Chapter 6 of the One Life Manifesto: Fear.
Let’s talk about fear. Fear is something I have dealt with my entire life. It was ingrained in me at a young age. As a child you are told you should not do something. You should not stick your hand in the electrical outlet. You should not talk to strangers. You should not cross the roads without looking both ways. We are taught about fear at a very young age. We are actually very fearless as children because we don’t not know any better yet. Fear is in the process of being taught to us still. Our parents condition us to be fearful, as they are only protecting us. Protecting us from the elements, the dangers. We have to accept that our parents love us and care for us. They are well-intentioned.
As you grow up, ideally you understand the fears that present themselves. These fears may be something that is really scary or something that you can overcome. It may be something very trivial that you can overcome. However, every individual is different in terms of tolerance of fear-based activities. Some activities are more intimidating to a person compared to others, even if it is the exact same activity. Whether it be public speaking or asking someone out, the varying degrees to which we fear something is based on how we have conditioned ourselves. How we have exposed ourselves to these fears over the many years.
The thing about fear is that it is usually brought about by something in our heads and our thoughts. Our thoughts are saying: no, that’s uncomfortable. You shouldn’t do that. Therefore, we do not. We are uncomfortable towards the uncertain. Some have many fears and others have few. It’s how you experience the world and how you go about experiencing new adventures. That will help you break away from the fear.
As you mature and you grow older you begin to understand that the fears are these immature thoughts. They are just these ideas in your head. You understand that the worst that could happen is actually quite trivial. Or you may not be thinking in terms of “I wonder what the worst is that could happen.” That may be something to think about when you are presented with a fearful objective. What is the worst that could happen for you? Talking to that girl, what is the worst that could happen? Is my fear justified? Is the “talking to a stranger” mentality necessary as I am older and wiser and more intelligent? Are these fears rational or have we just dug ourselves into a hole?
Some of you may be at the point where you cannot even leave your house, scared of the outside world. I believe that social media and our consumption of online materials is a way to escape from our real fears. When you think about it, you will go and get a newspaper to learn about the news. Well now you can get it online. The act of getting information is so much easier. It’s right at your fingertips. You do not even have to talk to a cashier today. You can ring the items through with the self-serve checkout. Even human interactions which you have exposed yourself to constantly are now unnecessary. But when the time comes and you do need to interact, you have not conditioned yourself to handle it. It becomes a fearful event for you to socialize at networking events. Although local events are still out there, they are not as common. You can do everything online with a webinar and just passively watch somebody talking about a topic.
Our lives have actually gotten easier as the tools that are being developed. Apps and all of today’s technologies have allowed us to facilitate our daily lives. Some of it is okay. For instance, some of you may have the fear of driving cars. With autonomous cars you won’t have to worry about that fear. In ten to twenty years, forget about having a license. It won’t be important. It’ll be taken care of.
There are still activities that you will need to do. You will need to interact with people in order to secure a job. You will need to interact with people in order to build a business. If you are injured, you will need to interact with your doctor. Human interaction is still very much present, although less necessary. You use your phones to communicate via text. Rarely do you see people talking on their phones anymore. That was the original method phones were used for: verbal communication.
Definitely these tools have made our lives easier. Yet I do feel that perhaps we are more fearful when we are told that the tools are not present and we need to cope without them. It may be very uncomfortable. What if an Internet crash affected the world’s ability to function? The fear brought about by dependency is a scary thought.
Fear of public speaking is an indication of our inability to communicate. Most of us may have that struggle today. I also feel that if we use the tools to our advantage we can break down fears. People can now publish YouTube videos online. They were afraid of being in front of the camera before. They can get comfortable in front of the camera. It’s not something they would normally do. They can do it with just their phones. It’s easier than ever to put themselves out there and break down the fears. You can even just record your voice and publish it. It just depends on how you look at fear and how you handle fear. Whether you let fear knock you down or whether you let fear challenge you and let fear help you grow.
Growing up, I was very fearful of quite a few things. Fearful of women, fearful of talking to people, fearful of being successful, fearful of so many different, uncomfortable ideas. And then in my mid-twenties I realised that if I feel uncomfortable, that is a good feeling to have. If I feel challenged, that is a good feeling. And if I feel too comfortable for too long, that is not a good feeling. It’s an indication of how much I am exposing myself to fear.
You want to put yourself out there to a point where you are fearing something every day. You should be breaking down that fear and trying to overcome it. By doing so, you will condition yourself to be stronger and better able to battle those fears as they come up. Being uncomfortable is a good thing. I think we just need to put ourselves into a state of discomfort more often.
One of my greater fears today is travel. It makes me uncomfortable and yet I do want to experience new cultures. My plan is to book a solo travel experience to really push me outside of my boundaries of what I think I am capable of. This would really help me overcome the fear of travel.
