Giving in to fear takes away the joy of life
Photo by Anoof Junaid on Unsplash
Do you remember when you resigned from asking her out because you were scared?
You were sweating, thinking about what to say, and fear stopped you. I did that constantly, and asking girls out was my smallest problem.
My life was defined by fear. I did nothing of what I wanted. All my dreams were passing me by. And It started early in my childhood. I wanted to play basketball, so I went to the classes. It was fine once.
But, the second time, I had a breakdown.
I didn’t know which locker room I should use. Some boys were sitting near laughing. I was sure they laughed at me. I sat in a locker room for 15 minutes. My heart was racing, and I lacked breath from stress. Then I run out.
And I never returned.
Taming fear was the most influential skill I learned. Deal with fear, and you’re unstoppable. Give it in to fear, and you’re fucked forever.
In this article, we’ll discover how fear takes away the joy of trying and how we can use it instead of being used by it.
Lets act despite fear
Why We Fear?
When you see a bear in a forest, you run away.
That’s because you fear. It’s a response to danger. If you feel it, you’re afraid about your survival.
It’s clear how a bear endangers your life.
It can tear you apart. And you can’t predict its behavior.
But what about the fear of failure?
We must go deeper to understand that. For me, what connects a failure and a bear is the unknown. You wouldn’t be afraid if you knew that bear wouldn’t hurt you. And if you’d know you’d succeed, you wouldn’t fear failure.
Therefore, fear is a reaction to the unknown.
And the unknown itself represents more than just danger. It’s also an opportunity. An opportunity to discover knowledge. In a way, fear is a guide to a treasure.
To illustrate what I mean, I’ll tell you a story.
I have a fear of heights. A mild version. When I’m high enough, I get tense. I constantly think about not dropping my phone. Every sound startles me. I’m super vigilant.
In all this, I dreamt of a bungee jump.
But it was enough for me to think about the crane to start sweating. I still sweat when I see people doing pull-ups on high heights. When I got up and looked down, I shivered. My knuckles were white because I held the handlebars so hard I lost feeling. Fingernails were hurting my hand, but I didn’t realize that.
I couldn’t think straight.
I didn’t know what to expect. But I saw a real danger in falling down. I remember a guy jumping before me shouting: “It’s better than sex!!!”. I disagreed then. Should I jump or resign?
Let’s analyse my choices. First was giving in to fear, and second, jumping despite it.
Why Giving In to Fear Takes Away the Joy of Life
Your dreams require sacrifices.
As you don’t yet have what you want, you must do something new to get it. It’s not enough to repeat what you already know. You must become something else.
Running away from fear, letting it rule you, means you can’t outgrow yourself.
Because every time you face the opportunity to grow, fear shows up. Everything worthy is outside of your comfort zone. When you approach the edge of the known territory, you feel fear. The fight or flight response kicks in.
Usually, it recedes when you turn back.
But there is a catch. Every time you resign, your cage gets smaller. So, if I didn’t jump from that crane, I could have problems standing on tall buildings. I’d avoid tall bridges at all costs. A part of the world would get forever closed for me. I know, because even now I don’t like tall bridges.
When I resigned from that basketball training, I resigned from my dream forever.
I never went to any kind of training again. Even going to the gym was hard for me. That one decision made me anxious in all places I didn’t know how to act.
That’s how I stripped myself of joy.
I stagnated. Growth was impossible. Everything was scary.
The lesson is clear:
Fear is a lousy decision-maker.
Its goal is to keep you safe. But being 100% safe means being dead. You need a wiggle room to grow.
The Fear is Always With Me
What is the right thing to do if you don’t know how to act in a new setup?
I can tell you it’s not running away. Believe me, I dropped from many places because I didn’t know where the locker room was. And I was too scared to ask.
Because the right way is to ask.
You can fear of making a fool out of yourself. But you still need to ask. At least if you want to accomplish your goal. Indeed, if you won’t, you’ll rationalize that by saying you didn’t really want that. For that, I recommend writing down your goals. It’s harder to lie to yourself than.
But I digress.
Let’s go back to my jump. I’m standing high in the sky, thinking about what’s next, remember? Will I die? But then the operator starts counting down. 3 2 1 Jump. And I jumped.
