When I write a new book, I often get THE FEAR. When I start a new venture, I get THE FEAR. When I start a new website or come up with a crazy business idea or do something that means having to put myself out there… you’ve guessed it, THE FEAR shows up. I expect it every time, so I know it’s coming, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t really, really annoying. In the past, fear has stopped me from doing so many things – in terms of business and in terms of life in general – but these days, I try to look at it a little differently…
Fear is the ultimate frenemy
A lot of people think of fear as being this terrible thing, and that if we could only eradicate it from the world completely, our lives would be a hell of a lot better all round. But would they really? Yes, fear can suck, and yes, fear can stop us from doing the things we really want to do – looking for a new job, asking that person out on a date, joining that dance class, trying out new social situations with people we don’t know – but if we try really hard to understand fear, we can use it to our advantage, and we can make it our best friend rather than our enemy. I suppose, thinking of it like that, fear is the original – and ultimate – frenemy.
Back in the Stone Age…
In the past – and I’m talking way in the past here, like caveman times – fear was an essential part of our survival. And when I say essential, I mean essential – life and death stuff. Stuff like, “Hey, we should probably run away from that lion, it looks kind of mad and hungry” and, “We should probably get out of the way of that herd of woolly mammoths, you know, just in case.” Now, I’m not really that knowledgeable about prehistoric man – or prehistoric ladies – so I might not have got that completely right, but the point I’m trying to make is that fear can be good. Actually, for hundreds of thousands of years now, fear has been trying to be our best friend.
If you look at fear really closely, you’ll see that it’s actually trying to help us. It warns us not to walk out onto the motorway so we don’t get run over, it sends us flying for shelter when we hear a loud noise that could be a gunshot, it tells us we probably shouldn’t be going into that old, empty house that looks like it’s been haunted for several hundred years, and especially not in the dark of night. It’s looking out for us, watching our backs, keeping us safe, and all we can do is run away from it and call it names. The point is, fear is trying to be a good friend to us – it’s doing all the things a good friend should do – and we’re having none of it. In fact, we just keep pushing it away, hiding from it, ignoring its calls and messages, and basically just ghosting the hell out of it. Rude, right? We should be ashamed.
Fear is helpful, but not too bright
So, when we start thinking about looking for a new job or we start considering a new venture like writing a book from scratch, and fear walks in and says things like, “Are you sure you’re ready for that?” or, “What if that’s the wrong decision for you?” or, “What if you fall on your face and everyone laughs at you?” it’s really just trying to help – in its own weird little way. Fear doesn’t know the difference between possible death by moving car, by haunted house, or by the unknown venture we’ve never tried before. To fear, it’s all new, it’s all outside our comfort zone, and it’s all absolutely, utterly bewildering. So it tries to stop us, just in case it’s something it should be protecting us from. It’s a nice thing to do, but – in some instances – wholly unhelpful.
It’s our job to teach fear when it can help (like with the cars and the haunted houses – although I’m pretty partial to the odd haunted house, so that might not be the best metaphor for me) and when it needs to back off (like with the new life choices we need to decide on and experience for ourselves, without something pulling us away the whole time just in case it’s dangerous). It’s also our job to be able to distinguish the differences ourselves, and not let fear get the better of us during a situation that isn’t life and death.
Fear is just excitement in a fancy hat
Fear will always be there, just as it’s always been there. It’s ingrained in each and every one of us, just as much as any other emotion – and it’s a good thing it is, especially for our ancestors with the lions and woolly mammoths or whatever animals were around back then. But sometimes, we just have to stand our ground and order fear to stop. We have to tell it to mind its own business and let us get on with things, because fear as an emotion is extremely close to excitement, and sometimes our bodies – and our minds – can’t tell the difference. In fact, fear is just excitement in a fancy hat – or, more likely, a long dark veil, like something out of a gothic horror story. When it comes to fear and excitement, we feel all the same things: the pounding in our chest, the sweat on our brow or upper lip, trembling hands and jelly-like legs, butterflies in our stomach, perhaps the vague sense that we might throw up at any moment. No wonder fear gets so confused between things that excite us and things that could kill us (especially as, sometimes, it can be both – just take the haunted house, for instance).
Fear means you’re on the right path
The bottom line is, if you’re about to do something new and exciting – something you’ve never done before that you’re not entirely 100% sure about – and if fear is rearing its ugly head (along with its fancy little hat), you can rest assured that you’re on the right path. If the idea scares you – and if it’s not likely to kill you – then go for it. Fear will always be there, hanging around right next to you and asking annoying questions to keep checking up on you, but you just need to get used to it, to make fear your friend rather than your enemy. Take it to one side and explain to it that this venture isn’t going to kill you, or hurt you or harm you in any way, and that you’re going to do it whether fear likes it or not. You appreciate the backup, but sometimes, fear just needs to take a back seat for a while. Sometimes, it needs to take off its fancy hat, put its feet up, and have a nice cup of tea while you do your thing.
When you think of fear like that – in its little fancy hat, trying its best to look out for its friend – it doesn’t seem so scary, does it?
For more insights into fear – and you how you can make it your friend using writing techniques and exercises – check out my book, Write Your Life: The Ultimate Life Hack For Achieving Your Dreams. You can also get a free accompanying Write Your Life Workbook PDF when you sign up to the WTA mailing list, Write Your Week.
How do you deal with fear? Do you have any tips or tricks you want to share? Let us know below. And, if you’ve found this blog post useful, please share it with a friend who might benefit from these words as well – thank you!