Edmund Burke said, “No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of action and reasoning as fear.” Our biggest regrets in life are less about our failures and more about things we failed to do. What fear stops us from achieving our potential? What experience has fear robbed you of?
Where does fear come from?
Fear is an emotion. Like any other emotion, it is neither good or bad. It simply is. Fear can have a purpose. There is healthy fear. Healthy fear stems from an actual danger and dissipates when the danger is gone. I was walking my dog yesterday and another dog began chasing us. I ran, creating distance between me and the danger. The fear was gone and replaced by embarrassment because I ran away from a little dog. It’s okay, nobody saw it.
There is also unhealthy fear. Unhealthy fear stems from an exaggerated “perceived” danger and can last forever if we let it. It can paralyze us. Maybe you have a fear of speaking in front of people. What is the danger? This is an exaggerated perception of danger. You know you will not die or be killed if you speak in front of an audience, yet you don’t want to risk it. Just in case your wrong.
Understand, you are not born with fear. Remember being the fearless kid who would jump into the deep end of the pool even though you don’t know how to swim. You probably could have used a dose of healthy fear. I know it would have kept me from doing some stupid things. I grew up watching Evil Knievel. If you’re to young to remember him, google him and imagine kids all of the country trying to repeat his stunts on their bicycles. Point of fact, you cannot ride your bicycle up a tree.
So, if I am not born with fear, where does it come from? Unhealthy fear, the fear rooted in exaggerated perception, is a learned behavior. Therefore, if I had to learn to be fearful, I can unlearn it. If I fail to unlearn it, it will impact my life.
What are the effects?
Unresolved fears can stall our movement. Fear can act like cement holding us in place. I remember the first time our youngest son played soccer. He was about six years old and walked out on the field with the rest of the team. As the game began, he stood in the middle of the field shacking, looking down at the ground. The coach couldn’t get him to play or get come off the field. I had to go onto the field and carry him off. Fear paralyzed him. Not to leave him hanging, let me say that today he is a talented club soccer player who loves showing off his skills on the field. However, this transformation didn’t happen overnight. It was a process of him deciding to overcome his fear and stretch himself our of his comfort zone. Overcoming fear is a decision you must make. It will take work.
Fear can also misdirect us. When people are afraid, their ability to differentiate facts and fiction dramatically diminishes. Because we are so focused on the fear, it can misguide our priorities. As the Edward Burke quote in the beginning of this blog states, we are robbed of clear thought. How can our decisions, when based on fear, be trusted? How can we truly grow in the right direction when we are avoiding possibilities due to fear?
Fear also blinds us from our strengths. All we see are our weaknesses. We focus on what we can’t do rather than what we are able to overcome. What changed from that fearless kid? Sometimes I miss that kid.
How do I overcome my fear?
Okay, I’m not going to leave you hanging. We’ve talked about where fear comes from. We’ve discussed the effects of unhealthy fear. Now, how do we overcome the fear that paralyzes us?
Deal with it immediately
It is really easy to ignore a problem in hopes that it will go away. Have you noticed that doesn’t work? When it comes to fear, it only takes root and gets a stronger grip on us if left unchecked. Which means, it is harder to deal with the next time. Soon, it becomes an expectation and we resign ourselves to the fact it is just the way we are made. Pooey!!! Grab fear by the (insert your own expletive here) and deal with it now. Don’t let it take control.
Remember your history
Remember, you weren’t born with fear. You learned to fear somewhere along the way. Look back at a time when you were successful. Say your scared to talk to people. You are afraid they will reject you. Unless you’re a hermit living in a cave, which you’re not because you are reading this blog, you have friends. You have a spouse. You have kids. You talk to people every day. What makes you confident enough to talk to the other people in your life? Maybe your fear is something else. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you look back in your past, you will find a time you were successful somewhere.
We have all heard of visualization. Forming a mental image of a desired outcome. When fear raises its ugly head, visualize the outcome you want to happen. What does it look like to be in your dream job? What does if look like to receive the award for the mo