We don’t like change, and we fear the unknown. New things don’t stand a chance! This how to beat neophobia, how to conquer your fear of new things.
I love phobias. It fascinates me the fears of things for which we have words fascinate me. What’s the word for the fear of awkward sentences?
Neophobia is not the fear of The Matrix. Neophobia is the fear of new things. It could be the fear of trying a new item on your favorite restaurant’s menu, or perhaps the fear of new policies at work.
Symptoms of Neophobia
Here is the long list of Neophobia’s symptoms, so it’s obviously a legit phenomenon.
- Panic attack
- Shortness of breath
- Accelerated heart rate
- Chest pain
Those are all terrible experiences. I avoid most of those when I can.
3 Great Reasons to Try New Things
- Learn to enjoy trying new things and conquer your fear of new things.
- Spice up your life and gain new experiences.
- Inspire others to try new things!
Let’s take a look at these reasons to try new things.
Try New Things to Conquer Your Fear of New Things
It is better to risk facing those symptoms on your own terms than when surprises present themselves. We can’t control everything that happens, though. We can only control our responses. Usually.
That’s why I like to practice by frequently exposing myself to new things. That, opposed to simply frequently exposing myself. That would be sick.
This is similar to Exposure Therapy. This involves working with a professional to help you expose yourself to your fears in small doses in controlled environments. That helps in two ways. It helps you get used to being exposed to what you fear. It also helps you not fear the reactions that you have to your fear. In other words, it helps you not fear your fear.
“Try new things to learn to enjoy trying new things.”
Real-life Example of Fearing Fear
I had a colleague who, for good reason, experienced frequent panic attacks. Because panic attacks are awful experiences, he also developed a fear of having panic attacks in addition to his other, justified anxiety. Not only did this make daily life more challenging, but it also made him miserable.
[callout]Note: If you have a phobia, debilitating fear, or anxiety, then you should seek professional help. Remember, I’m more of a happiness personal trainer, not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor. [/callout]
Practice new things on your own terms to get your mind and body used to new things. It is similar to creating resistance on purpose. You don’t have to try new things, but what if you did?
“You don’t have to try new things, but what if you did?”
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To Dunk or to Dip
You’re at the beach. You’re not even in the water with your paddleboard yet. Or maybe you’re standing on the edge of your friend’s swimming pool. Everyone is talking about how cold the water is. How do you enjoy the water without the discomfort of the cold?
How Do You Conquer Your Fear of Cold Water?
You dip in a toe. Unless you fear losing your balance, you may kneel and feel the water with your hand.
Uncertainty is removed from the cold water scenario. We know that if we jump in, it’s going to be an immediate shock. However, it only takes a few seconds to adjust to the cold water temperature.
Thus, we tiptoe in and extend the suffering, small amounts of suffering over a longer time. Is it me, or does that sound like torture? You increase and prolong suffering by trying to avoid it.
“You increase and prolong suffering by trying to avoid it.”
– Shayne Seymour
Try New Things to Spice Up Your Life and Gain New Experiences
Why You Should Be a Dunker
When conquering my fear of cold water, I considered “To Dive or to Dunk,” but I fear actual diving. If I dive, I’m afraid I’ll either hit the bottom or worse: I’ll get water up my nose.
If I conquered my fear of diving, I’d get to enjoy diving! Watching people dive, it looks like they love diving!
“We should Try New Things to spice up our lives and gain new experiences.”
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Go For the Quick Dunk!
Whether it’s a swimming pool or the ocean, I go for the quick dunk. I also frequently do the cold shower thing in the mornings, so I’m a little more used to it.
It didn’t start that way, though.
I stared at the faucet, dreading the tiny daggers of cold water I knew would pierce my skin.
Could my heart take the shock of that icy cold water?
Surely I’d be thrown into cardiac arrest. I used to be on blood pressure meds, you know.
Then I reached out, though, but using my left hand and freeing my right hand, just in case I needed to push the door open and make a quick escape.
Next step, reach out and turned the faucet to cut off that glorious warm water.
Summer Dunks vs Winter Dunks
I also did this in the summer, so I know I’m not helping much by posting this in October. What was I supposed to do, posts about fear before St. Patrick’s Day? Articles about fear are better posted during Halloween’s month.
One-quarter turn, then brace for torture.
Wait for it.
Okay. Not so bad yet. Another quarter turn and brace for impact.
It was rather disappointing.
The right hand now. Full turn.
That did it! Then I surprised myself by leaning into the cold.
Cold water on your legs or stomach is one thing. Step in and let it hit your chest. Turn around and give it your shoulders. Tilt your head back for the full effect.
It wasn’t that bad. It actually felt good enough to repeat over the next few days.
Now I’m a dunker.
Did you just tell a story about a shower? Yes, I did!
It’s such a simple way to begin conquering the fear of new things.
The Easy New Things
Cold showers and spicy food are easy new things. You can easily get out of the shower, turn the water back to warm, or ask the wait staff for a different dish. Careful mixing these scenarios.
Improv class or piano lessons might seem scary, but less scary than bungy jumping or being confronted by strange people in places you’ve never been. Every little bit helps, though.
We can very rarely exercise much control over what happens. We also can’t control fear. Why not make fear fun? Here are a few things to try to make fear fun, plus a ghost story!
Before Taekwondo one night, some of the kids saw a spider on the floor.
I dislike spiders just as much as any normal person should, but I would not display fear to the kids or the lower belts. I was a red belt!
I walked over to the corner where Aragog was watching the class. I looked at it.
Seemed deadly enough.
Not nearly as cute as the one in this picture.
Then I looked around to make sure nobody was watching.
Everybody was watching.
So I reached down and picked up the spider with my bare hands, walked to the door calmly (on the outside), and let the spider go outside.
Aragog did not bite me and inject me with deadly venom. I lived to blog the tale. The kids and the ladies all thought I was pretty cool.
Find little things you fear but that you can handle and start dipping your toe into scary things. Make fear fun so that when it’s not fun, it will at least be a little less scary. You’ll have a little better control over those symptoms.
What are some new things you might fear? Not big things like hurricanes and dictators. Little things like roller coasters, spiders, food that might taste really weird, or people with different religions?
Try New Things to Inspire Others to Try New Things!
That third reason I learned from a story on Medium.com. Jordin Kelly recounts the story of watching a woman try paddleboarding during her beach vacation. Watching this brave woman’s challenging (and hilarious) time learning this new skill and finally succeeding inspired Jordin Kelly to try paddleboarding herself!
Wouldn’t you like to be the person who inspires others with your courage? Don’t wait until you’re at the beach grasping the paddleboard. Try safe, quick, tiny doses of exposure to things that you fear doing. Please, don’t forget the safe part.
- Want to banish fear? Or at least reduce it? Learn how to make fear fun.
- Is there anything you are thinking of trying but just haven’t for one reason or another? Check out What If you Try New Things?
- Build strength, resilience, and conquer your fear of trying new things by creating resistance on purpose.
What is a simple action you could take today to conquer your fear of new things?
 Exposure Therapy