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How To Become Friends With Fear (And Why You Should)

Because fear actually means you're doing something right.

We all encounter fear in both our personal and professional journeys. It’s an unavoidable part of the human experience, especially if you’re constantly pushing your limits. This is why it’s important to realize that the fear you’re feeling is not only normal—it’s a good sign.

If you’re feeling fear you’re on the right path. We don’t feel fear in our comfort zone, we feel it when we’re taking big risks and making hard choices. For me, fear is my litmus test. If I’m feeling it, I know I’m doing something right. 

But this mindset shift doesn’t come overnight or easily. It takes time and effort to shift from fighting the fear to being friends with it. Here are a few ways to make that shift so you can start living even more powerfully—despite your fear.

Shift your perception of fear

Some of the most common fears that can turn into obstacles include fear of change, failure, uncertainty, rejection, judgment, inadequacy, or loss of freedom, to name a few, explains Amy Morin, author, psychotherapist and mental strength coach. The thing is, if you allow fear to hold you back, or repress the fear until it overwhelms you, you miss out on the opportunities that it’s guiding you to look at.

That’s why a better, healthier option is to befriend the fear. Acknowledge it. Feel it. Be curious about it. Learn from it. And move through it. Don’t resist or avoid this uncomfortable emotion, but don’t remain stuck in it either. Instead, embrace fear as a natural feeling that arises when you’re taking risks to build a life you love.

When you choose this shift in perspective, you’ll feel less immobilized, more receptive to the possibilities. 

Focus on self-discovery

When you invest in the hard but necessary work of reflecting on who you are and what you bring to the table, you always benefit. Doing this self-discovery can lead to a boost in confidence, a willingness to learn from mistakes, a belief in your own abilities, and the resilience to overcome imposter syndrome or risk aversion, according to Frontiers in Psychology

Self-discovery is not a permanent antidote to fear, but it can teach you to affirm the value of your strengths and trust that your goals are attainable. 

Ultimately, the more you know about yourself and what insecurities you need to leave behind, the less paralyzed you’ll feel when the fear strikes. In a recent article on the power of self-discovery, I shared the following tips on how to get started with self-discovery.

  • Meditate: Ask yourself the questions, “What am I trying to achieve? What am I doing that works? What am I doing that slows me down? What can I do to change?” This will help you confront the specific obstacles or challenges that could be driving fear.
  • Focus on abundance: Identify 5 to 10 areas of gratitude and personal abundance before you start each morning, such as, “I am abundant in clothing that keeps me warm. I am abundant in food that nourishes me. I am abundant in love from my partner.”
  • Take self-assessments: Learn the core motivations behind how you think, behave, feel, work and interact with others. This will reveal which of your unique rhythms are beneficial and which could be detrimental to your progress. Some common and reliable self-assessments to take include Meyers-Briggs, PATHS or the Enneagram. 
  • Ask your friends: Select a few close friends, whom you can trust to be honest and ask them: “What is your first thought when I walk into a room?” Their answers can offer new insights as to how you present to the world.
  • Journal often: When you process fears and other emotions through the medium of writing, it prevents the thought loop from just ruminating unchecked in your own head. This makes it easier to see your limiting beliefs and hang-ups, so you can work to dismantle them.

 

Explore what’s beneath the fear

In simplest terms, fear is a biological state of hyperarousal. The brain is wired to experience fear as a defense mechanism when an event or stressor disrupts your norm, according to the Redox Biology Journal

But fear is not the core issue—it’s a surface reaction to the bigger challenge: the instinctive nature to guard our deeper urges, passions, desires, hopes, uncertainties, doubts or aspirations underneath. Those feelings can be vulnerable and scary to name, so fear activates to protect us. When we can clearly see what’s beneath the fear, however, we reach a place of trust and safety in the present. 

Here are some journal prompts to help you move from fear to trust:    

  • Does letting fear drive benefit me?
  • What actual fear is under the surface fear?
  • What childhood memories are coming up?
  • Is it normal to feel this fear?
  • What can I do to soothe the fear right now?
  • Can I give this fear back to whom it belongs?
  • What does it feel like in my body to trust instead?
  • Am I borrowing tomorrow’s trouble?
  • What does it look like to choose trust over fear?
  • If this fear was a person, what would I say to soothe her?

Shift from an old mindset to a new mindset

Everyone is familiar with the sensation of fear, but just because it’s part of being alive doesn’t mean we can’t sit with it. The natural inclination is to shove fear to the back of your mind, but I want you to consider what’s available if you shift from wanting to escape or avoid fear to being open and accepting of it.

What if you welcomed fear as a reminder that, to undertake a new challenge, you need to push your boundaries. This intentional mindset shift allows you to feel and process fear in real-time, rather than letting it intensify and become more stressful in the long-term. 

Try these mindset shifting exercises to help you to understand and honor your fear, instead of running from it:   

  • Old Mindset: “I need to shake this fear once and for all.” New Mindset: “Fear is normal, so it’s okay to feel it.” 
  • Old Mindset: “I need to shift out of this fear right away.” New Mindset: “When I identify the fear, it’s less powerful.”
  • Old Mindset: “Why has this fear come up again?” New Mindset: “This fear is here to guide me, so I listen to it.”

Make the choice to befriend your fear

Fear will never disappear entirely, but it doesn’t have to stand between you and the kind of life you want to build. When you stop resisting the fear and resolve to be curious about the growth it can provide, it becomes a friend, not a foe. Let fear be there—and then do the hard things anyway. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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