June 28, 2007

Overcoming Fear (Part 2): Understanding

I was in the dressing room getting ready for the Al Jarreau benefit concert. I just couldn't shake the fear I had inside of me, and it was beginning to make me sick. I needed to get a hold of myself before walking on stage. I kept asking myself why I was afraid.

This brings me to the first step in overcoming your fears: Understanding. As I wrote in a
blog for America's Brightest Speaking Stars, it is really important for us to comprehend the nature of what we are fearing. There are four key questions to ask yourself:
  1. What thing or circumstance are you fearing? - Try to pinpoint the specific trigger for your fear. In my example, I was fearing the last minute changes that Al had made to the song.
  2. What exactly about that thing or circumstance do you fear? - This question gets to the subconscious reasons behind your fear. You can look at it as the "why" behind the fear. Why was I afraid of a last minute change in the song? The bottom line or "why" was that I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of the potential feeling I would get from failure such as being embarrassed and looking like a fool on stage. This question, while sometimes tricky to answer, is very powerful in helping you overcome your fears.
  3. How does this fear manifest itself physically? When your brain senses danger, it tries to warn you in all sorts of ways. Think about howyou might feel walking down a dark, scary alley all alone. Your heart might beat faster, your hands might start to sweat, or you might feel butterflies in your stomach. Your brain WANTS you to take notice and protect yourself. For me, the fear of failure was manifesting itself in my stomach and head. I started getting a headache and my stomach was doing cartwheels.
  4. How do you currently react to your fears? It is critical to understand your current defense mechanism for your fears. Do you will fear to go away? Do you get overwhelmed by the fear and cower in its presence? Do you ignore the fear altogether? That's what I did. I pretended like I wasn't afraid even though my body was telling me otherwise.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified,terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." --Franklin D. Roosevelt

Once you answer these questions, you are ready to take the next step in conquering your fears. I wish I had know then what I know now. I would have handled things differently, but I took two aspirin and decided to ignore the fear. And so, the story continues...Go to Part 3

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