Fear is a b****d (pardon my French!), it really is. It keeps us hostage, it grips our heart like a vice and holds us back from doing things that we truly want to do. We’ve all had those moments of sheer panic when adrenaline courses through our veins causing our pulse to race, our stomach to turn and sweat to pour from our skin.
Now, I’m not a complete fear-ist. I understand (and fully appreciate) the biological necessity of fear. It’s our fear filled fight or flight response which protects us in times of legitimate danger and stops us from being injured.
However, the type of fear I’m talking about is that unwelcome-guest-at -the -party kind of fear. The fear that rears its ugly head in the most obscure and often the most non-life threatening scenarios imaginable.
I remember having the mother of all panic attacks before starting my first post-graduate job. I called my mum in the middle of the night, heart pounding and frightened out of my life. Was I in any real danger? Of course not, but the panic and fear I felt in that moment were all too real. My body reacted furiously and the next morning I awoke with a fully fledged chest infection and covered in hives.
I used to reflect on scenes such as these and wonder why they produced the same response (and sometimes worse) that was induced when I was faced with a genuine threat. Through much self-enquiry I realised the events that were sending me into a state of flux were not actually scary events, it was simply my perception of them.
I’ve started a number of new jobs since I graduated and thankfully have never had such an intense bodily response. This goes to show that although the situation was the same, my perception of it had shifted.
I took time to look back on some of the events that have caused me the most fear over the years; a 3-hour boat trip from Miami to the Bahamas, teaching my first dance fitness class, awaiting my A level results etc. I also examined events that I’ve done that haven’t caused me fear but which others have told me are scary; travelling solo, getting married, zip-lining thousands of miles above the Mauritian landscape.
I realised that in actual fact, none of these events are scary and that once again it’s all about the perception of them. Some people would love a boat trip over the Atlantic ocean and others would recoil at the thought of travelling alone.
It seems that modern day fear is a result of our own internal dialogue. Surely, if our minds can turn a neutral event into a scary one then I’m sure we can reframe a daunting thought into a positive one? I put this to the test most recently when I had to tell a gym that I work with that I found some of their client retention methods within their organisation unethical.
Initially, I found this extremely scary but I asked myself:
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
They get angry at me… so what?
They no longer want to work with me… perhaps I’m better off!
They think I’m a mean person… I’ll live.
Although still slightly nervous I approached the conversation with a sense of peace and was able to conduct myself in a manner not blighted by panic. It a created a firm belief in me that to large extent we can control what scares us*. It’s not easy, it’s not fun but it is possible.
So, the next time you are faced with a seemingly fearful event I encourage you to question your fears and encourage your wonderfully creative mind to construct a new less fearful image. It may seem difficult at first, but it’s worth a try and the more you practice, the easier it will get!
*NB.Extreme fear aka a phobia is a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it. This is different to everyday fear. If you are suffering from a phobia which is affecting you. Please seek out support from your doctor.
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