Fear is a response to physical and emotional danger.
In reality, we’d die without it, because if we didn’t feel fear stopping us from doing things, we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves from injury or death. It’s something that our brain is naturally made to do, and although we’re rarely faced with life-threatening situations, this brain function still works, and it automatically reacts to even the smallest form of discomfort or unfamiliarity. However, this doesn’t have to mean that fear has to stop us from exploring the unfamiliar, being on our own and learning different things.
I meet so many people that sometimes ask me, “But aren’t you afraid? I’d be terrified!”
Yes. I am terrified. I’m constantly doing things that scare me. I’m still afraid of failing, of feeling embarrassed, of not being enough, or of ending up without money. But through different experiences, I’ve learnt that I can actually handle it; whatever life throws my way, I can handle it. If I fail, it’s not going to be the end of the world. If I end up without money, I’ll handle it somehow; I won’t end up on the streets. There are always so many possibilities and so many things that we can do, and once we simply surrender and are open to these opportunities, life unfolds pretty amazingly.
Before I left for India for the first time two years ago, I was a bit scared. I had no idea what to expect, so I imagined all sorts of worst case scenarios…
But I did it anyway, and what I found was something that I cannot really put into words, but I ultimately discovered that I can handle things that I thought I couldn’t, and this gave me this greater courage to do other things, and an acquired taste for the thrill of being outside your comfort zone.
When I ended a 4-year relationship, I was also overwhelmed by fear. I was terrified to be on my own again, and I felt like, in the middle of it all, I had lost myself.
Before I quit my job, I was petrified. I had so many questions about what I’m going to do next, how I’d manage to create something that makes me happy, and at the same time support me financially. Leaving to travel on my own? I even considered the possibility of dying. Yes, so dramatic. But it’s all true.
What I ultimately came to realise is that fear is nothing but an illusion. We’re afraid of things before they happen, and once they do, we somehow always handle them, one way or another, and in that moment we grow a little bit stronger, and a little bit wiser. I had read somewhere the following idea; Think of being in the middle of nowhere, alone, faced with a tiger. You’d be terrified, no? For sure, I know I would. But the fear I’m feeling, it is now when I am here thinking about it, and not when I’m actually faced with a tiger.
If something happens and I’m really faced with a tiger, in that exact moment, our thoughts are, ‘What can I do to survive this? Should I run? Should I distract it?’ And it’s the same with everything. It feels terrifying to do something before, and you can imagine all sorts of scenarios, but if it’s something that your impulse is telling you to go for, it’s because you want to, because it’s calling you or because something’s changed within you and it feels right. So do it. All you need is five seconds of courage to take the decision and then you’re sorted. You’ll handle it, because you can handle anything.
It’s all in recognising when it’s a fear of survival – such as the fear that stops you from jumping off a balcony – and when it’s the fear of change, of doing something outside of our comfort zone. Then there’s the fear of not knowing exactly what to do and not having to question it or change it. Start noticing the voice inside your head that supports you, and the voice of fear in your head that stops you from growing and exploring.
Learn to acknowledge it, thank it for its presence and do whatever you want to do anyway because it feels right to you, and because you trust that it will lead you to something amazing, or something bigger – and because whatever comes your way, you will handle it and it’ll be okay.