20 Practical Ways to Kick Fear in the Butt

Hands down, the most common reason I hear from my coaching clients for why they can’t accomplish something is fear.

They may not call it fear directly, but that’s what it is. They are afraid of some perceived bad outcome if they attempt the thing they really want.

And the irony is that the one thing standing between them and what they want in life isn’t really substantive. It is just a feeling, usually without any basis in reality. Most fears are that way — feelings without substance.

If you look back over the fears you’ve had during your lifetime, you’ll probably discover that most of them were unfounded. What you fear either didn’t materialize or wasn’t as bad as you feared.

And here’s another interesting thing about our fears. What we fear most isn’t usually the thing we think we are afraid of. It’s the feelings we have that are associated with the thing we fear.

Here’s an example of what I mean . . .

Like many people, I’m afraid of public speaking. Why am I afraid? Because my nervousness might cause me to perform poorly, I might not be interesting, people might judge me or talk behind my back.

But in truth, these things have rarely happened when I’ve spoken in public, and even when they did, they didn’t cause as much angst as my perceptions and feelings about the situation did. Those embarrassing, bad feelings are really uncomfortable. Especially when I whip myself with them for days and months.

Most of us don’t have to deal with fears of really fearful things — imminent physical danger or catastrophe. And even if those do happen, they are few and far between.

What most of us fear are the feelings that come with the “what ifs” in life.

What if I fail?

What if I look stupid?

What if I lose my job?

What if no one loves me?

If you look at one of the things you fear most and think about it for a minute, you will start to experience the feelings that this fear brings about, even if you aren’t under any immediate threat.

You might feel some anxiety, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, inner distress, sweating, and agitation. And these are not good feelings. We’ll do just about anything to avoid these feelings, including avoidance of something we really want.

Do you see yourself here at all? I think most of us do.

If there were no such thing as fear, consider all of the things you might have accomplished in life. Here are just a few of the things I might have done if fear didn’t exist:

Made more speeches in public!

Left a college that wasn’t a good match for me and gone to one that was.

Establish stronger boundaries with people.

Spoken up for what I wanted more.

Taken more risks.

Traveled more when I was younger.

Had more adventures.

Taken dance classes.

Taken art classes.

Started writing earlier.

I could keep going but you get the idea. I’m sure you have a long list too.

If we could only conquer fear, kick it in the butt, and lay it flat, we could accomplish so much, be so much, enjoy life so much more. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

For anyone who has suffered from debilitating fear and anxiety, I know this is easier said than done. We can have the best intentions of kicking fear in the butt, but when fear latches on, sometimes it can take some work to weaken it.

Here are some practical actions for loosening fear’s grip on your life:

1. Awareness. Just knowing that most of your fears are unfounded can empower you. Look at the fears you’ve had in the past. Have the situations you feared come to pass or really debilitated you? Most of the time the answer is “no.”

2. Kill the root. Dig deep for the root cause of your fears. Once you isolate it, shine the light of inquiry on it. Is this really true? Most of the events or situations that first caused our fears are long gone or no longer relevant.

3. Find the facts. Sometimes researching the facts about something you fear will make the fear more manageable. I lost a friend to ovarian cancer and started fearing that I would get it too. Then I researched the statistics on getting it and saw my odds were slim. I kept those statistics handy when the fear crept back in.

4. Be prepared. If you fear something like public speaking or making a presentation, anything that requires preparation, then do the preparation. Be over-prepared. Practice. Nothing cures fear like being ready.

5. Reframe and retrain. When you find yourself in a cycle of negative, fearful thinking, break the cycle. Wear a rubber band on your wrist and gently pop it to remind yourself to stop the thoughts. Then reframe your thinking by substituting new, positive thoughts to fill the void. Practice this often until it feels natural. You will rewire your brain to think differently, which will change your feelings.

6. Breathe. When you feel the symptoms of fear (heart racing, anxiety, etc.), take 5 minutes to do some slow breathing from your diaphragm. This will help calm your body and mind.

7. Create a vision. Writing down your vision for what you want in life makes it more concrete. Seeing it on paper removes the swirling thoughts from your brain and captures them. Now you can see clearly to define the actions you need to take. They don’t seem so intimidating.

8. Exercise. It makes you feel stronger, clearer, more powerful, and healthier. When you feel good physically, you will feel good mentally.

9. Focus on the task at hand. Occupy your mind with something that you enjoy doing. Get “in the flow” of creativity and focused action. This leaves little room for fear to creep in.

10. Create a plan. If you have a vision, write down every action step it takes to make that vision a reality. Break it down into the smallest possible actions. Small actions aren’t threatening. You can do them easily.

11. Create a calendar. Put your small actions on a calendar so they have a definite deadline. Taking action and seeing that you can accomplish something quashes fear.

