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We're all afraid of something. Heights, spiders, dark parking lots, that Kate Spade bag being exposed as a knockoff. "Fear is normal," says Jenna Glatzer, coauthor of Fear Is No Longer My Reality. "It only becomes a problem when you refuse to take steps to beat it." Taking those steps is the hard part, so WH asked experts for their advice on how to give fear a swift kick in the . . .
Fight Back: With Imagination
Visualization — imagining a challenge in your mind and picturing yourself conquering it — is a proven tool of top athletes, and it can help you too, says Rebecca Kiki Weingarten, cofounder of Daily Life Consulting in New York. And visualization doesn't have to focus on perfection, she says. If you're petrified about the toast you have to give in front of 300 people at your best friend's wedding, visualize the worst possible scenario: You spill the champagne, you have salad in your teeth, the lights go out — the more ridiculous, the better. Then visualize yourself enrapturing the audience with a winning performance, and practice. You'll quickly realize that preparation, not fear of public speaking, is your real challenge.
Fight Back: With Words
Change your language. Every time you say, "I can't," or, "I'm afraid," you strengthen the fear in yourself, says Louise Rafkin, a martial arts teacher in Oakland, California. So when you start to say, "I can't get up in front of that crowd" — stop. You can do this. Because that was your name they just called, and your toast is next.
Fight Back: With Diversion
Change your focus. Rafkin can walk on broken glass, she says, because she believes fear is an illusion. When you focus on fear, you give it power to trigger physical reactions like a pounding heart and rapid breathing that disrupt your performance, she says. So instead of scanning that ballroom of 300 people as you rise to give your toast, pick out one or two friendly faces in the room and deliver your speech to them.
Fight Back: With Acknowledgment
Face the fear. Some things are going to scare you, period, so fear will always be there, Weingarten says. "But the question becomes, 'Will I let this fear paralyze me?'" Acknowledge that you may mess up and make a fool of yourself on your toast, then get up there and do what you've practiced and rehearsed and prepared for days.