No one enjoys being scared, and it seems counterintuitive for someone to tell you that facing your fears will have benefits for you, but I promise it does. The physical signs of terror are not fun, so what good reason could you possibly have to do something that scares you?
The sweat is beading on your forehead; one moment, you are hot, and then the next, you are cold. You can’t get enough air in your lungs, and your throat feels like it is closing. It might feel like there is a rock in the pit of your stomach, and you can hear your heart beating rapidly.
These are all physical signs of fear, and they are uncomfortable, to say the least, but there are three substantial reasons you should keep pushing through.
There is value in facing your fears
“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspirations a dozen times a day.” – Brendan Behan
Fear is your voice, your thoughts, your very own inner bully. It is only powerful when you listen to what it says. Now, I’m not talking about caution and common sense, as those things are good, but the fear that stops you from doing something you know is right for you.
For instance, I have struggled with my weight for decades. A few years ago, I found out I have PCOS and Fibromyalgia, two things that make weight loss a challenge. I started medication and gained even more weight. I was suffering from depression and gained even more. I thought to myself, “I’m going to have weight loss surgery.”
I started researching it, and yeah, it was expensive, even if I went to Mexico. Sure, there are risks like with any surgery. However, those were excuses; the real reason I didn’t do it a year ago was that I am terrified of needles and knives, like stupid scared. I cry and have an anxiety attack and avoid all things sharp. A year went by, and the weight problem only worsened.
Then my friend went to Mexico and had hers and asked me to come along and be her companion. Everything went perfectly for her; the clinic was beautiful, the doctors smart and kind people. I felt a moment of determination, and while she lay in the recovery bed, I filled out the application.
They approved me for both in-house financing and surgery. I got home and immediately started trying to stall or back out, but I kept ignoring the loud bully trying to tell me I was too scared.
I started the two-week preop diet and handled it like a boss—losing 13 pounds. Suddenly, I was on the plane to San Diego, and then we were crossing the border. I tried to leave when we got there because they said they had to do the bloodwork (this was Wednesday, and they had told me bloodwork was Friday).
I was not mentally prepared. My friend wouldn’t let me leave. Surgery morning rolled around, and I cried the whole time they talked to me because I knew they were going to have to put an IV in.
The lovely nurse who had initially told me that my friend couldn’t sit with me changed his mind, and they let her wait with me while they put it in and right until they wheeled me away to anesthesia because I was so distraught.
I lived, I had zero complications, and am healing quickly. I have lost 24 pounds since 09/04, and I feel so much better than I have in years.
I knew that what I was doing was healthy for me. I knew it would change my life for the better if I could just manage to ignore what fear was telling me to do. The value that I will get from this decision was worth it, and I learned another valuable lesson too!
Facing your fears builds courage
“I think fearless is having fears, but jumping anyway.” – Taylor Swift
Dr. Michael R. Mantell, director of transformational coaching at Premier Fitness Camp at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in San Diego, says, “Courage is an act of suppressing and overcoming fear, of telling yourself that regardless of the outcome, you will prevail. By facing your fears, by recognizing that what you imagined would stop you didn’t, you build self-confidence and courage.”
You might not make your fear go away or be quiet. Jump in even though it terrifies you. Those moments are the ones where we learn so much about what we fear and what we desire. If you understand these things, then there is nothing you won’t be able to do.
That feeling of knowing that you could press ahead despite all of those physical symptoms of fear is empowering. You are stronger than you think you are. You are more capable than you think you are. Looking at the thing you fear the most and conquering it is one of the most powerful things you can feel.
Fear reshapes our views of success and failure
“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.” – Charles Stanley
Sometimes, we aren’t afraid of an item or object, but the fear that we will fail. Either way, by facing our fears, we can reframe the way we think.
Maybe failure isn’t a failure. It is a lesson on how to do something differently. It is an experience that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t tried. Ask yourself, “What is the worse thing that could happen?”
There are situations where some of us are afraid of what it will mean if we succeed, because that success means things will change. Change itself is never easy, and for many people, the fear of change is enough reason to be scared. “What will life look like if I succeed at this goal,” can be equally hard to answer.
It was another fear I had going into this surgery. The last time I was at my goal ‘skinny,’ I was 18, and now, I am 37. Even at that weight, I was a little heavier than the goal weight I have now. Who am I if I’m skinnier? Will I behave like someone else?
My identity has always been tied to my academic achievements and my lack of girly things and fashion. Part of me is afraid of a whole new me, even though it is a positive change for my health.
Instead of looking at failure as something awful, we need to look at like we are getting one step closer to discovering something new about ourselves. Or maybe you didn’t reach your goal, but did you learn a new skill along the way? These things are just successes that happened a little too soon—premature successes.
When you reach the goal you set, realize that it is not the end of the road! It is a journey you have just begun, and you can adjust anything you like when you tackle the next phase. Finishing a goal is not the finish line; it is a resting place until you grow even more!
Take a deep breath and leap
What is something you have been afraid to do lately? Remember, the thing you fear might bring immeasurable value to your life.
What are you robbing from your life because you are letting your fears bully you? You will build confidence, and in return, more self-respect for yourself, by being brave enough and facing your fears.
Understanding and using your fear to help reframe how you think of success and failure will open up many doors, some that you didn’t believe were possible.
What’s the worse thing that could happen? What is the best thing that could happen? Are there questions you ask yourself when you are afraid? Share any techniques you have for overcoming your fears in the comment section below!
“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford