Whether we like it or not, fear is a big part of our lives. Historically, fear was a necessary part of human evolution – it was useful in keeping us alive, signaling danger and helping us survive.
But in our current reality, there are very few things that we genuinely need to be afraid of in the true sense of being in danger. Fear of being embarrassed, fear of making a mistake, or being vulnerable is not needed to keep us alive. That type of fear not serving us. In fact, it hurts us by dissuading us from taking action.
The definition of fear is: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.
Understanding that fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by a belief, gives us more control in overcoming it by allowing us to examine and question that belief. The human brain will always try to protect us and keep us safe. It will signal: don’t write that book, don’t put yourself out there, don’t start that business, don’t ask that girl out, and so on. But in those cases, there is no real danger, just the possibility of not meeting your expectations, and experiencing a negative emotion.
Don’t get me wrong, fear is still useful in certain situations where actual danger is present. It’s healthy to be afraid of stepping into moving traffic or walking in a dark alley. However, most of the time we feel afraid, we aren’t in any type of danger. What we are afraid of is the discomfort of a negative emotion. But almost everything worth doing or having will require facing unpleasant emotions. Courage doesn’t exist without fear – if you want to develop courage, you have to expose yourself to things that feel scary.
If you aren’t experiencing fear and you are mostly comfortable, chances are you are not asking enough of yourself and you are coasting. The unknown will always be scary; the next stage for anything in your life will always be unknown. So, I encourage you to do it scared! I encourage you to expect the discomfort, expect the pain, and most importantly, have compassion. When you are afraid of being rejected, when you are afraid of failing, acknowledge that what you are feeling is normal, understand that your brain is doing what it was designed to do. And then push past the fear!
When you go to the gym for the first time, or start learning a new language, or try any new skill for the first time – it is uncomfortable. Because these are commonly attempted activities, you know enough to expect the discomfort and you likely push through it. I suggest you do the same with the bigger, more scary goals you set for yourself. Whatever your goal is, when you feel the fear and want to retreat – move towards it instead, despite the pain and discomfort on the path to success. Do it scared!
I will leave you with this quote:
Fear is never visible to the eye but sharply felt in the heart. Fear is the father of despair, brother of procrastination, the enemy of progress. Born of ignorance and nursed on misguided thought, fear darkens more hopes, stifles more ambitions, shatters more dreams than anything else in history.
The only way to overcome it is to understand it. Fear has no power but what the human mind gives it. If you have the courage to acknowledge your fears, you will be taking the first steps toward controlling them instead of them controlling you. And if you take the next step toward understanding your fears, you will be able to move past them altogether.