How To Overcome Fear So It Never Holds You Back Again
There is something you want to be able to do. Maybe it’s starting conversations, making friends, improving your love life, or starting that big project. Something that would make your life more fulfilling, exciting, and interesting…
But then the voice of fear and self-doubt kicks in…What if it doesn’t work? You’re not good enough to do that. You’ll fail and then everyone will see that and judge you for it.
As long as you listen to this voice, you will never reach your full potential. Join Dr. Aziz as he guides you around the fear trap and into a life of more boldness, courage, and social success.
Click below to hear this episode!
Click here to download your free instructions for creating your very own fear hierarchy!
Your Comfort Zone
Today’s episode is all about fear specifically overcoming fear and if you listened to the last episode in which I interviewed Dr. Zasio who is a big proponent of exposure has helped thousands of people directly and indirectly through her shows on TV to help realize that you can shift your fears.
You can overcome your fears simply by addressing them, by turning towards them. So I thought today would be a great opportunity to follow that up, to keep that momentum going, keep you thinking in that same line to turn towards your fears. So today is going to be all about overcoming your fears. And to begin to do that, we’re going to get into what some of your fears might be in a moment.
The first thing we have to talk about is the opposite of fear which is your comfort zone.
Maybe you’ve heard that term before. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything to you, but the comfort zone is the collection of things that you do, activities that you do, places you like to go, restaurants you like to go, the food you like to eat, the ways in which you like to interact with people, the way you drive to work, or to commute to work, the way in which you hold your body, the clothes that you wear, everything, all the patterns that you have, all the things that you do that are familiar to you, normal to you, comfortable to you, and that is your comfort zone and you live in your comfort zone.
We all do most of the time. And if there’s something that’s outside of your comfort zone, the typical thing is to shy away from it. Oh, I don’t do that sort of thing. That’s just not me.
If you think of your comfort zone like a thermostat, you know, you have a thermostat you can set it down to, say, the low end 60 degrees and the high end 70 degrees and if you were to, you can move around in that range but if you were to get above 70, something kicks in and cools the room down. And if you were to get below 60, something kicks in and heats the room up.
It’s the same thing with our comfort zone. We kind of like have a band that we like to operate in and we prefer not to operate outside of that band. So what is outside of the comfort zone? Well, that’s terrifying terrain out there, right? I mean, what’s outside of your comfort zone? What are the things that scare you? Because that’s a great marker that you’re reaching the edge of your comfort zone which you start to feel more fear. You start to feel uncomfortable or scary. What’s outside of your comfort zone?
Creating A Fear Hierarchy
Last week, Dr. Zasio was talking about a fear hierarchy and this is a major component of structuring your exposure so it’s maximally effective for you. And it consists of discovering what scares me the most, what’s the – if you think about your comfort zone, it really helps to actually think of a visual map of a terrain and there’s your territory and you know your territory.
You know the trees and the hillsides and it’s familiar to you and then, you get to the edge of your territory and it’s uncomfortable. You don’t know what’s there. You hear strange sounds. It could be animals. It could be predators. And that’s where it starts to get uncomfortable.
Now in that analogy, there is 10 feet away from your territory in which you know you can just ran back to your territory and that’s nerve wracking. It makes you a little nervous but it’s not terrifying. But if you’re going to continue deeper and deeper into that unknown terrain, it will start to become more and more scary, more and more anxiety-provoking and eventually, it would be terrifying.
Imagine you’re in a deep dark forest that you never go into, terrifying. So that would be the higher end of your – outside of your comfort zone. So creating a fear hierarchy simply involves ranking fears from low like one on a scale of one to 10, up to 10, 10 on a scale of 10.
And I’m going to read off a list of fears. You can get the materials to create your own fear hierarchy from the Shrink for the Shy Guy website. Just go to ShrinkfortheShyGuy.com/fear-h, fear-h and you’ll be able to get the materials to create your own fear hierarchy. Here are some of the things that you can start to think about though and just think where would this be? You’re not going to write out on all fear hierarchy or maybe your drive or whatever, this is just to get your mind going and get you to realize, what is outside of my comfort zone and you might already know a lot of stuff like dancing, approaching attractive stranger, speaking up in front of a group.
I mean, these are some of the things that we already know. But just think about some of these things as I shared them with you and just really quickly from your gut without thinking about it too much, give it a number.