I couldn’t ask which locker to use, but I jumped from a crane. With a rope attached to my legs. I lived. The guy was right: It was better than any sex I had back then. But I didn’t have a lot of sex.
The best feeling wasn’t falling or being jolted around like a ragdoll.
The best feeling was after I went back to my day. Full of life. Full of energy. Because I fulfilled my dream. Because Fear didn’t stop me.
And I had many more dreams to come.
There is a lesson: to listen to your fear but not let it rule over you. Think of it as a messenger. Is bungee jumping dangerous? My brain says it is. My brain says everything fun is dangerous.
I take the input, analyze it, and decide what to do. Jumping was the right decision for me. Decide for yourself if it would be the right decision for you.
How to Act Despite Fear?
Over the years, I realized how to tame my fear.
Below, you’ll find a summary of my findings. Let me tell you, I do what I want to do. I’m scared. It’s ok. I do it anyway. That’s how I started my software engineer career, and that’s how I started writing.
Fear is here to stay.
But that’s a good thing. We can start from this point and learn how to use it to our advantage. Because, like every feeling, fear is a messenger. Its job is to keep you informed about potential danger. Your job is to respond accordingly.
Before we jump in, remember I’m not a psychiatrist. This is not a medical advice. I share my experience. If you have any fear disorder, consult a medical doctor.
Here are the steps I take to make informed decisions with fear on my shoulders:
- Accept fear
- Home-grown therapy
First and foremost, there is no running away.
Fear shows up when I face the unknown. Knowing that makes it silly to fight the feeling. The better way is to think about what to do instead. How?
- Admit to yourself that you’re feeling scared.
- Ask yourself questions to understand your fear:
- What exactly are you afraid of?
- Is your fear rational?
- Are there steps you can take to mitigate it?
- What awaits you on the other side?
- What is the cost of not facing your fear?
- Can you face fear in chunks?
The last question helped me deal with drinking. When I thought about never drinking again, I imagined a sandy beach with freezing-cold beer. The sun warmed my skin, and I felt more relaxed and free with each sip.
How could I even think about quitting?
But I could think about being sober for one day when it’s raining and cold outside.
Home Grown Therapy
How can you deal with fear?
- Face it willingly.
- In chunks.
Here is what I did to tame the fear of heights:
- Bungee jump
- Parachute jump
- Paraglider flight
- Balloon flight
The first time I went to rollercoasters, I resisted fear. When I felt scared, I told myself there was nothing to fear. Look at those kids riding your terrifying rollercoasters time after time. I didn’t want to feel it, so I invalidated it. I made it stronger. And I promised myself never to ride rollercoasters again.
Therefore, it might surprise you that I enjoyed the third time the most. It was fun. Fear was there, trying to stop me. But I let it be and did what I wanted. The only problem was some rides were too hard, and my head ached. This time, I didn’t promise never to return. But this time I know I can go back, willingly.
I can’t say if I exposed myself gradually. Jumping from a crane was extreme. But it worked for me.
It proved that I can do what I want, despite being scared shitless.
On my last visit to Energylandia, where I ride rollercoasters, I used breathing to relax before the drop.
It helped me accept my situation and that resisting it won’t improve it. Maybe I’ll die, but I can’t do anything about it now. So, I breathe in a specific way. Exhales longer than inhales
What’s worth noting is that there is another breathing technique that reduces stress better than meditation.
It’s the physiological sigh. You do that when you cry. So, you take one inhale, followed by another, and then you exhale slowly.
It’s a tool that works in real-time. Great to have it on board.
Fear has big eyes
And sometimes that’s useful. But our job is not to stop feeling fear but to learn how to act despite it.
Because when you give in to fear, you strengthen it.
Avoiding heights would stop me from fulfilling my dreams. And I’d never noticed how fear serves as a guide by showing me opportunities to discover myself.
Accept your fear. Validate it. You can regulate your physiological reaction using breathing techniques, including physiological sigh. Expose yourself to what you fear in small chunks to get used to acting despite fear.
Act despite fear.
To get what I want, I must know who I am. And after years of searching, I discovered the tool that helped — a personal journal.
Get My Free Journaling Course to find out who you are, what you want, and how you can get it.