Fear of The Unknown: 7 Best Steps To Understanding And Overcoming Fear

Fear is the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind. Fear of the unknown, especially, is one of humanity’s greatest weaknesses.

Take, for example, back in 2020 when news about the virus spread. Fearful responses to the pandemic led to irrational actions such as hoarding essential commodities like toilet paper and santizers. Within weeks there were wild and unfounded beliefs about the virus. 

People responded differently to the virus. A lot of people’s mental health suffered. Some people sunk deep into depression, while others distracted themselves by taking drugs or losing themselves to technology or food.

The negative reactions to the pandemic are closely related to the negative consequences of fear. 

Looking back at the implications of the virus, it demonstrated people’s intolerance of uncertainty and it’s easy to see how fear of the unknown can cause us to act in such a way that we end up only hurting ourselves.

When we don’t learn how to overcome fear of the unknown, we end up robbing ourselves of a happy and healthy future. 

What Causes Us To Have A Fear Of The Unknown? 

There are several factors that cause us to have a fear of the unknown, and one of them is the unpredictability of a situation. When we lack information or context, our minds tend to think the worst. 

For example, if you are starting out in a new school or workplace, you may experience certain fears, such as, “will I be able to deliver based on the company’s standard?” or “will I be able to make new friends?”

One of the ways that you can overcome your fear of the unknown is to gather more information.

In the situation where you are beginning a new job, you can take a look at the company’s website or your role description and make sure that you are aware of the company values and what their expectations will be for you within the role. 

A lack of control can also make you feel fearful. Your anxiety level increases, and you can get stressed out when you perceive that the situation is outside of your control. Maybe it’s a loved one who has just been diagnosed with cancer or you have lost a job. 

These situations can be difficult to deal with and develop feelings of uncertainty. But you can decrease the level of uncertainty by coming up with a plan based on what you can handle or do about the situation. 

An extreme level of intolerance to uncertainty is known as xenophobia. This is when someone develops irrational thoughts about situations and people we perceive as strange or foreign. 

People who have xenophobia develop aversion to anything strange or foreign, like strangers or people from different cultures. Such people can become extreme or even violent when they encounter new people because they’ve allowed fear to rule their lives. 

Yet, xenophobia is one extreme type of fear. Many of us suffer from a much less extreme fear, which streams from the desire to remain in our comfort zone instead of taking the opportunity to venture out into the unknown. 

However, when we fear the unknown, we miss out on really living. If you want to live life to the fullest, you have to leave your comfort zone and open your mind to new possibilities. 

Fear of The Unknown, fear the unknown

Why Do We Have A Fear Of The Unknown? 

There has been extensive research conducted on what causes the fear of the unknown and essentially an intolerance of uncertainty. Some studies show that due to situations or circumstances, we can be conditioned to fear or discriminate against different people. 

Studies show that we can be conditioned to fear anyone or anything, including other people’s different ideas, in a matter of hours.

Even people who claim to have no bias can end up supporting unfounded ideologies. Yet research also shows that we have a choice on whom to fear and how to react. 

Understanding & Overcome Your Fear of The Unknown 

Living a life defeated by fear prevents you from living your best life. To defeat this fear, you need to begin a personal journey of transformation. Here are 8-strategies that can help you overcome that fear of the unknown. 

1. Understand Your Fear 

Fear is a normal experience for everyone. It is hardwired into our brains, and you naturally feel it when you find ourselves in uncertain situations.

Yet, when you want to overcome your fear of the unknown, you need perspective that this fear is not always based on reality.

Instead, it is based on self-limiting beliefs that pile up within you and create the worst-case scenario for a situation. When you feel fear, you acknowledge it but not letting it paralyze you is an essential part of the process. 

2. Find The Cause of The Fear 

Fear is ingrained in our DNA because it helps us survive. When you are faced with a life threatening situation, fear can help you fight back or flee from the situation.

However, fear also has the ability to cripple you and prevent you from living life to the fullest. This is the fear that you need to overcome

We become afraid of the unknown due to the negative experiences from our past. For instance, if you have a history of failed relationships, you may be reluctant to try trusting someone again.

