Embracing Fear

Embracing Fear

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
–H. P. Lovecraft

We all know how easy it is to become overwhelmed by fear… Few of us know much about embracing fear.

All of us know how difficult it can be move on with your life, learning to be ok with being uncomfortable.  I am not saying that you need to struggle intensely, but you do need to be willing to learn. Dealing with uncertainty is one of the key elements to learning. When you do that you are almost always involved with the ‘unknown.’

It’s not going to be familiar

If you want to improve your health, you have to challenge your body. Most people are interested in working out in order to improve their health, or learn a new sport. What you might not know is that if you don’t switch up your routines regularly, your level of fitness stagnates. It doesn’t matter whether it is yoga, weights, or jogging, if you don’t switch them up you reach a level of homeostasis, a propensity towards stability and not growth.

This rule of thumb works with your mind as well. To learn you need to put yourself in new situations where you encounter the unknown. Unless you are some movie star character, you know that we all make mistakes and recognize how hard it can be to try new stuff. Regardless of the areas you might be fearless in, travel, white water rafting, or trying new kinds of food, there are always areas you are less eager to plunge forward into.  It holds you back.

I say I am stronger than fear”

–Malala Yousafzai

Everyone feels afraid.  Let me say it again, Every one feels afraid.  We all experience fear of one form or another at one time or another. It is a survival instinct that has protected us through the millennia. That being said, it is rare these days for a person to be eaten by a tiger or a velociraptor. We no longer need to fear or fend for our lives at every turn. In order to live a more dynamic and fulfilling life, it is time to confront the fears that haunt you.

When you do what you didn’t know you could do, you learn things you didn’t know you could learn

You just might fail the first or second time you try and do what you couldn’t do before. Failure is a normal thing and if nothing else, it teaches you things that are valuable the next time you try it. (Not to mention that it is more fun to succeed than fail)  If you are like me, and want to speak publicly and have been held back by performance anxiety, you likely had some false starts, struggling a bit when you start. I am here to tell you that feeling is perfectly normal. (Trust me, I am a professional coach) That anxiety is ok; it’s what learning is all about.

Give this some thought, failure is likely the worst thing that can happen when you set out to do something new. If you fail you stand the risk of embarrassment; perhaps even shame. This is why most people give up on their ambitions. Who wants to volunteer to feel disappointment and shame? Not too many takers? That is where your support group comes in to play.

It’s always smart to plan ahead. What will you do when that urge to hide under the table passes over you? Take the public speaking example again. There is always ‘Toastmasters’ to practice your skills and build your confidence. The environment is supportive and the opportunities to grow are everywhere in the room. Having allies can be important when you are taking on something so frightening. Each thing you consider has something like that; you don’t have to learn it in a vacuum.

The thing that surprises most people is that they are more capable than they think themselves to be. That, and you really have nothing to lose compared to what you might gain! As you move forward with the task of public speaking maybe you will find that you don’t really like it at all…or that you are better are writing them than delivering them.  The point is that you don’t really know until you get out there and do something.

The lesson here is that you can do that thing that you have always told yourself that you can not do. Yes, you will make mistakes, maybe even some big ones. Along the way though, you will get to know yourself better, make a new friend or two and likely become good at the very thing that held you frozen in fear only weeks or months before.

There is so little to lose…just go ahead and do it!


Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.