Overcome your fears Archives - The Self-Worth Experiment

Category Archives for "Overcome your fears"

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How to get unstuck (without leaving your comfort zone)
Aug 28

How to get unstuck (without leaving your comfort zone)

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

I love life. But sometimes I feel like I am sitting at the edge of it. Looking in, observing.

Yearning for the adventures I want to experience, gauging the mountains I want to climb, pondering about the goals I want to achieve.

But never moving. I watch other people accomplish what is only real in my imagination. See them reach milestones I only ever meet in my careful plans. Witness them living the life I crave.

And I envy them. I try to move forward. But it feels like I run on the spot, trapped on a giant foam roller. Exhausting myself turning the wheel underneath my feet without ever progressing towards my dreams.

And I beat myself up for my ineptitude. Curse my job for occupying too much of my time. Blame my family for all their needs, wants and demands that stop me from moving towards my goals.

I feel angry about my current circumstances that keep me trapped. Resent the people who hold me in place.

When the truth is that I am scared. Terrified that I may fail and know once and for all that I am not good enough to reach my goals. Horrified of how my life may change if I succeed.
And petrified of the unknown. The unexplored blank space that lurks between my familiar existence and my goals and dreams. Full of threats, dangers and risks, but also possibilities I will never discover.

Because I am stuck. Caught in the unsurmountable pull of my comfort zone. Watching life rather than living it. Making plans instead of executing them. My back aching under the pressure of unfulfilled desires, frustration and disappointment.

With one question burning on my mind: How can I ever leave my comfort zone and finally get unstuck?

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How to ignore fear of change (and start transforming your life)
Feb 25

How to ignore fear of change (and start transforming your life)

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

My life sucked. But I couldn’t change it.

At the age of 25, I should have been socialising, meeting friends, enjoying myself. Travel, start a promising career, go on dates. Have fun, be daring and outgoing, open to new experiences, challenges and adventures.

I should have been happy.

But instead, I was scared. Terrified of facing the threats of a dangerous world. So, I sat at home, a hostage of my anxiety.
At night, my heart raced and I choked at every unfamiliar sound. During the day, I avoided meeting new people. Sweating and panicking at the mere thought of the humiliation, rejection and self-flagellation that would inevitably follow.

I functioned at work. But it took all my strength to appear normal. To hide the unbearable state of terror that was my life. To pretend that I was calm and collected while anxiety was ripping my body apart.

Fear destroyed my life, ruined my happiness. I felt stressed, lonely, paralysed. Trapped in a puny comfort zone that had become a nightmare.

I was desperate to transform my life. And yet, somehow, I remained stuck.

Because I feared one thing more than anything. I just didn’t know it yet.

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How to stop obsessive worrying (in 2 simple steps)
Feb 18

How to stop obsessive worrying (in 2 simple steps)

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

Last week, I had to give a presentation about rapid cancer diagnosis services at a conference.

As you may know, I managed to overcome my severe generalised anxiety about 10 years ago. But the thought of standing in front of hundreds of people presenting my work still triggers a hefty fear response.

Whenever I thought of it, my stomach knotted and an icy steel hand attempted to crush my throat.

For two weeks, I woke up at 3 am, endless thoughts whirling in my mind like deck-chairs in a hurricane.

What if I go blank and embarrass myself? Will more qualified people question my methods and I won’t have the answers? Will the audience discover that I don’t really know what I’m doing? And what if I burp? Or fall off the podium?

All hope for a restful night’s sleep was wrecked by my unproductive rumination. And my days grew darker as the incessant worries fed my apprehension. Mutating a simple 10-minute presentation into a confidence-eating, mood-killing monstrosity, out to destroy me.

Just because, sometimes, I forget my own advice.

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A liberating way to reduce anxiety quickly and naturally
Apr 24

A liberating way to reduce anxiety quickly and naturally

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

I had a sadistic teacher in high school who mocked and ridiculed every pupil who dared to attract attention. I was petrified of needing the toilet during his lessons because I knew he would verbally abuse me for asking permission.

So, I worried about German lessons all day in advance. And my body reacted to my anxiety with an overwhelming urge to pee as soon as the lesson started.

I suffered through those 50 minutes, digging my finger nails into the palm of my hand, so the pain would distract me from my screaming bladder. But too often, I was forced to raise my hand and face his derision because I couldn’t hold on any longer.

It made me feel pathetic. Like my body betrayed me. Worked against me.

I started to mistrust myself and my ability to control my actions (and bladder). As a consequence, I developed toilet anxiety, which haunted me during my teens and all the way through my twenties. Whenever I had no immediate toilet access (for example when travelling in the car, in the cinema or on hikes), I needed to go every 15 minutes.

And it wasn’t just in my mind. I really desperately, urgently had to pee! Every time.

Ashamed of my irrepressible bodily reactions, I tried to hide my anxiety from everybody else. When I was out with other people, it took all my strength to keep it together. To stop my anxiety from swallowing me whole and my body from humiliating me. All while maintaining a composed exterior.

So nobody would know how weak I was. How inadequate. How much of a failure.

But my mind was consumed by worries about the nearest facility access, absorbed by suppressing the feelings of panic, overwhelmed by the almost impossible task to act “normal”. And every outing was torture.

So, I avoided activities that involved other people whenever I could. Locked myself into my small flat where it was safe. Where I wasn’t at risk of humiliating myself and my bladder behaved.

For many years, I missed out on life. I merely existed. Imprisoned by my anxiety. Suffering in silence and isolation.

Until one liberating (but terrifying) step changed it all.

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A powerful way to stop worrying
Feb 15

A powerful way to stop worrying

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

My 4-year old has a little cuddly toy called Biff. Biff is a “worry eater”.

