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Things You Can Do Today that Scare You

Updated on January 3, 2012
Do things that scare you not kill you--I'm afraid this kid "made his home in that Boa's abdomen"
Do things that scare you not kill you--I'm afraid this kid "made his home in that Boa's abdomen"

Living fearlessly is not the same thing as never being afraid. It's good to be afraid occasionally. Fear is a great teacher. ~ Michael Ignatieff

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the easiest ways to overcome fears that keep you from extraordinary living is to start doing some things that scare you. The lady I quoted above encouraged others to Do one thing every day that scares you. So to help you with that, I have put together in this article some things you can do today that may be scary, but I promise you will become a more confident person when you are done.

Step out of your comfort zone

What is so comfortable about a comfort zone? It is a place we go to die. It is the death of our dreams, our hopes and eventually our life itself. The things that keep us there are all the things we are afraid of. We are afraid of being hurt, of confronting our guilt, of failure, of the unknown and sometimes death. As Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar, Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant never taste of death but once.

In my hub about the "Toddler CEO," I talked about the fearlessness of toddlers who have no comfort zones--all things are to be explored or meddled with. Somewhere along the way, we lose that fearlessness and have to relearn what I call the "Toddler Principle." The sooner you start failing, the sooner you can begin to succeed.

If you have a strong fear or phobia, you may have to approach it gradually. If you have a strong fear of heights, for example, you may want to start tackling small heights and work your way up the ladder or slope as you become more comfortable.

Sometimes, however, you might just want to take a blind leap to help you conquer this kind of fear. One writer described her fearful existence as "more dread than alive." When she intentionally went bungee jumping, it helped her overcome her fear of heights. Alternatively you might take a trip or two on a ferris wheel or roller coaster or merely drive in Tokyo or Paris to send massive amounts of adrenaline into your system.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~ Dale Carnegie

Choose a Role Model

Eleanor Roosevelt chose some role models that helped her overcome her fear--her favorite uncle Teddy Roosevelt and Marie Souvestre, her boarding school teacher and mentor. By ten she had lost both parents and was timid, shy and constantly told she was homely.

While in boarding school, she vowed: “Never again would I be the rigid little person I had been before.” Although she had a fearful nature, she constantly fought it and her list of accomplishments are unrivaled in any first lady before or since.

Her uncle, Teddy Roosevelt was on the fast track for success. Graduated from Harvard, studied in Germany, fell madly in love, married and went right into politics. Then he hit a wall. His wife and his mother died on the same day. Speaking of his wife Anne, he said: "The light has gone out of my life..." Theodore had been battling asthma, extremely poor eyesight and other health issues and this hit him particularly hard. Instead of retreating into a "comfort zone," he bought a ranch in the Dakota Badlands and vigorously pursued the outdoor life to build up his stamina. He hunted big game and captured an outlaw. Later he would round up some of his cowboy friends and turn them into the famous volunteer fighting unit "the Rough Riders," which he led into battle in the Cuban War.

Minutes before giving a speech on a campaign stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot at close range by a maniac with a 38.. The would-be assassin’s bullet slowed down after travelling through a steel eyeglass case and the folded, fifty page speech he intended to give and stopped in his chest. Realizing that he wasn’t coughing up blood, Roosevelt figured he was well enough to go ahead and deliver his speech rather than rush to the hospital. He spoke for the next 90 minutes, opening with the words:

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”

Doctors deemed it too risky to remove the bullet, and Roosevelt carried it with him inside his body for the rest of his life.

As a result of his unwillingness to let his fears and weaknesses dictate his life, Teddy Roosevelt is known as one of the most visionary, energetic and accomplished presidents of all time.

Confront your irrational, negative thoughts.

As we say when we are climbing or doing something high up, "don't look down" (concentrating on the consequences of failure) but keep your eye on the goal. The toddler doesn't even think about the tumbles it takes to start walking--he or she wants to get somewhere and this is just what it takes. They do not spend time in their mind going over all the reasons not to try.