If you were to actually do this, how frightening would it be? Ten is terrifying, panic-inducing, and one is barely you can’t feel it like walking in the mailbox. So here are some things in no particular order. Think about them and give them some numbers in your head. Going to a party or social gathering where you know most of the people there. What about going to a party when you don’t know most of the people there? You know virtually no one there. Does it change it? Does it increase it?
How about giving a presentation to a group of people? But here’s the kicker or here’s the distinction, giving a prepared presentation to a group of people. How about giving a spontaneous off the cuff presentation to a group of people?
What about if a superior is in the room, boss, or management person? It’s interesting how these change, right? Our fear can go up to the map of what’s outside of your comfort zone and you can start to get a much better idea of the terrain and the better you know the terrain, the more you’re going to be able to learn how to navigate. How about eating alone in public, lunch or dinner?
How about going to a movie theater alone? What about making a phone call to someone you don’t know well, phone call to a restaurant or an establishment to ask them something? Oh, this is a good one. How about approaching that attractive stranger to start a conversation? Terrifying.
How about approaching a group of people that you don’t know? For a lot of people, that’s like, that’s off the chart. How about this one, dancing while sober? Does that change it? I mean, dancing itself could be habitual. But how about dancing without alcohol which is something a lot of people have a difficult time with even if they don’t consider themselves shy, being the center of attention, complimenting a stranger.
How about this one, letting someone know that you are sexually attractive to them through asking them out or going in for the kiss or in some way communicating “I’m into you.” It can be very uncomfortable, making eye contact with a stranger on the street.
So there are many more if you go to the ShrinkfortheShyGuy.com/fear-h. You’ll be able to get all the materials where these are drawn from to create your own fear hierarchy and rate them in order and there are little boxes and things that make that easy.
But the key takeaway here is to start to realize “Wow, look at all the stuff that’s outside of my comfort zone.” And if you’re listing that list and you’re like, “None of those are outside of my comfort zone. It’s all piece of cake.” Then, you sure are bold. But what – two things could be happening there.
One, maybe you have done a lot of work and are very bold and socially confident and then, the questions for you are, “What is outside of your comfort zone?” There’s always something. No matter what level we get to there’s always a next level that stretches our edge. So I want you to think about what is that for you. And then the other response might be well, maybe you’re not really putting yourself in the mindset of actually thinking about doing these things. If you’ve avoided stuff like that for years, then when it comes to actually imagining doing it, you just kind of dismiss it. You’re like, “No.” You’re kind of disconnected from the level of fear that you would feel because you’ve checked out from it as a possibility.
Now that you have some idea about the things that scare you, the things that are outside of your comfort zone, we need to learn what keeps us stuck in the comfort zone. Because you might have an experience where you realize you’re scared of something, you realize you want to do something and it requires you to challenge one of your fears, but then you just get stuck, right?
Like you want to do it, you’re ready to do it, but something inside of you just stops you from doing it, just holds you back. It’s like your mind and body are at war and some part of you wants to do it and some part of you is digging its heels in and not going to let it happen. And I’ve been there and that can be an incredibly frustrating place to be.
So let’s look at in the next segment the two gravitational forces, the two powerful forces that keep you right there in the center of your comfort zone and block you from stepping up and you learn how to break free of those forces as well so stay tune.
What Keeps You Stuck In Shyness and Social Anxiety
Welcome back. Let’s look at the two major forces that keep you stuck in your comfort zone. I remember not too long ago, I was out with a client and he’s made tremendous gains since then. I mean, it’s night and day. But when we’re first starting out, some of the more basic interactions produce a lot of anxiety and so we started at the bottom of this fear hierarchy and one of the things was going and asking people out in public if they have the time and I call this time check.
It’s a very basic, usually hopefully low level exposure for him. It was actually about a five or a six which is a little higher than I recommend people starting but I was there with him and we were – he was ready to just take the plunge and I really think, I thought he could have a profound transformation just by doing this exercise because nine times out of 10, you don’t get a negative response.
The only – the worst case scenario is someone doesn’t hear you or they ignore you but I’ve never had anyone throw a drink of water in your face for asking what time it is. So we decided to go out to a local busy area here in Portland. There’s a busy street, there’s a Whole Foods, there’s a bookstore.
It’s kind of my stomping ground when I want to do some social experiments because there are lots of people cycling through. So we go into these places and we’re going – let’s have you ask people the time and he is just tight in his body, wracked with fear. “I can’t. I don’t want to do this.” And so we looked at what he thinks is going to happen. And this is where we get into the first gravitational force that keeps you stuck in your comfort zone and this one you know well.