When she’s worried about starting school, scared of the dark or anxious about performing the ABC song in the nursery play, we write her worry on a piece of paper.

We put the piece of paper in Biff’s mouth, close the zip and put him in bed with her.

The next morning (with some Mummy assistance obviously) the worry is gone. All gobbled up. Or so she thinks.

The important thing is that she stops worrying. She surrendered the anxious thoughts to somebody else and trusts that the problems will be taken care of.

End of story. No more worry.

I guess now you think: “What a lovely way to stop worrying. For a pre-schooler. But how could this ever work for me?”

Well, the good news is that this tactic works at every age…

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The 3 eye-opening truths that will make you immune to criticism
Jan 16

The 3 eye-opening truths that will make you immune to criticism

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

Several years ago, I was part of a multidisciplinary team updating a national guideline for breast cancer detection and management.

I finished a presentation of the research plan to 20 leading oncologists and cancer geneticists, as one of them stood up, shook his head in disapproval and said:

“This is all wrong! We are dealing with an important issue here. People’s lives are at stake. We can’t have your inexperience screw this up. What are you? A student? This is not up to scratch.”

As you can imagine I was stunned. Hurt. And angry. We had worked hard on the research plan and it was good.

A sharp, burning feeling spread through my throat as I suppressed tears. I wanted to defend myself and my work. Tell him what an ignorant, arrogant idiot he was.

But instead, I mumbled: “Ok, we will revisit it until the next meeting”. And excused myself to cry in the toilet where nobody would see it.

At the time, his criticism crushed me. Made me doubt my abilities. For days I replayed the events in my mind. Overanalysed what had gone wrong, what I could have done better to avoid the inquisition. And beat myself up for stupid mistakes I made and for not standing up for myself.

If the same happened to me again now, I would react differently.

It wouldn’t offend and hurt me, or knock my confidence. Because I know 3 important truths about criticism today that could have spared me a lot of suffering, upset and heartache.

If only someone had told me 10 years ago…

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How to overcome fear of judgement
Dec 27

How to overcome fear of judgement

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

My husband recently acquired a new Christmas jumper. Yes, this is him modelling it in the picture! He wears it everywhere. Dropping little one off at school, to shopping, to the cinema, at restaurants. EVERYWHERE!

And not only is the jumper visually…well, let’s say flamboyant, the eyes also light up and it plays the Darth Vader theme. I kid you not!

A few years ago, I would have been mortified. Incapable of walking alongside him while his belly was trumpeting the Imperial March.

A few years ago, I would have been so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl and hide in a hole somewhere. My face would have been bright red with shame. I would have looked around anxiously, horrified of the judgement in the eyes of the passers-by.

And I would have been furious with my husband for putting me through it all. Intentionally! I would have blamed him and resented him for my suffering.

But today, I think it’s hilarious. I am actually considering getting one for myself. Because I learned two crucial truths in the past 10 years that made all the difference.

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The secret to reclaiming your life from anxiety
Aug 10

The secret to reclaiming your life from anxiety

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

In 2003, my life had shrunk to the size of my one-bedroom flat. I was stuck in a prison of my own making. Paralysed by fear, insecurity and anxiety.

I felt like life was running away from me. As if I was standing behind a giant window, a one-way mirror, watching other people move by. I witnessed their adventures, failures and successes. I saw them laugh, cry, love and grow.

They had happiness and fulfilment. They had fun, enjoyment, freedom. They lived.

They were oblivious of the pathetic, shivering creature observing them from the dark back room. The terrified bundle of misery that envied them, wondered how they did it. How they could be so care-free, light and joyful.

To me, every aspect of life was a threat. I was traumatised by the past, horrified by the present and petrified of an uncertain future. Fear, anxiety and panic determined my every move. And I knew it had to change. I had to reclaim my life.

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[Infographic] How to break the cycle of fear
Jul 07

How to break the cycle of fear [infographic]

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

I suffered from crippling anxiety for over 10 years. I was stuck in a prison of my own making. Watching other people live, laugh, love and grow but too scared to participate.

I was terrified by every aspect of life. ​Horrified that the traumas of my past would catch up with me, petrified by the terrors lurking in the present and dreading an unknown future.

I was a mere shadow of my former self. I felt pathetic, weak and worthless. My quality of life was terrible and sometimes life as it was didn’t feel worth living.

But I managed to work through it. Panic and anxiety are no longer parts of my life. I am free to make my own choices without compromise. I am free.

And today I want to share with you my most beloved exercise. It was the first and fundamental step in my escape from the clutches of fear. If you only did one thing to overcome your anxiety, this is the one I’d recommend!

Simply because it breaks the “cycle of fear”. I’ll explain…

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How to overcome 3 common panic triggers
Mar 13

How to overcome 3 common panic triggers

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

Going to the dentist has always been one of my worst panic triggers.

And last week, two of my fillings had to be replaced. My dentist insisted on an anaesthetic injection. Which I hate! The entire left side of my face was numb, including my nose and eye!

And then the procedure started. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. The bright surgical light above my face blinded me. Two people were pressing against me from each side. Inserting countless instruments into my mouth, manipulating my teeth.

I felt panic gripping me and fought it down.

But then out came the drill. The shrill screeching in combination with the unpleasant pressure against the affected teeth is terrifying. Saliva accumulated at the back of my throat and made me gag.

I tensed up. My finger nails were digging into my thighs. Adrenaline accelerated my heart rate and I wanted to scream, remove those utensils from my mouth, jump up and escape the awful situation so I could breathe again.

Panic had won again.

I felt like a total failure. I knew I wasn’t in any real danger. So, why was I so terrified?

What was wrong with me?

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