When was the last time you felt that rush of euphoria that comes from facing a fear and crushing it? If you can’t remember, it might be time to step outside your comfort zone. We humans generally prefer to stay comfortable and safe. But there’s a trade-off to this easy life. When we avoid facing fears or taking risks, we miss out on opportunities to grow—emotionally, physically and even spiritually. We forgo the exhilaration and pure bliss you feel only when you are pushing past your limits.
Dial up your bravery and face your fears with these seven tips.
1. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
2. Sign up for a Mud Run or any obstacle race
Want to tackle some challenges in your life? Try an athletic challenge first. When you take on a physical challenge, such as a mud run, you begin to see yourself as strong. You have a tangible example of your bravery. Plus, lots of obstacle races promote a communal vibe of mental and physical toughness, challenge and teamwork. Another benefit? Climbing over muddy obstacles and getting dirty will remind you of childhood—when you weren’t burdened by the fears you have now.
Not into mud? Try another physical challenge like a ropes course with a zip line, scuba diving or anything that you’ve wanted to do but were afraid you couldn’t. Then take the insights you gained from the physical feat and try putting them to use in your everyday life.
3. Read confidence-boosting books
We tell ourselves we will feel confident once we [fill in the blank]. The truth is, confidence comes when we do the thing we fear. Learn how fear is not your enemy and how you can use it as a “powerful source of energy that can be harnessed and used for your benefit,” as psychotherapist Russ Harris writes in his book, The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt. “The actions of confidence come first,” writes Russ, “the feelings of confidence come later.”
4. Follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice
Do one thing every day that scares you. If you are resistant to diving headfirst into a big fear, use each day to tackle a small one. Chip away at your fears by achieving small wins. Do one cold call. Pitch your idea. Speak up in a meeting. Build up your fear-conquering muscle little by little.
5. Immerse yourself in the thing you fear
Psychotherapists have long used something called exposure therapy to rid patients of difficult phobias and anxieties. This involves continually exposing someone to the thing they fear in a controlled environment so that eventually whatever was once monstrous becomes banal.
Television producer Shonda Rhimes had a fear of public speaking but conquered it by saying yes to every speaking request for an entire year. She recounts this excruciating yet exalting experiment in her book Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. At the end of the year, she gained the sense of accomplishment and personal empowerment that comes from being scared and doing it anyway (whatever it is).
6. Get a pep talk from a friend
Fear can feel isolating. We don’t like to acknowledge that we feel “less than” or weak. But when you talk with a friend about what you would like to achieve and the fears that are holding you back, you not only get support and encouragement but you will probably learn that your friend has fears as well—and may even know strategies for overcoming them. When you make yourself vulnerable and connect with another person in this way, you are fostering deep bonds and building up the network that will propel you forward.
7. Make your own Braveheart list
There’s a good chance you already are quite brave but just don’t realize you are. Make your own Braveheart list by writing down all the times you’ve taken on a new challenge or surprised yourself by doing something you didn’t think you could do. Next time you read it, stand in a Wonder Woman pose. You’ve triumphed over fear in the past, and you will do it again.
Sandra Bilbray is a contributing editor for Live Happy and the founder and CEO of themediaconcierge.net.