Stepping Through Fear
If we want to grow we have to be willing to get uncomfortable. It’s really that simple. No Discomfort = No Growth. Sometimes we’re afraid of the discomfort though. We act like it can hurt us. When fear becomes part of the growth equation things can get complicated fast.
Fear can sidestep our ability to think clearly. Uncontrolled, it can turn us into blithering idiots, or worse shut down our humanity and turn us into vicious animals. Fear can also paralyze, freeze us into patterns of behavior that prevent growth and that prevent action. When we fear change, our ability to grow quickly diminishes because we start avoiding things that make us uncomfortable, things we fear, the very things that can help us change.
Understand that fear can be useful. The fear that comes from something like stepping into oncoming traffic is very real and should be heeded, while the fear of public speaking is illusionary and can be discarded—meaning that no matter how scary public speaking might seem, it won’t physically hurt you.
In both cases fear is an action signal. It tells you that to get back to safety. But as you realize, when it’s illusionary fear, safety really means your comfort zone.
How Can You Beat Fear?
The best way to beat fear is to learn to step through it. Stepping through fear means you experience the fear and do it anyway. It means training yourself to think clearly in the midst of fear instead of letting fear paralyze you. You can step through your fear with small things at first, and always with things that are done as safely as possible.
For example: If you fear public speaking, you could ask a small group of friends to let you tell them a story. Just have them sit on one wide of the room while you stand on the other. Then tell a short funny story from your childhood or from work. When you’re comfortable with that, you’ll move to larger groups. In no time you’ll forget why you were ever afraid because you’ll enjoy the experience of connecting with others in the way that only public speaking provides.
Here’s an example from my life.
Over The Edge
A few months ago I had the opportunity to go rappelling for the first time in over a decade. As we approached the top of the cliff I started to feel a little nervous. It had been awhile since I’d been that close to a drop off of more than 10 or 15 feet, this one was a little over 130 ft. To put that in perspective, that’s like standing on the roof of a 10 story building.
My heart started to pound. My palms got sweaty. I felt fear rising. Do I really want to do this? I wondered and considered walking away. But then I reminded myself, “This is no big deal. I used to clean windows on high-rises. I can do it!”
I’d like to say I went first. I didn’t. I was the second one up. As my friend, who’d organized the trip, showed me exactly how to connect the rappel device to the rope and then to my harness, the fear monkeys went crazy in my head. It was like standing in the middle of a hundred monkeys, all barking, screaming, and threatening me, telling me all the horrible possibilities, demanding I give up.
Shut UP! I mentally shouted as I edged backward, toward the gap. There I stood, 130 feet yawning beneath me. My feet planted on the edge of the cliff face, but not committed yet. I could still call it off.
Despite the cacophony of my fear monkeys, I took another step, then another. And then I’d passed the point of no return. The only way off that cliff was straight down.
The fear monkeys didn’t quiet much on my first decent. Though I enjoyed it, I was also desperate to reach the ground. When I got to the bottom I felt waves of relief wash over me.
I did it!
Then I thought, Okay, that’s done we can go home now. And I knew the fear monkeys were still trying to control the situation. I wasn’t about to let that happen. So I went back to the top of the cliff and rappelled again. In fact, I took three turns that day.
Did my fear monkeys ever go away? No. They quieted until they were mostly background noise. But they still raged a few times.
The important thing is that I faced my fear and did it anyway. I remained calm and rational despite fear and controlled it instead of letting it control me.
You can too. It might not be a literal cliff that challenges you, but fear can make it feel that way. If you start small and do the thing you fear, it will get easier with each doing. In time it might even go away!
You are The Master of Your Destiny!
Copyright © 2014 Roland Byrd — All Rights Reserved
Photos by Wadsden Photographic