Sunday, February 27, 2005

Curious about Fear and All of Its Ramifications

The other night I was listening to an audio interview and the main speaker made the startling statement that there is “no such thing as fear.” I say “startling” because even when the great motivators indicate that FEAR stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real,” I still feel strongly that fear exists.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”

We don’t procrastinate because we are lazy. We procrastinate because we have fears. We have a great idea, but are afraid it will fail. And, it isn’t even the failure that we are afraid of - it’s other people’s opinions of us. We have a job we absolutely hate, but are afraid to quit. Why? We may be afraid of poverty, but more likely are afraid of change and tackling a new course.

Many people are afraid of public speaking (it has been claimed ad nauseum that more people fear it than fear death). But why? Again, I think we are afraid of what others will think of us. We are afraid of criticism and exposing our ideas and thoughts to a group is asking for criticism. To read my article, Fight the Fear of Speaking, click HERE.

When I did a search for fear, however, I was surprised - and I realize that I shouldn’t have been - by all of the links to sites about terror and security, not the types of fears that hold us back from realizing our goals and aspirations. Or, do they?

Wasn’t this the type of fear Franklin D. Roosevelt was speaking of when he said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

And what about fear that warns us to be cautious? For example, you are walking down a dark and rather empty street. Suddenly, there is a stranger approaching. You don’t want to appear afraid, and yet your heart starts beating faster. Or, you get a weird and frightening feeling about the person you are with (possibly a date). You think someone is following you - in a situation like this, shouldn’t one be afraid? I think so!

And fear also has another whole dimension. In an article about anger, I read that all anger is actually rooted in fear. When we or someone else becomes angry it is because we are compensating for a form of fear. At one time I was a newspaper editor, and because it was a small paper I was also the bill collector. Most of our advertisers gladly paid, with apologies, when I reminded them they were late. However, there were a few who would get angry when I showed up. These are the ones who eventually went out of business or bankrupt (we can guess what their fear was).

So, here are a few questions to ask yourself about fear(s):

  • What fear(s) are holding me back from taking action on an important project?
  • If I am letting something, or someone, cause me a feeling of anger, what is the true underlying fear?
  • What fears are keeping me from using my strengths and skills to advantage?
  • If I hate a situation, and know I should get out of it, what fears are stopping me?
  • What are my greatest fears?

Bertrand Russell said, “To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” I think it’s the beginning of much, much more. When we face our fears and overcome them - a small step at a time - we can change our whole lives.

Just as I tell my fitness students, start slowly and every time you conquer one more fear and/or plateau, reward yourself. You are on the way!