Fear Free

“Jump and a net will appear.” ~Sally Hogshead

Are you afraid of something?

If you are, you probably aren't — afraid of something. Whatever you are afraid of probably doesn't exist. I could end this post now, and it would be life changing if you embrace the truth that the something doesn't exist.

More than 99% of the time, our fears are just stories we tell ourselves. They are stories we make up because creating stories becomes a habit. Then the habit turns us into victims — victims of our own creation with unchallenged thoughts and dire predictions. We become zombies shuffling through life wearing smudged glasses, viewing the world with a filter of darkness and fear. It drains our energy, our joy for life.

We don't realize how easy it is to take off the glasses and wake up. It's really easy to be fear free, but it's hard to believe that when we are sitting and soaking in a cesspool of fear (or anger, depression, anxiety, and other agents of fear).

I went through a very fearful and anxious period of my life. I was afraid of shadows and non-events, but my fears felt very real and solid to me. My fears were a trap, a prison with an unlocked door that I couldn't seem to walk through. Once during this time, my sister said to me, “just fall backward and let the universe catch you.”

That made sense to me. It was like being a kid and playing the game where someone stands behind you as you fall backward. You must trust that they will catch you. They usually do. And when they don't, all you do is stumble backward a little bit.

Here's the exciting truth about fear.

Fears are like bullies. When you stand up to them, they run away. When you challenge them, they melt and dissipate. When you take bold action, they can't keep up with you.

What is it that we fear anyway?

We fear failure, but what we really fear is the appearance of failure. We fear judgment and disapproval from others. We only need to approve of ourselves.

We fear aging, but we are really afraid of our perceptions of getting older and losing our youth. Life is beautiful at any age.

We fear change, but we really fear uncertainty, ambiguity, and disruption. We miss all of the possibility in change.

We fear loss, but we don't perceive all we have right now and can have in the future.

We fear death, but we are alive now,  and we really don't know what death means for us anyway.

The only elements of fear that are real are the uncomfortable feelings that accompany being afraid — the anxiety, tension, circular thinking, and unpleasant physical symptoms. These feelings are so awful that we will continue to avoid the perceived cause of our fear just so we don't have to feel bad any longer.

But by doing this, we are prolonging our agony.

  • Avoidance doesn't cure fear.
  • Feeling the fear and doing it anyway doesn't cure fear.
  • Finding a temporary solution to the perceived cause doesn't cure fear.
  • Taking pills doesn't cure fear.

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, just as the Wicked Witch of the West is about to kill Dorothy and her friends, Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her. “You vaporized her,” shouts one of the guards. All of the witch's “beautiful wickedness” melts away forever, leaving just a steaming heap of clothes and an empty hat.

This is how you become fear-free. You throw water on fear. You vaporize it. You don't have to wait for fear to overwhelm you, imprison you, or lock you in a fairytale story.

You can melt your fear right now.

Challenge your thoughts

Whatever you fear, challenge your fear with facts, with evidence to the contrary. Just because you think something doesn't make it true. You don't have to keep believing your story or accepting your fear-fed limitations.

Take practical action

If your fears have some validity, then take the necessary actions to mitigate the potential problem. Do whatever you can realistically do, and then let the cards fall where they may. The resulting fallout is rarely as bad as you fear and often brings with it something positive.

Drop the need for approval

So many fears hinge around our need for approval from others. Let go of this need for outside approval and just approve of yourself. Once you do that, you will vaporize a plethora of fears.

View life as a fun adventure

Instead of dreading events or fearing outcomes, view life as a wild and fun road trip. You never know what will be around the corner — maybe something wonderful, maybe something difficult. But the scenery is always changing, and we are always learning and growing. Even the hard times, the times we might fear, can be brimming with intensity and beauty.

Adopt a fall back attitude

Fall back and let the universe catch you. Just embrace a “what the hell” attitude about your fears. This is scary, but so what? I think I'll enjoy life anyway. I don't know what's going to happen, but who cares? Right now, I'll read a book. Life doesn't have to be so serious.

If you have spent a lifetime living with fear, you will have to spend time changing your thinking habits. Recognize that fear is a feeling fed by thoughts and beliefs. Use the strategies above to vaporize fear until you are holding an empty hat. Then turn the hat over and fill it to the brim with all of the beauty that life has to offer you right now.

I would welcome you as a subscriber to Live Bold and Bloom. Subscribe for free and receive a copy of my free guide, 7 Key Ingredients for a Meaningful Life.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for an excellent article! I just came across your blog recently and I really like your positive, action based advice. It’s very inspiring!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Kerri,
      Thank you so much — I’m so glad you liked it. Please come back again and share your thoughts.

  2. Prakash Chandra says:

    Dear Barrie,

    Thanx for such a compact article on exorcising the demons of fear. It has more relevant for fighting the insecurities & complexities of our part- India! I am a social developmental professional and to work for grass root development of our people, is such a challenge that we have to equip out thoughts & attitudes at every level!
    Thanx again for such piece!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are so welcome Prakash. I’m so glad it resonated with you. Thank you for your kind comments.

