4 Tips to Face Your Fears

Sick of running scared? Tired of the butterflies in your stomach getting the last word?  Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen offers 4 tips to face fear head on.


Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #67

This week we take a little detour from our three-part series on toxic habits to conquer one of them. Last week we covered avoidance, the elaborate workarounds we undertake to steer clear of our fears. Whatever we avoid, the emotional gymnastics are exhausting and, in the long run, don’t even work.

What to do?  Today, we’ll cover 4 tips to face fear head on.

Fear-buster #1: Keep the Movie Playing

Each of us has an imaginary, heart-stopping moment we dread.  If you’re camera-shy, for example, you might worry about making a fool of yourself on video. And then finding it on the web.  With hundreds of comments confirming your ridiculousness. Or if you fear conflict, you may picture yourself lamely trying to assert yourself - and then bursting into tears.  

Whatever your fear, don’t hit ‘pause’ on your imagined horror story at the worst possible moment. Instead, keep the movie rolling until you’re safe. Maybe your mortifying web video fades into internet oblivion - or even better, you star in others that overshadow it. Or maybe your tearful argument starts a real conversation.

Bottom line, whenever you picture as your fear, push past the worst-case scenario to a safe conclusion. You’ll feel better prepared to handle the worst (which, by the way, will likely never happen.)

Fear-buster #2: Bring it On 

Eventually, we get tired of being scared. So  when you’re sick of holding yourself back, do a 180 with your willingness.

Be willing to stand behind that podium, get on the plane, ask for a raise, or do whatever it is you fear. Your willingness is mutually exclusive from your fear - you can be scared witless and still be willing to say to your fear, “Hit me with your best shot!’  You’ll be ready and, well, willing.

Fear-buster #3: Get it On Paper, Then Argue Back

If you keep a journal, this tip’s for you. First, write down what you’re afraid of. Well, okay - maybe first jab hundreds of pockmarks in your diary with a pencil lead, and then write down what you’re afraid of.

“I’ve wasted my life.” “No one loves me.” “Everyone thinks I’m a big loser.” Whatever your brain is screaming at you, get it out of your head and on to paper.

After a few days, go back and look over what you wrote. In the light of day, some of your fears might seem downright melodramatic. Or maybe you’ll realize they’re someone else’s twisted opinion of you, like an abusive partner, cold-as-ice parent, or middle school mean girl.  It’s their thought, but maybe you’ve internalized it over the years.  


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen was the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast from 2014 to 2019. She is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. Her debut book, HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, was published in March 2018.