Our lives are filled with fear and if you take a closer look, every decision we make from life-changing to small is often tinged with fear. There is nothing wrong with feeling fear, that is normal. But allowing it to take control of your life means that you will never actually live your life.
The author David Gemmell once wrote that fear is like a cowardly friend. Sometimes it gives good advice about when to back off but you must never allow it to drag you into the pit that it lives in.
For example. There is a colleague I had some time ago who constantly talked about heading to Japan to teach English there. But despite talking about it, he never actually ever went and he gave reasons such as financials, job security, learning Japanese.
The fact is that they were all excuses.
Sure, they may have been good excuses but they were still excuses and it was his fear preventing him from actually going.
Does this sound familiar?
Maybe someone you know did it, maybe you have made those excuses yourself but the important thing is to recognize when it happens and how to overcome it.
Recognize when it happens
Being honest with yourself and realizing when this happens is important. Anytime you make a decision and you weigh the pros and cons there is always fear present. Even grocery shopping, you decide maybe to buy a food product with less sugar cause you are afraid of diabetes, you start reading labels and being more conscious cause you are afraid of cholesterol or putting on weight.
We quite literally spend most of our lives living in abject fear but we’ve become so used to it that we have normalized it.
Now that we’ve recognized it, what now? What can we do?
We can start with something big such as fear of the dark, fear of swimming, fear of flying and any other fears. Taking steps to face them can lead to some self-revelation as perhaps your fear of swimming may actually not be about swimming, but about the ocean and you find yourself able to swim in pools.
This clarity can be great clues and first steps towards identifying exactly what you are afraid of and why.
Facing your fear. You obviously want to face and overcome it. But the closer you get to it, the stronger the fear gets and you may find yourself backing off. That’s ok, find the support you need and try again and don’t be too hard on yourself. It is more important that you actually make the attempt and eventually succeed.
Now, this is obviously a phobia but for fears that prevent you from living your life, but it still applies to what I’m trying to get at here. This fear can be a good friend and stop you from making a reckless decision but more often than not, it can be an insidious poison that stops you from doing something you’ve always wanted to do or try.
Sometimes this fear can start from something small such as maybe going to a new school or workplace and being afraid of opening up and showing who you really are to your classmates or colleagues because you are terrified of not having fun, not being accepted, feeling out of place.
Then comes the self-justification. If you never approach them, all these things can’t happen, you are fine being alone, you enjoy the solitude and don’t need to meet new people. This is a slippery slope that can lead to you becoming a recluse and making it increasingly difficult to break out of it and leads you to make similar choices for the rest of your life.
This fear is present to protect us and our egos from being bruised.
This fear tends to be made more palatable by people calling it stress, reason, doubt, anxiety and even common sense.
My advice? Stop caring so much about what could happen and focus on what will happen if you don’t take that step towards your dream and what you want. Try something new and push yourself out of the comfort zone.
If you are really determined but cannot bring yourself to do it, try forcing yourself to be in a situation where you literally have to break out of your comfort zone.
Maybe a solo trip where you know no one and have no plans is a great way for introverts to meet new people and see new places. It can lead to wonderful experiences that you’ve never had.
Personally, mine was going diving. I was always afraid of being stung, bitten, drowning or being swept away by a current. None of these happened, obviously they could have but I went to a safe diving site and the moment I descended beneath the waves and saw the coral, fish and how beautiful it all ways, the stress, fear and any negative emotions melted away to be replaced by awe, euphoria and a wonderful feeling of relaxation.
So push yourself out and live your life without letting fear rule your life.