Fear and me go way back.
In grade school, I actually had a strange nickname.
It was because I was constantly apologizing to everyone. For anything. For everything. For bumping into them, for stepping in front of someone accidentally in the hallway, for dropping things… for breathing.
When I think back on those days, it’s almost as though I’m watching a different little girl who did not grow up to become me. This was a girl who was filled with fear.
She was afraid no one would like her. So she did and said whatever was necessary to make sure people liked her.
She was afraid she would never be any good at something. So she didn’t even try.
She was afraid her opinions and thoughts would be mocked. So she kept silent.
Yep. This little girl was set for a very small life unless something drastic happened.
Junior high was particularly painful. The little girl was taken from a Catholic school at fourth grade and placed in a public school for two years, and then returned to the same Catholic school for seventh and eighth grade.
She had one school friend during junior high and even that one friend was a bit mercurial. The little girl was bullied quite a bit by both the girls and the boys.
But a few saving moments happened.
Her one friend tried out for junior high cheerleading so she did too. And much to the amazement of her friend (who called her “klutzy”), she made the team.
The little girl got involved with the volleyball team. And the softball team. Although she was an average player, it instilled in her a little confidence. And that confidence grew.
After surviving junior high school, the now teenage girl headed to high school, determined to win friends and influence people. She sat in a room one day with thirty of her classmates and listened to a man talk about self-esteem. He and his father ran a training program that helped people grow their self-esteem. She convinced her parents to pay for a Saturday training session and brought her younger brother to the program.
That was the beginning of finding the right path to battle my inner fears.
Yes, you can overcome your fear
Fear can come at you from all angles. It could be from someone’s assessment of your skills and talents. Perhaps they mocked your ability to code like a ninja or sing like a rockstar. There are a lot of insecure people in the world and the moment they see real talent, they recoil because they never acknowledged any talent within themselves.
So they mock. They deride. They criticize.
This kind of treatment can seriously prevent someone from making a dent in the universe.
It is said that fear is learned, that we learn our fears from other humans. We are conditioned to fear by what we see and hear as children and the fearful adults we associate with influence us.
For instance, one of the greatest fears people have is public speaking.
You know how to get over it?
You’ve got it. Get some opportunities to publically speak.
In the U.S., we have a great group called Toastmasters. There are chapters throughout the country and the chapters meet for only one hour. It’s very strict. The entire meeting is timed. Toastmasters teaches people how to publically speak. There is a guidebook that new members go through, giving short five minute speeches. As the member develops his or her speaking skills, the speaking assignments grow in length.
There are also “Table Talk” exercises, where the emcee chooses a topic and randomly picks a couple of members to speak about the topic “off the top of their head” for three minutes. It’s a way to get comfortable with impromptu speeches.
The more you’re able to do these exercises (and see improvement), the more your confidence as a speaker will grow.
And if there is one thing that sets thought-leaders apart, it’s the ability to give a decent presentation.
Remember this about fear
The biggest thing to remember about anything that fills you with fear is this:
You need to get more comfortable with risk than the fear.
If you allow fear to control your life, you won’t achieve your dreams. You won’t grow and develop into the person you were meant to be. And you won’t make a dent in the universe because you’re too focused on what you can’t do instead of what you can.
For whatever reason, I learned at a young age that risk is part of growth.
Since then, I’ve pushed myself mentally and emotionally to do things that I’m not comfortable with but knew that if I did them, I’d grow.
Confidence comes when you take a risk and succeed. It comes by achieving something you weren’t sure you were capable of.
The day I totally kicked fear’s ass
One of my prouder moments was when I took an ROTC class in college on rappelling.
I had never rappelled in my life, but it looked like fun. So I signed up.
On a weekend, our group gathered on the roof of a five-story building. We were instructed about the ropes, how to get into the harness, the proper way to hold the rope with our hands, etc.
I remember standing on the edge of the roof with my back to the world and then giving a short jump as my body fell a little and my feet found the side of the building to keep me vertical. When I reached the bottom, I was glowing. Talk about a rush!
Oh, but that was just one part of the rush.
After a few rounds of doing that, the instructor then introduced us to Australian rappelling.
For this method, the person stands on the edge of a building, facing the world.
You slowly bend forward until you’re perpendicular with the building and you’re looking straight down at the ground. In this case, looking at the very hard, brittle ground from five stories above.
Yeah. Stomach-churning stuff.
I watched as young, strapping men would stand on the edge of the building while chatting with the instructor. He had to coax a few of them until they finally stepped off the ledge.
I decided to throw the first punch at fear.
When it was my turn, I realized that the more I thought about what I was about to do, the less I’d want to do it. So I wasn’t going to give fear even one inch.
So as soon as I stood on the ledge and felt that my harness was secure, I immediately set my hands in the proper position and just fell face forward into thin air.
I didn’t think about it. I didn’t give fear a chance to get inside my head.
As the famous Nike slogan says, Just Do It. And I did.
That is owning fear.
It will always be a battle. It won’t ever be easy. But the more you take such risks, the more you’ll increase your determination to succeed.
So this week, I challenge you to think of the things that fill you with dread or fear. What’s holding you back from accomplishing what you’d really like to accomplish?
Get comfortable with risk and go out there and rock it like The Rolling Stones.
So what if you don’t do it perfectly? So what?
There’s no table of Olympic judges who are going to hold up a score. Remind yourself that you’re a work in progress (always!) and you’re better today than you were yesterday.
Crush fear like the measly little worm that it is. Do not let it crouch near you and don’t ever hold it close to your heart.
Find the fear and then set up a strategy to own that sucker.
Because when you’re flying over the world, you’ll barely remember what it felt like to have your feet shackled to the ground.
It’s a very, very, very good feeling.