The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.
If there is a beating heart within you, you’ve experienced fear at some point in your life. It’s one of the basic human responses inextricably connected to our nervous system.
Fear serves as an instinct, intended to protect us when we face situations that are dangerous or unsafe.
Mother nature gave us this amazing trait to help ensure survival of the species.
While a healthy fear response is certainly necessary, many people associate fear with things rather than life-threatening circumstances. Hopefully, for most of us, those types of life-threatening situations are rare! For many of us, speaking in front of a group is a common fear.
How about learning a new skill, such as coding, or making new friends outside your normal circle? Or the fear of failure or social rejection!
While writing this blog, my friend Nina shared with me how her son Drew (names have been changed to protect the innocent), having recently moved away from home to a new college environment, had such social anxiety fears, along with the fear of failing academically, he began to experience severe panic attacks. Freshman anxieties perhaps, but real fear nonetheless.
It’s important to understand that fear is an emotional reaction—and it can have a profoundly negative effect in many areas of your life.
Thankfully, there are ways to deal proactively with fears, but let’s first look at some of its unwelcome side effects.
5 Hidden Costs of Fear
- Fear Can Ruin Your Productivity
Fear is the foil of productivity. It can keep you so busy making sure you’re safe that you have no time to accomplish the tasks. Often, fear leads to procrastination in order to delay an unpleasant experience. In the extreme, fear can shut down certain areas of the brain, making problem-solving and critical thinking difficult.
- It Can Break Down Communication
Whether it’s in the board room or the bedroom, fear can lead to reluctance to speak up. Some worry about being judged, while others don’t want to be thought of as confrontational. Such fears can cripple relationships due to a lack of communication.
- Fear Can Affect Your Earnings
Fear can keep us from applying for a higher-paying job, fighting for a promotion, or advocating for a raise. This type of fear may even damn up money from flowing into your bank account. It can block your supply source!
- It Can Ruin Your Health
When our bodies experience fear, the nervous system initiates a “flight or fight” response. Our endocrine system puts the body into a state of stress in preparation for battle. According to the National Institutes of Health, fear-based stress can wreak havoc with our bodies, weaken our immune system and bring on a host of other unpleasant health issues.
- Fear Can Destroy Your Happiness
Living with misplaced fear can affect your overall happiness, as life takes on a dull, stagnant feeling. The fear of disappointing yourself or others can cause you to miss out on many of life’s beautiful adventures.
Now for the really good news…Most Fears can be Overcome!
- Most fears can largely be overcome by the practice of self-discipline. The more you practice understanding the root of your fears, the better you’ll become at it.
The kind of self-discipline needed to keep us from being stuck in our fears will require that we take time to understand the nature of the situation at hand.
With this clarity, you can then come up with the best approach to successfully deal with the issue. Start by keeping track of what types of situations, even thoughts, that bring on fears in your body. Make a note of how you respond or don’t respond.
Ways to Cultivate Self-Discipline
- Focus on the Facts – Facing our situations with facts is indeed a type of self-discipline. Whether it’s running a marathon, losing twenty pounds or learning a new language, self-discipline will help you prepare for what’s ahead and help you to set aside the fear of taking action.
- Challenge Yourself – We know fear ruins productivity and increases procrastination. Challenge yourself to complete one task each day that you would normally put off. Ticking that task off your list will boost self-confidence and shift your habits to task-completion rather than task-avoidance.
- Get Curious – Think of curiosity as the flashlight author Nancy Drew uses to reveal what is really lurking in the dark corner. Curiosity can be used to shine a light of clarity on what we fear, revealing that most of the time there is no ‘real’ threat.
My friend Nina was able to encourage her son to get curious about what was going on with him physically after certain activities. “What was causing this reaction?” she would ask him. “How is your body responding to the fear?”
Asking Drew questions about his emotions and tracking his emotional feelings allowed him to see that his fear reaction wasn’t due to any real and present danger. Happily, along with professional help and medication when necessary, he was eventually able to manage his symptoms and flourish academically and socially.
By becoming curious about our environment and our bodies’ fear response (What am I really feeling at this moment? How is my body reacting?), you can begin to develop the discipline of self-reflection.
- Seek Expert Advice – Finding a professional who can help guide you in the practice of reflective discipline and analyzing fears is always something worth considering. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out for professional help if needed.
As you begin to cultivate the discipline of self-reflection, you will find a greater sense of control over your responses to your environment. You’ll notice a greater level of focus and a strengthening of your self-confidence.
Even better, you’ll find that new habits will take a stand in the places where fear was once in control.
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