12. Unhinge from approval. It took me a long time to realize that I couldn’t keep everyone happy or get their approval. When I tried, I compromised myself. Now I worry far less about what other people think, and it is so liberating! You will never win approval. Be yourself, and those who love you as you are will be those you want around you.

13. Unhinge from perfectionism. Another big realization. Perfectionism is boring, impossible, and draining. Embrace your flaws and laugh at them. They connect you to the rest of the flawed people in the world!

14. Laugh and have fun. If you can take yourself and the world less seriously, you will be able to enjoy life fully. We have this one life, so why spend it worrying and fretting?

15. Connect to something larger. This may be your spiritual life, a cause, or a purpose. Find a way to connect your actions to something meaningful to you. Fear doesn’t tread in these places.

16. Prioritize and simplify. We don’t have time in life to do everything. Often fear and worry enter when we have too much to do and our lives are too complicated. Focus on the top 5 most important things in your life, and give yourself the time to experience them fully.

17. Wait before reacting. Often fear makes us take knee jerk reactions. We might say something we don’t mean. We might make a poor decision. When you encounter fear, force yourself to wait a day before acting. Let the feelings subside. Then you will see that most of your fear is just feeling, not substance.

18. Get inspired. Keep inspirational and motivating books and other materials on hand to help you reframe your thinking and lift you up. Read about people who have overcome their fears and achieved great things.

19. Get support. Build in a system of support and accountability with a counselor or coach who can help you heal and moved past your fears. Taking this step is one of the most proactive things you can do to kick fear in the butt.

20. Count your days. Realizing how many days I likely have left on this planet was a real eye opener. Assuming you live to age 90, count how many days you have left. Do you really want to spend them in fear?

Fear doesn’t have to hold you back. You have an amazing life just beyond the veil of fear. And that veil is thin and vaporous. Do everything in your power to kick fear in the butt. Don’t let it stand in the way of you and everything you were meant to accomplish and enjoy in life. Put these strategies into practice every day, and you will see fear evaporate before your eyes!

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About Barrie Davenport

Barrie Davenport is a life passion coach and founder of BarrieDavenport.com, a site devoted to helping people uncover and live their life passions. She is the author of The 52-Week Life Passion Project.

Comments

  1. One thing to notice is that fear is always of the future or the past. It’s never of the present moment. If you look at a situation with just the sheer facts, it loses its fearful, negative emotional charge.
    Doing EFT(Emotional Freedom Technique) and meditation helps a lot with fear.

  2. Great tips, Barrie. And I love your personal sharing. One I would add for myself is that I would have pursued writing much, much earlier in life. I overcame a lot of fear to become an author. We were born with the ability to stop the damaging effect of a negative thought-habit. We never lose this ability, although we may not use it. The fuel for taking right action is awareness and attending to what we can do for ourself. Yes, we can remove errors of thinking from our mind. I realized it is me, and only me, that can raise my consciousness above the tyranny of doubting thoughts and fearful opinions.

  3. Good article Barrie,
    On thing that I would like to add that goes with most of those recommendations is to let go of memories/experiences in the past that is causing you to have excess fear, like a bad or traumatic experience. When you start to let these go and replace them with positive emotions and change the memory to something more positive, it will lessen the fear even more.

    The best way i’ve found is using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and it’s variations, but with whatever i’ve used i’ve found it important to deal with the memories as they are at the core of your problems.

    -Ben

  4. These are fantastic, Barrie, because they are not superficial. They invite us to engage with the essence of our fear. I appreciate the compassion you feel for people who feel in a stranglehold of fear and your gentle, empowering encouragement.

  5. really motivating and inspiring Barrie
    glad i came across your post today :)

  6. Excellent post on fear, Barrie!

    Fear truly is personal enemy #1! It saps our energy, undermines our confidence and ties us to a past that is unsatisfying — or at least prevents us from attaining a future that is wildly rewarding. You present the perfect set of steps for working through and overcoming our fears, transforming them into areas of competent confidence.

    I used to have public speaking fears myself. But with over preparation, constant practice in the car, while I showered, between projects, and where ever and whenever I could, and pushing myself into public speaking opportunities, with growing competence, it wasn’t too long before I overcame the fear. Now I even make a living speaking in front of classes of people as a teacher, no fear whatsoever.

    Kudos, Barrie, for writing an article on fear that should be required reading for all of us.

  7. Fear is so limiting to us…

    I always paste a smile on my face. Even when I don’t feel like smiling and laughing. It makes me feel happy…dissolves fear. Thanks goodness,we can never experience two emotions at the same time.

  8. Oh, my, any one of these practices would improve our lives tremendously. I especially like the rubber band on the wrist (or something similar) to help us catch ourselves in our negative thinking habits. And the deep belly breathing. All of these are terrific.

    • Hi Galen! So nice to see you here. Yes, those “tricks” are really helpful. After some practice, you don’t need them. You just switch gears the minute you find yourself in those negative thoughts.

