Sometimes, being fearless isn’t all its cracked up to be. The only truly fearless person I know is my 3 year old nephew. Whilst channelling our inner three year old every now and again can be a good thing, I suggest we learn how to use fear to channel other powerful emotions such as courage and bravery, and to know when to appreciate fear for keeping us safe.
Fear gets a bad rap these days. As a small business owner and writer, I have noticed that we are constantly being encouraged to be FEARLESS. Well, excuse me, but a lot of the time, I am crapping myself. I just hide it well. I’ve learnt to understand the difference between fear generated when real danger is present, such as physical danger or a business opportunity that doesn’t feel right, versus the fear I feel before an important presentation or publishing a written piece online.
Dr. Meg Carbonatto has written a great piece on Balance on understanding anger. She talks about how we all have ‘sub-personalities’ and how we need to get to know these parts of ourselves so we can best manage these emotions and act more effectively. You can read more of Dr. Carbonatto’s blog here.
Fear, like anger, is a natural feeling and is part of being human. Dr. Carbonatto’s tips on understanding anger can also be applied to fear, so we can make fear work for us, rather than against us. Rather than banishing these emotions, let’s start understanding how to embrace these emotions and feelings, and how to use them to our advantage.
Think about it: what would stop us from engaging in behaviour that could potentially put us in danger? Without fear, we wouldn’t blink twice at walking home alone, back to our car, through dark alleys, after a late night in the office or out on the town. We might take to writing ridiculous opinion pieces after too many glasses or red wine and publish to the whole wide world without editing. We might even walk too close to the edge of the cliff just to take that perfect photo.
Fear isn’t something that we should eradicate from our whole lives entirely. It’s just something we need to acknowledge from time to time and accept, like that annoying aunt at family get-togethers. We aren’t going to not invite her to the annual Christmas party, but we aren’t going to be elbowing people out of the way to catch up with her over a glass of champers either.
The beautiful thing about fear is that it is often there to protect us. It really does have what it perceives as our best interests at heart. If a situation is new, if our brain hasn’t ‘done this before’ or isn’t 100% sure of the outcome, fear makes us come up with a whole host of reasons why we shouldn’t continue, with the intention of keeping us ‘safe’.
However, we need to recognise the difference between our ‘Negative Nancy’, the fear of moving out of our comfort zone, with the feelings of fear which comes from gut instinct, to avoid being paralysed into inaction.
How do we tell the difference? When we are faced with a situation that evokes fear, let’s ask ourselves this simple question: What is the worst thing that can happen if we do this?
If the answer is, “I could be putting my life in danger”, then that fear we are feeling is really our gut instinct alerting us to a real threat that we should steer clear from. By all means heed it, and run for the hills.
If the answer is “I feel outside of my comfort zone”, then I suggest kicking that Negative Nancy under the table and telling her to pipe down. Thank her for coming, acknowledge that you have heard her, but tell her politely to put a sock in it. If we succumb to our Negative Nancy, it can be debilitating. This fear can keep us stuck in the drawing room, planning for ‘someday’, waiting for that day when everything is ‘safe’ and perfect…Let me tell you, the road to ‘someday’often leads to a very lonely town called nowhere.
Moving past fear, without being hell bent on eradicating it from our lives, is the key to using it to our advantage. Courage, bravery, adrenaline, exhilaration only turn up when fear is present. How boring would life be if we didn’t get to experience any of these things?
We shouldn’t let fear hold us back from doing something that we know will serve us well. We need to embrace it and allow ourselves to feel human, to feel alive. Let’s talk to our little buddy fear, and tell him or her that we don’t mind if they tag along on our journey, but to get in the back seat. We are in control. It’s up to us to choose the best route from here on in.