The Circle Line

How to Overcome Your Fear


How do you deal with anxiety?

Do you tiptoe to the edge before dropping over it, like a reluctant lemming over a cliff? Do you march up to the edge only to rapidly run away? Do you take three strides and a flying leap into the unknown?

Fear is often lurking. Whether it’s creeping unease, daily anxiety or deep terror – it’s elemental. We can’t do without it completely for sometimes it protects us and helps us survive.

Take a look at this film, Ten Meter Tower, capturing fear in various guises – it’s moving, fascinating, and inspiring.

Living our full potential is hard if we let fear control us. If it’s there stopping us speaking up, making us put things off, procrastinate, or obsess.

Anxiety often appears in two ways:

(Will I lose my job? Will she leave me? Will I get stuck in this lift? Will I ever be in love? Will my family get sick? Will this dog bite me? Will I be OK? etc)

Our fears often involve a hidden message — something we picked up in childhood. These deeper anxieties, often about who we are, underlie regular generalised anxiety. This means they can be hard to uncover and to shake off – but it’s certainly not impossible.

Our Fears Show

Very often our fears have a consequence; they result in action, or inaction. So often when we’re acting “weirdly” or when we’re “stuck” and not taking any action at all, it’s our anxiety that’s at play, pulling invisible strings in the background of our brains and hearts.

Sometimes fear appears well-concealed. When we dominate or behave arrogantly, these can be misinterpreted as signs of a strong character. But they’re not. They’re signs that we are overcompensating for some fear we have. Perhaps we’re actually intimidated by someone, or we’re scared we are inadequate therefore we try too hard to prove we’re not. Or we fear that we’re weak and can’t cope, therefore we run or overcompensate by playing “superhero”, or by bullying others to assert our power.

Some of our most powerful fears are the deep hidden ones, the ones we don’t even know are lurking. Fear of being alone. Fear of relying on people. Fear we’re not good enough. Fear of men. Fear of women. Fear that there’s something wrong with us.

Some of our fears get complicated. Like when we’re afraid of a relationship because we’re afraid to commit, because we’re ultimately afraid of making a choice, or being rejected or trapped, or finding — and therefore potentially losing — someone we really love.

Anxiety is normal

All of these fears are of course totally normal. Anxiety is something we all have to go through at some point.

But if we don’t acknowledge and begin to do something to address our ongoing, recurring fears eventually they can escalate through the downward spiral.

Anxiety can be conquered

Here’s what’s great about the Ten Meter Tower film: in all its real, human, empathic jubilance it proves to us that fear can be conquered.

Once we’ve acknowledged what it is really that we are anxious about, and say it out loud — then often we find it’s power lessening, and we have more choice in how to deal with it. To creep to the edge. Perhaps to peer over, again and again to normalise things first, get used to the idea. Or to run and leap.

“When we voice our fear, its power lessens”

Whatever our method, this film shows how time and time again in all their different ways big and small, humans conquer their fears.

And like in this film, conquering always involves some kind of step. Whether it’s a 10 metre jump or the final tiny inch of a long and painful path, this small step forms a leap of spirit, of bravery, that proves to ourselves that we can do it — we just have to acknowledge first why we don’t. That’s half the battle won.

7 steps to deal with anxiety

Much has been written on coping techniques. These deal with in-the-moment fear. They include methods such as:

But conquering those underlying fears we all have but rarely take time to work through take a bit longer. Here are our 7 steps to getting closer:

  1. Get honest with yourself: What is it that you’re anxious about really? And underneath that anxiety…? What’s the worst that you can imagine happening? Try saying it in very simple child-like words and short sentences (because underlying fears often come from our childhood so we need to talk to ourselves in that language).
  2. Probability: List all the reasons ‘why’ you’re anxious. Has the thing you are afraid of happened before? To you? Or to someone in your family? How likely is it to happen again? Have you talked to anyone about this thing?
  3. Action plan: What do you need when you feel that fear? What would you do in your worst case scenario? List all the ways you can handle it.
  4. Recognise when you’re running or blocking — it can be harder to spot anxiety taking control when we block the fear.  Some examples of avoiding are: silence; putting something off; standing people up; not turning up; walking away; ignoring someone or something; making a joke; making excuses (“not now”, “too busy” etc). It’s ok if you need to do this, and acknowledging that we are doing it, helps to bring more awareness to our emotions and the reasons for them. Practice tuning in to your body more often so you can start to spot the raised pulse or heartbeat.
  5. Start small: take one tiny action in the direction you want to go in. If you usually walk away from the argument, stand there instead. If you hate the tube, take one stop on the District Line, above ground. If you’re scared of swimming, paddle knee-deep in the shallows. If you usually stay silent, say one word. Send your CV; talk to your dad; have that argument with your wife. Or for now — just update your CV; email your dad; write a letter to your wife. Start small.
  6. Find the courage of your convictions: this one is the hardest. Believing in yourself. We can’t give you one answer here – because learning to trust yourself is your own journey, and it may take time. But when you truly believe in yourself, you live that cliche of ‘having the courage of your convictions’; you feel in your entire self (your thoughts, emotions and your body) what is right for you — then you start to defeat your fears and make a choice.
  7. Talk to a therapist: this helps with all of the above, particularly number 6. It can be very difficult to see what’s underlying our anxiety on our own.

We all need support through the tough things in life – human beings are social beings. And that in itself is a brave thing to own.

More from Self Help Tools

The Circle Line is launching soon! Sign up now and we'll be in touch when we're fully working