Jake joins us today from YourBestWeekend.com to share how he got over his phobias. He offers 5 steps for breaking through your own personal fears. Be prepared! You’re going to want to tackle something head on by the time you’ve finished reading this. – Cheryl Ragsdale
Guest Post by Jake from YourBestWeekend
“Dad!” I shouted toward the distant beach, but my father was hidden in the middle of thousands of beachgoers and couldn’t hear my cracking, ten-year old voice. I floated in the cold saltwater, shouting until I was hoarse.
I slid off my boogie board. Holding on tightly with both hands, I tried to touch the bottom of the ocean with my feet. As far as I stretched, I felt nothing but open water. For a little kid who didn’t know how to swim, nothing could be more frightening.
I started kicking my way back to shore, but the rip current kept pushing me further out into the ocean. The beach receded from view and the people all became distant specks of color. I just knew I was going to die.
For the next eight years, I was so afraid of the ocean that I couldn’t venture out any deeper than my chest. I had survived that day when I was ten, but I developed a heavy phobia of open water.
Two years ago, I made the life-changing decision to tackle life and live without fear. I had to get over my fear and today I can confidently report that I love the ocean and spend many summer days swimming out deep past the waves.
We’re all afraid of something
Some people are terrified of public speaking and some people can’t handle being higher than ten feet off the ground. There are thousands of fears out there that can paralyze us and prevent us from reaching our fullest potential.
Fortunately for us, getting over fear is a simple operation. Here are the most effective methods that helped me or my friends get over various fears and phobias.
1) Tackle your fear head-on
My solution: go to the bookstore with him and literally push him into women. I didn’t stop until he gathered three numbers. He hated me by the end of the evening, but he got a number from each of the first three women he asked. He discovered his own awesomeness and got over his fear of the opposite sex.
Regardless of your phobia, running straight at it and facing it directly is a surprisingly effective way to get over a fear.
Afraid of public speaking? Go to an open mic night this weekend and talk for a few minutes.
Afraid of heights? Go to the nearest tall cliff and spend an hour walking along the edge and dangling your feet into the open air.
Facing your fears directly is the quickest way to overcome them, but it takes a certain amount of guts to do (or a friend who throws you into strangers).
2) Get educated
My secret to overcoming my fear of the ocean? I enrolled in a SCUBA diving course and earned my advanced open water certification. During the course, the instructor would routinely swim up behind a student underwater and shut off their oxygen, tear off their mask, or pull out their respirator. It sounds terrifying, but we were all trained to respond appropriately. Being
underwater without air became routine.
I love SCUBA diving and recognize that it was instrumental in helping me get over my fear of open water. During my first dive as a certified diver, I went into a small sunken yacht (against just about every diving safety regulation) and got stuck. I was able to extract myself after a few seconds of wriggling awkwardly, but the remarkable thing is that I stayed completely calm.
I was trapped in an enclosed space, sixty feet below the surface with a limited supply of oxygen. The training and education from the course helped me approach a frightening situation with absolute calm.
If you hate public speaking, take a class at your local community college. If you’re afraid of snakes or spiders, spend a few weeks working part-time t a pet store or volunteering at an animal rescue. If you’re afraid of heights, join a rock climbing gym or get your skydiving license.
3) Stop thinking
Fear is a sneaky emotion. The longer you give in to it, the stronger it gets. You can’t reason your way out of fear – if you spend time thinking about whatever you’re afraid of, you’re just going to psych yourself out.
So instead of agonizing over your fear, just act. Don’t think about how scary it will be to talk in front of strangers. Just run up to the lectern and start talking. Jump into the deep end and learn to swim once you’re there.
As human beings we have the remarkable ability to use logic and reason. As great as these are for science and philosophy, they’re useless when it comes to fear. You need to stop thinking and just do it. Author Ray Bradbury hit the nail on the head when he gave his directions for a successful life: “First you jump off a cliff and build wings on the way down.”
4) Get a support group
Last year I was the vice president of my local Toastmasters club and I watched new members come in and grow as public speakers. To become a “Competent Communicator”, each person has to give ten speeches that cover the broad aspects of public speaking (organization, enunciation, loudness, etc.).
My favorite memories in Toastmasters are of new members who barely make it through their first speech, shaking and stammering throughout the entire presentation. By the end of their ten speeches, they’re confident and comfortable on stage. They can’t wait to speak again because they’ve become so good at it.
This happens because the group critiques every speech immediately after it happens. They are always supportive and shower the speaker with praise for everything they did well. But even more important, they provide solid feedback on what the speaker needs to improve. They provide a confidence boost, but they never lie and say something was good if it wasn’t.
Find a group of people who will support you and push you to be better. Some of them will gently nurture you along and others will firmly point out your flaws and mistakes. You need both types to be successful. Use friends and family, search the internet and newspapers for relevant groups and meeting (public speaking, etc.) or use online forums and websites to build a virtual support team. If all else fails, send me an email and I’ll be your support team!
5) Be fearless
This isn’t a technique as much as a mindset.
My motto is “Bad things don’t happen”. I say it constantly.
Anytime something comes up that makes me nervous or hesitant, I repeat this phrase and I instantly have the courage to try anything. Internalize this motto and know that, no matter what happens, you’ll be happier that you took the plunge and took a risk.
I’ve been in the back of cop cars. I’ve been strangled to the verge of passing out. I’ve jumped off cliffs and hit rocks on the way down. I’ve been within thirty minutes of freezing to death on the side of a mountain in a snowstorm. I was even homeless in Paris for a night.
But I’ve never regretted anything. All of those instances came from me ignoring fear and taking a risk – and I would do it all over again if I could.
Because before I was in the police car, I was on a roof, my breath taken away by the view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor across the Chesapeake Bay.
Before the strangling, I was dancing with a beautiful woman.
Before I hit the rock, I was free-falling into a pristine lake hidden in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains.
Before the hypothermia, I was looking out at a moonlit mountain valley covered by an untouched blanket of snow.
Because of the homelessness, I got to see Notre Dame lit up at 3 a.m. and walked down an empty Champs-Élysées and stood in silence under the Arc de Triomphe.
Your fears are keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest. They’re hiding you from the incredible experiences and breathtaking moments that will change your life and lift your soul.
Life is too short for us to be afraid.I got to see Notre Dame lit up at 3 a.m. walked down an empty Champs-Élysées and stood in… Click To Tweet
Jake’s blog is called YourBestWeekend. Your Best Weekend’s official mission is “to help you have the time of your life by defying convention, living with passion, and loving every day.”
Flaunt Your Flaws Fridays!
On Fridays, I’m joining Staci from justbloggled.com to provide a forum to discuss what we find to be “not quite right” about ourselves. The objective is to celebrate what supposedly “doesn’t work”. For instance, I have really big feet – haha! Staci complains about having a flat butt.
Is being afraid a flaw? Maybe…maybe not.
Fear is useful when it prevents us from doing damage to ourselves or others. When fear stops you from expanding, growing and challenging ourselves, then yes, it starts looking like a flaw. As you’ve read through Jake’s experiences, have you been making a list of all the moves fear is stopping you from making?
Time to step up and make a move. What are you waiting for?
photo credit boogie board, Jake’s personal collection
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