We can be the same. The goal is to be a more courageous and confident person and the discomfort of confronting the fear is just part of the process. Think of the fear barrier as just wrapping paper and string keeping us from the gift of a more daring and adventurous individual.

I was reading C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters where a senior devil is mentoring his junior nephew in the goal of keeping a person from realizing his life potential. The trick was to gradually get the person used to a life without any vital experiences. To let the natural fears and anxieties firmly entrench the subject into a zone of safety and non-confrontation until one day he realizes he has not really lived life at all. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, the soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

Meaningful and significant lives do not happen by accident.

The most interesting people I know are coincidentally also risk takers. They are the ones who have something to say, causes to champion, and are able to find something worthwhile in those they meet. They have an appetite for information and ideas, new ways of doing things and the motivation to learn new skills and hobbies.

Scientists who have studied fear in animals have come up with four responses which are also common to the human animal. (1) Withdrawal, avoidance, fleeing, (2) Immobilization, freezing up, (3) Submission, appeasement and (4) Aggression.

If you find yourself experiencing any of these four responses in your life, maybe it's time to face the fact that you are letting fear have too much of an influence and decide to take action against it.

Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously! ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Reward even small steps toward confronting your fear

Those who work with fearful animals search for ways to move them as close to the object or trigger of their fear as they can. Surprisingly, they will even give a treat to a dog who is moving away from the trigger to make them feel good about being in the general neighborhood of their fear. Little by little, they narrow that neighborhood until they are comfortable right next to the trigger.

Maybe that is where you are. That's OK. Start having positive experiences in the neighborhood of your fear and work your way in. Are you avoiding people because you are afraid to talk publicly? Start signing up to recite a poem or sing a song at an open mic night at your local coffee house. If you need to start smaller, try just speaking up at a meeting or introducing yourself to someone you are sitting by and try a little conversation.

Opportunities and danger.

Most people have heard about the Chinese word for crisis having two parts: opportunity and danger. Scientists have shown that the emotional responses for excitement is similar to those for fear. I know singers who intentionally let themselves become scared to go on stage so they can achieve more intensity in their performance. They are turning their useless fear into productive excitement.

How many of us watch horror movies and go on scary rides for the excitement it brings. We have successfully taken a potentially distressing experience and turned it into a thrill. We even do it in groups and dare each other to make it even more exciting by "no hands" on the ride or shiver in totally dark rooms when we watch Scream or Fiday the 13th.

I personally prefer other methods of turning fear into excitement. I enjoy climbing even though I experience vertigo, I enjoy riding a bike in the mountains even though I have fallen and part of me is afraid I will again. I enjoy writing songs and singing them at open mic coffee houses even though I experience a little fear each time.

Harness the emotional energy

Health experts say that excitement produces the exact same physiological responses in the body as fear. It is up to you to decide how you are going to label it and how you are going to feel. The funny thing about fear is that the more you label it as frightening, the more likely you will have the feared outcome. The more you turn it into excitement or energy, the more likely you will have a wonderful outcome.

Fear is the body's way of moving us into action. When we are in a heightened state of anxiety, adrenaline and blood sugar flows into the circulatory system, which in turn stimulates muscles and neural activity. If we begin to see that fear is also excitement, we can harness the fear to achieve our goals.

How many times has the fear of others coming to your house motivated you to clean up and decorate? How about the fear of a bad grade motivating you to study or do research and create masterful projects? I'm not saying that we should live our lives from a motivation of fear, but we can use the fear we have for positive results and find ways to eliminate the fears that merely debilitate us.

Don't let fear make you a turtle.

When turtles are afraid, they withdraw into their shell. I say embrace your fears, challenge them by making a list--not like the example on the right--but a bucket list of exciting, rmeaningful or even daunting challenges that you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. I have a gorgeous picture of a lake village in Austria as my screensaver because I want to see what I am saving my money for.