This one is fear, right? If you think about that analogy of walking towards the edge of your territory to go to the other side, there’s something that’s like pulling you back towards the middle of territory and that is a creeping sense of anxiety, apprehension, fear, nervousness, dread about what might happen to you. In the analogy of the terrain, maybe you think that something is going to – a predator is going to kill you, you’re going to die and that was dramatic. But if you really look at the feelings that we have before we’re going to go outside of our comfort zone, it’s akin to death, isn’t it?
It really feels like we’re under major threat and that sort of feels like, it’s like something bad is going to happen. And so we explore that, what’s going to happen? “They’re going to give me a strange look. They’re going to think this guy is a weirdo. This guy is a freak. They’re going to hear me mumble of my words and have a negative perception of me.” And these are all the fears that get in the way and the biggest challenge is getting swept up by those fears. And I’m sure you’ve heard this acronym for fear, right, false evidence appearing real.
So what’s going to happen is your mind is going to come up with a bunch of stories that are going to really try to convince you. “Ah, it’s better to stay on this side of the fence, not going to the other terrain, stay in your territory where it’s safe.” And sometimes those stories are very compelling, very convincing, and if you get up in there in your stories and really try to challenge them logically or try to come up with new responses.
I mean, sometimes that’s helpful like the cognitive side of cognitive behavioral therapy. But often times, that is a losing battle because your mind will just – it’s quicker than you are and it will just keep coming up with things, keep coming up with reasons why you’re still under threat.
And so, the most important thing to do is just acknowledge this is fear. It is the first gravitational force that is pulling me towards the center of my comfort zone and the only way out is through. I must walk towards my fears. I must do the thing that scares me. I must do the thing that scares me.
That’s basically what I repeat when I’m out there with guys in the field and this is what I did with this client and you can do this. You must do this. You can do it. And I just kind of kept on staying with him and it took him maybe about five minutes literally of people walking by and him like, “Ah, I can’t.”
And here’s the beauty of actually working with someone is if you’re out by yourself and you try to do this, I know I’ve had this experience where I’m like, “I’m going to go and do this today.” And you go out by yourself and then you have that exact experience that this client was having and then you say, “Duh, nuts to this.” And you go back in your car, start to walk home and oh, relief.
And so it’s really hard. And so accountability is huge here. That’s why I recommend doing a lot of these experiments with a friend or a buddy. But I was there with him and so we’re walking on aisle on Whole Foods and I like kind of turn my head, indicate it with my head and eyes like talk to that guy there, he’s a checker, he’s a stocker at the store.
I’m not going to get a negative response from this guy and so, we’re walking down the aisle, this stocker guy is like doing whatever he’s doing with some items on a shelf and I am walking such that my client is going to run into this guy unless I move and I don’t move.
So at some point, we’re like, he has to stop right in front of the guy and the guy looks up and I sort of force his hand in a way but benevolently and he asked what time it is. He’s like, “Oh.” As you would expect, he responded normally. And that’s just really highlights the things, that these fears false evidence appearing real, these things don’t happen in reality.
Most of the time, they don’t happen especially the lesser level fears of people are just going to hate me if I open my mouth and talk to them and they got a good response. And then we worked a little bit on volume and other things and he ended up asking like 15 people that day and was really surprised. I mean, you can have a powerful shift by just having a new experience and it really scramble the circuits.
So that is the first gravitational force. It’s fear. That’s the first thing that’s stopping you from breaking out of the comfort zone. The question is: What is the second gravitational force? Well, I’m going to get into that in just a moment but first, I want to answer a question that I received that falls into the segment of How Do I Talk to Her?
How Do I Talk To Her?
I was talking to a client the other day and he had been pushing his edge and wanting to talk to more people and meet women. He’s doing some online dating but he says, “You know Aziz, when I am walking around in my day to day like going to the supermarket, I see women that I’m attracted to, women that they’re shopping in the same kind of place I am, they will pick the same kind of food I do, they look fun, they have interesting clothes or there’s something about them and I feel like maybe we could connect. They’re beautiful, I’m drawn to them. But I don’t know that to do. It just feels so strange, so weird to go start a conversation with a woman in the supermarket.”
And this particular client has bring this to me then did what he always did which he mocks himself or anyone else who might do something like that. And this is very, very important because if you do this, you’re shooting yourself in the – what he does is, what am I supposed to do? Just walk up to her and say, “Hi. How are you doing? I’m some guy you don’t know. You want to go out with me?”
