Have you seen my recent Fear Conquering Challenge on Youtube? Every week for 16 weeks I am embracing my biggest fears in the pursuit of becoming a braver, bolder version of myself. I’ve recently quit my job, and some of my biggest fears lined up including getting my first tattoo, going bungee jumping, and public speaking lined up.
I gotta start by asking you one big question.
What scares you?
And I mean really scares you?
Often times we revert back to our typical go-to answers like snakes, spiders, public speaking, tripping in front of a large group or bungee jumping.
But when we really dig deep down, we all have fears that go way beyond a 40 second free fall with nothing but an elastic holding our body together (although, yes still very terrifying).
You see, these are the fears we often times forget.
They are the ones we are good at masking. At routinely avoiding.
These fears are so profound and powerful that they actually determine every one of our behaviours, the way we speak, the way we dress, what we post online, the job we have and the way we choose to live our life.
I’m talking about fears like rejection, failure, death, uncertainty, disappointment, commitment, inadequacy etc.
Now, as humans we naturally and instinctually have fears.
And thank goodness for it because they’ve done a very good job at keeping us alive all these centuries.
BUT, it’s 2019.
Unless you’re being attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger, a perpetrator, mother nature or there is an imminent threat, these fears are useless.
In fact, they’re not protecting our lives but stopping us from living it.
Take for instance, the fear of rejection.
I recently sent out an email one by one to my friends inviting them to a focus group at my house to pick their brain about a new book I’m starting.
Within seconds of clicking send, a friend responded back saying “No. I can’t, but goodluck”.
It was abrupt, direct and cold.
I stopped what I was doing and reread my email five times. I thought about whether or not I had offended this person recently. I wondered what I did wrong.
“Maybe I’m asking too much?” I asked a colleague near me as he read through the entire email for me.
I immediately retreated into my shell, lost my confidence and stopped sending emails. I felt completely rejected.
I never thought rejection was a fear of mine until it happened.
Fears represent all sorts of unpleasant feelings: uncertainty, room for judgement, failure and a whole bunch of other not so happy things.
WHO THE HECK WANTS THAT?
No one. Well, at least instinctually.
Your body wants to protect and comfort you.
But there are millions of people out there who have learned the antidote I’m talking about today. They regularly embrace their fears. They no longer are limited by them but use them as a tool for growth and learning.
Because once you even so step outside your boundaries, you realize it’s not so scary out there. In turn making what used to seem so scary, a place of comfort. And paradoxically you begin to feel security where you never did before.
For instance, think of a time you did something that seriously scared you.
When I was 8, I had one of my first huge encounters with fear.
I was standing at the edge of the bridge at my cottage with a few of my cousins.
Inside I was dying but I needed to jump (not because I wanted to overcome my fear of heights but because my fear of rejection).
It was only 20ft but I was BEYOND TERRIFIED.
Heights were not (and are still not) my thing.
But after 42 PAINFUL minutes, I took the leap of faith and jumped in the water.
As I bobbed my head out of the water I looked at my cousins (who were all running pretty thin with patience) and said “that wasn’t so bad!”. Rolling their eyes, they told me to get on the boat and off we went.
And for the first time I can remember, I was introduced to this feeling of intense euphoria, excitement and confidence. That summer and to this day, jumping off the 20ft bridge is fun, comfortable and I quite enjoy it.
But of course, fear continues to play a VERY active role in my life. And I realize the older I get, the more fears I have and the more intense they become.
But as fears came and went, I noticed a trend.
Every time I avoided doing something I feared, there was a part of me that became weaker inside.
But by accomplishing one, even a small thing that I feared, I immediately felt stronger, more empowered and more in control of my life.
What once made me nearly sick to my stomach would be gone. The weight that once pulled me down was lifted off my chest. The constant anxiety, fidgeting and nervousness disappeared.
Instead an intense rush of euphoria spread throughout my body, mind and spirit.
The bigger the feat I overcame, the stronger the feeling.
It all came down to one word.
Big and consistent action.
As Dale Carnegie so eloquently put it, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.”
And boy was he right!
Whenever a disconnect comes up between something I want to achieve, to become or to acquire, I realize a deeper fear is linked to it.
And there are two things that can happen.
One, embrace the fear and uncertainty. Try. See what happens. Succeed or at the least, learn something and make progress.
That in itself is a HUGE win.
Or two, avoid, suppress it or let it consume all your mental energy.
This is by far the easiest and most convenient thing to do. But be prepared to face a reality that revolves around avoiding this fear; limiting yourself of your true potential and battling this inadequacy your whole life.
If you want to feel empowered, make progress and learn to have more in control of your life then option number is your only choice my friend.
It’s only when you’re able to fully embrace the uncertain that you’re able to live in a space of certainty, comfort and safety (which then the process repeats itself going on to do bigger, better things).
So let me ask you this:
What’s one step you can take today against any fear you have?
A friendly lesson: it doesn’t take a brave person to take on their biggest fears. Bravery comes from taking action. Not the other way around. A coward can only become brave by taking action.