Know Your Fears
The brave man is not the one who has no fears, he is the one who triumphs over his fears. — Nelson Mandela
For years I had this notion that I was afraid of heights but no matter how many roller coasters I rode, the fear of heights was always there lurking, especially just before the massive drop or the loop de loop. The longer I thought about it, the more I realised that the fear I felt when on these things (no matter how fun they seem) was my worry that I'll come unbuckled and fall off. That the lurch in my stomach wasn't just the sudden pull of gravity as we tipped over the top and hurtled towards the ground, it was also my body's reaction to my brain's overreaction about "What if the breaks on this thing isn't working and we go flying off into the sunset—and we go CRASH, SPLAT, and BOOM?!" Then it dawned on me, I wasn't afraid of heights, I'm afraid of falling.
Being notoriously curious means there will be many instances in life where we would have to face uncertainties. Our curious selves can get us pretty excited about something only to have us back down because what was once filled with excitement and joy has become peppered with self-doubt and fear. Sometimes this can feel like a dark entity, a grey cloud hanging above our heads. When we do decide to push on, does it not feel like we're being reckless or that we're just winging it? Certainly. There will be days where it can feel like we're flailing around in the dark, hammer in hand, hoping to strike gold.
Is it possible then to distill that fear so that we can grasp it and deal with it?
When you say , "I want to start a business / go freelance / travel the world but I'm afraid to quit my job" what does it truly mean? Is it fearing that when you work for yourself, your boss is probably an asshole? Or are you afraid of doing the real work because maybe you just really need a vacation? Or do you really want to travel the world but afraid to make sacrifices needed to make it possible?
When you say, "I want to start a blog / podcast / write a book but I'm afraid that others have already done it" what's really lying behind that fear? Is it fearing that no one would listen except for your mom? Or are you afraid that what you have to say isn't important because you're not influential enough?
When you say, "I want to move to a new city / change careers but I'm afraid I might be wasting my time" what's at the root of it? Is it fearing that you should know what you want, especially at your age, but you really don't? Or are you afraid about being alone because you're not comfortable with who you really are?
Our fears are built in layers and if we face our fears not knowing what's at the core, we're just looking at it through a mirror. We're dancing around a problem instead of smashing it. Next time you feel the fear, sit with it awhile and ask yourself why until you get to the bottom of that fear.
Why am I afraid of roller coasters? Because they fling me around at top speed.
Why am I afraid of being flung around at top speed? Because I feel the safety straps won't be able to hold me.
Why am I afraid that the safety straps won't hold me? Because I feel like I could fall anytime.
Why am I afraid of falling? Because I could hurt myself or die.
Are you ready to stop dancing with your fears and start smashing it instead? What are you truly afraid of doing? If you're stuck, let me know in the comments. We'll get to the bottom of it.
Photo by Michelle Kuek of greenteafields