Fear is part of the human experience. It is caused by our own thoughts, feelings and limiting beliefs. These fears or limiting beliefs can impact our lives by holding us back from our goals. Fear of the unknown can keep us in our comfort zone, and block us from accepting change and experiencing new things.
When we choose to live with fear of the unknown, this can impact the choices and decisions that we make. Overcoming this fear will help us to live life to the fullest, but this can only be done if we are prepared to face this fear.
What is fear of the unknown?
Some fears we have are based on what we do know. Such as a learned fear of dangerous animals like snakes. Other times we live in fear of things we are uncertain about. This can look like public speaking where we may fear judgment, or going for a job interview where we may fear failure. But how can we sure of this? Our fear holds us back from the possibility of success and achievement.
These fears are irrational thoughts and beliefs about situations, outcomes and people that may feel scary when out of your comfort zone. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, which can result in thinking of worst case scenarios, leading to avoidance or fear. Often people want to feel in control of their lives, and when this is uncertain we might feel threatened.
So how can we overcome this?
- Understanding fear
Our brains are wired to think about the negative consequences of uncertain outcomes as part of our need for survival. Our brains want to keep us safe and avoid any sense of threat, anxiety and discomfort. However this can keep us in our comfort zones. Fear of the unknown is not based on reality, but on our beliefs about what we think will happen in a given situation. Understanding that we have these thoughts and that they are not always fact is the first step to overcoming them.
- Identify your fear
Often fear can be the result of past experiences. If you have failed, been rejected, felt a lack of confidence or low self esteem, this could be stopping you from trying again or creating new goals. Our fear is there to protect us from getting hurt or feeling anxious but it can stop us from working towards our dreams and aspirations in life. When you have the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, take a look at your fear that arises. It can be helpful to write this down, so you can think of ways to cope.
- Question your fear
One thing we are certain about is that the future has not happened yet. We don’t know what outcome we will receive, whether we will succeed or fail or whether we will like or dislike something until we give it a go. Once you identify you fear, start to question its truth. What evidence is there to support your fear? Think of times where you coped with this fear in the past. This can be helpful to see that our fears are not based on facts, and that our thoughts can often lie to us.
- Accept failure
If we avoid failure, we avoid new possibilities and stick to what we feel comfortable doing. Learning to accept failure is a key step in reducing your fear of the unknown. Through failure, we have an opportunity to grow, learn and expand our knowledge for the next time we try again. Through failure we can learn from our mistakes and can only get better each time we practice new skills. Instead of thinking of failure as a negative outcome, consider it as an opportunity to grow. Think back to the first time you learnt to ride a bike. You got back on the bike each time, and eventually were able to balance on your own! With practice comes progression!
- Sit with your discomfort
Get in touch with your feelings of discomfort when you are worried about uncertainty. It may feel uncomfortable and foreign to begin with, but remember that it is just an emotion. You can sit with it, and allow it to pass through your body. Once we can accept our anxiety and sit with it, it will eventually subside. It can be helpful to talk to friends and family about your feelings. If you would like to reach out for guidance you can also speak to a mental health professional.
- Trust yourself
Often we may fear the unknown as we don’t think we will have the ability to cope when bad situations arise. Learn to trust yourself. This includes your abilities, knowledge, skills and intuition. Think of times you have been able to cope in the past. Even during times where you felt uncomfortable you have been able to push through, seek support and find alternatives. There is always a different perspective or solution when things get difficult.