Your eyes and mouth are wide open. Your heartbeat is speeding up, and so is your breathing. You’re fidgeting, and you want nothing more than to get away from where you are right now.
All of these are symptoms of the emotion we fear the most: fear itself.
Like a disease, fear can paralyze, cripple or even kill you. That’s why most people try not to feel it, even though it’s easier said than done.
On the other hand, fear can also strengthen you. Just as vaccines are made from weakened microbes, courage is made from fear kept under control. Let’s explain that a little more.
Fear Keeps You Human
Whenever you feel bad about being scared, remember this: Everyone is afraid of something.
Kids do good things because they don’t want adults to scold them. Adults work hard because they don’t want to lose their jobs, and by extension their source of income. Lovers pretty themselves up because they don’t want to lose their beloved to a more attractive person.
Everyone has something to protect. If you do, you’ll always have the fear that you’ll lose that thing someday.
That’s why “don’t be afraid” isn’t always good advice. It’s like saying “don’t cry” when you’re sad or “don’t laugh” when you’re happy. If you reject your natural fight-or-flight response, you might as well reject everything else that makes you human.
Being human is always a beautiful thing.
Fear Reveals Your Limits
If you’re afraid of something, it means that something is beyond your comfort zone, and going beyond your comfort zone is always painful. There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed, and there’s always a good chance you’ll fail.
Then again, staying in your comfort zone can be painful too. That’s because comfort zones are like clothes: At some point, you’re going to outgrow them. When that happens, the best thing to do is to find bigger and better ones.
Unlike clothes, however, comfort zones aren’t sold in stores. The only way to expand them is to risk pain and confront your fears.
You could argue that pain is inevitable, whether you’re within or outside your comfort zone. At least there’s a 50 percent chance of success if you step outside. If you stay inside, there’s a 100 percent chance you’ll regret what could’ve been for the rest of your life.
So take a chance. Do something different. If you succeed, that’s good. If not, try again next time, or do something else. It doesn’t matter, as long as you keep pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.
Fear Can Become Your Fire
Let’s say you’re afraid of heights. Because you’re ashamed of it, you never told anyone – not even your closest friends. That was, until those same friends invited you to go skydiving.
In this case, you have two choices. You can tell them the truth, and watch them enjoy themselves while you sulk at home. You can think about what’ll happen if you don’t go, find a way to deal with your acrophobia and enjoy yourself too.
Granted, that doesn’t sound like the most constructive way to go about it. After all, you’re basically using one fear – the fear of losing friends – to overcome another – the acrophobia. However, like we mentioned earlier, we’re all afraid of something. It’s a matter of using those fears to push you forward rather than hold you back.
Nelson Mandela put it best when he said: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
It’s OK to be scared when you’re confronted with something unfamiliar. Just don’t forget to take action anyway.