How to Overcome Fear with Mental Toughness

Fear is a natural and necessary human sensory behaviour, not taboo nor something to be avoided or eradicated. Learning how to overcome fear involves effective emotional management.


We have all experienced fear at one time or another, on many different levels and intensities.

However, more often than not we conquer fear and move on, internally storing how it made us feel, the impact it had at the time and what we did to overcome the fear – which is all useful internal processing data for future events.

Fear is a necessary internal sensory process. It enables us to evaluate our surroundings and any potential threats to our safety, it also enables us to make future decisions based on past events and possible outcomes. Essentially it’s part of our self-preservation mechanism that dates back to our caveman days and sets us apart from other animals.

In some cases fear grips us, it overwhelms us and grows deep within us. The more we think about it, try to deal with it and listen to the potential for disaster – the bigger, hairier and insurmountable it appears to become.

When this happens it can impact every facet of our lives, eroding our confidence, scrambling our logical thought process and greatly inhibiting us from moving forward.

In order to overcome fear we must first understand what fear really is and how it became so out of control and all consuming.

The first thing to understand is fear is just an emotion, no different in neurological construction from the emotions of being happy, feeling safe, excited or calm – these and many more emotions are used internally as an overall categorisation of every event (our evaluations and memories).

Our mind evaluates an event, takes a snapshot, assigns a level of importance and then an emotion. This allows our brain to store it in a way that when that or a similar event occurs again our brain already has the hard work of evaluation, assigning importance and categorisation done and thus an action can be taken much quicker and more efficiently.

When things go off the rails however it is normally self created – because our mind (or more specifically our imagination) has run away with its role as chief creator of possible threats and outcomes.

Our memory of a past event is primarily one dimensional with an emotion attached  and so holds little actual intel to effectively and realistically evaluate real-time threats. So in order for our brain to have all bases covered our imagination takes over and invents possible outcomes. We then mentally prepare for them.

However rather than ‘keeping it real’ our emotions and our imagination feed off each other to the point where we scare ourselves into a catatonic state, the possible outcomes are so big and so grandiose that we cannot see a way out and choose rather to avoid.

The same happens for an event that hasn’t even occurred before, in fact these self manufactured scenarios can be even more unrealistic and cause even more anxiety and fear.

Conquering fear requires unpacking, evaluating the process, then reprogramming and rebuilding.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Further details on how The Smart Mind Institute shows athletes, coaches and parents how to identify and manage the imagination monster can be found here.

3 Steps to Consistent Sporting Performance Training Course

Enter your email and start your online training now