How To Control Your Fears By Confronting Them

Fear is a story we tell ourselves — and that means we can change the ending.

In My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown, artist and author Meera Lee Patel examines fear — where it comes from, how it can hold you back, and how it can be harnessed into a power for good. Using her own experience with anxiety — and pairing them with calming watercolor illustrations — Patel helps readers feel less alone, sharing insight she's learned while working to identify, understand, and overcome fear. Below, Patel describes how to face it.

Tune into your fears. Are you able to separate the irrational fears from the rational ones? Which fears scare you the most?

When you feel fear coming closer, ask yourself: Where is it coming from? What is its root — is it sprouting from my present circumstances or does it not have any root at all?

Irrational fears are stories that we weave into long, spinning tales. We tell these stories to ourselves repeatedly, choosing colors and feelings to accompany each twist, creating entire paintings of how each story will unfortunately unfold. These stories live in the future, always wondering what happens next, while rational fears live in the present. Identifying whether your current fear has a root can quickly help you to determine which kind of fear it is.

Identify the purpose behind your fear. What will you accomplish if you quiet this irrational fear?

Irrational fears paralyze us. They prevent us from being present in our daily lives, from honestly connecting with one another, and from being who we really are.

We often sensationalize how unfortunate the endings to our stories are — we believe our potential pain is boundless and will ultimately ruin us. Change the story that your fear tells you. Instead of focusing on the fantastic-but-ultimately-imaginary pain your fear is saving you from, look at what your irrational fears do to you: They force you to live a small life instead of discovering the incredible world waiting for you.

FInd things that scare you. Let them scare you. Do them anyway.

If you’re afraid of venturing to unfamiliar places, try taking a different route to work. When that becomes easier, make plans to visit a different part of your city. This becomes extra special if it’s a place you’ve always wanted to go — a museum, café, or concert — but haven’t because you were afraid.

If your irrational fear is of judgment or discomfort from others, say hello to the person in front of you in line at the coffee shop. Compliment someone you pass on the street. Give others the opportunity to help you lessen your fears. If there’s anything I’ve learned while overcoming this fear myself, it’s that people will always surprise you if you let them. Life is nothing other than a brilliant collection of experiences — some rough, many smooth, some found under water, others under stone. Look for them all. They’re yours to take.

Adapted from My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown by Meera Lee Patel with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright© 2018

Meera Lee Patel is a self-taught author and artist who creates work that inspires others to connect with themselves, each other, and the world around them. She likes sleeping and smiling and believes that all change comes from within. Sometimes she is scared, but she still has dreams and is doing her best to leave no one dream untouched. To see more of her work, please visit Meera is the author of Start Where You Are (TarcherPerigee) and My Friend Fear (TarcherPerigee).

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