Adults experience fear caused by undiagnosed childhood anxiety disorders.

Many psychologists can work with you to identify the cause of your fear. They can also recommend ways to minimize its risk or for you to cope with it. 

3. Question Your Fear 

Now that we understand that our fear is based on our perception of reality, the next step should be asking yourself what the root cause of the fear is. 

You can begin by asking yourself these three questions:

  • What proof is there that supports this fear of the unknown? 
  • What three examples are there of instances where I successfully overcame uncertainty? 
  • What evidence is there that I will fail, and the fear of the unknown will be justified? 

In most instances, you will discover that the fear is unfounded and not based on real life. 

Fear of The Unknown, intolerance of uncertainty

4. Accept Failure As A Possibility 

Most of the time, people are experiencing fear because they are afraid of failing. The truth is that no one likes to fail. However, it’s impossible to go through life without failing, especially if we are going out of our comfort zone. 

If you cannot take the possibility of failure, then you’ll never leave your comfort zone. The issue with this is that fear will keep you from trying anything new and you will probably live in regret because of it.

Yet if you take away the fear, you will be able to have an authentic experience of life. Also, the setbacks and failures become lessons that will help you bounce back stronger and better than before. 

5. Ride Out The Fear 

Riding out the fear is an important aspect of overcoming your fear. Most new things that we try out will take us out of our comfort zone and trigger feelings of uncertainty.

So, it is important to understand that once you acknowledge that the situation’s outcome is uncertain and allow yourself to sail through it, the discomfort subsides, and it becomes easier to surpass that fear. 

One way that you can manage fear is to talk it out with someone.

Exercise and meditation can also help you slow down your thoughts and focus on what you can control and do in the present rather than focusing on what will occur in the future.

The support of some good friends can also help you avoid focusing on the uncertainty of the situation. 

6. Embrace Change 

In this life, change is constant and, at times, disruptive. The more we resist it, the more it persists in our lives.

Accept that you cannot avoid change in this life. In fact, the more you embrace it, the more resilient and courageous you will become.

When you resist change, you remain in a paralyzing state of fear. This fear will prevent you from dealing with the situation because it controls you. 

When you step out and embrace change, you open your eyes to opportunities and growth. Change becomes a normal event that you can manage successfully. 

7. Quiet Your Mind Using Mindfulness Techniques 

Your fear of the unknown is a result of your self-limiting thoughts that control your mind. Left unchecked, these thoughts can run through our minds 24/7, leading to a crippling kind of fear that negatively affects our behaviors. 

One way that you can control these thoughts is to practice mindfulness. Tools such as meditation or going for a walk can help you loosen the hold of negative thoughts and improve your mental health.

Fear of The Unknown

Opportunity In The Unknown

What would happen if we chose to see opportunity in the unknown instead of fear? When we fear a situation, we either react to it or become paralyzed by it, thereby affecting our mental health.

However, instead of reacting to the crisis and trying to manage it, you can look for opportunities that will help you slide into the change and control its disruption. 

For example, if your business was affected by Covid-19 restrictions, you can look for innovative ways that will allow you to continue operating. Instead of attempting to hold on to the status quo, you can find ways to use that disruption as a chance to innovate and continue to serve customers in a new way.  

When you develop an anticipatory mindset, you will be able to see the opportunity in every uncertain situation. This is a mindset that doesn’t try to guess the future but prepares itself for every possibility. 

This mindset allows you to brace yourself and open yourself up to opportunities that may arise in the situation. 

How to Live with Uncertainty in Your Life

How do you deal with uncertainty?

Dealing with uncertainty is hard because our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat and try to protect us by shifting our focus to what we perceive as inevitable. 

Although our brains are wired to avoid uncertainty, we can never be sure of what the future holds. As such, we need to learn how to live with certainty. 

So how can we cope when everything is spiraling out of control? 

1. Acceptance 

Resisting change reduces us to fear and prolongs our difficulty in adapting to change. Instead of resisting, you can find acceptance, particularly self-acceptance.

Research shows that self-acceptance leads to happiness, as it helps you become aware of where you are in life and embrace it.

