“I’ll walk right into hell
To face my beast within,
To live my life a coward
Would mean to live in sin”
THROUGHOUT MY CHILDHOOD and adolescence, I was persistently overwhelmed by feelings of fear. I avoided anything that challenged me or caused me to step out of my comfort zone because I was ignorant of my body’s natural response to unfamiliar situations. I feared change, rejection, being alone, intimacy, making wrong choices, public speaking, failure, even success; the list goes on. Most of all I WAS AFRAID OF CONFRONTATION.
These feelings were so intense, I was at times paralysed by them, unable to think or act. My fear led to depression and apathy, and I consistently underachieved in many areas of life. I even allowed people to push me around both mentally and physically. I remember asking my peers on numerous occasions, “don’t you ever get scared”? “NO!” they always replied. How could this be? WAS I THE ONLY ONE WHO FELT THIS WAY?
These feelings were still with me when I reached adulthood and, I believe, were a contributing factor in the breakdown of my physical and mental health. As a young man, with a young man’s ego, I MUST ADMIT TO BEING VERY ASHAMED OF HOW I FELT. Having concluded I was the only person who lived with such intense feelings of weakness, I labelled myself a coward, a failure even. PERHAPS I WAS A SHEEP IN A WORLD OF LIONS?
Several years ago, I decided to talk to a friend about how I was feeling. She recommended a book she thought would benefit me to read. The book was about ‘Fear’ and ‘how to turn fear into confidence and action’. I was somewhat sceptical, but I had nothing to lose so I began reading. PERHAPS ALL MY FEARS MIGHT MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR with my new-found knowledge? Or maybe I would become fearless, even indestructible, in the face of adversity?
Needless to say, I did not become fearless. And if I thought this book, or any other book, was going to make these feeling go away, I was mistaken. Instead, I received an education that was of far greater value. I learned several truths which granted me the power to TURN FEAR INTO MY GREATEST ALLY. In his aptly named book, FEAR: THE FRIEND OF EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE, Geoff Thompson states “the world is your oyster, it is only you who holds yourself back”.
And so, my journey began. I was about to embark upon an adventure where I would find myself in extreme situations and go far beyond what I once thought possible.
Before I continue, it would be wise to differentiate between the two different types of fear. The first is instinctual and healthy fear, alerting us to real danger that could cause harm or threaten our existence. The second is destructive and imprisoning fear which affects our ability to grow and work towards our dreams. This type of fear is often the result of conditioning and poor education. It is, of course, the second I refer to in this entry.
I learned much from the book my friend recommended, and I have learned much from many books on the same subject since. I have expanded my knowledge through seminars and documentaries and I have learned from experience. However, the 5 TRUTHS ABOUT FEAR was my starting point and I always return to them when I find myself moving back towards the dark cloud of negativity and self-doubt. THESE TRUTHS GAVE ME PERSPECTIVE AND CHANGED THE COURSE OF MY LIFE, and I WISH TO SHARE THEM WITH YOU…
- THE FEAR WILL NEVER GO AWAY AS LONG AS YOU CONTINUE TO GROW
Paradoxically, this realisation provided much needed comfort because I now understood MY GOAL WAS NOT TO RID MYSELF OF FEAR, IT WAS TO ACCEPT IT AS A NECESSARY PART OF LIFE, and I was going to have to change my relationship with it so I no longer lived under its oppression. I had been stagnant for years, waiting for my fears to vanish so I could begin my life. I no longer had to work so hard to free myself of these feelings, because it was not possible. INSTEAD OF TRYING TO RESIST THESE FEELINGS, I WAS GOING TO WELCOME THEM AND VIEW THEM AS OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW. But where to begin?
- THE ONLY WAY TO GET RID OF THE FEAR OF DOING SOMETHING IS TO DO IT
Dr David Mickel once said “IF YOU’RE AFRAID OF DROWNING FIND WATER AND JUMP IN!” I would begin by finding water. Fear will always be present in new and unfamiliar situations, but it is possible to overcome fear of a certain situation – by confronting it. In the words of Helen Keller “THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH”. I was going to look at each of my fears individually, then tackle them one at a time. Each time I conquered something that scared me, my comfort zone would expand and I would grow larger. I WAS GOING TO HAVE FUN WITH THIS. So, like the cowardly lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, I began my journey on my very own metaphoric yellow brick road. The only difference being, I was no longer searching for courage. Instead, I was going to ‘FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY’. No confrontation no desensitisation. No pain no growth.
