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Why facing your fears is so important for your growth

Facing Your FearsLast month I wrote about the importance of taking on new challenges to help us to grow. Life always feels more exciting when we are doing things that scare us a little and that stretch our comfort zone. We can blossom inside and thrive externally as a result of facing our fears. 

Now that’s all great and can be true, but what if facing your fears just feels too big? How do you even begin to start? How do you deal with negative self talk? How do you manage to take that first step? This month I want to deal with the ‘F’ word in more detail because, for some of us, it can feel more complicated than the adage that we just “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Emotion Rules

We like to think that our decisions are ruled by considered judgement, but in truth our entire lives are ruled by emotions. Emotions are lower level responses in our brains that create biochemical reactions that affect our physical state. The amygdala, part of our reptilian brain, plays a key part in our emotional arousal, most famously being the centre of our fight or flight responses. Emotions are physical and can be objectively measured. They also precede our feelings.

Feelings are the interpretations of our emotional states. They are influenced by our beliefs, experiences and memories. They are the result of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion. Not only can feelings be triggered by emotional reactions to things around us, we can trigger them by just thinking about something threatening which in turn can trigger an emotional response.


We’ve all experienced situations where the thought of something sets off an emotional reaction and affects our physiology. For instance, the thought of speaking before a group of people might make our palms sweaty and clammy. The idea of riding a motorbike might make our heart beat race with fear and anxiety. Imagining our business failing can also lead to sleepless nights.

Understanding the difference between emotions and feelings and becoming aware of them in our lives can help us to cope with our fears. It means that we can acknowledge the physiological response and identify the root cause before adding in our own conscious thought to alter how we feel about the state we are in.

Exciting times

Did you know that fear and excitement have the exact same set of emotional signifiers (faster heart rate, rapid and shallow breathing, sweating)? The primary difference is the meaning we assign to the emotion. With fear we start to feel anxious, worried and dread what is about to come. With excitement we feel nervous, energised and look forward to what is going to happen.

We all have instinctual emotional responses to things we experience or conceive of in our minds. The trick is to learn to adapt the feelings that we associate with them over time. 

Making Change

At first your body will still have the instinctual emotional responses. When you start to add new thoughts to replace the old ones, your feelings will start to change. 

Before going on stage you can acknowledge your state and tell yourself you feel excited about speaking to a crowd. You can focus on the value that you are about to share with them instead of your own fears. Instead of fearing for the future of your business, you can consider the opportunities that your business might have ahead and feel the excitement of trying them out.

We all need to take a second to keep our minds on track when we sense our emotional responses. When I was learning to ride a dirt bike this year for my Gobi Desert Enduro there were countless moments when the bike shifted unexpectedly beneath me as the tires tried to find traction in different terrain. Often, my heart would jump and I would gasp for breath. At first this felt terrifying. I was afraid of falling and hurting myself, or worse. Over time I learned to tell myself that this was the nature of riding this vehicle and to get used to it. Just as a ship bobbing up and down in the sea is part of sailing, so it is with dirt biking on land. 

Over time I stopped feeling fearful as I reminded myself how thrilling it was to ride a motorbike and to feel free out in the open air.

Living from Fear

So many of us often react to life from a place of fear. We do it in our businesses when we are scared of losing ground commercially or are afraid of what others might think. We do it in our relationships when we don’t let go and trust one another. We do it with our kids when we don’t give them the space they need to make mistakes and grow.

Our fears hold us back from really connecting with one another, from growing our businesses to new heights and from developing personally. Perhaps it’s because we are afraid of what we might become if we confront our fears. 

It certainly feels safer staying put, even when it’s bad. Because it’s something you know, you think your risks are lower. You think you know who you are and where you are, but in truth these are just ideas in your mind.

Our Thoughts

We think that our thoughts are ourselves and that we cannot control them, but this just isn’t true. We can choose which thoughts to pay attention to and we can feed our minds with thoughts that help us rather than hinder us.

Who we are right now is as much of an idea in our heads as who we want to be. So why not overcome your fears and be who you are meant to be? You can stop holding yourself back in your business, your relationships and your own life.

Pushing Through 

How do you get started? First, rate yourself out of 10; 1 being very afraid and 10 being super confident. Then figure out how to move yourself up the scale.

I was afraid of getting back on a motorbike after crashing a moped that I’d never ridden before as a teenager in Greece. As a 1 out of 10, I booked a one day Certificate of Basic Training (CBT) course and got some proper motorcycle training. This got me to a 3. Passing my motorbike license got me to a 5 and more practice got me to a 7. You get the idea.

If you are afraid for your business buy a business book or enrol in a course. Afraid of public speaking? Then practice in front of a mirror and join a local speaking group for support.

Eye the Prize

When learning to turn corners on a motorbike my instructor taught me to focus on where I wanted to go rather than looking at something I was afraid of crashing into. The bike would always respond accordingly as my body naturally adjusted towards the direction I was looking.

This is a great lesson for life in general and for overcoming your fears. Keep your eye on the prize rather than your fears. You are far more likely to reach your goals this way.


What happens if you can’t handle something you try? It was a personal goal to complete the trip injury free and I managed to dislocate my shoulder on my actual trip. It was a tough set back to swallow. 

What do you do if you have a set back? You dust yourself off and try again. Get a new instructor, learn more, practice. Don’t let it stop you.

On the other side of my fear I’ve found something I love to do. My heart sings with joy on a motorbike and I feel so blessed to be alive. There is no feeling quite like blasting across the Gobi desert on dirt bikes at 60mph with friends.

Facing your fears and pushing past them is actually less frightening than staying where you are. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Facing your fears is the only way to slay your dragons and grow into everything you are capable of being. Take a breath and go for it.

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