And the way he does that is he makes it sound really stupid and creepy and weird and absurd that someone would be so inappropriate as to do that and that’s just a reflection of his own beliefs, his own ideas, his own values, his own fears but I stop that and I point that out. I said when you do that, you set up a condition where you create, you’re mocking yourself, and you’re mocking anyone who might do something like that.
And the first step to breaking free is to change that pattern. And the next step is to really look at how you might actually do it. And so my work with him was a bit more deep because we have to look at some of the resistance to doing it but just on a purely logistical level, how might you start a conversation with a woman in a supermarket? Well, this is my expertise.
I spent many many months even years practicing this stuff because I’m not a bar guy. I don’t like to try to – I’ve done it to go meet women at bars and I assume I have a good time but only if I have like really good friends with me and it’s mostly about that. But my younger days like we didn’t go out to the bar and hunt, terrible experiences.
And even as I got more proficient and comfortable and authentic in myself, it still just became not my favorite environment. I much rather be at the music show or something that was more – there’s something beyond just hanging out and drinking. And so supermarkets were a fantastic place for me to practice because there are always attractive women in supermarkets.
In my experiences especially if you go to some of the higher end nicer supermarkets like Whole Foods or here in Portland, in Oregon there’s a place called New Seasons which is very similar to Whole Foods and it tends to draw health conscious, very fit healthy aware woman which is what I’m into.
So how do we start a conversation with a woman in a supermarket? I mean, this is a huge topic and if you really want to learn to master this stuff, I highly recommend checking out 30 Days to Dating Mastery. Go there to 30DaystoDatingMastery.com or just go to my website SocialConfidenceCenter.com and look under products and you’ll see it.
But this is – I can go 30 minutes under this topic alone but I’m just going to give a two-minute answer here which is two things. Be bold. Like don’t try to make it look like you’re not talking to her like, “No, I’m walking over to talk to you.” So be bold in that way and use the environment.
Use the environment. The client was pointing to one thing which is true, which she doesn’t know you. She doesn’t know you and she might not even be there to meet someone. And so if you can use the environment, it’s a non-threatening playful way that you both can bond because the environment is something that you’re both sharing in that moment.
Now I don’t necessarily mean like, “Hey, it sure been raining a lot, huh?” I mean, something a little more in that, in the immediate environment. So for example, I met a woman who was actually my – ended up being my girlfriend for six months in my 20s where I was walking in the supermarket and I saw her and I wanted to start a conversation.
I noticed her and then I just did the dart my eyes away and scry. I called it the crab where you scry away real quick and hide under a turtle and I didn’t. And I was kicking myself like, “Oh, God, you should do something.” And I was walking down on another aisle and I saw her again and I was like, “Well, that’s a sign enough.” And so I walked directly up to her and she was getting some food out of the bulk aisle and I just point through her basket on the ground, got her attention, I said, “What’s that?” And I pointed to some product on her basket and that was it. Then, we started a conversation. So I was bold in that way.
Another one would be in the produce aisle and there’s a bunch of different apples there and she’s looking at the apples and you’re like, “Can I ask you a question?” She says, “Yeah.” I say, “What’s your favorite kind of apple?” And there are so many different ways here. In fact, if you go to 30DaystoDatingMastery.com and there’s a space to enter your email there, if you do, I’ll send you my free report Seven Ways to Start Conversations with Women anywhere, anytime and it goes way in-depth into all of this stuff and then, you’re going to have a much better understanding of how to start conversations with some of the blocks are. So the main takeaway here is bold and use the environment and if you want to get more information, go check out that website and that is how I will talk to her.
The Second Force That Holds You Back
In this final segment, I want to get into the second gravitational force that stops you from breaking out of your comfort zone and then we’re going to look at of course an action step. But remember the first one, the first one is fear. As you approach that fence, there’s fear, fear, fear and I used to think when I was first learning this work that once you breakthrough and overcome your fear, amazing things happen, right? You’re elated. You realize that it was all beliefs in your head and you can do anything and sometimes that happens and that’s awesome. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes the second gravitational force just grabs onto you and pulls you back in and guess what that one is. That’s guilt. That’s a sense of guilt or shame. The feeling that you’re – the tightness in your stomach, wanting to shrug, hunch your shoulders over, not wanting to make eye contact with people, a sense of feeling like you’re bad or wrong or you did bad or wrong and you’re unlovable. That shame or guilt and that contraction can pull you back and hold you more tightly in the comfort zone and even the fear can. And that means, usually what happens is you broke some rule or you feel exposed, you feel vulnerable.
