Fear. Why does it evoke such feelings and keep us rooted to the spot in situations when we know that we should do something, yet we don’t because we convince ourselves that we can’t? I know fear is a big thing for me. It has held me back many times, resulting in issues not being confronted and left to fester, difficult tasks (or so they seemed) not undertaken, opportunities spurned and adventures passed up.
Why? Because taking these steps would have brought me outside of my comfort zone and created the possibility of uncertainty, leading to fear of the unknown, and I believed that I couldn’t take that risk. The risk of what, I don’t really know because I never looked at it in any detail. I just accepted that I was afraid and left it at that.
It must be one of the most debilitating, limiting, constraining and destructive feelings known to man. And whilst it touches everyone in one way or another, in many areas of our lives, it is never really spoken about. It is apparently just accepted by the majority despite the fact that those who break free on occasions and do something memorable and heroic, are lauded and cheered on for their bravery and fearlessness. But does this make them fearless in every part of their lives?
Unfortunately, there is no one panacea for dealing with all fear. Just because you can walk across hot coals doesn’t mean that you can stand on a stage and talk to a thousand people. Just because you can perform with apparent effortless ease in public does not mean that you will be without fear in picking up the phone and asking a potential customer for an appointment or an order.
Fear is, like confidence, completely situational and as such you can never be completely fearless just as you can never be completely confident.
We can of course barrel on through the fearful challenge with gritted teeth and prove to ourselves that we can do it and therefore that there was nothing to fear in the first place. If we do it enough times we might even become confident. However, this approach can be very tough, especially if you are terrified as you do it.
The more permanent way is to first understand that fear comes from a thought and then set about breaking the thought down under the scrutiny of examination and logic.
How? By writing it down on paper and then putting it through some challenging questions.
The thought ‘I am afraid of standing on a stage and speaking to a group of people because I will mess up and they will laugh at me’ begins to weaken even when you just see it written down, despite the fact that this very thought keeps a hell of a lot of people from taking the risk of standing in front of others and speaking.
Inquiring further ‘Is this thought 100% true?’ shows it to be on shaky ground, not to mention the fact that you cannot know how people might react and what exactly does ‘mess up’ entail? Under a simple challenge, the fearful thought can be seen for what it is – ludicrous!
Let’s try further examination by writing out the answers to:
- What is this fear doing to me? (This gets you to look at consequences)
- Who would I be and what would be possible if I didn’t believe this thought? (This question encourages you to look beyond the issue and the fear)
- What would be possible if I believed the exact opposite of the thought? (This question challenges you to imagine the positive possibilities).
No fear, other than the understandable fear of death or injury, can withstand the relentless challenge of such enquiry. And I know from personal experience how effective the process is.
I also know that it can still be tough to take action.
But it works and it IS worth it because freedom awaits you on the other side of the process. Yes…freedom!