Here are five ways to overcome fear and build self-confidence:
1. Meditation: Fear is rooted in the ego, it is rooted in thought.
You are born only with two fears: fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Your other fears are learned from people around you and your experiences. These are based on perception from what people have taught you.
In one study, they explain: "children’s ego concerns reflect the values of their society...As children’s representations of self develop, their vulnerability and anxiety about failure in these valued areas increases.” In other words, you learn what is important based on what society teaches you and when you don't live up to them, you experience anxiety.
For example, losing face in China causes deep humiliation so Chinese communicate more indirectly. In America, accurate communication is seen as important, so people communicate more directly. These cultural behaviors are learned and people will react differently according to whether you adhere to them or not. It is based on the values they were taught.
Meditation brings your mind back to zero.
In the absence of thought, you can observe, you can see, and you are not colored by the emotion. You can act with assurance.
I felt, for once, what it’s like to have the absence of fear. This was during a meditation practice. It felt like fear was something outside of me and the only way fear could come in, is if I allowed it.
The mediation practice was to visualize labels as if they were pieces of tape, and they were falling away. I didn't visualize any particular label or thought, but just the idea of labels falling off.
And for a brief period, I could feel the absence of fear, like it was something distant and far. If I were to face a fearful event at that moment, it would be seen as a enjoyable challenge rather than a threat. When you clear out your mind from labels and previous conditioning, and slow your thinking down, you can see that fear is outside of you.
Things outside of you will compete for your attention. The brain is an organ that is built for survival. The brain is always afraid. It scans your environment for threats, and sounds the alarms if even thinks there's a threat, creating anxiety.
Confidence is assurance that comes from within. It is the ability to keep the negatives out.
2. Spontaneity: Playfulness kills the ego:
Shaolin monks and Chinese philosophers follow Wu-Wei which means "non-action". The idea is to allow actions to arise naturally, effortlessly, according to your true nature.
Spontaneity is the hallmark of confidence.
Inhibition is caused by our "thinking brain" or known as the prefrontal cortex, which puts the brakes on our natural behaviors and thoughts, usually because some kind of fear.
It could be a social fear, like the fear of rejection, so we try mold or shape our behavior to what is expected or accepted. It could be the fear of failure, so we hesitate. It could be the fear of inferiority, so we hold back our own opinions. In doing this, we lose our true self and we lose our own confidence.
Our instincts are mostly unconscious. They come up as impulses and some times you may not be aware of them.
Neuroscience reveals that we are mostly unconscious beings.
"We have discovered that the large majority of the brain's activity takes place at this low level [unconscious awareness]: the conscious part – the "me" that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning – is only a tiny bit of the operations. " - David Eagleman, Neuroscientist
You want it this way. When you learn a new skill, like to throw a punch, or drive a car, you don't want to be thinking it through every time. You develop a habitual pattern in the brain and that flows from you.
If you are inhibiting your actions, you perform below your potential.
I have a personal story about this.
For as long as I can remember, I had a stutter. It may not have been very noticeable because I would make a lot of effort to talk fluently, but it was hard.
About three months ago, I started researching how people overcome stutter problems. What was interesting was the training was revolved around deep breathing, asserting yourself, and calming the mind.
Stuttering wasn't caused by a "thing" but by an "idea". The idea they had about social situations being fearful. Because they were nervous, they tried to control the outcome and as a result, they perform below their potential.
Just recently, about a week ago, I was finally able to overcome that. As soon as I lost my inhibition, there was no stutter. It was weird. Now when I communicate, words seem to flow and there is no effort.
Deri Lllewellyn describes in his Ted Talk, "F*** the fear, it's not real anyways!" two types of fear: real ones and ego ones.
Real fear is meant to keep you alive. Ego based fear is designed to protect you from being thrown out of your tribe. It is socialized, it is learned. Since you are only born with two main fears, the other fears are learned social behavior.
These fears are:
When you are experiencing any of these fears, know that they aren't real. It's your perception of what they mean.
3. Intuitive Mind:
In ancient China, Chinese believed your mind was your heart. They used the word xin (心). In modern times it is often translated as "heart-mind" or the intuitive heart. Nowadays, "xin" is still used to express the mind but is also used to express emotions. In fact, if you look at other languages, many of them reference the heart as the true self.
In a sense, you have two minds, the one in your skull, the other in your heart. The heart is the intuitive mind, the thinking mind is in your skull.