Want to scare yourself today? Go open a bank account just for that trip you've always wanted to take or that boat you wanted to purchase and put more in it than you think you can afford and continue to do so until you have enough. You can even open one for that extravagant gift you've always wanted to share with someone--Exchanging what you cannot keep for something you cannot lose.

Challenge the fear to change
Want to scare yourself today? Wear something completely different from your usual wardrobe. Eat at a restaurant that serves food a hundred eighty degrees from your usual fare. Take a language class. Sleep out under the stars. Change your routine in every way you can. You might just find you prefer the new one.

A day merely survived is no cause for celebration. You are not here to fritter away your precious hours when you have the ability to accomplish so much by making a slight change in your routine. ~ Og Mandino

Let down your guard

Ever gone for months or even years with a crush on someone, but never telling them? Have you postponed sharing an idea because you didn't want to look like a fool? Have you held off asking for a raise or a date because you are afraid they will say no?

Maybe today is the day you start asking for things. Spend the whole day asking people for something they can either do for you or tell you something you have been wondering about them.

If you're always looking for reasons not to be with someone, then you find them. But at some point you just have to let go, and give your heart what it deserves. ~ One Tree Hill

Most people avoid vulnerability because they fear they will be hurt. The tragedy is that what we really want is for others to care and that requires vulnerability. ~ Winsome

A plethora of things with which to practice courage

When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap. ~ Cynthia Heimel

  • Zip line Catalina Island ( you can go from 500 feet to 60 feet at sometimes 45 mph while you experience the island)
    Go skinny dipping
    Get lost (go to Death Valley or the Oregon coast dunes or the Sierras and experience being totally cut off from civilization)
    Rent a motor home or trailer and see the country
    Perform in a Flash Mob
    Drive Somewhere using a coin--heads right/tails left
    Spend the day alone in contemplation
    Tell your parents what you really think
    Go to sky diving/hang-gliding/motorcycle driving school
    Kiss in a dramatic, public venue
    Go up and talk to that cute girl or guy
    Sit in the front row
    Read or sing at an Open Mic Night
    Throw a marker or a dart at a map and go (maybe start with a state map)
    Reveal some deep feelings you have for someone
    Go to a party and talk to ten people
    Go to a haunted house
    Stand up for yourself
    Peacefully Protest
    Make a Movie Parody Video
    Post an Entry from your Private Journal
    Contact your Ex
    Send a Postcard to PostSecret
    Eat exotic Food
    Go Paddleboarding
    Post Embarrassing Childhood Photos
    Say Yes to Everything
    Post Embarrassing Poetry
    Play truth or dare
    Ride a unicycle
    Take a Life Drawing Class
    Go to a mystery dinner
    Be a Big Brother or Big Sister
    Submit an article for publication
    Reveal a secret you don't want known
    Take Ju-Jitsu
    Ride your bike at night
    introduce yourself to someone you don't know
    Go to a dance club
    Keep going on something you want to quit
    Say What’s Bothering you to your boss or parents or SO
    Serenade someone
    Take a Different Way to Work
    Ask Someone to Go on a Trip With you
    Blindfold yourself for a day
    Play golf with only one club
    Shoot a bow
    Record a Song and post it on youtube
    Ask to be someones significant other
    Follow the car parked in front of you
    Give only honest answers all day
    Have a meal on the roof
    Ask someone for Help
    Spend a day taking pictures of people and things you encounter
    Make a story that connects your photos
    Contact a family member you've been avoiding
    Smile at everyone you meet and say "Hi"
    Go on a speed date or enroll in an internet dating service
    Email a celebrity
    Drop in on someone
    Give someone a micro loan
    Play poker with real money
    Rock climb
    Play checkers/chess with a homeless person
    Apologize to someone
    Don't speak for a day
    Make a speech
    Start an NGO (non-governmental organization) to remedy one of society's needs
    Study abroad (I don't mean a woman)
    Take the first step in starting a business
    Go four wheeling
    Ride in a hot air balloon
    Go kite surfing
    Learn to use a compass and then find your way somewhere

