Overcoming or Embracing Fear?
Fear is primal. It induces the fight-or-flight survival response in us. When people say that one must “overcome” fear, I become suspicious.
Why am I not a fan of “overcoming” fear? When you think of “overcoming” fear, it suggests that you can possibly overpower, defeat, or even prevail over fear. It suggests that you can somehow eliminate it. That’s why thinking about “overcoming” fear fails. You can’t prevail or overpower something that is part of you.
A much more appropriate mindset for dealing with fear is to think about “managing” fear. Conquering fear makes little sense. Managing fear makes a lot more sense. Conquering or overcoming fear would suggest that you can get rid of it at will. This is simply not true.
The key to understanding and switching your mentality about fear from “overcoming” (misleading at best) to “embracing/channel” or even better “managing” fear is to understand the nature and purpose of fear.
Feelings that we have, in my opinion, is neither positive or negative by default. It is HOW we choose to act on a feeling and how aware we are of its effect on us that makes a feeling positive or negative.
Understanding Fear At Its Source
Let’s make a list about its nature and the sources leading to fear:
- Fear is part of our design. Fear is part of our mechanism for protection – telling us when we are way in over our heads.
- Fear is also an anticipation mechanism. Protection comes not from a reactive response but from a proactive response. Fear communicates the potential for harm in anticipation.
- A lack of understanding about a situation or subject can be a source of fear.
- Fear can also come from a lack of information that leads us to default into fear, doubt, and the need to seek protection or safety. In extreme situations, it might even lead to inaction.
- Fear can come from a lack of predictability. Not knowing the outcome of something beforehand leads to insecurity and discomfort. An inordinate level of anxiety, discomfort, and insecurity leads to fear.
Understand that fear should not be considered a negative feeling.
Rather, it is through embracing and channeling fear in the proper way that we “overcome” fear, if you still want to think of it that way.
When you try to “overcome” fear, you end up telling yourself to ignore fear and its function. This will often lead to frustration, confusion, and might even worsen your fears.
When you “embrace” fear, you accept it to be part of the human condition and show the willingness to understand its nature and its purpose.
How does one “embrace” and channel fear for one’s own good?
From my own experience, I often channel fear to work with and for me as a motivator to combat procrastination, for instance.
In honesty, this is easier said than done. It does require a lot of practice and that you remain conscious of your fear, go with the flow, and not allow it to completely overtake or distract you. Confidence is very much at the heart of lessening fear.
Common sense and wisdom also tell us that certain types of fear can and should remain with us.
Fear Need Not Be An Obstacle
For instance, the fear of fire is very real and also very appropriate.
Fear of this type is perfectly fine. It serves its purpose and only a fool would not be afraid of fire. Trying to conquer this fear would be counterproductive and even ill-advised. Fear of getting into a car accident is also fine. It should motivate you to be a careful and defensive driver. Allowing fear to confine you to your home for the rest of your life because of your fear of driving would make fear a problem. In that case, this would be an extreme case of fear – a phobia.
Practice makes perfect for situations were public speaking or doing anything in public is involved. Habitual practice can build confidence and confidence is key in neutralizing the fear and doubt in all of us.
Sometimes channeling fear in positive ways might mean taking small steps. Gradually expose yourself to whatever you fear most and increase the level of exposure as you gain more control.
Let fear compel you to ask more questions, do more research, engage in more learning, and train harder. Take away as much doubt and uncertainty as you can. The more informed you are about your surrounding or an upcoming event, the less fearful you become.
Preparation: The Key To Confidence
Feeling well prepared can significantly lessen your anxiety for situations where you have less control.
There will be times when fear becomes very difficult to manage or might even become unmanageable. This is why fear is not something that one can overcome or conquer. However, the more awareness you have about fear and the more often you are willing to face it and deal with it, the better you become at lessening its negative effects on you, if and when you sense it overpowering you.
Sometimes a traumatic experience can be the source that scars you for life. In such a case, one may seek support from others. Sharing and discussing these fears in a group setting can help realize that we are not alone. The sense that you aren’t the only one suffering from this fear is both liberating and consoling; it gives us that extra boost of courage needed to deal with fear.
There will always be the exception to the rule and some fears will never be under our control no matter how hard we try. However, it is our mission to always try to reduce the number of instances and situations in which certain uncontrollable fears we have might strike at a moments notice – an unfortunate and undeniable fact.
Preparation and anticipation are key. Being aware of which fears are the least within our control will help us avoid those situations as much as possible leaving us with the ones that we can potentially learn to control to a degree.
Regardless of your reason or source of fear, there is much wisdom in the old saying from Franklin Roosevelt:
“Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”
Learning to manage fear is no different than any other skill. It takes time, awareness, understanding, and courage to face it.
With this awareness about the nature of fear, what will you do from now on?
What will you do to find ways to make fear your ally and not your enemy?
How will you make fear not the obstacle but an asset to fuel your desire and help you attain new goals?
What actions will you take when you are unable to avoid a fear that you have not yet much control?