Overcoming Fear: Practical Suggestions

Last week we talked about how our deep parental love for our children can help us face our everyday fears.

It’s one thing to gather our courage for our kids, and it’s another to know what the next step should be.


In high school I would cry like a baby trying to gain the courage to make a phone call. One day I invented an alter ego who would make phone calls for me.

My alter ego was beautiful and confident. She spoke eloquently and everybody liked her. She started making phone calls for me, and I slowly got better.

I still felt like a fool every time I hung up the phone, but at least I’d made the call.

Here are a few tricks that I’ve learned from dealing with fears like my fear of phone calls.

1. Practice in your head

I was surprised to discover it was easier for me to make phone calls in German than in my native tongue. Before calling in German I am forced to imagine the conversation in my head so I can look up the necessary vocabulary.

That preparation leaves me better equipped to make the call than when I make an unprepared call in English.

Having an alter ego to make phone calls was really a way to visualize a successful call before it took place.

It turns out this kind of mental rehearsal is excellent practice for any skill.

2. Find clarity

Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Often our fears are out of proportion with reality.

If I let my imagination follow my worst fears to their conclusion, I realize how ridiculous they are. Then I think about how I might recover even from the worst disaster, and suddenly I’m in problem-solving mode. That makes me feel less fearful and more empowered.

The more concrete we make our fears the less intimidating they are. If I think, “I’m afraid of driving,” I won’t want to get into the driver’s seat. If I redefine my fear to “I’m afraid I’ll stall in an intersection,” then I can see that I need more practice starting from a stand-still.

Now I have a specific action I can take to increase my confidence and ability and reduce my fear.

3. Keep a growth mindset

The concept of “growth mindset” verses “fixed mindset” deserves a post of its own. In short, the person with a growth mindset isn’t afraid of failure because he doesn’t see it as a permanent state, but one stop along the path of growth toward increasing success.

The person with a growth mindset says “I failed,” not “I am a failure.”

One bizarre case of a fixed mindset is my mental block with starting a fire. I’m not afraid of fire, it’s just something I don’t do. I’m sure I could figure it out, but somehow I believe I’m missing the special knowledge necessary to make a fire.

It’s like I’m stuck back in the time when my older sister was taught how to make a fire but I was still too young. “My sister can handle fire, but I can’t,” is still stuck in my head.

Simply noticing that our fear is based on a fixed mindset can help us view it as an opportunity for growth and take the next step.

4. Get the right tools

Facing a fear is hard enough. Get what you need to support your efforts.

I’m a bad speller. (Oops! I slipped into the fixed mindset!)  I struggle with spelling. I remember having to stay in from recess to study my spelling words since I’d done so badly on the last test.

Spell check and spelling calculators were hugely helpful in overcoming my fear of looking stupid because I couldn’t spell. They never laughed at me when I didn’t know how to spell a word, so I wasn’t afraid to ask.

I’m still not a great speller, and I’m still embarrassed at times, but I’ve gotten much better.

5. Let go of perfectionism

I still struggle with this one. Any help from the audience? Remembering that “good enough is better than perfect” has been a help. I struggle to act on it, though!

6. See fear as an opportunity for bravery

Thanks Monica, for sharing this idea with us last week.

Don your cape and feel heroic and brave as you fight that dragon of fear!

Your example of courage will inspire your family.

Please share your own tricks for fighting fear!

2 thoughts on “Overcoming Fear: Practical Suggestions”

  1. Great Post!
    Im afraid to write this comment in english, so i’m practicing to overcome my fear right now ;).
    I have a perfectionism problem, too! Once I read a definition of perfectionism : wanting to be perfect is wanting to be like god. Every time i’m realising that i’m wanting to be perfect i remember myself that i am a human.

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