- THE ONLY WAY TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF IS TO DO IT
As a personal trainer, people frequently tell me they are going to come along to one of my Boot Camps when they feel better about themselves or they will start my classes when they are ready. I call this tomorrow thinking. I too thought this way for many years. But in truth, there is no tomorrow. THE DOING IT COMES BEFORE THE FEELING BETTER. If you sit at home waiting to feel better, you will be waiting a long time, an eternity perhaps.
When I began experimenting with this concept, I joined a local amateur dramatics group. Given how low my self-confidence was at the time, this was possibly the toughest thing I had ever done. Fear is relative you see. I have since conquered bigger opponents and completed greater quests, but nothing required more courage than it did to make that first step. It was winter and I will never forget the dark, lonely walk to my first rehearsal. I remember thinking I could easily just turn back and tell my friends the rehearsal was cancelled, or they did not have space for me. After all, no one would have known it was a lie – except me, and MY DAYS OF LIVING THIS WAY WERE OVER. FEAR WAS NO LONGER A SIGNAL FOR ME TO RETREAT, IT WAS NOW MY CATALYST TO GREATER THINGS.
- NOT ONLY WILL YOU EXPERIENCE FEAR ON UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY, SO WILL EVERYONE ELSE
The realisation I WAS NOT THE ONLY PERSON FEELING THIS WAY was a welcome one. Of course, I would not like to see anyone crippled by fear the way I was, but knowing FEAR IS PERFECTLY NATURAL brought me great solace. With hindsight, I can see now MY PEERS WERE LYING. They too were afraid, because TO BE HUMAN IS TO BE AFRAID. I can also see now I was NOT weak for feeling this way. But why did they lie about being scared? Perhaps because we are taught fear equates to weakness? “Admitting your fears is the first and foremost step in overcoming them” Geoff Thompson.
“The coward and the hero both feel the same feelings, the only difference between the two is that the hero handles the feelings and the coward does not” – Cus D’amato.
- LIVING WITH FEAR IS MORE PAINFUL THAN CONFRONTING FEAR
No matter how scary facing my fears was going to be, it surely could not be worse than feeling helpless all the time. At least I would no longer be imprisoned by these feelings. And if I was stuck with fear, then it was going to have to come along with me. There was room. In fact, I didn’t mind it watching while I did all the things it once convinced me I could not do. I WOULD BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH DISCOMFORT. I would put myself in situations where I was at risk of experiencing all the things I was afraid of. If I was going to be alone, rejected, a failure, a success or in a situation where I had to adapt to change or confrontation, I WOULD HANDLE IT.
I did just that and I continue to do it. Guess what? I still experience fear every day. In fact, I continue to go in search of situations that provide challenge and cause me discomfort, because that is where the growth lies. A necessary evil if we are to become the fullest expression of ourselves and achieve our potential.
“We can’t escape fear, we can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us on all our exciting adventures” Susan Jeffers
By following these 5 simple truths, I have travelled alone to the far corners of the world. I have acted on stage, skydived from 11000 ft and I have confronted many of the things that held me prisoner for many years. I now run my own personal training business where I am constantly required to talk in front of groups of people. I have been rejected, embraced change, made mistakes, experienced discomfort and I have grown in ways I never thought possible. I never did go all the way to Oz to find my courage. I didn’t have to, turns out I had it in me all along.
I know now, I AM A LION NOT A SHEEP. Do lions experience fear? I’d bet my life on it!
NEVER GIVE UP AND NEVER STOP BELIEVING IN YOURSELF.
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
- Fear: The Friend of Exceptional People – Geoff Thompson
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor E. Frankl
- The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
- The Elephant and The Twig – Geoff Thompson