Fear Is Holding You Back? Do This To Overcome It

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

By the end of this article you’ll learn the little trick I use to overcome my fears. It worked for me in many stressful situations, resulting in positive outcomes for my career, business and life. I shared it my friends and people I coached. It worked for them. I’m confident it will work for you too.

But first let me tell you my relationship with fear.

I may look serene at this photo, but I was feeling the biggest fear of my life at that moment.

When the door of the plane opened, I felt the biggest fear I had ever felt in my life. Butterflies in my stomach. My hands were sweating. My legs weakened. I could barely breath. It was like every cell of my body was trying to make me stay inside that freaking plane.

My thoughts could be summarized like this: “What the hell am I doing here?! Why did I put myself in this situation?! I should be doing something else in my comfort zone!”.

Overcoming that fear was not easy. It was an epic internal fight.

When I finally managed to jump, in that very moment it looked like that fear didn’t follow me, but stayed in the plane instead. During the free fall I didn’t feel any sign of fear. My training from the day before and what I had to do in that jump was crystal clear in my mind. I was focused. I was present.

Jump number 42, circa 2012. Photo by author.

I remember the second and third jumps I experienced a similar level of fear followed by extreme focus and sense of presence just after the jump. Adrenaline was still there, but it wasn’t fear, it was purely excitement. At the fourth jump I started to become more confident, knowing my fear couldn’t follow me after I jumped.

That’s the nature of fear: it will stress you all the way trying to convince you not to do it, but when you confidently do, at the first step it will stop following you.

I started to enjoy feeling the fear during the minutes before the jumps. Unfortunately it was becoming less and less intense with time.

But then there were other moments in life where I felt a similar fear and anxiety. Public speaking, for example, used to be one of those moments.

It was the first time I had to pitch about my startup in a large stage, for many people, in a large event, with profssional cameras pointed to me and journalists taking notes for big media publications in Brazil.

On the backstage my hand were sweating and it was hard to breath. I remember having thoughts of running away (and seriously considering it).

While struggling to control myself, I eventually linked those symptoms to my skydiving experience and remembered the relief of leaving the fear behind after the jump. I wonder if that would happen when I’d step in the stage as well.

And it did. Exactly like I had experienced before, but this time the fear stayed on the backstage instead of a plane.

The moment I stepped into the stage to start my pitch, I was present in the moment. 100% focused. Adrenaline, yes, but not fear.

I presented my pitch, answered questions and talked to journalists afterwards, which resulted in a nice article in the biggest magazine of the sector in Brazil, giving my startup a huge visibility at that moment.

Me doing a speech at a large event in Brazil in 2015. Photo by author.

Similarly to what happened with my skydiving jumps, my next public speaking experiences also had that fear unfollowing me once I stepped in the stages. I started to enjoy that.

I thought that simply by taking the leap of faith I would succeed in overcoming my fears. I was wrong.

One day I had to give a speech in a company for more than a hundred people. I was confident that my stage anxiety would simply disappear after I started. But this time it didn’t. What happened was the opposite. It intensified after I started to speak. I simply couldn’t deliver my presentation. My words wouldn’t go out the way I wanted. I started to stutter. It was a total disaster.

What happened? Why this time it was different?

Reflecting about my terrible performance I realized I didn’t prepare myself well enough for that specific presentation. I didn’t think about who would be my audience. I didn’t consider their interests or anticipated their questions. I didn’t do my homework.

I realized that fear was actually my friend, and it would simply call my attention to confirm if I was really prepared for that situation. The trick was to be prepared.

To overcome the fear I had to rationalize about my preparation and boldly take the leap of faith. If I did the homework, the fear would “stay in the plane”.

Whenever I was enough prepared, the fear would be left behind after the critical step toward my goal. If I was not enough prepared, then fear symptoms would continue and the result would likely be disastrous.

There is no way to know if you’re prepared enough just by observing your fear. In both situations (well prepared or not) the fear will be the same.

What makes the difference is your confidence in your preparation. The confidence that you’ve done your homework to succeed in that situation.

The next time you feel the fear and anxiety before somethings that’s important for you to succeed, think about the time and energy you’ve put on to prepare for that. You took it seriously. You did the hard work. You can do it!

Ready? Jump! The fear will stay in the plane!

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