Learning How to Manage Fear

Whether we like it or not, we are all afraid of something. This fear can be about the unknown outcomes of life after college, rejection, long-term commitments or any life impacting event. Fear is embedded in our DNA, acting as a survival mechanism to help keep us safe. However, we often let our fears prevent us from pursuing opportunities that encourage growth and personal development.

Avoiding them like the plague, we typically take on less challenging tasks, immobilizing us from overcoming our fears and tackling difficult challenges. Some of these benefits include gaining a deeper understanding of one’s weaknesses, learning from our mistakes, and taking advantage of life’s resources. Learning how to better manage our fears, we can spend our lives pursuing endeavors that pull us out of our comfort zone, which will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life.

The first step of the process is to embrace each fear. We tend to do the opposite and as college students, the fear of the unknown is always lingering in the back our mind. Yet we choose to avoid them until we are forced to face it in reality. Running away from problems is useless; we have to face them eventually, so facing them now will prevent them from sneaking up later.

After acknowledging one’s fear, it is time to take action. One of my biggest fears is public speaking. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I knew that being able to speak in front of groups of people is a non-negotiable skill for the position. After years of avoiding this fear, I enrolled in a public speaking course to overcome this obstacle placed in my life. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the more speeches I gave, the easier speaking in front of others got.

Develop an optimistic mindset. If and when things are not going as planned, adopting a positive attitude will dramatically increase the likelihood of overcoming any bumps along the way. Look at marriage for an example: a couple would agree that a majority of the time they’re happily married but that there are occasional disagreements and conflicts along the way. The couples that endure these tough times end up happier in life and remain married. Focusing on the bigger picture and overcoming small obstacles reinforces our brains to keep going even when we want to give up.

Our fears are only as big as we make them. Instead of letting them control our lives, we have to take these measures and use them to our advantage. One technique I use to bring my fear to light is by asking myself, “What is something that I’ve always wanted to do or improve but have not done because I am afraid?” Pinpointing that fear has allowed me to make better decisions in conquering my fears and to grow as an individual.