How to Kick Fear in the Butt
Fear doesn’t exist
There are no real fears… because fear isn’t real. It’s only a perception of what’s there.
Think about it. When you look at a spoon, you know it’s a spoon. Anyone who looks at it knows it’s a spoon. When you look at the sky and see a cloud shaped like a dolphin, you’re still just looking at a cloud. Your perception of it sees the dolphin. I might see nothing at all. The foundation of your fear is the cloud. Fear is your dolphin. Is it really there? Can you prove it? Is there a dolphin in every cloud?
I have 3 little girls. They believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. My girls are convinced that they are real. And they will keep believing that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are real until the experience of life teaches them otherwise.
Is your fear real? or is it a story you’ve been believing in because the experience in your life hasn’t yet taught you to interpret it in another way?
Maybe it’s a story you’ve been telling yourself because someone else taught you to believe in it…and you never questioned it?
All of our human behaviour is driven by 2 factors. Either we are seeking pleasure, or, we are avoiding pain. For almost all of us, “avoiding pain” is the stronger of the two drivers. This is the root of all of our fears. Pain. Or rather… thinking we will have to endure pain; which becomes a perceived fear.
Though many of the things we fear are physical (the fear of bodily pain or death), bodily pain is not what stops us – it’s the psychological fear attached to it. We fear what we imagine the pain will be like. We fear what will happen after we die. Sometimes the bodily pain is better than our imagination, sometimes it’s worse… sometimes just by deciding NOT to believe in it – it just doesn’t affect us.
So we go back to the idea that it is our perception of that fear that stops us from doing things; Imaging what that pain will be like is often worse than the pain itself – and this is assuming that the pain is guaranteed – which it isn’t always.
Psychological pain is the basis of the fears we run away from most of the time; the fear of failure or rejection. The fear of loneliness or being laughed at. Psychological fear underlies why most of us never give our dreams a shot. It stops us from giving 100% of ourselves in any given situation. It stops us from being authentic and true to what makes us happy.
When you’re experiencing fear, it feels very real. The physical symptoms often include sweating, heart pounding, hurried thoughts, increased rate of breathing… How do you recognize excitement? Would it be fair to say that many of those same physical symptoms are also present when we’re excited?
If so, then what’s the difference?
The answer: The focus of the story we choose to tell ourselves.
I love rollercoasters. No matter how many of them I do, no matter how many times I go on them… I never get enough time hanging from a track, suspended by a metal strap, spinning around tracks, feet dangling from up above, falling from the sky, then climbing slowly as I count the seconds until we do another round. I love waiting in line, feeling my heart pound out of my chest, my breath getting shallower, my skin sweating little beads along my arms and forehead. As I get closer to the front of the line, the intensity is almost too much to bare…. My thoughts focused on the rush of adrenalin I’m going to feel after I’m safely back at base – feeling like, thanks to a bunch of laws of physics I could never explain, I’ve cheated death.
Those friends of mine who refuse to go on rollercoasters “suffer” the same bodily reaction to the thought of going on a rollercoaster… only they focus on the potential for the car jumping the tracks, their bodies potentially flinging out into nothingness and feeling that – all those laws of physics they could never explain – will cause them an imminent death.
Did you spot the difference? Why are your fears different from someone else’s? Because of what you choose to focus on.
Choosing to focus on the possible negative outcome, creates fear. Choosing to focus on the (most likely) positive result, creates excitement.
When faced with a fear, ask yourself – what is it I’m truly afraid of? What positive result could I focus on in order to tweak my thoughts of fear into thoughts of challenge and excitement?
If you’re still can’t figure out how to look past your fear, consider this: Has anyone else overcome this? How? Copy what you can from your example and apply it to your own situation. Get inspired by the stories around you.
There are some big paralysing fears we can understand. Fear of heights, Fear of Public Speaking, Fear of Spiders… these are fears that most of us can relate to, at least from a level of compassion. But what about all those other little ones we don’t notice consider fears?
Every day we are facing fears of all shapes and sizes. You might not call them fears. You might prefer to call them doubts or reasons (I call these excuses) that stop you from doing what you want to be doing (or even what you need to be doing). In other words, little “fears” can be why you procrastinate from living that epic life you deserve.
Feeling unprepared (failure), or not good enough (rejection), or too old/young/inexperienced/etc (being laughed at), can be underlying all those “to-do’s” you keep finding excuses for. So what can you do?
1. Be aware. If you find that there’s something important that you just never get around to doing, break it down… What is the root cause of avoiding it? What is it your afraid of?
2. Find the info. Is it a lack of preparedness (then spend some time preparing). Is it a lack of self-confidence (find someone else to do it with you).
3. Just do it. If you’ve truly done all you can do, and you’re still feeling resistance (fear) then bite the bullet and just do it anyways. You’ve overcome everything you’ve ever experienced up until now. Chances are, you’ll survive the fears you’re fighting off now… Remember other times in your life when you overcame something you were dreading and how it’s become second nature to you, now.
What I like to do is this: I like to remember that, whatever I’m facing, I am not endeavouring in anything so unusually dangerous or new, that the odds are stacked against me. There are always people who have done, accomplished, and survived anything I’m possibly facing now. If I truly feel I need additional inspiration to face my fears I think of Felix Baumgartner. He’s the guy who skydived from the stratosphere – free falling 128 THOUSAND feet (39km) at a max speed of 729mph (1173km/hr). That’s a lot faster than a plane. He was the first in a lot of firsts for that stunt. He had a good reason to feel fear because his survival truly depended on everyone involved being 100% at their best during 100% of the time of the whole project – and fate being on his side without any unforeseen surprises. If he can face doing that – I (and you) CAN FACE ANY FEAR.
Watch his jump if you want to be amazed by what humans can achieve when they reject fear
ONE LAST NOTE ON FEAR
For all the science and studies we can do around fear… I am always marveled at how the human condition will always find a loophole. As mentioned above, we spend more time avoiding pain than seeking pleasure. Yet there is one category where that might not be true for most of us. LOVE. 50% of all marriages in the USA today, end in Divorce. As someone going through a fairly amicable one, now, I can vouch that no matter how “good” the situation, divorcing is one of the most emotionally painful experiences anyone can go through… As Jessica O’Reilly states in her TedX talk about marriage: in no other situation would we willingly face our fears knowing that there’s a 50% chance of it actually happening. Would you fly if you knew there was a 50% chance of a plane crash?
So what does this mean? LOVE trumps it all.
We are willing to throw the possibility of excruciating emotional pain, rejection, loneliness and abandonment for a chance at love. If we can remember to include love into our fear, then maybe we wouldn’t be so afraid. Maybe, we’d remember that fear is meant to challenge us to go deeper and beyond what we already are, know, and feel. Fear is meant to make our lives AMAZING because every time we are faced with fear… we are faced with an opportunity to step out of complacent mediocrity – to love ourselves enough to grow. It’s an innate reminder to move forward. It’s a reminder that by stepping into the unknown, you’ll grow to bigger and better places.
“We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
What fears have you faced in the past that you’re thankful for today?
What 1 fear can you commit to facing this week?
Let me know in the comments ♥