So let’s say you did dance sober, let’s say you did something or you were the first one to go onto the dance floor and dance and then other people joined you and it went well enough, but afterwards, you’re just like cringy, “Oh, God. I shouldn’t have done that.” I call that the backlash and that just like the fear is important to keep reminding yourself this is a part of the process of expanding my comfort zone. This does not mean that I actually did that or end that this is just a natural part of the growth process. It’s like shedding a skin. It’s uncomfortable and painful but not threatening and not bad.
So that is a very important thing to pay attention to is to not believe the guilt and that you were bad or wrong and just keep going, keep pursuing, keep doing it at the rate that you can. So that’s the second force. And one final piece of advice or tip, I’d like to give in this process of overcoming your fears is that repetition is key. Repetition is essential. You’re not going to get it on the first try. That client who asked 15 people what time it is, I had him do that three times during that week where he went out and asked 10, 15, 20 people each time around what time it is, just that one item on his fear hierarchy. So what is that? That’s a repetition of 60, 80 times.
In fact, I had a client I was working with who was a very successful doctor. He worked in a hospital, very well respected, incredible at his job and his ability to help you people and he came to see me because when he was in the doctor role, confidence can be talking to patients, he could handle them, beat them at jokes, soothe them, just be very charismatic and amiable with his clients or patients. But when he was outside of the role doctor, he felt a lot of social anxiety, inhibitions, self-criticism, and so we were talking about this process of exposure and he was asking me how long it would take.
And I said, “Well, let me ask you a question. When you first sat down with your very first patient, when you’re in a medical school, were you comfortable?” He’s laughed. He said, “No. No, I didn’t know what I was doing.” I said, “Okay. And now you feel very confident.” He said, “Yes, very confident. Very confident.” I said, “Good, good. How many times would you say you’ve sat down with a patient since beginning of medical school to now?” He paused. He actually really paused and thought about it. He didn’t just give me some random numbers and smile. He really thought about it.
When he figured it out, he said, “It was something in the thousands, thousands.” Now, you might not have to do that much, but if you’re looking at mastery of something, of being completely comfortable and doing something, then that you’re looking in a very high number. So repetition is an incredibly important part of this process. And of course, the other important part is putting what you learn into practice and that takes us to our action step.
Time For Action
Today’s action step is clear and simple and that is to find something of the list that I gave you earlier in this episode or go to ShrinkfortheShyGuy.com/fear-h and find more items, but find something that you know scares you. Not a 10 out of 10 but in terms of making a quake in your boots and feel flushed with panic but something in the 3, 4, 5 range, something that makes you a little nervous where you’re getting a bubbly feeling in your stomach, “Oh, God, I don’t want to do this.” You got to be a little bit nervous at least when you do it. If you’re not nervous at all then pick something a little more nerve wracking and then do it, don’t just do it once, if you can, do it five times in a row in the same 30-minute period.
This is a very powerful part of the process, the repetition. To extinguish the fear, we have to not only do it once but do it a lot again and again to reprogram our mind, to show us it’s not threatening and nothing bad happens. And if you want to make this process fun as rather than like really uncomfortable and nerve wracking, get a friend. Get a friend say, “Hey, let’s do some social experiments. Let’s go out after work and see if we can start conversations with five people. Or if you’re not in that level, let’s go out and let’s start with asking five people what time it is.” And if your friend is like, “Well, that’s too easy for me.” Then say, “We’ll pick something good for you. Let’s each work on our own thing.” Find a friend who is into it and who wants to grow and expand and a lot of guys do want to increase their confidence.
You can even tell them about what the purpose is. So that’s your action step for today and remember, overall, everything that you want in your life is outside of your comfort zone. That dream job, creating the business that you really love, earning the income that you want, meeting the partner that’s going to light you up, that’s going to fill you with joy, being able to date multiple women, being able to feel like you’re the man and you can talk to women out in public, all of that stuff, outside of your comfort zone. Fulfillment, joy, growth, meaning, all of that is outside of your comfort zone. So I strongly encourage you to keep finding ways to push that edge, leaning into your edge. That’s our show for today. Thanks for listening. Until we speak next week, KNOW that you’re awesome.
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