Is fear holding you back in Spanish? Have you thought about it before? Often fears may be holding us back and we don’t even know it.
An article on fear would be completely inept if it didn’t include the one of the most famous fear quotes of all time:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
What did Roosevelt mean?
At the time he was talking about people pulling their money out of the banks to avoid losing it. He then went on to say that “unjustified terror paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
His point is that if you aren’t afraid of fear you won’t be able to convert retreat into advance. If you are okay with fear you will be okay with mediocrity and lack of progress. You will stagnate and never achieve your goals.
For Spanish students, fear could manifest itself in the form of making mistakes. It could be that you are embarrassed to make mistakes in front of friends, classmates, teachers, parents or foreign natives.
Maybe you don’t want to admit that your Spanish isn’t as good as you think it is. Or maybe you are worried your friends will catch you out.
There are a ton of reasons why fear could be an obstacle to your success in learning a new language.
So how can you overcome fear?
Step 1 – Acknowledge It
Fear can sometimes fester and hide in the depths of our minds. It may be that fear is stopping you but you are completely unaware of it. Simply ask yourself, is fear holding you back?
Are you afraid to make mistakes when you are practicing or speaking with real people in a Spanish speaking country? I know I was!
When you acknowledge it, you give the enemy a name. When you acknowledge it, you give yourself a chance of beating it.
You can start by writing it down. Write down some of the fears that you are experiencing. This process can sometimes highlight that maybe your fears are silly and not worth worrying about.
Step 2 – Do A Worst Case Scenario
This process can be a fun and when I do this it often makes me laugh.
Imagine your fear is making mistakes in front of friends. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could possibly happen? And when you answer this question, let your imagination run wild.
Say you go to say something in Spanish, what is the worst that could happen? Maybe they could record you on a phone and then upload that video to youtube and then share it will all of your friends, then they share it will your work colleagues and then you get fired and then you go bankrupt and then your partner leaves you and then you can’t pay the rent and then you are living on the street etc., etc.
It can quickly escalate into something completely absurd. And the point is that you fears can absurd, doing this exercise simply highlights this.
Step 3a – Rip It Off Like A Band Aid
The longer you go with a fear holding you back the harder it will be overcome.
When you realize that a fear might exist, the best way to deal with it is to tackle it as quickly as you can. If you are worried about making mistakes, quickly go out and make a mistake… as fast as you can.
You will notice that often when you overcome your fears you will realize that what was waiting for you on the other side of fear is not much and that your worry was not really worth it.
Step 3b – Gradual Approach (Step 3 Alternative)
For some people tackling a fear head on with the band aid method might not be the best approach.
Have you ever watched someone trying to jump of the 10 meter platform at the swimming pool. They might walk to the edge, have a look and then come back. Then they walk to the edge and look a little longer. Then they imagine their jump routine in their mind. Then back to the edge. Then eventually they jump.
Now this process can be inferior to the band aid method but for some it is essential. Think about how you can metaphorically approach the diving platform with your Spanish. Maybe you can practice speaking Spanish with your cat or dog. Maybe you can record yourself and then listen back. After a while you can practice with a family member, then a friend, then a teacher, then a native. Think about the best way to prepare yourself for the jump.
Step 4 – Understanding Transferred Confidence
It is often said that confidence is the memory of past success.
Can you think of a time in your life where you conquered fear? It doesn’t have to be with Spanish, it could have been asking someone on a date, jumping off a diving platform, making a play in a sporting match or killing a cockroach or a spider.
Take that memory, where you mustered the strength to overcome a fear, and use it to draw on confidence. From your past success, transfer that energy to overcome something you are confronting now. It may be a completely different scenario but that internal strength will come from exactly the same place.
Step 5 – Remember You Are Going To Die
This one is a little extreme and I was tossing around whether to include it in the post, but it is important.
Too many people tiptoe around life until death. And the point is, your time on this planet is limited. One day you are not going to be here.
When you speak to senior citizens you can learn a lot and often they say the thing they regret most is the things they didn’t do, not the things they did.
It is a great lesson for the rest of us. When you reach 70 years old will you look back and say, I’m so glad I didn’t confront my fears or will you say I didn’t regret making a fool of myself learning Spanish because after making a heap of mistakes I achieved fluency which completely enriched my life for years to come.
Step 6 – Use A Mantra
This technique can be really powerful. If you do feel yourself being held back by something you are afraid of – be your own cheer squad.
Use phrases like “You can do it”, “Go for it”, “Take it on”, “You are the best” etc. etc.
As a quick side note on mantras, try to avoid using negatives eg “Don’t be afraid”, “Don’t not try”, “Don’t make mistakes”. This tip comes from an old psychology class but the idea is that the brain doesn’t do a good job of recognizing negatives. Where you can use positive mantras.
If something in this post resonated with you, or maybe you know someone who this might affect, share it. Even if it didn’t help you, is there someone you know that could benefit greatly from a reminder that overcome fears will often lead to the result that is most desired?