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  • Lisa Atkins, LCSW & Deborah Scarborough, LCMHCS

Overcoming Fear: Embracing Courage to Live Your Best Life

Fear: Uninstalling

Hey there! Today, we're diving deep into the world of fear. Fear is that nagging voice in our heads that stops us from taking risks, trying new things, and living life to the fullest. But what if we could turn fear into our greatest ally? What if we could use fear as a stepping stone to courage and growth? That's exactly what we're going to explore today.

The Nature of Fear

Have you ever asked yourself why am I afraid? Being afraid and feeling fear is a primal instinct that has helped humans survive for centuries. It's what kept our ancestors alert in the face of danger, like a lion prowling in the savannah. But in today's world, our fears are often more subtle. We fear failure, rejection, and embarrassment – things that won't actually harm us physically. These are fears that prevent us from taking action. Usually, actions that will help us grow.

Understanding Fear

Fear is fundamentally an emotion caused by the belief that something is dangerous or likely to cause pain. It's not the actual danger that scares us, but our BELIEF in its potential harm. This is a powerful realization because it means that fear is not an external force acting upon us, but rather a reaction generated by our own minds. Most of us truly believe that fear and emotions are due to something outside of us, our circumstances. We don’t realize it is our very own thoughts that are generating the emotion of fear.

The Role of Fear in Our Lives

Fear serves us well in genuinely dangerous situations and this is the only time that fear serves us. If you're walking and see a moving car on the freeway, fear keeps you safe. If you are walking down an alley at night alone and you hear something behind you, you need to beware. But in most other situations, fear is no longer necessary and can even be detrimental. It can paralyze us, preventing us from taking action and pursuing our dreams. Fear is not useful in these situations. This type of fear is a minor discomfort.

Fear and Anxiety: Understanding the Difference

Fear and anxiety are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct emotions with different triggers and effects. Fear is a response to a specific, immediate threat, while anxiety is a more generalized feeling of apprehension about future uncertainties. Fear can be helpful in dangerous situations, but anxiety can be debilitating, causing excessive worry and stress. Understanding the difference between the two can help us better manage our emotions and responses in challenging situations.

When is Fear a problem?

Fear is a problem when your brain tells you, “You are going to die. Don’t put yourself out there for that new job.” “You are going to die. Don’t stop drinking and using drugs.” “You are going to die. Don’t join that group where you might meet new friends.” This is what your brain is doing because it thinks it is protecting you. In these situations, it is helpful to recognize what your brain is up to. Understand that it is trying to keep you safe, comfortable, and in a situation, it is familiar with and knows how to behave. Overcoming fear is about deciding that fear in this sort of situation is genuinely just discomfort, not danger.

What is Courage?

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to act despite it. It's like building a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. If you want to grow and evolve, you have to be willing to face your fears head-on. Remember, the worst thing that can happen is just an emotion – and you can handle that because it is not useful to be afraid of minor discomfort. Most of us are afraid of an unpleasant emotion. When we’re afraid to feel unpleasant emotions, we avoid doing anything that brings them up. Everything worth growing for will involve unpleasant emotions.

Dealing with Fear by Moving Towards Discomfort

We often fear emotional discomfort more than anything else. But avoiding discomfort only leads to suffering. Instead, we can move towards discomfort, allowing ourselves to feel it fully. This is where courage comes in – it's the willingness to feel the discomfort and take action anyway. Courage is a character trait that we want to develop and if we don’t expose ourselves to fear, we can’t develop it.

Overcoming Panic

Fear of fear can lead to panic, which clouds our judgment and prevents us from thinking clearly. By learning to relax into fear and embrace it, we can prevent panic and make better decisions in challenging situations.

Embracing Your Humanity

Fear is a natural part of being human. We are naturally wired with a fear response. It's not something to be ashamed of or to hide from. By acknowledging our fears and using courage to move through them, we can live more authentically and fully.

Exercise: Facing Your Fears

Take a moment to think about the things that scare you the most. What would you be doing if you weren't afraid? How would your life be different? Embrace your fears, let them be a guide to your growth and evolution. Learn how to relax into fear, and embrace fear by moving towards it. We are talking about fear here, not danger. Do not buffer it. When you’re afraid don’t drink, don’t hide, don’t overeat, don’t avoid it by going on the internet, stay present with it. Don’t seek refuge outside of yourself, and don’t switch the discomfort of fear to comfort immediately, stay present with it and move forward.


Fear is a natural part of life, but it doesn't have to hold us back. By embracing our fears and using courage to move through them, we can live more fully and authentically. So, next time you feel afraid, remember – fear is just a feeling, and you are capable of so much more than you think. Embrace your fears, embrace your courage, and live your best life.

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