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How to Overcome a Specific Fear

By Pam Dewey • fear, overcoming a fear, overcoming fears, getting over fears, how to overcome fear, facing fear, how to face fears, fighting fear, addressing fear, how to fight fear, fear of public speaking, anxiety, phobias, • November 17, 2022

Fear isn’t always negative. Fear can stop us from doing unsafe things or warn us when we’re about to do something unwise. However, fear can also prevent us from trying new things or keep us from moving forward.

But you can work to overcome a fear. Here are five ideas to get you started.

Start small

Overcoming a fear should start with small steps. VeryWell Mind states, “The best way to create an action plan is to create a fear hierarchy made up of small steps.” One very common fear is public speaking, so VeryWell Mind suggests you start by “stand[ing]in front of a mirror and giv[ing] a two-minute talk.” Then the next step would be to record yourself doing the speech, and then you could slowly add more people you perform for. Greater Good in Action suggests, “Or if you’d like to learn to rock climb but are afraid of heights, you could start by spending time observing and assisting other climbers.” This will help you get an idea of what to expect and see what the risks are.

Learn more about what you fear

Fear often comes from the unknown. Watching other rock climbers helps you learn more about what it’s like to rock climb. You could also research the best safety equipment for climbers. If you’re afraid of visiting a foreign country, research the country you’re interested in traveling to, find the safest neighborhoods and learn a few key phrases in that language. For many, the pandemic has created new fears, so you might be afraid of touching surfaces when you’re out or are nervous about crowds. You can research your city’s COVID-19 numbers or do a deeper dive into how COVID-19 spreads. Find well-vetted scientific or medical sources, like the CDC or the Mayo Clinic. Understanding the thing you fear often helps eliminate some anxiety and worry.

Practice helps

Like learning to ride a bike, overcoming your fear requires practice. An article in Forbes states, “Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like TED, told me about Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor who practiced her popular TED talk (over 18 million views and counting) more than 200 times. If you don’t have that much time, Gallo says ‘I find that practicing a presentation a minimum of 10 times is ideal.’” If you’re fearful of riding a rollercoaster, you can start with a smaller rollercoaster and work your way up to a larger one. Or, if you’re worried about reading aloud in class (or your child is), practice at home. Just like riding a bike, it should get easier the more times you do it.

Create a peaceful place to escape

Even if you start small, do your research and practice, you may still face some anxiety when you finally fly on an airplane, try public speaking or go rock climbing. That’s okay. One way to relax is to create a safe place to escape to in your mind. According to the National Health Information Service, “It could be a picture of you walking on a beautiful beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood.” Stay in your peaceful place until you’re feeling calmer.

Seek help

Some fears are bigger than what we can handle on our own. That’s okay too. You may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), be coping with generational trauma, have social anxiety or a phobia. Perhaps your concern about COVID-19 has made you fearful of leaving your home. All of these conditions can be debilitating, and you would likely benefit from the help of a mental health therapist. A therapist can help you address underlying issues, talk through your fear and help you desensitize yourself, if that makes sense.