A day merely survived is no cause for celebration. You are not here to fritter away your precious hours when you have the ability to accomplish so much by making a slight change in your routine. ~ Og Mandino

Leap of Faith

What am I afraid of?
How much time have you got?
The things that make me comfortable
Are really not a lot
I'm afraid when I win
Afraid when I lose
Fearful I won't be chosen
Afraid when it's me you choose

Afraid to try
Afraid to lose
Afraid to call you on the phone
Afraid to ask
If you really care
And terrified that you won't

What am I afraid of?
Things that go bump in the night
Things that crawl and things that sting
Things that bark and bite
Afraid of heights and deep, dark holes
Afraid of things closing in
Afraid of wide and open spaces
Afraid of germs on my skin

Afraid to try
Afraid to lose
Afraid to tell you my name
Afraid to ask
You for yours
Afraid that you're feeling the same

What am I afraid of?
Things I'm afraid to share
Afraid to die, of being sick
Of things hidden in the air
Afraid of what they think of me
Afraid they won't forgive
Afraid of storms and earthquakes
I'm almost afraid to live

©Winsome Publishing 2011, All rights reserved


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    • MrManifesto profile image

      MrManifesto 7 months ago from South Carolina

      yeah i wanna try too!

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hey LH, what a pleasant surprise to find you visiting. I'm glad you liked it. I saw some windsurfers near Seal Beach get lifted ten feet up into the air and then come zipping across their own waves and it looked both scary and fun. You are so right about "making a living instead of a life." I told a friend recently, don't work ever, find what you like to do and do it. The "work" everyone expects from you will flow out of that without you ever noticing it. You'll be too busy having fun to notice that others around you are benefiting and rewarding you for it.

      One of my customers has a business called "Scream Team" that sells professional quality scary make-up (to make yourself into a zombie etc.) for halloween because it was just something he was good at and others wanted to know how. He is making a very comfortable income by doing the scary thing of living his life. =: )

    • lettucehead profile image

      lettucehead 5 years ago from California

      Really enjoyed this, Winsome! A good reminder of what's ahead in life (there's always something/someone to look forward to). It's easy to feel stuck and it's easy to get stuck trying to make a living instead of a life.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Thanks BTG, happy you survived. Sounds like it scared you in just the right way. All the good stuff is outside your comfort zone anyway. Appreciate the visit and fine comment. =:)

    • brewskitimeguy profile image

      brewskitimeguy 6 years ago from Maine

      What great insight...having faced with a near death situation just recently...I now live outside the comfort zone

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      indeed. At, puking when your stoned/drunk isn't the worst think in the world :-) but i did consume an entire bottle of Pepto Bismol the next day

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      And you got a good dose of healthy respect for your limitations which is better than fear any day. Tip 'O the hat to you. =:)

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      I faced many of my fears, but I refuse to do anything about emetephobia. What's the point of overcoming a fear of vomiting? I hardly ever do it anyway- only once since 1999, and that's because I mixed a double Jack and Coke with an entire bud of marijuana. Turns out, it's not a great combo...

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      PD I know my experience is not the same as yours, but one thing is universal--all of life is built upon an exchange system which is described in many different ways, but similar in result: "You get out of life what you put into it." "No pain, no gain." "It is in giving that we receive."

      Viktor Frankl pointed out that out of all life's dangers and difficulties, the only thing we can control is our response to it. If by challenging our negative responses we can gain strength to overcome, it will have been worth it. =:)

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Me too. =:)

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      Wow! You are so full of wisdom, aren't you?! I choose to leave the gray and live in orange (it's happy to me). I like that metaphor...I will be sure to add color to my life each day - aside from acting crazy.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi PD, thank you for sharing and let me say of course you have every right to avoid confronting your fears. I had a similar aversion to hearing people talk about gross things at the table while I was eating--especially with my family. The problem is, the more you try not to think of a pink elephant, the more it comes up.

