3 surprising steps to conquer your fears - The Self-Worth Experiment

3 surprising steps to conquer your fears

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

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Oct 11
How to conquer your fears in 3 wacky steps

You can watch this post as a video or read it below. Or do both! 😊 Enjoy!

How many things in life have you missed out on because you were too scared? And how many chances have you not taken because of fear?

My whole life, fear stopped me from doing so many amazing things that I would have enjoyed, that would have enriched my life.

I could never travel because I was terrified of trains and planes. And I was anxious of going places I had never been before, of the risks, traps and threats that awaited me at my unknown destination.

I couldn’t drive a car. Because I was horrified I might stall the car at the crossroads and everybody would think I was an incompetent imbecile. I was worried I may accidentally hit someone, or be hit myself and get hurt.

I couldn’t even go to the movies. Because I was so scared about what the other people would think of me if I had to get up in the middle of the film to use the toilet.

And when I faced the decision whether I should move to the UK from Austria, where I grew up, fear completely paralysed me.

My thoughts  and worries were spiralling out of control. Endless scenarios played in my mind about the potential disastrous consequences of my choices. A relentless barrage of “What ifs” kept me up at night.

And I could just not make a decision.

I knew the offer I had to start a fully-funded PhD studentship was an excellent opportunity I would not get in Austria. But my fear wouldn’t even let me consider it.

And at this point, I had to find a way to conquer my fears. Or else I would miss out on what transpired to be a life-changing experience.

And, as it turned out, there are only 3 slightly wacky (but very powerful) steps we need to take to stop fear from stopping us.

It’s not you, it’s your mind

 In 2009, when I tried to get unstuck, break free from my discomfort zone and make a decision that would impact the rest of my life, I found the 3 easy steps I am about to tell you.

Since then, they helped me and others overcome pretty much any fear. Be it fear of spiders, fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of humiliation, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of change, you name it…you can overcome it all with these 3 steps.

So, let’s jump into those 3 steps, shall we?

But before I do, we need to talk a little bit about where our fear actually comes from.

Because, the truth is that fear is our mind trying to protect us. You may have heard that your mind isn’t you. The thoughts in your head, especially if they are planning, worrying, rehearsing, warning, predicting, are not actually you at all.

It’s your mind.

And the mind is a tool that evolved to keep us safe. And it’s a very handy tool to have, let’s face it.

But there’s a problem. 


The life-saving purpose of your fears (and the problem it causes)

You see, the mind communicates in thoughts in our head. And so do we. And as a consequence, at some point during our evolution we lost the ability to distinguish.

So we no longer know what’s the mind and what is us. And we started to consider it to be one and the same. We started to believe that the mind is who we are.

And nowadays, for most of us, the mind will be in charge of our thoughts and our life for 99% of the time.

Whenever you worry, whenever you replay things from the past or foresee potential threats in the future, it’s the mind talking.

Not you.

And the mind is mainly focussed on your survival. It isn’t really interested in your happiness. As long as you are safely tucked away in your comfort zone, the mind doesn’t care whether you feel unfulfilled, stuck and miserable.

You are safe. And for the mind that’s a job well done.

But for your life to improve, for you to thrive, things will have to change. You may have to take risks, face challenges.

And all of this, to the mind, means danger. It cannot predict what will happen if you venture into the unknown. And it cannot guarantee that you won’t get harmed.

So it will stop you. By using fear.

So, you must conquer your fears if you ever want to go to the movies, travel or move, or maybe just meet other people without feeling anxious.

And the easiest, and most powerful way of doing so is by dealing with the mind in a different way than you have done previously.


The 3 (slightly eccentric) steps to conquer your fears

And there are 3 steps to doing just that:

1. Stop identifying with your fear

The first and most important step to conquer your fears is to realise that your mind isn’t you. And that the fear the mind instills in you to stop you from leaving your comfort zone isn’t you either.

You know, we are saying things like:

“I am scared.”

“I am terrified.”

“I am anxious.”

But is these things really who you are? Is that you?