The one in your head thinks, it calculates, it's analytical. It's also afraid, seeks comfort, shies from risk and likes certainty. It is scientific, it likes precision, it is also the ego. It is past oriented, it remembers, it was...what once was.
The heart is intuitive, it is the source of courage. It likes adventure, exploring, risk and danger. It is creative. It is future oriented and goes forward into uncertainty. It is why warriors laugh in the face of danger, they are of the heart.
While we know the brain is the control center of the body and does the processing of emotions and thoughts, it is highly influenced by its environment and changes in the body.
The heart sends more communication up to the brain, than the brain does down to the heart.
"85-90% of all neural fibres carry information from the body to the brain, and a major part of this information comes from the heart via the nervus vagus." - Dr. Rollin McCraty PhD
We've all heard the terms, like "my heart's in it", "a warrior's heart", or "broken hearted". But do we actually process our emotions there or are they still strictly in the head?
They have found in research that just by paying attention to you heart activates the same part of the brain - the insular cortex - as when you experience an emotional story.
When you feel these emotions in the heart, science calls it "introception" or "internal feeling".
So we do actually feel emotions in our heart, and our brain interprets them. These feelings in our body are actually being considered as fundamental to our awareness and consciousness. We don't just have neurons in the brain, but throughout the body, including the the gut and the heart. Though they aren't necessarily related to thoughts, they have their own intelligence.
What is interesting about the heart is that it is actually a gland. It secretes what is known as the "love hormone" oxytocin. This hormone travels up to the brain and triggers those feelings of bonding and love.
So from a real biological and physiological level, those feelings "of the heart" are actually influenced or created in the heart.
When you meditate or focus on the heart, it also activates the same neural network in the brain associated with that positive feeling. When you are feeling good about yourself and others, naturally you can connect with people and feel balanced.
The root of the word courage is "cor",
the Latin word for heart.
4. Focus within: Insecurity comes from judgement:
Insecurity is a result of externally appraising yourself based on other people's opinions. If they like you, you feel good about yourself, if they judge you, it lowers your self-esteem.
This feeling of being judged is a belief that creates anxiety. Someone with social anxiety attempts to control their environment, by controlling their behavior. They restrain themselves, use caution, and withdraw. They are usually timid, fearful and shy with unfamiliar people. In a longitudinal study, they found that inhibition is a big factor in creating social anxiety.
How people respond to you doesn't define you, it defines them. The reality is, people pass judgements about everything, so they make judgements about you one way or another. It doesn't really have anything to do with you.
If you focus within and develop a strong sense of self, you can understand what you like or dislike and be OK with that. You can know what another person's likes and dislikes and also be OK with that. You don't have to shape yourself into what they like and dislike.
Some people love a certain kind of food, that is fine. You might not like that, but that shouldn't affect them. We all have our own preferences. Just understand what our preferences are.
Insecurity is based on our desire to gain social acceptance through conforming to the preferences of others.
When you can operate from an internal perspective, you get a feeling of control and self-worth. Psychologist call this "internal locus of control". This means that you feel you are controlled by internal events, rather than external events.
The stronger you feel internally, the more happy and resilient you will feel you are. You feel you can control things in your environment and feel empowered.
5. Breath of Confidence: The most confident person in the room has the calmest breathing pattern.
You may not know it, but how you breath is a good indicator of how confident you are.
Your mood and confidence levels affect your breathing patterns. When we are anxious, we take sips of air and hold it briefly in the top part of the lungs. When we are depressed, we "sigh" a lot. When we are angry, we puff.
Your body follows your breath. It is one thing that has immediate impact on your nervous system.
In police work or other kind of anxiety provoking roles, they teach people to break out of panic states by using breathing techniques. If you were to encounter a threat on the street, initially you might tense up and hold your breath. To break this state, you control your breathing.
Practice breathing techniques before any stressful event to put yourself in the right mental state.
A very easy breathing method for doing this is called 4 7 8 Method.
You inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Then you repeat. You only need to do about seven total cycles for this to have a dramatic effect on you mental and physical state.
What this does is it slows the heart rate down and relaxes the body into the parasympathetic nervous system. When you are in this state, it opens up your mind and relaxes your muscles.
About the blog
Luke Shao and Master Wang are on a mission to share the ancient Chinese approach to acquiring any skill.