5 Ways to Beat the Fear

don't ask why. ask why not.

5 Ways to Beat the Fear


In the U.S., we have a funny little tradition in October. Thousands of children (and adults) dress up to pretend to something other than they are – a superhero, a cartoon character, a zombie. The costume seems to give everyone an extra boost in bravado – after all, would we normally knock on people’s door and brazenly ask for free candy? We wear costumes every day – masks, if you will – and often these masks are a way for us to hide away from the world a bit – to protect ourselves from the fear of the unknown and to shy away from “scary” situations. Yet these are the very situations that stretch us and lead us to growth. Perhaps then it’s time to take off those superhero masks and become the superhero as we already are.

The Lessons of Fear

Novelist Karen Thompson Walker shares how fear can teach us how to face the future, find new possibilities, and stimulate thinking. Fear doesn’t have to be as awful as we usually make it out to be.


1. Befriend It

We may think creativity abandons us in adulthood, but our fears suggest otherwise. While we may not create monsters under the bed anymore, we create monsters in different forms – the monster who will eat us during a public presentation, the monster who will attack us if we apply for that promotion. By trying to “fight it,” we make the monster bigger and more powerful. Rather, if we just name it for what it is (i.e. nervousness, uncertainty), we no longer give power to the fear, but acknowledge it, recognize it, and befriend it.
2. Leverage It
Once we name the fear, we allow it to be something that can be extremely productive and powerful. The fast heartbeat and the butterflies in the stomach are not necessarily bad things. They can stimulate adrenalin to get us moving and excited. Getting our butterflies to move in formation help us to perform bigger and brighter.

3. Listen to It

There is a reason for fear – it is our biological response to get us out of trouble. It’s therefore not wise to completely ignore it – just not wise to let it take over. For example, if you see a lion and feel fear – you probably should do something about it (run?). But if you see a crowd that you have to present to, your response may be different (even if you want to run). The fear is still relevant. It can put you on greater alert so that you go into the situation a little differently – that you’ll speak to the crowd with more care, flair, and energy than you would if you were having a person discussion with a friend. Your behavior shift will help you perform better.

4. Laugh at It
As difficult as it is during scary moments to find anything but anxiety and desire to put your head in the sand, find the humor. Find the lightness that every moment has, no matter how dark it might seem. Laugh at yourself in the moment – recognize that the “monster” is nothing but our own imagination.

5. Look Beyond It

Remembering the bigger picture also keeps us (and the fear) in check. No matter how big that monster feels like, it’s only a little bit player in whole scheme of life. Stop making it a bigger deal than it needs to be.