In perfect time for Halloween comes a very important lesson: we need to feel fear. Many of you might disagree with me and hey, even I disagree with me…when I’m afraid that is. It’s easy for me to tell myself that I don’t need to feel fear. That I can take a different way. That I can just not do something completely.
But I don’t often do that.
Why? Because we need to feel fear.
We’ll get to the reasons in a moment but I want to set some boundaries on what I’m defining as “fear” in this article. I am not talking about the hand-shaking, teeth-chattering, eye-rolling into unconsciousness kind of fear. I’m not talking about terror. We shouldn’t ever feel that kind of terror. It’s not healthy.
However, nervousness and fear are good for us. They are healthy where crippling terror is not.
Let’s just keep that in mind as we move forward. I am not suggesting that you go terrify yourself. Not today at least.
Most fundamentally, fear is important for us to understand that what we are doing is unsafe, a risk, or a very dangerous. I like to think that being afraid of doing something, like let’s say doing martial arts or using heavy power tools, is a way of honing our focus. Instead of approaching it as a sign we shouldn’t do it, I use that fear as a sign that I need to focus because what I’m doing is dangerous or risky.
I don’t let it stop me.
We do need to respect our fear. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be crippled by it. It doesn’t have to prevent us from doing something. So, when we are faced with fear it’s important to recognize that it serves a purpose. It serves as a warning or, if we reframe that thought, it serves as a reminder to focus our attention.
Moving up from this basic block, the next step to understand that fear can help us learn. It can help us learn about a lot of things.
For one, we like to restrict ourselves. There are so many things we say we “can’t” do. When in fact, it’s just a bunch of things we won’t do. Use fear as your guide. This is where fear can really teach us. Why are we afraid of this? What’s causing that? Sometimes it’s rational. And sometimes it’s completely irrational. But it doesn’t matter because since it’s in front of us, we can conquer it.
As you move through your life, let fear guide you. Don’t take the same comfy route through your life. Try something new, something that might even make you a little afraid. It’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to do that thing, it’s okay to conquer your fear.
Which leads me to my next point.
Courage doesn’t exist without fear.
There’s a very common and very damaging concept that being courageous means you don’t feel fear. It’s the idea that heroes don’t feel fear. Right? Wrong. The person running into a burning building to save a kid is very afraid but their moral code, their empathy, and their own personal life experiences will either push them to overcome that fear or succumb to that fear.
Courage is looking your fear dead in the eyes, acknowledging its presence, and continuing on your path and with your decisions anyway.
Courage is not being fearless, it’s overcoming fearfullness.
Personally, I think more people need to pay attention to that.
Now let’s connect courage to learning from fear and why we need fear in our daily lives. What happens when you are in a situation where you feel fear, and lots of it? What happens then if you’ve been avoiding facing your fears and anxieties? You buckle. You cannot overcome it when you need to. Remember, fear is just a warning. It shouldn’t dictate us the way it does. But when it does rule our lives, we end up in a real nasty position someday. We can’t overcome it when we need to because we don’t’ know how. And that can cost us our life.
Hopefully, we’re never in a situation like that.
But if we are, we should be able to overcome our fear and think logically. Breaking down our fears and building up our courage allows us to widen the platform on which we stand. It’s not chopsticks anymore but a big enough foundation to hold up a skyscraper. That’s what we’re aiming for.
Okay, so you’re hooked. You want to start overcoming your fear and anxiety. What do you do?
First thing first, accept that you need fear in your life. I’ve only listed three very vague reasons but of course, there are more. For instance, I personally need fear in my life because I don’t like the possibility of being held back. I don’t like the idea of needing to rely on myself and being unable to because I let a fear get out of hand. I escorted a very large spider out of a room today without even a tremble in my hands. I worked through that fear so that I wouldn’t be stopped easily. So that I could rely on myself to handle things.
I also like to conquer my fears because I think it’s really good for my brain. Having to problem solve around such a deep instinct certainly has to keep your brain active. Right?
Second thing, when you feel a fear, acknowledge it, breathe, and let it go. Now it sounds easy. But the trick is to do it quickly and without your body registering it. There’s a way almost to swallow the fear like chewed gum. That’s your end goal because that’s your safest bet.
However, that takes time. Be patient with yourself. It might take you thirty minutes to calm down enough to handle a situation but be sure you handle it. Eventually, you’ll be able to breathe in and swallow the fear like a pill. It goes away. It disintegrates.
One final note that I subscribe to…You can be upset later. This comes from my years of martial arts training. If I flinch, if I’m scared and broadcast that I could get really hurt. If I face a situation I know will upset me, I tell myself that I can be upset later. I can be scared later but for now, I have to just swallow it and move through it.
So face your fears. Don’t let them hold you back. Be courageous and overcome them. They are a part of you and they reflect you. That means that you get to control that reflection.