  3. i realy like ur blog hopefully hore interesting things will be uploaded

  4. Barrie, you offer great insights here! Fear can really feel like concrete immovable wall that is strong enough to prevent one from doing what they desire. It’s an awful spot to be in when we feel ourselves giving into fear and not living the way we truly want to.

    I love the example you gave about falling backwards and trusting – the part I loved the most is your acknowledgement of what happens if the universe (or the people) don’t catch us… “And when they don’t, all you do is stumble backward a little bit.” It helps see beyond the – ‘what if I fall’ part of fear that typically stops us from taking the leap.

    Really love the insights here!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi beautiful Aileen!
      How are you?? Thank you for your kind comments. I’m so glad this resonated with you. Yes, rarely has the universe failed to catch me. And even when I think it hasn’t, the landing is much softer than I expected! 🙂

  5. I totally agree with you…fear is something we make up in our minds…because we are afraid of the feelings that accompany failure and/or the feelings of other things that are only in our minds….
    It is normal to feel this way sometimes but not to the extent wherein you lose LIFE because of it…

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Janiz,
      I guess it is normal now since we have so many stressful events and situations in our lives. But for early man, and for animals, it is only the threat of injury or death that causes fear. Now we are afraid of things that haven’t even happened. Fear once was a way of protecting us from harm. Now the fear itself causes us harm. Wouldn’t it be liberating to be free of all fears except those that keep us from real danger?

  6. Greetings Barrie!

    For just over 70 years now I have felt a strong need have, or gain the approval of those around me. I believe it started when I found myself in a very bright room next to a guy dressed in white who had just slapped me on the butt. I wondered what I had done to make him do that, but for sure, I didn’t want him to do it again :-).

    One of the truly neat things about growing older is that we finally realize how absurd it is to have to please others every minute of the day. Fearing the lack of, or the loss of approval of others can become an obsessive waste of our precious time here in this neck of the woods!

    Thanks for another insightful post.

    All the best,

    Jon

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Jon,
      Why is it that we have to reach middle age or beyond before we really get that we don’t need approval from everyone? What a waste of time and energy. In coaching there’s a concept called “creating your own personal operating system (POS).” Once you create that, it becomes the standard against which you measure your own decisions and behavior. That’s the only approval we really need.

  7. We all struggle with some sort of fear, and I found so many insights I could relate to here.

    I also loved your breakdown of different fears (failure, aging, change …) It’s amazing when reading them to see how each of those fears becomes a self fulfilling prophecy: fear of failure makes failure more likely; fear of change induces it’s own kind of change as we shrivel up and participate in life less; fear of dying shuts us off from life.

    The image of falling backwards into the universe comes across as a beautiful antidote to fear.

    Thank you, I really appreciated this post!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Dave,
      That’s an interesting point — that our fears become self-fulfilling prophecies. You are absolutely right. Fear just breeds a lot of bad stuff! I’m so glad you like the post.

  8. King Author says:

    There Is nothing to Fear but Fear itself. Fear is just an illusion. I made myself completely and utterly fearless YEARS ago. And happy I did so. Because once you remove fear from your mind, you CAN’T be stopped.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That is fantastic King Author! Please share with us how you made yourself fearless. What steps did you take?

      • King Author says:

        No problem. Making one self fearless took time. I had a DESIRE to WANT to be different and be the total opposite of who i was . Personally, I was so fed up with who I WAS..MAN..i was willing to do ANYTHING to greater. I mean Anything. I read self help books, visualized but tosh off, wrote affirmations until my hands hurt, told myself in the mirror who I was going to becomes and eventually. ..( just like all the self help books said) I started to see a shift. Very subtle at first but the more I did things different. The more I acted differently, the more I changed. And Over time…I realized I was a different person. Over time I realize I was just who i wanted to be or was becoming MORE of who i desired to see myself as.

        The thing is most people never take the advice there given and RUN with it. I ran with it..and I am STILL running with it. Because I know eventho..my mindset is ridge on my goal, aspirations and dreams..etc. I can always become better.

        I became who i was from HAVING a GREAT DESIRE for Change…I was Willing to Do anything to make the Change and I was ( still) unstoppable persistent in being greater.

        I remember a quote that changed my life. And I took this literally..because it’s so true..it’s scary…I know you probably read it before…

        Thoughts Create Destiny
        “Watch your thoughts; they become words.
        Watch your words; they become actions.
        Watch your actions; they become habits.
        Watch your habits; they become character.”
        Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

        Thanks for asking Barrie!

  9. Hi Barrie,
    Recently subscribed & this is my first comment, glad to be here. “Fear” is a topic that has done the rounds several times. Yet we still have our fears. I haven’t found a foolproof way of eliminating all of mine however I have been successful & much more mindful instanding up to them. And you know what, it’s not as bad (fearful) as I thought. Thank you for illustrating “fear” in such a nice way.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi David,
      I think standing up to them is the best way to begin dissolving them. I still have “automatic” fear reactions to certain things. For example, when I go for my mammogram every year, I get fearful and nervous. My mom died of breast cancer, so I allow my mind to go to all kinds of bad places when I have my check-up. But once I armed myself with facts and remind myself of those, the fear lessens. I just have to keep practicing!

