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Taking Fear From Foe to Friend

Learn how to use your fear to motivate you to embrace new experiences
Photo: Shutterstock

Dictionary.com defines fear as: “A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined…”  It is that “imagined fear” that holds dominion over many people.

Fear can derail careers, challenge relationships, and rock the very essence and foundation of who you are. If you’re not careful, fear will create a climate of missed opportunities and crushing disappointments, blinding you from discovering your authentic self and your potential to live a life of excellence—to live your dreams. Essentially, unchecked fear can be the ultimate door closer.

But what if you could transform your fears into a force propelling you forward toward positive action? What if your relationship with fear could shift from something you dread into a welcome friend, life motivator, and a source for endless adventure?

The good news is that your ability to change your emotional relationship with fear rests entirely with you. You can transform this emotion from one that creates stress, frustration, and anxiety into a source of anticipation and excitement.

Five Steps to Transform Your Fears

The following five steps will put you in the driver’s seat to reclaim your power and transform your fears. 

Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” 

—Napoleon Hill

Step One: Acknowledge and Accept Fear

Acknowledging and accepting your fear is the first step toward limiting its power over you. Acknowledgement requires you to admit that you have fears, and acceptance requires you to realize their power. Congratulations, you are human! We all have fears, but the ways they affect our lives depends on the relationship we choose to create with them.

  • Don’t be a Denier. Deniers bury their fears so deeply that the fears often go unrealized, gaining an unknown power over the Denier. The danger is that at any moment, the Deniermay be confronted by their formerly hidden fears, which seem to come out of nowhere, overwhelming the person’s thoughts, decisions, and actions. Just because you deny them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
  • Don’t be a Pretender. Pretendersadmit their fear, butrely on their ability to vanquish, destroy, eliminate, and ultimately control it. They live under the misguided belief that they can make fears disappear. The problem arises when the fear the Pretender thought was destroyed comes back with a vengeance at an inopportune time. As with the Denier, that re-emerged fear can affect thoughts, decisions, and actions, potentially placing the person on the pathway to unwittingly forfeit their dreams.

Once you acknowledge the existence of your fear and learn how to address it productively instead of fighting it, you reclaim some of your power over it.

Step Two: Find Your Fear’s Origins  

  • Determine where your fear originates and gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Knowing “the why” is a power diffuser. Is your fear based in lack of self-worth, self-love, self-doubt, rejection, or feelings of failure, or trepidation of success? If so, where did this emotional trigger come from? Examine the negative assumptions you are making and determine their source. This could be a childhood experience, something someone said that you internalized, or some other event that created a negative self-assessment, which in turn is creating a fear. Knowledge is power, and it places you on the pathway toward healing.
  • Take action to heal your fears’ origins. Healing comes through loving yourself and seeking a deeper and richer understand of your authentic core. In my book, Yes! Commit. Do. Live, I explain, your  “passions, loves, talents, gifts, and desires, along with your character values, all inform and empower you.” These elements form your inner core. So let your fears reveal more of this inner core and show you something important that you may not have recognized. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, a deep dive into your inner core could unearth your talent for storytelling, listening, and using empathy to connect with others. Nurturing those talents, which are all components of a great public speaker, would empower you to meet your public speaking fear. So, use that inner core power to meet and ultimately tame your fears.
Step Three: Focus on the Positive

  • First, ask yourself what opportunities and adventures are now presented due to the fear that has arisen. What possibilities for building new talents and skills are now open that were previously closed to you? Write them down and celebrate them as “what can be,” and then start envisioning them as “what is.” For example, that fear of public speaking could be preventing you from experiencing new opportunities in your career, family, and friendships that could change your life.By focusing on the positive aspects of what can be and the emotions that flow from that positive outlook, you shift your mindset away from negative thinking.
  • Second, remember that negative thinking is often at the core of our fears. Without facts or evidence, we allow negative thoughts to paralyze us and convince us that defeat/disaster is inevitable. By choosing to focus on the positive outcomes we can gain from facing the challenge, we gain power over negative thinking.

As a state and federal prosecutor, I was afraid at the beginning of every trial. What if I didn’t succeed? What if I made a mistake? However, none of these fears were based on facts. By focusing on creating a positive outcome for the victim and empowering them through the trial process, I could move forward through my fear. According to Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman in Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversations Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy, a single positive or negative word can actually alter our brains. There is neurological power in positive thinking, so the time is now to live in the positive.

Step Four: Transform the Feelings

  • You can use your body’s responses to gain more control of your fears. What happens to you when fear arises? According to MedicalNewsToday, for some people, their limbs shake, their breathing becomes shallow, their mouths get dry, and their hearts race. While these reactions may on the surface seem negative, those physical manifestations are tied to the excitement of the moment.
  • Once you are aware of your fear responses, redefine them. Remember, there is power in positive-thought realignment. When I left the practice of law to begin a singing career, during my early musical auditions, I was confronted with the physical manifestations of fear. I had a choice. I could allow those manifestations to derail my singing career, or I could retrain my brain and body to create a new understanding of what those manifestations represented. I chose the latter—and you can, too. Here’s how:

Redefine those manifestations and repeat the new definition continuously until they feel real. Repeatedly tell yourself this new positive understanding:

  • My body’s shake is the energy surge that fuels my excitement.
    • My shallow breathing is my body’s signal to slow down and take in rich oxygen.  
    • My rapid heart rate is my body’s preparation on a cellular level to ready me to step into my excellence.

Visualize your success over your fear and allow the positive emotions that flow from that success to flood your body, head to toe.

Find your calm and peace the “DDB” way—engage in deep diaphragmatic breathing. At each fearful moment, use the5-5-5-5 breathing pattern: Inhale for a count of five, hold for five, exhale for five, and repeat for five. This practice allowed me to stay present and focus on the beauty of the moment.

Reset those feelings further by recording your successes and focusing on each time you were able to feel the fear and do it anyway. I allowed every positive audition to reinforce my new positive understanding of my body’s response to each exciting opportunity.

This process of transference turns negative thinking positive.

Step 5: Look at Fear as Your Friend and Celebrate It!

Fear is an extension of ourselves. It moves us. It represents a chance for a beautiful life transition. Fear offers an opportunity for immense growth and introduces us to new and wonderful challenges. It can be a gateway to the most beautiful, exciting opportunities, helping you to unleash talents and unearth new passions.

By taking the preceding steps, you are able to tame your fears. Remember, fear is not a villain, so there is no need for an epic battle. Instead, fear requires a relationship with yourself. It is a welcomed companion, a catalyst for change to constantly challenge your status quo.

So, the next time you feel fear, ask, “What opportunity lies on the other side?” Challenge yourself to live through it. Do what makes you shake! Do what makes you shy away! It may not be easy, but it’s essential for continued breakthrough as you journey to your highest state of excellence.

When you’re willing to feel the fear and move forward anyway, you position yourself to truly write your story, live your purpose, elevate your thoughts, visualize your success, and live a life without regret and with passion, laughter, self-determination, and endless optimism.

About The Author
Lisa Charles

Lisa is the CEO of Embrace Your Fitness, LLC, a health and wellness consultancy, and has been named the fitness/wellness research coordinator for the Rutgers University Aging & Brain Health Alliance. She is an author, speaker, consultant, and certified health coach and transformational trainer. Lisa was on the fast track as a federal prosecutor and civil rights coordinator in New Jersey when she left her law career to pursue a singing and acting career. When she lost her singing voice, she again pivoted and found her passion helping others find health and wellness. Lisa is also the author of Yes! Commit. Do. Live: Embrace the Brain-Body Connection to Achieve Your True Desires.