Overcome the Subtle Fear of Doing Something Stupid

Look at the image above, this is how anxiety feels. It could stem from a fear of criticism, or a fear of people, or a fear of trying something new. Regardless, we have all suffered this tragic irony where tight coils of anxiety create the unforunate results we were afraid of in the first place. Perhaps a particular botched job interview or an embarrassing date sprung to mind — or the opposite, such as a time where you had given up hope and your nonchalance allowed for a much better result than you expected.

How does this fear manifest? For one, it creates worry and indecisiveness. It affects body language, from where your eyes look in a group of people to how much you smile and how you move your arms. It makes a person self-concious. A classic example is nodding and laughing rather than admit that you don't know what the other person is talking about.

If all of this sounds a little too close to home, don't worry. Almost everyone experiences this fear, though some people are better at managing it or ignoring it. You can also learn to manage it, and go about your business with the calmness and poise that clears the way for success. There's no right way to accomplish this fear, as long as it doesn't hold you back.

The Number One Thing In Your Way

Fear (or worry, nerves, or anxiety) is like sticky black tar that your mind lays down all along the path ahead. It slows you down, makes you feel horrible, and makes it so much easier to say “actually, forget it, where I am right now isn’t so bad after all”.

Thankfully, you can think away almost the entire obstruction with a single thought, and a little practice. The whole thing is imaginary anyway, and the one thing you have control over in this world is your own thoughts.

You already know that your fears are irrational — you know that even if you did say something stupid in a meeting, you wouldn’t be tossed into a snake pit. You know that in that interview room there are no bears or tigers, only humans, and you’ve dealt with humans your entire life.

A Mantra To Dispel Fear

In Susan Jeffers' book, Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway, she gives away a tip that I have found invaluable when facing new challenges and irrational infestations of butterflies. It's so simple it seems that it really shouldn't work, but if you suffer from the fear of doing something stupid I implore you to try it.

When you get a phone call you are nervous to answer.

When you are walking towards an interview you don’t feel confident about.

When you are preparing for a first date.

Simply tell yourself:

“I can handle this."

That's it. That's the whole tip.

I cannot overstate how much this has helped me get where I have needed to be in the past. In an instant, all the opressive gloom gathered around me, the concentrated gravity that tilted my gaze towards my feet, the demons of the mind, all pretty much vanished. Because all that stuff, it's all absurd really, isn't it? I'm alive, I'm able, I've got a mouth and ears and a brain. I can handle this. Eveything else is just noise.

I usually can't help but chuckle to myself a little after I say it, and I head onwards to my destination with peace of mind.

Hey, I probably do or say some stupid things when I manage to work past my fears, but we need to be accept the fact that there's no such thing as perfection.

Tell me about a time this worked for you

Have you used this tip already? Or do you have your own trick for overcoming fear? Share your stories, and let's help others beat fear — the supervillain inside us all.  

Related Articles