We hear about fear almost everyday. It seems like everywhere you look people are afraid of something. Animals, insects, people, neighborhoods, countries, fear literally comes in all shapes and sizes.
So why is it the success people are always trying to convince us that we need to be Fearless? The common reasoning is that we are only born with two fears: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. All other “fears” are, thus, learned over time. Is there any rational reasoning to be afraid of the dark, sure for some people. Perhaps the experienced some sort of trauma that forever made them afraid of being in a dark room. It happens, my brother was scared by one of my friends in a ghost face mask when he was like 8-9 years old. After that, he couldn’t see a ghost face mask without getting scared well into his teens. However for some people there’s no reason at all for them to be afraid of the things that frighten them. It’s just that at some point in our lives we got the idea that we should be afraid of… well you name it. I’ve experienced this with my daughter. I remember vividly trying to convince her that there was nothing to be afraid of in the dark. Nothing I could say would convince her, otherwise. She wasn’t exposed to scary movies or scared by her uncles or cousins growing up, at least to my knowledge. But, she was deathly afraid of the dark nonetheless.
Now remember I said that most fears are “learned” which means they can be “unlearned” right? Well… not so fast. I used to think that way and while I still think many ways of thinking and habits CAN be unlearned. I don’t think fear is one of them.
So what is fear?
“An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
Hmm…. An emotion caused by a belief. Now we’re getting somewhere, beliefs shape every aspect of our lives. Unlike fears, beliefs can be changed over time although not easily. I’ll get to all that soon….
One of my mentors used to tell me that fear was an acronym for two different sets of words. The first being:
For my psychology buffs you know about the fight or flight response to a threat, this is definitely the flight portion. It’s a survival instinct. But if it’s simply a survival instinct why to this day do I not like to be in a room with a doll? Watching Child’s Play years ago definitely affected me in a major way it seems. As much as survival plays apart in fear beliefs still dictate how we respond. No matter how many times I tell myself it’s an irrational fear or that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that does not change my beliefs. Obviously changing my beliefs is the answer to this problem, that’s simple enough right? Well yes and no. I believe we can change our beliefs just not in the way that we’re always told we should. Remember we’re told to be fearless we have to ignore our fears and push on! That’s a dangerous conversation, we’ve already established that fear is a survival instinct. Fear literally keeps us alive from time to time so we can’t just ditch it altogether. Further it’s not possible to be fearless. That’s right I said it’s not possible to be fearless. Unless you are a sociopath you’re not going to momentarily turn off one of your emotions.
The other acronym I learned fear stands for is:
That’s a much better breakdown don’t you think? This fear is the one that we need most of all. I didn’t realize it until recently, but being “fearless” is the wrong description for the right advice. The key to being “fearless” is not achieving an absence of fear. The key is being able to look fear in the eye and not let it cripple you. You have to acknowledge your fear, it’s a real thing, respect it, rise to it. Whether or not the reason you feel fearful is silly or justified the reality is your beliefs are alerting you to respond.
Talk to public speakers, law enforcement officers, extreme sports athletes. These are all professions in which we think that these people could not perform if they were scared. Truth is that these people are scared on the job often, they just do it anyway! Learning to confront your fears is a useful fear that puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. The more you step up to the challenge the less fear will have a hold over you. The feeling of fear won’t completely disappear. But if you let it it will serve to remind you that you have the ability to take control every time you approach the limit
Join the SID newsletter
Subscribe now to get our latest in exclusive contests and content straight to your inbox