How to Stop Fear from Controlling Your Life

Posted in Balanced Lifestyle, Book Reviews/Interviews | January 10, 2012 |

Tess Marshall

Tess Marshall

How do you overcome fear? That’s a difficult question.

Three years ago I moved to the US not quite comprehending that living here will depend on my ability to drive. I drove a few times in Ukraine (my native country) but I was never an independent driver. When the plane landed and my in-laws picked all of us up we drove down a huge 5-lane interstate with a 70mph speed limit in rush hour. I was terrified.

Thankfully my husband was very patient with me while teaching me how to drive. In Ukraine I drove a tiny VW Rabbit and in the US I had to get used to a ginormous Toyota 4Runner (at least that’s how it seemed to me back then.) I was terrified of getting out on the road in this huge tank that I felt I had no control of. And most importantly I was afraid of other cars on the road (every time a jacked up Ford F-350 flew by I felt my heart sink into my heels.) I couldn’t even imagine taking my girls (the most precious cargo) anywhere in the car by myself.

It took me two years to start driving independently. Some might call me a slow learner but it was the time I needed to overcome my fear and become comfortable behind the wheel of a car.

Do you have fears that you have to overcome?

Some of our fears are obvious (like mine) but others can disguise themselves as excuses, traditions, habits and many other things. If I hadn’t learned to drive a car then I obviously couldn’t have survived normally in the US (unless my husband and I struck oil and we could hire a private chauffeur to take me anywhere.) I had no choice but overcome this fear.

Overcoming some fears is not imperative to our survival though (like a fear of public speaking – the number 1 fear or a fear of starting your own business.) However living with those fears robs us of the possibilities that we are capable of, it robs of realizing our potential and living a bold and fulfilling life.

A friend of mine, Tess Marshall of The Bold Life, had her share of fears in life. As a personal coach and therapist she decided to put her knowledge and experience into one extensive e-course Take Your Fear and Shove It that could help anyone overcome their fears (no matter how obvious or hidden they are.) I wanted to invite her here, to Balance In Me, to share her most valuable advice about conquering fears and living a bold and bright life.

1. Tess, what was the biggest fear that you managed to overcome? How did you do it?

My dad had an 8th grade education and my mom a 6th grade. My nine siblings and I grew up on a farm. Going to college wasn’t discussed as a possibility, ever. I got married when I was 17 and pregnant, was the mom to 4 little girls by age 22.

The priest at our church saw something in me nobody else had before. He suggested that I attend the local college when the twins went to kindergarten. I was 27 by that time and I was so terrified that he went with me and helped me sign up for my first two classes, Speed Reading and How to Study.

It took me nine years to finish by taking a couple classes each semester while raising the girls! I then went on to get my master’s degree in counseling psychology and two years after graduation, as a therapist began building my private practice.

That one decision to overcome the fear of not being capable to attend college was beyond life-changing!

2. Why did you decide to create a course about Fear? Why do people need it?

Everyone is afraid, that’s normal. However due to our economic times, more people than ever, fear the future, fear losing a job or never finding one. The list goes on.
In order to change ourselves, believe in our future again, and make the world a better place – we have to get over our fears and use our talents and gifts. It’s imperative! Instead of asking, “When will things change?” we need to ask, “When will I change so I can become part of the solution?”

The first change we can make is learning to overcome fear!

3. A lot of people don’t think that they have fears in life. Do you have a quick method to identify “hidden” fears that sabotage happy and bold living?

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have fear. They are either subconscious or they don’t want to admit or talk about them. We’re wired for fear, it’s genetic.

4. Tess, can you share your favorite technique of fighting fear in life?

When I fight my fear I don’t get anywhere. It’s like denying it. We become fearful by identifying with our negative thoughts. When you reexamine your beliefs to see where the thought is coming from it keeps you from staying stuck in action and fear.

I have two core beliefs and most of my fears fall under one or another. They both come from being the sixth child in a family of ten children. One is, “I’m going to be left behind” and the other is “There’s not enough for me.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?