      • Hi Barrie,
        Best of luck with that(the practice, that is). It is a natural reaction to fear in your circumstance, my best wishes to you.
        be good to yourself
        David

  10. Cathy | Treatment Talk says:

    Fear of something seems to plague all of us throughout our lives, and it is refreshing to feel that we can let go and really live the life we want to without the fear.

    I used to be be fearful of flying as many are, but now that I fly more regularly, it just doesn’t bother me like it used to. I laugh to myself as I realize that I am well into a flight and have barely thought about it.

    When I think of fear I think of “falling off the horse and getting back up in the saddle again” soon! We have to walk through our fears to come out on the other side. It does wonders for our sense of power and strength to feel that we can conquer our fears. Thanks for a great post!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Cathy,
      I like to imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have fear — except for things that were truly dangerous. So, like animals, the only time we really felt the feeling of fear was when we were physically threatened. Imagine what we could accomplish.

  11. there comes a time when fear seems to hinder our faith within ourselves. During these tough times, what you need is to overcome these fears and face it. It is only you who can defeat this fear. Be strong enough and stand up on your own. That’s what you call life.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Pratty,
      Yes, fear does hinder our faith in ourselves. I think once we recognize that most fears are illusions, it becomes much easier to move past them.

  12. I love this analogy of fears being like bullies.
    And there’s so often a disconnect between how we view ourselves and how others see us. Often our fears project onto others reactions they won’t actually have.
    I remember Quentin Crisp once saying that if you wear rose-tinted glasses, you will come to believe that the world is essentially pink, whereas others will simply see you as the person in pink glasses. I’m sure that works with your smudged glasses as well.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Tess,
      That’s an interesting point. We do project our thoughts and perceptions on everyone around us. And most of the time others aren’t even paying attention to us. They are too focused on their own fears and concerns!

  13. My biggest fears are failure and change. Unfortunately, my husband left me earlier this year and I’ve lost my job too. I’m going through a tough time but everything happens for a reason (at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself). Anyways, good post. I’ll start working on my fears when I’m better 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Anita,
      I am so sorry you are going through such a tough time. I truly believe that failure and change are part of growth. You will find something positive from this experience, even though right now it just feels like crap. Time does make things better thankfully. Keep moving forward. 🙂

  14. Hi Barrie,
    I love to read your posts. It is an inspiration to me. Yes, FEAR is nothing but “False Evident Appears Real”. In the past, I have often being trapped by many fears, and the days in my life are cloudless…so much so that I feel like a zombie living life and finding life meaningless. But slowly, I learn to tackle my fears one at a time..It was hard but i would tell myself : If I stand up at work and people dont like it, the worst that can happen is I lost my job. I started standing up when things are not right, and I feel better about it myself. Surprisingly, I did not lose my job. Fear reveals a person. A courageous man/woman also got fears…But a courageous man/woman will act even with fears, knowing by not acting is submission to fear itself..Just a penny of my thought 😀

  15. Barrie,

    Great article. I took the habitcourse you guys/gals put on and loved it. I’ve been working to surround myself with positive energy and articles like this! My eyes have opened.

    Ramon

  16. Nice article on a topic everyone can relate to. Where there is drama, negativity, or agression, there is always fear beneath it. I have always taught my children to carefully observe the people they interact with. Instead of getting mad at people who display negative behaviors, I tell my kids (and myself) to try to understand the fears that the other person might have underlying their behavior.

  17. Santi.simo says:

    I love this part in your article “Fears are like bullies. When you stand up to them, they run away. When you challenge them, they melt and dissipate. When you take bold action, they can’t keep up with you.” I am trying to face my fears this year and it feels good. It takes a lot of courage though. This is an excellent article. Two thumbs up!

  18. Barrie, I always love your posts….always, always. You come from a place of openness and vulnerability, just to help us in our quest to freedom, joy and love of ourselves and others. I so appreciate all that you do and always look forward to reading your posts. I just wanted to tell you—from my heart.

  19. I love this. I actually blogged about this today–facing my own fears. You’re dead-on. So much of what we fear doesn’t come to pass. Thanks so much for speaking truth.

  20. Another great peace of advice from a well written article. I must say I’m glad I came across your blog and will recommend it to others. OK “FEAR” it even looks scary. I defined fear as a lack of knowledge base on what I call your comfort zone built from current and past information. So we build this place with inside us that says this is or this is not ok base on our current knowledge. Example, a child playing with an electric outlet will create fear within us, because of our understanding, but the child has no fear. Once the child understands the safety and its use our fear goes away. Formula to remove fear. Knowledge = Lack of Fear. Thanks again on your insite in this article. 🙂

  21. this is very true. we fear lots of things..I have come to realize that these are the most common things we fear…especially death and aging and losing someone we love…