How to use fear to your advantage

Does this image fill you with fear? What does it say to you?

It’s a photo taken in Bangladesh with complete strangers – men. These men were curious; wondering how I’d got there and why I was there – they were happy to have a photo with me. They were not there to hurt or attack me, they were just existing, in the same place I was, at the same time, surprised to see me…

Cycling 10,000kms throughout Asia as a woman alone raised many questions, the most common one being, “Aren’t you scared?!”

My response was always, “Of what…You?”

And the person would be horrified that I’d asked such a daft question as they were always only approaching with genuine interest, fascination and curiosity – they had no intention to cause me any harm.

The question was so open-ended, how could I possibly respond? Of course there are moments of fear, that’s an everyday reality. Fear pops up everywhere in the world whether you’ve got a random person who seems to be staring at you strangely at the bus stop or a car that drove past you that little bit too closely… What one person considers ‘scary’ will differ to the next person.

Some types of fear come from what we have experienced in the past, often centred around our own traumas and other fears will come from the stories we’ve heard from other people. Either way, it’s a defence response from our bodies to protect us from what we perceive as a threat.

That’s the key word there, perceive. Fear comes from the narrative that we are telling inside our own minds. That narrative is derived from what ‘evidence’ we choose to focus on to help us subconsciously determine the risk.

Many people think I’m crazy for camping or cycling alone as a woman but I like to challenge people on what they think I should be scared of exactly? Being attacked or raped by a malicious stranger is the most common origin of that question in this context. Well, let’s think about this… The vast majority of humans internationally are decent people – they want to help when they can and they certainly don’t want to hurt you. So what would the chances be that a psychopathic rapist would just happen to be in the exact remote place that I unexpectedly decided to camp at sunset? And that that person would know that I was female inside my tent? Unlikely.

Sometimes, feeling fearful can distract us from consciously assessing the risk of an action/event/experience and it can prevent us from taking part. Other times, it can prevent us from making dangerous or irresponsible decisions. As we continue to navigate life, the presence of fear will always have some impact on our choices – for some, fear spurs them on and other fear holds them back…

So when someone asks me, “Aren’t you scared?” I try to explain that fear of anything doesn’t serve as a barrier to me. And to be honest, I am not scared. I recognise moments of fear and use them to help me work through challenging situations whilst simultaneously working on myself, using fear to highlight where I need to do more shadow-work to become stronger and more resilient.

Just like all other emotions, we should not suppress fear but instead witness it and use it to understand ourselves better. With that, comes personal development and overall progress.

This is not an article to help you remove fear from your life, it’s about how to conquer using fear as a positive signal; to help you engage with yourself in a more challenging way and utilise fear as a drive for personal progress.

1. Radical Acceptance

What is coming up for me?

Plucking your rawest emotions from being held tightly inside you is your first step to emotional ownership. Drawing your most challenging feelings out allows you to acknowledge them, take responsibility for them and actively work through them. Whilst fear tends to be highlighted by inaction, guilt and shame may also come up following an emotionally driven action and can contribute to the development of fear later on. Rather than regretting what has or hasn’t happened, taking responsibility of what IS will be the only way to make effective progress as you give yourself the chance to un-work emotional blockages which not only clears your path but also builds resilience within and empowers you as you come to realise your ability to tackle adversity.

Techniques to help with this can include writing them down on a piece of paper to actually visualise them or perhaps talking them through to hear them out loud with a friend, loved one or therapist. This approach helps us to take accountability of our emotions in order to listen to the message within them. As we remove resistance, we allow them to pass and are free to witness and absorb the lessons in the process.

TIP: Identify your problem by answering WHAT is coming up for you emotionally.

2. Honest Reflection

Why do I feel this way?

Working through the roots of your feelings you will begin to understand which traumas you need to pay more attention to unravelling in order to have better internal balance and stability. Identifying these traumas with openness and honesty is the only way to tackle them; maintaining a narrative of denial will keep your triggers buried until they’re inevitably called to resurface again at a later point.

TIP: Approach yourself with an honest WHY… WHY did this happen? WHY do you feel this way – WHY were you triggered? WHY did you lose control? These questions will help to identify what’s getting in your way so that you can work around them in step 3.

3. Pragmatic Approach

How can I improve this situation?

Now you have identified the cause of your rising emotions, you can work out how best to navigate around them. Knowing your obstacles can be more important than knowing your path as identifying what is blocking you will prepare you to find necessary solutions. First establish which of your blockages come from a basis of fear and which come from real risk. Fear is a projection whereas risk is calculated based on facts. Working out what the actual risks are will help you to mitigate them and through honest reflection, dissecting your fears as mere projections will mean that neither fear nor risk remain as obstacles. Make sure you take some time to think about where you want to be and what you want to achieve. With this clarity, build yourself a realistic and manageable route around your problem(s).

TIP: Approach with HOW: ‘HOW can I improve this situation?’ When dealing with fear, guilt or shame we must use our accountability to drive us forward into positive resolve. Write all your ideas as a list so that you can easily work your way through until you find the best and most effective approach.

4. Positive Progress

I have and I am…

After coming to terms with your emotions and seeing opportunities to excel past your blockages, the final step is to put your intentions into action. Implement the lessons you’ve learned from the previous steps into your reality by taking your list of your intentions that you wrote in step 3 and tackling them one at a time. I recommend making a detailed to-do list so your tasks seem more manageable and less overwhelming – cross each item off as you complete it for satisfaction and recognition that helps to keep you motivated.

TIP: Partner this practice with positive affirmations which keep you focused, learning and help to build self-confidence. Here are some examples: ‘I HAVE ALL THE TOOLS I NEED TO ….’ or ‘I AM IMPROVING ON … EVERYDAY’

So there you have it, a short and easy step-by-step guide to help you understand, rationalise and overcome your fears so that you can use them to your advantage. I hope it helps!

Love, Han x

  • Hitesh Budhedeo

    Nice read……have been following your posts since the lockdown days in India in April’21.
    Its been a incredible journey for you & has been penned down well.

    • Hannah Kern

      Thanks for the feedback! So pleased you’re enjoying following my journey…many more adventures to come! 🙂

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