As soon as I can identify which belief my fear is coming from, my fear has lost some of its power over me. I’m a creative person, my favorite technique is to write down my fear with my dominant hand and ask a question about it. Then I switch my pen in my non-dominant hand and answer the question with the first thing that comes to mind. (It’s sloppy looking, like that of a child’s). The answer is usually very powerful.

The exercise sounds simple enough but most people won’t do it. On some level it scares them, as if they fear the answer.

I have a morning routine that consists of many exercises. I describe each exercise I do in, Take Your Fear and Shove It!

The course has over 100 different techniques and action steps to overcome fear. If you don’t like one, you can try another. It’s set up so you can refer back to it again and again.

5. How can you keep fears from coming back into your life?

Once you work through a particular fear and it comes back again, you can identify it and remind yourself that you’ve already dealt with it. Then simply breathe through the fear.

On the other hand think of an iceberg. The ice you see above the water is your conscious mind. The ice you can’t see hidden under the water, is your subconscious fear. It runs deeper than you think. It means you have more work to do around that particular fear.

Helen Keller said,

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

None of us are ever safe. We create the concept of it and believe it in order to feel safe. Safety is a superstition or an illusion. What is real is uncertainty. What is real is the unknown.

We have no idea what the next minute, hour, day or year will bring. Somebody will get in an accident, get sick or die. Somebody will lose a job or a lover. Anything can happen. A superstition of safety allows us to function in our world.

Humans like to live in the pain of the past or the fear of the future. I like to live in the present moment as much as possible. Like Helen Keller, I would rather have my life be a daring adventure rather than nothing!

What fears are you trying to overcome? Ask your questions and Tess and I will be happy to answer them.

And don’t forget to find out more about Take Your Fear and Shove It! It’s a great course and I wish I had it when I was learning to drive a car :-) Maybe it could have cut my learning period to normal two months instead of two years.

P.S. The BalanceInMe 2011 Survey is till on. Please click here to share your life balance experience in 2011 and download a free 10-minute Balance Workout.

Smart Thoughts (6)

  1. Fears can become quite debilitating – especially the ones we can’t (or won’t) readily identify. For me, procrastination is the expression of my fear of playing big. I know I’m capable of so much and there’s so much I want to do. Most of the time when I sit down to take the steps I find myself lost in email or doing chores around the house. Once I “get everything out of the way” I feel like I can sit down and accomplish something. Unfortunately, getting everything out of the way can sometimes take all day. It’s frustrating because I’m conscious of this, know the negative implications and watch myself do it anyway. Any ideas on how to get past this? I’ve tried to do the most important things first but I find it hard to focus with all the little things that need to be done nagging me in the back of my mind.

    • Anastasiya says:

      Hi Paige,

      Procrastination is one of the biggest problems pretty much for everyone. I usually try to take 1 (or even two) days to accomplish all the little things that are important for the week. Once all those nagging things are done I can focus on big (and truly important) projects.
      Regarding the email, I never check it unless I have time to respond to all the emails. I avoid checking email first thing in the morning because it really disrupts my work flow (and can easily take several hours.) The best time for me to check email is around lunch when you get naturally tired and need a little break from all the work that you’ve been doing in the morning.
      Regarding the chores around the house, you can never do all of them. There is always something that needs your attention and if you keep focusing on them then you definitely won’t get anything done. Try to schedule the time when you do those chores in your down time. Our body and brain work on a particular schedule. It is natural for us to get tired and sluggish after lunch but our energy levels usually pick up around 4.30 and last until 6.30-7. use that after-lunch time to do your chores or run errands. It will help you refocus and give you a break from your project.
      And when you simply don’t know how to start a big project choose the simplest part of it and give yourself just 30 minutes to work on it. It is extremely helpful to choose a step that is monotonous in nature (I usually start editing some of my articles or clean up spam and comments on my blog) because a simple almost mindless repetition will get you in the flow to start a REAL project.
      I hope it will help, Paige :-)

  2. We are not always aware of what our fears are.

    • Anastasiya says:

      That’s true, that is why it is so important to be constantly working on yourself and asking questions. Sooner or later the you will find the answers and if not then you can ask your close friends or family members to pint you in the right direction.

  3. Noch Noch says:

    i’m fearful of losing. so i hold on tight. became a control freak… just stressed myself out!
    Noch Noch