The Truth About Fear and How to Overcome It

Simple Takeaway:

Faith is the antidote to fear. Faith isn’t just spiritual – it’s a belief that things will work out. Experiences and memories with positive outcomes serve as fuel for faith that things will be okay. So work on giving your brain micro-memories – little moments of courage with positive outcomes – to lean on so it doesn’t have to resort to fear. Then let go of control and trust what you know.

The biggest opponent to loving deeper, leading better, and leaving a legacy is not the lack of knowledge, experience, or will-power.

The biggest opponent of legacy is fear.

Fear is the number one robber of all things good in life.

The reason you don’t have the life you want, the character you want, the memories you want, the job you want, or the friends you want is fear.

Fear tells you to hold back, play it safe, don’t let people get too close, don’t be too vulnerable, don’t go out on a limb, don’t dream, don’t believe in anything bigger than yourself, and don’t have hope for a better tomorrow. 

Fear also tells you to compare yourself to others and criticize them where necessary. After all, fear says you must be accepted by as many people as possible, so build yourself up so that you look good even if it means tearing others down.

And fear is usually subtle.

No one thinks this stuff out loud. It’s typically deep-seeded from years past and experiences compounded over time.

Think for a moment.

Everything in your life right now that you’re unsatisfied with – whether it’s an anger problem, money problems, stress, worry, feelings of insignificance, or anything in-between – likely started because you tried to control a situation that felt uncontrollable.

For example, we lose our tempers when things around us get beyond our control, and trying to control a situation is simply a way to avoid the fear of chaos.

Therefore:

Anger is rooted in fear.

The same is true of anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is caused by un-throttled and mismanaged thoughts about situations outside of our control.

When we have a painful experience, our minds sometimes try to protect us from that pain in the future by attempting to control potentially harmful situations.

Of course, we can never control all potentially harmful situations, and when we realize that control is an illusion, our brains search frantically for another solution to gain control. 

At that point, one of two things happens:

  • We either give up control
  • or our brains go haywire with stress, anxiety, and panic.

This is how mental breakdowns happen.

This is why people snap under pressure.

They’re walking around afraid of the future – consciously or unconsciously – and they’re doing the safe thing by trying to control their environment. But eventually, it will catch up with them.

You may not describe yourself as scared, but I assure you, if you’re avoiding something you see that isn’t working like it should in your life, it’s because you’re either:

  • afraid that it can’t be fixed
  • afraid that you don’t have what it takes to fix it

Neither of those are true, and until you acknowledge that, you’re going to live a life that’s small and boxed in.

Fear is also the number one thing behind all evil in life as well.

Fear drives hate, which is why people snap and say or do irrational things towards others for seemingly no reason. It’s because they’re afraid of something they can’t control.

What is fear?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion that comes from a belief that something is dangerous or a potential threat. 

Basically, when we experience fear, what our minds are doing is weighing probabilities.

We look at any given situation, and our minds start processing, the main question being processed is this:

Is this situation dangerous?

It doesn’t actually matter if a situation is dangerous, only whether or not our minds perceive the possibility of danger. When we do perceive a possibility of danger, our minds trigger processes that produce the emotion we label as fear.

On a chemical level, fear is a complex process that involves multiple parts of the brain and releases multiple chemicals, one of which is adrenaline.

When we take in information throughout our day, our brains consider previously known information and apply that to our current circumstance to determine if a situation is normal or not.

This is largely an unconscious process. We can’t forcefully push fear away – not long-term at least. No matter how hard you try or how intensely you focus, the fear you avoid will ultimately find it’s way back in if the right circumstances are present.

Most fear isn’t something you have to “overcome.” Instead, most fear is simply a judgment issue.

In the mid-1900s, white people were largely afraid of black people. Were they physically afraid of them? Maybe. But there was a deeper fear at work. 

The fear that drove the hatred from whites against blacks in the mid-1900s was solely based on the fear that society would change if black people were included equally.

Many white people didn’t want change, so they fought it in order to control it, and anger was the mechanism by which they exercised their control. But it was all rooted in fear.

Everything you do in your life is driven by either fear or faith.

By faith, I’m not talking about religion.

I’m not even really talking about spirituality.

Faith is a much broader term, and it is the direct opposite of fear. 

Having a mindset that’s willing to trust and open up to solutions is what starts the process of overcoming fear.

How to Overcome Irrational Fear

The way to overcome irrational fear is to give your brain accurate information and experiences to make better judgment calls.

Most of the time, fear is rooted in a lack of information or experience.

Experience – in the form of memories – has a way of setting the brain’s fear meter.

Experiences and memories with positive outcomes serve as fuel for faith – faith that things will work out. So work on giving your brain micro-memories – little moments of courage with positive outcomes – to lean on so it doesn’t have to resort to fear.

You have to input the right information and the right micro-experiences in your brain to make a decision with sound judgment.

But information without experiences can be a double-sided sword:

  • Not enough information, and you’re operating in fear.
  • Too much information and you’re again operating in fear, this time it’s just the fear of making a wrong choice.

But right there in the middle, there is faith – the place where you let go of being certain and walk forward despite fear.

As you do that one baby step at a time, you create experiences that forge a wall between your brain and fear.

That’s how faith is built.

And let me say this:

Faith is not limited to religion or spirituality. 

We put our faith in human nature every day. If you drive down the road on a two-lane road, then you’re putting your faith in the person in the other lane who is speeding in the opposite direction of you only feet away from your vehicle. If that person veers in your direction even slightly, you’re either severely injured or dead. Yet we trust them.

Consider for a moment, though, if you had a bad previous experience with driving. Imagine if the first time you drove a vehicle, the first person that came past you in the opposite lane veered into your lane ever so slightly and rammed the front end of your car. 

If that was one of the only memories you had of driving down a two-lane road, then two-lane roads would probably cause you to feel a certain amount of fear. That’s because that’s all you know, and your brain is simply acting on the knowledge you have. 

Memories are very strong sources of information for our brains. We all have things that have happened to us throughout our lives that shape the way we see the present and the future. Our brains are very good at processing information, but sometimes we make false connections between a memory and a fact. 

In the example above, you might be led to believe that cars are inherently dangerous or that driving down two-lane roads is dangerous. But in reality, another person may go their entire life without having a wreck, and for that person, driving down two-lane roads probably brings about zero fear at all.

So, one person is willing to put their faith in other drivers, and the other is not. They both face the same reality and the same probability of having a wreck. But it’s the way we interpret the information and experiences we have that create fear.

Some people live their lives surrounded by a safety net of comfortable living. They base every decision they make on the amount of comfort to be gained from that decision. 

Many people fear not being accepted, respected, and remembered.

They fear looking socially inadequate by not driving the right car or having the right clothes.

Many people fear not having the right size house.

They wouldn’t admit to it, and they probably don’t even know it’s going on, but at some point society, the media, or the family and friends around them convinced them that being accepted was the chief goal of their existence. So they drive on towards this goal they don’t even realize they don’t need.

Here’s the bottom line:

To combat the fear that lies just beneath the surface that drives us to make irrational and unproductive decisions, we have to offset fear with faith by giving our brain as many experiences as possible in any given area so we have facts to pull from in the face of fear. Then we have to trust that we don’t have to control everything in order for us to move forward

Embracing fear as a necessary obstacle to doing anything worthwhile is one of the best things you can do. And your life and legacy as a spouse, parent, and leader will be marked by courage – not because you overcame fear but because you let go of being in control and walked past fear to do what mattered most.