over time, we collect our own unique set of fears. What you fear and why, will not match up with what I fear. But the good news is we can all learn how to be fearless, in the sense of not letting unreasonable, out-of-control fears keep us small.
What is fear and how can we be fearless?
Fear is an internal warning system about a perceived, imminent threat. It involves your physiological responses (heart palpitations, sweaty palms, shallow breathing) to messages flooding your brain (you’re in danger of being eaten, hit, embarrassed, falling, failing). Fear can easily become a loop that triggers the fight or flight response, even when you wish it wouldn’t.
By seeing fear as information, we can develop a relationship with it; have a conversation with it, as it were.
To live a life of well-being we cannot remove all fear from life. We do need to know when we’re truly in danger. Being fearless happens when we’re able to identify whether our feelings of fear are serving us, and if not, we can work with them until we can courageously move forward.
People usually “manage” fear in three different ways.
- Give in to it. (This technique embeds fear, so it worsens.)
- Pretend it doesn’t exist. (This creates an inner conflict and exacerbates the consequences.)
- Mindfully examine what fear is telling you and extinguish it. (This allows you to thank your warning system for keeping you safe, and telling yourself that you’ve got this!)
Since fear requires such an immediate response — you may squeak, jump, run or say something inappropriate before you have an opportunity to think. Don’t let that embarrass you. Re-center yourself and consider what you’ve just learned. It takes practice to be able to employ curiosity and listening to your body and mind, as you become more resourceful and courageous.
- Does the fear alert me to a real and immediate danger to my well-being?
- Does the fear alert me to a real and unwelcome consequence?
- Is the fear replaying a “remembered” story that no longer serves me?
- Is the fear identifying a boundary in my comfort zone that I wish to grow?
By acknowledging the sensations you feel in your body and learning to recognize what fear may be trying to tell you, you will feel more in control.
When our fears are generated by interactions with other people, we can often trace our fears to how we think they will react (get angry, hate us, reject us, hit us, fire us) and how we will respond (self-condemnation for getting it wrong, crying, being judged, losing control, missing out on something.)
That’s when you really want to listen to your fears and put in enough appropriate safeguards to make the leap, such as:
- Breathe deeply, calm down and relax your posture. (The other person will unconsciously mirror your actions.)
- Identify what really frightens you about the situation. (This reveals if the threat is real or imaginary.
- Imagine how they might feel threatened. (Could they feel challenged, inadequate, unloved?)
- Visualize a positive outcome you want from the situation. (This shifts your thoughts.)
- Identify a win-win for you and the other person. (You don’t want to win the fight and lose the battle.)
- Form your intentions. (I intend to maintain this relationship. I intend to speak courageously. I intend to listen with love.)
- Employ good communication skills to respectfully describe how important this relationship is to you, but also how you are presently feeling.
- Listen to, without judgment or internalizing, how they are feeling in return. (How they feel is about them, not you.)
At each stage of this process, notice how you’re breathing and feeling and how your thoughts are shifting. Are you breathing more deeply? Are you more relaxed? Are you thinking more positively?
Would you like further training on how to be fearless in your business or personal life? Within my coaching, you’ll find a variety of somatic techniques that are invaluable for managing emotions, communicating effectively and maintaining healthy relationships. If you’d like to learn more, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation by phone or via Skype. I’d love to help you learn embodied self-leadership to free you to explore a world of possibilities.