“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
If there is something natural and instinctual in the realm of the mind that can stop us from living the way we desire, it is the emotion of fear. From an evolutionary perspective fear can save our lives; for instance, our fear of snakes activates the fight-or-flight response and prompts us to maintain a safe distance.
Fear may help you survive, but does it help you live?
Avoidance and behaviour. When you don’t know what to do, sometimes the natural instinct is to run away, to escape. All your behaviour then becomes directed to moving away from the anxiety-producing situation. In our complex emotional world, more often than not, fear blinds us and prevents us from being who we want (somewhere and at some level) to be.
We find ourselves wanting something with all of our hearts, and yet that sole emotion has the power to stop us from acting – Fear is not accepting an opportunity that knocks on your door because you don’t trust yourself enough. Fear is not approaching that person you secretly have feelings for because you’re not sure you deserve it. Fear is always saying no, because you want to play it safe, or always saying yes because you want to keep up your image as Superman/Wonder Woman as much to yourself as to others. Sometimes, fear even entails doing some of the right things for all the wrong reasons.
Staying in the comfort zone. Where is this resistance coming from? We fear rejection, we fear disappointing others and their expectations of us, and we fear the consequences of being ourselves, among the innumerable other big and little things that we are afraid of. In truth, we fear living. Too often, our guiding sign in life’s inexplicable journey is: PROCEED WITH CAUTION. But by letting our fears guide us, we’re missing out on living life on our own terms, and that’s where one needs courage.
Stepping out of your comfort zone. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in. It takes courage to stand by the underdog. It takes courage to take responsibility for your own mistakes. It takes courage to forgive others for theirs. It takes courage to ask for what you want, and sometimes to refrain from asking for what you want. It takes courage to be clueless, and be able to ask for help for being clueless. It takes courage to say yes, and it takes even more courage to say no. It takes as much courage to assert yourself to those closest to you as it does to acquaintances. It takes courage to follow your heart, sometimes at the risk of appearing stupid and impractical because of it. It takes courage to love yourself utterly and shamelessly despite your weaknesses, and especially because of them.
Facing your fears eventually will enhance your problem solving skills. Fear cannot be overcome in an instant, but with every inch of courage you show – whether in your personal or professional life – and each time you dare to confront your fears, it won’t be long before you begin to realize that there isn’t much fear bigger than that of the regret felt at a life not fully lived – with joy, hurt and the whole package. Therefore proceed not with caution (because life will invariably end, no matter how safe you’ve played) but with courage, because like Dory the blue fish says in Finding Nemo – if you don’t let anything happen to you, nothing ever will.
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