Since acceptance means coming to terms with the here and now, it motivates us to move forward rather than becoming paralyzed by the fear of uncertainty. 

Acceptance means surrendering our resistance and emotions to a certain situation. This is not the same as resigning ourselves to a terrible fate. Instead, it’s about accepting the present and working towards making things better for the future. You may find yourself in a difficult marriage.

This type of situation can be difficult and a source of anxiety. However, by accepting your emotions about it and understanding the situation, you are able to position yourself to move forward. 

2. Invest In Yourself 

Most people fail to invest into their minds, bodies, and spirits. When you fail to invest into yourself, you deny the world of a great resource – that is you. Remember that self-care is not selfish. 

Selfishness is when you look at extrinsic things like preserving your beauty or getting likes on social media. These behaviors are not only selfish but can also affect your mental health making you depressed, stressed, and leaving you feeling anxious

Self-care and personal growth have to do with looking after yourself so that you are able to care for others. Examples include; getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, spending time with family, and having fun. 

3. Comfort Yourself In A Healthy Way 

When we experience fear of the unknown, we may begin engaging in unhealthy habits such as drinking too much, binge eating on junk food, or spending hours on social media.

But instead of succumbing to unhealthy habits, you can look for healthy ways to comfort yourself in that time of uncertainty without sacrificing your physical and mental health. 

For example, you can go for a walk, spend some time with a trusted friend, watch funny clips on YouTube, or take a nap. These things may appear small but will help you navigate through the uncertainty without losing yourself to unhealthy habits.  

4. Find Meaning In The Uncertainty 

Social psychologists define meaning as the ability to intellectually and emotionally assess our lives and gauge the level at which we feel that we have purpose, value, and impact.

We tend to have a sense of satisfaction when we have a sense of purpose.

For example, people who provide support for those in crises in their community are likely to feel more strongly connected to their community. 

When faced with uncertainty, you need to ask yourself, “what talents and skills can I bring to this issue to make it better?” Having meaning and purpose will result in hope. 

Hope allows us to see the situation differently and believe for the best. When we can reach out to others and make them feel a sense of purpose, we also feel better about ourselves and more confident to face any issue. 

5. Don’t Wait For Someone To Rescue You 

When we allow the fear of uncertainty to cripple us, we end up trapped in thoughts that make us feel trapped, angry, and helpless. We also start hoping that other people will save us from our misery.

But the issue with waiting for a hero to come along, is that we avoid taking responsibility for our actions. 

The best way to cope with intolerance of uncertainty is to stop complaining. Adopt the “I can handle it” mentality and look forward to the outcome that you desire.

When we take responsibility for our actions and reactions, we trade the false power of victimhood for the true power of creating the life we want. 

Fear of the Unknown Quotes

Below are some quotes about the fear of the unknown that will help with how you currently feel.

“We all have a fear of the unknown what one does with that fear will make all the difference in the world.”

― Lillian Russell

“The unknown is not what to be afraid of, it’s only when the unknown becomes known that one can decide whether to be afraid or not.”

― Markus Peterson

“We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown.”

― Teal Swan

“If you let fear of the unknown stop you from taking chances, you will stifle your true potential.”

― Steve Rizzo

“You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”

― Denis Waitley

“To live for your dreams, you have to be fearless in life.”

― Lailah Gifty Akita

“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”

― Patrick Overton

“Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.”

― Danny Gokey

“Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear. Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave. While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.”

― Joseph Campbell

The Bottom Line 

Not knowing what will take place next can unfortunately make us act in harmful ways. We can get depressed, turn to drugs, binge eat, or look for unhealthy ways to distract ourselves. When you think about it, uncertainty is an illusion.

At the end of the day, we all face situations that make us worry about what may come next.

To be healthy and happy, we have to come to terms with the fact that there’s uncertainty in the world. Rather than allow it to paralyze us, we can acknowledge it and apply the strategies found in this article to overcome your fear. 

If you have intense fear that affects your mental health, debilitates and prevents you to cope with daily life, please seek professional medical advice. Sometimes, medical intervention is needed to reduce anxiety and deal with negative feelings especially when these lead to eating disorders, heart palpitations, and even health anxiety.

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