      One day, just as I was about to get angry at a family member for talking about disgusting things while I was eating, I decided to do something different--I stopped them and said "Wait, wait till I get a good bite." With bite and fork poised before my mouth, I then said: "Ok, go ahead." As they continued I put the bite into my mouth and said "Mmmmmmmmmm," savoring the experience. It was not only funny, but the surprising thing is I was completely cured of the phobia. As long as I transformed the averse reaction energy into a means for enjoyment, I was taking control and let the "angels of my better nature" as Lincoln would have described it, rule my feelings.

      I'm not saying you need to do anything. The beauty of writing is that you can take it or leave it. It is just my humble opinion that avoiding confrontation is often a much more debilitating and taxing road than transforming the energy into conquest--even in little increments.

      All my best. =:)

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Ardie, I am very proud of you. You know you are fearful of things, but love to challenge yourself. That is the best definition of courage I know.

      There are a lot of metaphors I could use to illustrate this concept--life starts out with potential muscle or flab, your choices determine which it will be and how far you will be able to go. Avoid facing your fears and the muscle turns to flab, exercise your fears and you will have the strength to take you forward.

      Or, life is like a canvas, as long as you play it safe, your painting is in shades of gray, as ordinary as a photograph. As you take risks, your palate expands into colors and heightened contrasts, unusual frames of reference and stylized accents. Compare Van Gogh's early work with his latter--who would have thought primary colors such as green could be used for skin in a portrait?

      Thank you for the inspiring comment, since you can act crazy around a total stranger, fear is no match for you. =:)

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      I am emetephobic and i'm deathly afraid of heights. I have no plans to confront either one

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      I understand the reasoning behind stepping out of my comfort zone, taking risks, and living to my best potential - however I am very OCD. It IS a huge scary risk to step out of my comfort zone. I've let my fears hold me back. But maybe, juuuust maybe, I can take some of your suggestions and move slowly without having a panic attack ;)

      I love the idea of challenging myself...I will revisit this page to remind myself how important it is to step outside of my box and take a leap of faith - no matter how small that leap may be in the beginning. Thank you for opening my eyes to this.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hello my friend, Hello--You are funny. If you get to the end of this list and need some more, let me know. I have no trouble thinking of scary things for others to do. Ha ha. =:)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      At long last I know what to do with myself. lol

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 6 years ago

      If I feel particularly daring, I'll go up to 12 things outside my comfort zone. The best day of my life I actually did nothing I was entirely comfortable with besides drinking Pepsi. Lolz

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Phoebe, two trips outside the comfort zone a day is commendable. I watched the movie "In Time" last night where the rich and powerful insulate themselves from all danger and risk because they don't want to risk their "immortality" while the rest of the world live outside the comfort zone and have to fight for existence every day.

      The kidnapped rich man's daughter chose not to go back because, even though there was more risk, she was finally living her life.

      Thank you for visit and gracious comment. =:)

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 6 years ago

      Another awesome hub. My day is never complete unless I stepped out of my comfort zone at least twice.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi FP, isn't it though--I loved that blogger's description--"more dread than alive"

      If it would work, maybe we should have a hypnotist on staff at our schools to convince the kids they aren't afraid--either that or put my list in their curriculum.

      Thanks for coming by! =:)

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      You go girl! Thank you for the upbeat and gracious comment. Wow, New Year's resolutions--I'm still getting adjusted to Christmas being around the corner. =:)

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 6 years ago

      Fear itself is the biggest bugbear in our lives...most of live in general dread about something or the other. These days I'm trying to talk myself out of it!

      Great hub, Winsome...I'm going to take your advice. I think. :)

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This is an awesome hub and I've bookmarked it because it needs to be read again and again! I love the "Toddler Principle." I have jump start on some New Year's resolutions. Thanks!

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi Hy, I like that--when you can't have both, let fear go. I'm learning that courage is not the absence of fear but moving forward anyway in spite of it.

      Glad you were inspired and thanks for the visit. =:)

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Well that is quite a list of options. And I have done some of them. As I grow older I learn that fear and faith cannot coexist so I let fear go. I love the examples you have given us. They certainly inspire me.