Do You Fear What I Fear?
Defying Your Fears
I "borrowed" this title from a friend of mine who did a one-man show of the same title. It was all about confronting his fears and not letting them take over his life. And it inspired me to think about doing the same thing.
What are the things we are afraid of? Some of them are phobias, some of them are legitimate instinctual self-preservational fears and some are actually more defined as reluctance to leave our comfort zone. So which ones do we pay attention to and which ones do we dismiss?
Start with small, illogical fears that you can easily overcome. I don't mean full-blown psychologically diagnosed phobias; I just mean something you think you can personally wrestle without too much trouble. Maybe you can start dealing with those creepy-crawlies you hate by telling yourself they can't hurt you and are more afraid of you then you are of them, etc. Those types of fears are often illogical, so if you reason with yourself, you may just be convincing enough to reach victory. For the bigger out-of-control phobias, you'll need to seek therapy. Obviously. But challenge yourself if you think it's a small enough fear.
Self-preservation fears come from primordial instincts. We know when something can potentially harm us, such as dangerous weather, criminals, rabid dogs, etc. We need those fears to help keep us safe, so let's move on to something we can control.
So what about the fear of the unknown? Maybe you don't want to leave your job because you need the health insurance and the steady paycheck so you stay. And stay and stay. But you are increasingly miserable and feel trapped, with no end in sight. Remind yourself - the thing about security is that it's an illusion. There is no guarantee you won't be laid off any day or that some other dire consequence may befall you (at any time, really), so why not take a chance? It's one thing if you have a mortgage and a house full of kids, but even then, don't you owe it to your family to be yourself? If you can find a way to be happy and somehow manage to bring home the bacon, more power to you. But not all of us have that luxury. Life is short though, so you do want to make the most of it. You know you can't live in the past or the future so your present better be as great as possible.
In that spirit, I want to take more risks in life and confront my fears. When I first learned how to drive, my instructor asked me what I thought the worst place to drive would be and I said San Francisco, with all those damn hills. So, you guessed it, he had me hop on the freeway and head straight to the city on the Bay and try out those infamous hills. I parallel parked, set the emergency brake and rode up and down quite a few steeply scary hills. In a stick shift. And lived to tell the tale. His point was that I would never be a confident driver unless I went out and conquered my inhibitions.
That works in life too, I think. So I've been challenging myself by doing things I never thought I'd do: rock climbing, martial arts, indoor skydiving, traveling alone, taking an improv class (really teaches you not to fear failure) and much, much more. And each time I go on one of these adventures I'm a little less fearful. After running an actual full marathon, I felt I really could do anything I wanted, so (especially) ever since then I've tried to keep tackling those mental obstacles. I'm hoping to work up the nerve to actually skydive or at least tread that God awful skywalk in the Grand Canyon (or take a mule down the narrow paths). I figure if I can survive that, I can pretty much do anything. And it's all a matter of wanting to, isn't it? After all, if so many people with actual, real physical limitations can overcome themselves by sheer force of will, then what's your problem? What's stopping you? Fear itself, FDR?
Nonsense. Go for it. You may just surprise yourself into becoming amazing. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway. I'm sure you are saying that it's all easier said than done, which is what I used to tell myself too. But start small. Practice by maybe talking to strangers in a grocery line, if that's something you've never done before. When nothing bad happens to you after that experiment, move on to something a little bigger. And so on. Take a class in something that interests you. All of the above may sound like obvious advice, but believe me, until you actually try it, it seems an insurmountable pipe dream.
But 2009 is the year of hope, right? So let's all try it. Just a little. Help make the world a little less uptight. The economy has all in financial trouble so we are all in the same boat there. Might as well seek pleasure, or at the very least some self-improvement. Yes, we CAN.