  9. I found my own way to conquer fear…it’s like a bungee jumping experience,when I’m too scared to do something that i already calculated the risks and I was sure that it’s goOd for me,I just jump into it then it would b too late to B SCARED:)

  10. Great post, Barrie! I have spent my entire life allowing fear to be in the driver’s seat. And it’s only been in the last year that I’ve been consciously pushing back and started to move through it. What I’ve learned along the way is that each time I say yes to life, the universe steps up to support me and I end up feeling pretty great about myself. When I cower to life, I end up feeling pretty yucky. So that’s why I keep pushing. Sometimes two steps forward and one step back. But I’m moving, which is so important. :) I’m so grateful that we’re on this journey together. ♥

  11. We often worried of the ‘what if’. Try another approach instead – “what if there’s no what if”, you’d probably achieved many things that you dreamed of. Thanks Barrie for the useful tips and I truly think you still can attain all the goals in your list. Give it a go :)

  12. I think it is really important to see if the fear does have substance.

  13. I just heard a new (to me) definition of fear: Forget Everything And Run! – because when we’re in fear, typically our first response is to go into the fight-or-flight mode and we lose our ability to think clearly in the moment. We just want to get away from whatever it is that’s causing the fear!

    To add to your list of action’s for loosening fear’s grip, I like to remind myself of my connection to Spirit, and that in reality I’m an eternal being who is here to experience the adventure of life in time and space, and that actually nothing can harm me except what I give my power to. (Kind of a convoluted description, but I think you get the idea =-))

    • Helen, that is hysterical! Yes it is a fight or flight reaction. But I prefer False Evidence Appearing Real! That one is more truthful. :) I love your addition to the list. Thank you for sharing that.

  14. Everyone will fear of something. Sad but truth, many people even FEAR to face the things that they worry/scare about. They read something great, decide to take action, but FEAR hold them back…

    Regards,
    Dennis.

  15. This is an excellent post with a great group of ideas to move fear out of out lives. Why should we have to live even one single day more in fear of anything. () or 80 or 120, even one more day spent in fear is one more day too many.

    The idea of unhinging is also an excellent one. Just let go of those ideas of needing approval from someone before we live our own lives; now that is a fabulous way to live.

    • Yes it is Michael! We shouldn’t have to live one more day with fear. Sometimes it’s fun to think of fear and excitement instead. See it as an opportunity for something potentially thrilling.

  16. Fear runs in my family … seriously. I grew up watching what fear could do to people so I tend to be hyper aware of those feelings myself. You’ve provided some excellent steps to address fear; my way has always been to simply push back. If I feel anxious or afraid about doing something, I know I need to focus on doing that and keep doing it until I no longer feel the fear.

  17. As a black guy in the IM world, my fear used to be ‘will this people accept me’? But later on, i got to know that if i can provide great values, people will surely accept me and even wanna be my friend.

    Sheyi

  18. Great suggestions! Practice, practice, practice. I have done visualizations where I imagine the particular fear embodied as a person, throw all of the energy of the fear into them, and face it…when you do, you will see it evaporate and often you can laugh at it. Sorry to say I have many of my fears actually manifest and although it wasn’t any fun at all, they do get resolved eventually one way or another and there is tremendous growth to be had in the experience.

    • That is a great way to address fear Julie — personify it and face it. I have had bad things happen too, and those experiences can be the cause of some of our on-going fears. But I think if we reframe the experiences, as you suggest, and see the opportunities for growth, then the fearful event actually becomes an opportunity. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  19. Hi Mike,
    I love that Dennis Waitley definition. It is so true. Writer Byron Katie teaches people to really examine their beliefs around fears to look for that false evidence. It is so powerful. Affirmations are great tools and if used regularly can actually help you rewire your brain. Thank you for sharing this great info.

  20. Denis Waitley says that fear is False Evidence Appearing Real and I subscribe to this. Most of the things we fear never happen and realizing this is the first step to dealing with it, that it really is false evidence. The other way to deal with it is to find a good affirmation to use as an antidote. Whenever fear comes to mind, hit it in the head by instantly calling up your affirmation. This becomes your touchstone to releive the fear.

  21. Ahhh…fear. Fear has been a staple emotion for most of my life. However I crushed fear when I divorced my husband. Now I’m happier than I have ever been.

    When I read your list…I thought about myself and dancing. LOL…dancing. I used to never want to dance, cause I thought I would look stupid and people would laugh. Now, when I’m out with my friends listening to a good band, I just feel the music and tune out anything around me. I feel good and enjoy myself immensely….I guess I’ve concurred that fear, cause recently I was at a political fundraiser that had a band I have enjoyed for years…There were times I was the ONLY one on the floor.
    If I can be on the dance floor alone feeling appreciating the music I love…I guess I can fight through other fears as well.

    Simple…I know. However I think for me is a good example of the joy that comes from letting go of fear.

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