I am afraid of many things. Each time I encounter fear I am amazed. For whatever reason, I think fear is funny. I think me being afraid of things is funny. Maybe I want to chuckle to myself because I have usually done things that are way scarier and way more dangerous than what I am about to do. How can this make me scared, I wonder. So I almost laugh, and then I get scared shitless. Then I stop thinking and do. Fear is always with you, but so is the opportunity to override that fear with action.
I do not think I am a coward. I lived abroad when I was 19 and again in my early twenties. I ran with the bulls in Spain, slept on city benches and in parks with homeless people, mountain biked things that make me fear for my survival, and more. I’m not afraid of living, but I recognize the role fear plays in my life. Fear serves as a small reminder to check yourself before you die. Or, it can serve as a paralyzing, irrational monster sitting on your chest. Usually fear takes the second form.
You are better than you think you are. You are more capable than you believe. Fear tells you otherwise. Fear also stops you from taking chances when you know you should. Fear is the recognition that you are about to do something that differs from your normal course of life. Big whoop! That’s not a bad thing.
Maybe that bell goes off in your head because you want to cold call someone for a job, or start that business you have talked about for years. Fear might exist because you know that you aren’t living up to your potential.
The worst thing about fear is the way it messes with your mind and bends your rational to justify whatever scares you. Once, when I was in Slovenia, I was canyoning. If not familiar, you basically start at the top of a downward flowing river and proceed to slide down the river and jump off waterfalls. I was scared. But, instead of thinking about the potential consequences I just jumped. Full send. No time to overthink shit and trick my mind in to thinking I was doing something horrible.
Once you conquer that fear the second time gets easier. By the third time, fear barely exists. How could it? You have redefined the norm for yourself. That is easy to say, of course, and more difficult to execute. So, I formed a rule that I read every day about fear:
If it frightens you, do it.
Fear usually exists because we need to challenge the status quo, and if you aren’t changing, growing, or evolving than you are dying. Change and fear go hand in hand, the two inextricably linked together forever. You will never conquer fear, although you will learn to grow comfortable conquering fear.
Whenever I encounter new and uncomfortable things I am always asking myself: “What is the worst that could happen in this situation?” If I know the worst, and can accept that risk, than fear will not exist. Try this the next time you face something scary. Instead of letting the narrative in your head run away with monsters and bed wetting beasts take a moment to find awareness in the moment.
The realities we readily accept as common place are often the most difficult ones to question. Fear lives in this ignorance, taking root in what we do not know, and do not seek. Awareness banishes this fear through reality, through the truth of the situation.
Looking back many years later I wonder what would have happened if I had looked at that first waterfall in Slovenia and instead of jumping, had turned around and went home. Would being at the edge and giving up still bother me today? Would ignorance’s bliss have made it not matter at this point? I don’t really know.
But I know that walking away becomes a pattern, and patterns are difficult to break. If I had walked away that day, would I still be walking away today? That’s a question I don’t ever want to face.