No, of course not! It’s the mind creating fear, using fear to stop you in your tracks. So you can remain in your comfort zone, all neatly tucked away. And be safe.

So, it’s crucial to realise that you are not your fear. That the fear is not part of who you are. It’s just an emotion.

So, instead of “I am scared”, try using phrases such as “There is fear” or “I feel fear”.

Because that places the fear outside of you, separate from you. And it will go a long way to help you to distance yourself from your fears.

2. Give your fear a name

And I know that sounds odd. But that’s what my Mum advised me to do when I faced the impossible decision whether I should move to the UK and leave everything and everyone I knew behind.

I was going in circles and the fear, worries and stress of it all were driving me nuts, when my Mum said: “Give your fear a name.”

And I named my fear Klaus. And it changed everything.

Because it gave me the power to reason with my fear and to take back control from my fear.

And I would love for you to give your fear a name as well. And if you do, please let me know in the comments what you have named your fear 😊.

And next time you face your fear and it makes you freak out or want to run away or it paralyses you, realise that you are not scared. It’s not who you are. Not part of you.

Instead, you feel fear. And that fear is Klaus. Or Gertrude, or Michael or whatever you may name your fear.

And then you take the third step.

3. Talk to your fear 

I know we have been told that it's not normal to hear voices and have conversations in your head.

But the truth is that the mind and us are both in our head. And if there isn't two people talking, something's going wrong. Because it means that your mind is in full control.

And if your mind is controlling all your thought, this results in toxic self-talk, chronic negativity and constant fear. And you don't want that, right?

So there always have to be two voices, you and the mind which uses fear to keep you from doing things that could be risky.

So once you realised "I feel fear" and gave the fear a name that distances it from you, you can then say:

"Look, Klaus (or whatever name you have chosen), this is just the teensiest weeniest of spiders. Is it really rational to be scared? Look, it's so small..." 

Reason with your fear. Talk to it. Like you would talk to an eight year old, six year old. Explain things.

And I know this sounds crazy and really weird but it really helped me. Let me give you a recent example.

A real-life example how to conquer your fears

I am terrified of making videos for my blog or Facebook. So, whenever I start shooting a video, Klaus will be hysterical.

But knowing the 3 steps to conquer your fears, this is what happens: 

I realise this fear is not who I am and put distance between me and the fear by saying: "Okay, I feel fear. This fear is my mind trying to tell me: You could humiliate yourself. You could fail. People could judge you". 

I recognise that the fear is my mind's fear that it sends to me to stop me from doing something. If I don't want it to stop me because I do want to make this video, I can then say:

"Klaus, listen, mate. We have an arrangement. I'm going to do this video and it's going to be fine. And it doesn't really matter with people think of it. It really doesn't. So don't worry about it. We ARE worth, no matter whether people judge us, no matter whether this isn't perfect. So don't worry about it. We're going to do this ". 

And I can feel how Klaus relaxes and how the fear subsides. And if you practice that, it will really change your life.

So this is it from me and Klaus. I would love to know what you name your fears. Please let me know in the comments.

And I'll see you again soon.

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  • Josh says:

    Great post Berni! I like your real-life example as a demonstration that you practice what you preach.

    Engaging in an inner dialogue with the fearful part / voice of fear only seems weird if one is operating with the “single self assumption” (see Your Symphony of Selves by James Fadiman & Jordan Gruber for a definition). If one is open to healthy multiplicity than, giving your fear a name, thereby personifying it further, makes sense.

    I’ve been learning about and doing some Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS) recently so building healthy relationships with “parts” of the self is one of the goals towards a more harmonious, integrated whole.

    I have a task I’ve been procrastinating on, so I’ll give this strategy a try with that. I tend to overthink things so deciding on a name is the first obstacle.

    Perhaps it’s worth mentioning to the audience that this would be a new cognitive skill they are learning and that it would improve over time the more it is practiced. Referencing the four stages of competence even.

    • Thanks so much, Josh! This is some great information and loads of good tips here. And yes, You are so right! So, if you are reading this, always remember that this is a new skill and you will need a while to get your fear to talk to you in a productive way. Never give up, you’ll get there.

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