Overcoming Fear


As we push further into autumn and October, the spooky season of Halloween quickly approaches. With Halloween comes a multitude of things to enjoy, such as sweet treats, costumes, and kids trick-or-treating. Yet, Halloween also brings horror movies, scary decorations, and other elements that are centered on fear. Thus, the month of October serves as a great time to work on overcoming your fears, whether they are big or small!

When you are trying to overcome your fears, it is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fears. Healthy fears serve a purpose as adapted behaviors that help us survive. Alternatively, large amounts of unhealthy fear, such as a fear of rejection or failure, can limit us and detract from quality of life. It is these unhealthy fears that one should try to overcome to best achieve one’s goals in life.

The most critical (but also the hardest) step to overcoming your fears is simply doing the thing you are afraid of. A study by Northwestern University found that just one positive experience with spiders permanently reduced brain activity in parts associated with fear in arachnophobes. This experiment can be applied to whatever you fear. For example, if you are afraid of answering questions in class, summon up your courage and set a goal to answer one question. Having a good experience when doing this will permanently make you less afraid of participating in the future.

Before you can overcome your fears, you have to acknowledge they exist in the first place. Although we might idealize ourselves as fearless, fear is a natural human emotion and recognizing it is key to personal growth. Understanding what you are afraid of will make your fears easier to deal with and therefore make you more successful at overcoming them.

Another tip for overcoming fears is to visualize yourself doing the task you fear. This act of visualization makes what you are afraid of more familiar. Imagining overcoming your fear can make actually doing it less scary and boost your self-confidence.

The last way to overcome fears is to be brave and persevere through the task when it becomes difficult. At a certain point, acknowledging or visualizing your fears will not help you. You might get nervous or want to give up, but if you challenge yourself and push through the fear it can have lasting benefits in your life. Benefits of overcoming fear include greater activity in the parts of the brain connected with exploration that allows for progress and better decision making.

When Halloween comes around this year, take it as a reminder to challenge the things you are afraid of or try something new that scares you. Even if overcoming your fears does not work, being afraid is what Halloween is all about anyway! Regardless, if you challenge your fears, you can become more confident and unrestrained in achieving your goals, and you might fall in love with something new that you never would have tried before.