Fear gets a bad rep these days. Its mere mention conjures up images of Disney Villains, monsters and worst case scenarios. Some of us may have fears so strong that they have become phobias.
Fear can take control. This can be the biggest problem of all. In moments when you would personally rather act differently, fear grabs the wheel and puts the car in turbo mode, making you jumpy, anxious and edgy purely on instinct, robbing you of the ability to control yourself and maintain a front. Silly fear. Often this can be in moments where it is totally unnecessary, and actually self-deprecating to do so.
Fear can lose you face. As anyone who has run screaming from a wasp screaming can tell you, fear has the potentially to rob you of any suave or calm exterior you’ve managed to craft over the years, and in a moment have you socially branded as a sissy, wuss or coward. Not, what you might call, desirable nicknames.
Fear stunts us. That’s right, it truly does. How many times have you turned away from a new experience because it fell outside of your comfort zone? I spent the best part of my early twenties saying ‘yes’ to everything that I possibly could, and now have legion memories to glance back over and be proud of. Regret what you didn’t do, not what you did.
Fear will make your rue the fact you didn’t overcome it. Every opportunity missed or chance passed up in the name of fear is another potential memory or step of progress that you have missed.
Fear has a purpose. I’m not here to knock fear. It can be a great thing. There is a good reason that the instinct to fear kicks in when we see a giant spider on the wall or hear an explosion close by. This is the healthy mind’s way of giving us the impetus we need to save ourselves; the body’s way of reacting to potentially dangerous situations. This is the rational side.
Fear is not always rational. Of course, the main reason for the bad rep of fear is the other side of the coin. As the world we live in becomes gradually safer, we hang on to these fears and allow them to embed themselves within us. We jump at thunder, hunt sharks to make the seas ‘safer’ without realising they are much less dangerous than cars, and obsess over plane crashes when we are more likely to die falling out of bed.
What can you do?
Ok, so fear is scary, right? Only if you let it.
Remind yourself that fears are often irrational.
Take control in the moments when it feels like fear is grabbing the wheel. Ask yourself what you can do to fight it.
Think again about what fear actually is. It’s a survival response, so it is trying to help you. Politely thank it, but then remind the fear it is not necessary today.
Assess the risk consciously to decide for yourself whether the fear is grounded. After all, taking ownership in this way can be a really self-empowering way of regaining a control on your fear, and on your choices in life.
Be bold and do things that are brave. Actions can define mentality, and any actions can become habits with enough practice. Change your nature with carefully considered activities.
Why is this good for me?
Fortune favours the brave is one example, but truly only those willing to take the risks to get it deserve the highest forms of success. Whether that is measured in health, wealth, happiness or love, often the greatest prizes will be gained only by those brave enough to take a chance to get them.
It breeds confidence. Not that we are claiming you will be an oozing mass of arrogance, but your confidence will gently increase as you keep challenging yourself to do things that scare you, and seeing that you are actually fine.
It will open doors that previously would have been locked and bolted to you.
It snowballs activity in the best way possible. Once you have said yes enough times, you will see a snowball effect as direct, decisive action leads to further actions and eventually you are in a perpetual state of new experiences and a more rounded, enriching life.
It’s tried and tested by some of the greatest people throughout history. Teddy Roosevelt is one such man who never let fear shirk him from his ambition. “The most effective way to do it, is to do it,” was once famously uttered by Amelia Earhart. You will be amongst great company, so go ahead and do it!
Your mental health is so important. Many sufferers of depression, riddled with confidence and identity issues after facing personal breakdowns will use facing little fears, one day at a time, to get themselves back on the road to recovery. Heed the advice, and keep yourself mentally strong by proving to yourself on a daily basis that you are strong enough to do anything.
It promotes flexibility by forcing you to adapt to new experiences. Just like training a muscle repeatedly—the same way makes it very good at doing that one task but poor at reacting to new movements—new experiences force us to learn how to fit into a new moment/environment/scenario and test our ability to survive.
Where do I start?
It’s as simple as this; if it scares you (in any way) then do it.
- Scared of the gym because you are scared you’ll be ridiculed? Good, go do it.
- Scared of spicy food so you’ve never tried it? Excellent, get cooking!
- You’ve never tried skydiving because you’re scared of heights? Fantastic, get booking that now!
There are a ton of different ways to challenge yourself, from public speaking to Taekwondo, and saying hello to a stranger to bunjee jumping. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture! You can live the rest of your life performing simple daily tasks that you never tried before due to fear of societal rejection or embarrassment. Why not sing on the subway? What is stopping you taking a cold shower? Have you finally read that 1,100 page behemoth by Dostoevsky?
Don’t let fear define who you are. You are you, and you only. There is nobody else who can take that away from you. Grab life by the whiskers and take a ride.
You’ll thank yourself for it!
Special thanks to Nerd Fitness for their article ‘Why you need to do s**t that scares you‘ and to The Art of Manliness for their post ‘How to be a better man… Conquer a fear‘ for inspiring this blog post.
Special thanks to Kiatying-Angsulee, phaendin, satit-srihin and Teerapun @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.
© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015