Do you know what the opposite of love is? Most people’s answer would be “hate” or “dislike”. The truth, however, is that the opposite of love is fear. If we fear someone, we will not be able to love this person. If we are afraid of something, it will consume all our energy and drain our thoughts towards the subject of our fears. In extreme cases, it will prevent us from thinking about anything else. It will paralyse our ability to move forward, loving other people or, in severe cases, live our lives to the full. Can we learn how to conquer our fears?
Fear is one of our basic instincts. It exists for a reason. It used to save our lives hundreds or thousands years ago, and till now, it is a powerful emotion, that should not be ignored. However, things changed a lot during the past centuries. There are not many things that we should really be afraid of nowadays. Most of us live in safe corners of the world. There are no immediate threats to our life. Yet, we are all afraid. We all have our own fears, and we all feed our daemons almost every day. How can we conquer our fears? What we can do to stop worrying, so we can live more fulfilling, better quality life? How can we love more?
Are kids completely fearless? 🧗♀️
In the last blog post, I shared what we can learn from children. As you may expect – that list is not completed and there is more. Kids could be very different. We are all different. Looking at some of our small treasures having fun at playgrounds, we could get to the conclusion that some of them are totally fearless. Things they try and things that do on monkey bars, swings and climbing walls give a bone-chilling experience to some parents.
Everyone is different 🦧🦍🐵
My son, however, has a slightly more toned approach to danger, risk, and how to conquer his fears. He is – no surprise – very much like me. Before he makes a decision about a particular action, he assesses the situation. Before he decides to explore specific activity on playground, he observes for a while and then step by step, he tries things on his own pace.
It doesn’t mean he is not brave. He is bold in his own way. I like to watch him trying new things and slowly getting out of his comfort zone. He has a similar approach when it comes to physical challenges and obstacles to be conquered on the playground, but also when he interacts with other people. It takes him some time to get to know someone, trust this person and build a relationship.
What is crucial for us parents is to respect diversity amongst children and help them all to develop their skills. We should encourage them, but never try to rush up. It happens so often that parents “motivate” their kids too strongly. Some times to satisfy parents’ own ambitions or unrealised dreams from the past. Some times to help children to conquer the grown-up’s fears, not the kid’s ones. The results are usually the opposite.
You don’t need to be fearless, learn to fear less 🧘🏽
We have to remember that every one of us is afraid of something. For instance: it does not matter how extrovert you are, there is an area that is beyond your maximum. We all have limits, we all have our own fears. What separates courageous people from fearful people is not that brave people do not feel fear. They are not fearless, they just do fear less. They learnt how to conquer and control their fear.
We often think that people who we see as heroes are not afraid of anything. It’s not true. They learned to recognise their fear. They found out how to conquer their fears. Some people, when they see some challenging or scary things, they feel paralysed. They cannot move, some times literally. There are also people, who despite being exposed to objectively significant danger, they still act, sometimes heroically.We all have limits, we all have our own fears. What separates courageous people from fearful people is not that brave people do not feel fear. They are not fearless, they just do fear less. Click To Tweet
What can you do to conquer your fear? 🤔
Expose yourself to the fear factor 💧💦🏊🏻♂️🏞
It is the method as old as the Earth. To conquer your fear, you have to face it. The trick is, it has to be gradual exposure. It cannot add to your anxiety. This could lead to escalating your fear state to phobia state. The exposure needs to be big enough to kick you from the comfort zone. On the other hand, it can’t be too rapid to avoid immobility zone.
An excellent example of this principle is described in the book “Way of the Warrior Kid: From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy Seal Way” by Jocko Willink. Mark, the main character of the book, is a fifth-grade kid and has a lot of problems. He doesn’t know multiplication table, he can’t do a single pull up, he cannot swim and, on top of it, Kenny Williamson, the school bully, picks on him. Mark is about to start his school holiday after “the worst year in school”. Then he realises that his uncle Jake is going to spend the entire holiday at Mark’s home.
Things change for Mark when uncle Jake starts helping him in every challenge. One of them is the fear of water. Mark can’t swim because he is afraid to get to water or even get close to water. Uncle Jake convinces him to start facing his fear. They do it gradually over time.
First, they both walk near the river bank. Next, uncle Jake asks Mark just to put his toes in the water. The other day, they go deeper into the river where the water covers just up to Mark’s knees. More days and weeks pass where uncle Jake exposes Mark more and more to Mark’s greatest fear.
Results at the end of the summer are spectacular – Mark is not only able to swim by his own, but he also jumps out of the nearby bridge into the deepest part of the river. Mark conquered his fear. He has learnt the lesson that he can apply to every other thing that is or will be scary for him.
Run “fear setting” exercise regularly 📑
We are masters of justifying our fears in our adult lives. Usually, we have good explanations (read: excuses) for things that we don’t want to do. Sometimes it may be a valid reason. Most often, however, we don’t want to do something because it costs us too much energy or we are afraid of failure. Sometimes it just means that we would need to face our well-hidden fears if we decide to act on something, change our behaviour or pursue our dreams.
Fortunately, there is an excellent method of assessing if our fears are real, what would happen if we act on a specific decision, and what the outcomes are going to be. We can start with usual writing down the pros and cons. Additionally, we add some questions about every item on the cons list:
- What is the worst thing that can happen when you do this thing?
- Is this reversible?
- Is this possible to revert, rollback, in general, to get to the point before the action was taken?
- If so, how long would it take you to “recover”? How much would it cost?
Most of the things, that we need to decide on, are dangerous and serious in our head. When we put them on writing and run this exercise, our fears don’t look that threatening anymore. It often turns out that the decision is not that difficult to make. And the worst-case scenario is not bad after all.
You can find more on this exercise:We are masters of justifying our fears in our adult lives. Usually, we have good explanations (read: excuses) for things that we don't want to do. Sometimes it may be a valid reason. Most often, however, we don't want to do… Click To Tweet
Lessons learned from this coffee journey 🎓
- We should observe our kids how they try to conquer their fears doing small steps over and over again.
- Be brave doesn’t mean to be fearless, it means to face and conquer our limits.
- We can learn to overcome our fears by facing them gradually.
- Fear setting is an excellent framework to deconstruct our fears and objectively assess how serious are consequences of our decisions, actions, (sometImes inactions) – and in general fears.
Sometimes we are just happy where we are, we get comfortable with our lives. There are situations where we have to do something, make a decision, or make a choice. This usually means getting out of the comfort zone. We need to invest energy in getting through the consequences. Sometimes it means work and pain. Typically, those consequences are not fatal, they are not even bad if we study the possible outcomes. And making hard choices always pays later, as one of my countrymen said once:
Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.Jerzy Gregorek
I wonder what your greatest fear is at the moment? What is holding you back? Do you have any methods to conquer your fears?