Research into phobias reveals that fear literally distorts our perception. Scientists discovered that people who are afraid of spiders guessed their size as being much bigger than people who weren’t afraid. Crucially, scientists who ran the study point out that this perception of spiders as being bigger than they actually are helps feed the phobia itself.
A discussion of the findings on Sciencedaily.com talks about what this could mean in the wider world. When we are afraid of something, we are much more likely to avoid it. You might say that some fears serve us in that they encourage us to avoid things that have the potential to cause us harm, but it also throws up the possibility that distortions create limitations that hold us back from doing things that could bring benefits.
Fear of ridicule or rejection can stop us making new friends, reaching for our dreams, or even trying to learn something new, for example. Maybe an early experience of being teased in the playground holds us back from trying to make new friends. Over time, we magnify the impact in our minds until we are secretly convinced that if we strike up a conversation with a stranger and they reject our friendliness, it’s the end of the world rather than just the end of one conversation.
Tackle your fears by taking the following steps.
1/Get clear on what scares you the most. Take your journal and write down the very worst thing that could happen. If you’re terrified of job interviews, you might put down ‘I won’t get the job’ ‘They will hate me’ ‘They will tell everyone they know that I’m useless and I’ll be a joke everywhere’.
2/Challenge your worst case scenario. Is it really true? Carrying on with the above example, people go for job interviews all the time and survive, even if they don’t get the job. Maybe they won’t offer you the job, but is that really the end of you or the end of everything?
3/Put down the best thing that could happen if you overcame your fear. At the very least, you can learn something from every experience that you have. There is always a positive spin you can put on every worst case scenario. As a friend said after discovering her partner was unfaithful, ‘I thank God I discovered that and got out. Better that than spend a lifetime with someone who was willing to cheat on me.’
4/Take baby steps. Even though I led workshops when I was younger, I had developed a fear of public speaking. Filming my free astrology videos helped me feel comfortable about speaking, even though it is to an invisible audience. Then I gave a talk for the local Women’s Institute. And from there I gathered the confidence to lead a packed out workshop on Quantum Creating at the 2011 Winter Mind Body and Spirit Festival.
One of the most influential books I have ever read was Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. She points out that if we are constantly challenging ourselves to grow, then we are always pushing outside of our comfort zone. Getting comfortable outside of our comfort zone means that we are free to tackle anything.
Have you overcome a fear, and if so, how did you do it? Share your stories here and inspire someone else to stretch beyond theirs!
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