If you are like me and you had bad travel experiences, that has built up the fear over time. So, you have negative experiences and it only accumulates the amount of fear. The next time you are thinking about it, the fear becomes greater. It is important to understand that past history does not dictate the future and that negative circumstances can become positive.
I struggle with it right now. My next travel experience may or may not be negative. Historically I have only been through negative experiences. However, it may be better as I have matured and grown older. I have now accepted the brilliance behind travel and the experiences that I would enjoy. So, I encourage you to look past the negative experiences and not let that dictate your decision to experience.
However, I would not encourage you to stick your hands in the electrical outlet as that is a forever-negative outcome. I don’t see a positive benefit to that. But there are some positive situations and you can look around and see others enjoying those activities. If you don’t feel comfortable about doing those activities, consider why you are associating negativity to those activities when others are enjoying them.
I see quite a few passionate people who enjoy public speaking. They did not start out like that. They had a fear, just like you and I. But they kept at it. They kept exposing themselves to the fear to overcome it. Remember that whichever insecurity you have, it can be overcome.
There are many people in your place dealing with the exact same situation. They ask the question: what is the worst that can happen if I follow through with this? You should consider asking yourself the same question: what is the worst that could happen? The worst is likely very minor. If you are thinking that the worst is death, you may likely be overreacting. You may wish to re-consider the outcome, unless you are in the middle of jumping off a bridge. Then obviously that is a negative, permanent outcome. There is no positivity to that.
I am referring to positive activities that bring joy to others. If you look at these activities, you can really show a positive energy around others. Find that thing you can break your fear of. Fear can really cripple our livelihood and prevent us from really seeing, experiencing, and doing in life. Fear prevents us from starting that project that we always wanted to.
Fear can be very irrational. And we have a response to it. When we fear something we have anxiety. Anxiety is this feeling that we get when we fear something. It’s this unease. And we don’t like the feeling. That is why we do not put ourselves into an anxious state. Because it is uncomfortable.
When people tell me that they have anxiety, I doubt they have it all of the time. That means they are constantly in a state of fear. That is no way to live. I would accept anxiety. Anxiety is a very good feeling. I am anxious when I am just about to public speak, yet I absolutely welcome the feeling. Even if I am sweating profusely I know that this is building me up to be stronger. I now accept the feeling. Being anxious is a good feeling. It means that you are putting yourself out there. You are getting into uncomfortable situations. Breaking down barriers. Fear and anxiety is a part of life. We can’t approach everything in the world and be fearless. It’s actually not possible, humanly or biologically. Hey! This is something new, this is something foreign. You are bound to have even a little bit of anxiety here.
Some choose not to talk about it. But it’s okay. If you are anxious, it’s good that you are. That’s how you overcome fears. Try to put yourself out there. That is important to try these fearful things. Do not give up. Then you will see that your fears can be overcome.
I believe that fear will always be present in one’s life. Fears can be controlled and not be controlling. They do not have to control what you do. It is important that they do not control you. They are a side-note. Just like anxiety is a side-note. You are aware that it is present and you appreciate that. You nod your head and say: thank you for letting me know. I will continue. I will push through. It is critical as I have battled the anxiety and the fear my entire life. I will continue to do so. I am more accepting of it now.
I now get to the stage where I am not fearful if someone is judging me. Everyone is too busy thinking about themselves, and their judgement only lasts briefly. They don’t have time to think about whether you will make a mistake or not. It’s irrelevant. The next day, you won’t even be remembered. It’s good to think about it that way, even though it may be a negative approach. The fact is, people will forget about you. So, you have nothing to lose. And if you can be in that state and accept being forgotten, then any task can be fearless. Because only you will remember it.
I realize that social media has a lasting effect. It appears to make things permanent. Nothing has to ever be permanent. You can always remove things if you need to. Posts. Accounts. Photos. There’s always a way to remove blemishes. Chances are people are not looking at that photo, thinking: oh, what a disaster that was. They are moving onto the next thing. There is too much to consume. There is too much new stuff every day to be paying attention to you all the time. You are forgotten and you are drowned in the feed of other news.
Knowing that nobody cares is actually an interesting way to get over the fear. More likely than not, you will have people supporting you, encouraging you, and being positive for you. Not criticizing your work. Ignore the bullies who treat you otherwise. Go up there and do public speaking. Go up there and do something extremely difficult. People will admire you because they know it is a fearful task. Once accomplished, you will feel relieved and accomplished. A big boulder will be lifted from your chest. People will admire you because you inspired them. If you can do it, others will feel like they can do it too. It is important to let people know that fear is not the ruler. Fear is a side-note. Don’t let fear run your life.