Today, I’m going to start a sub-series on my website entitled “One Fear A Day”. Over the course of the past few years, I’ve written a number of heartfelt posts on risingbean, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for all you who have followed me, offered feedback, contributed comments, shared my work, and have encouraged me to write more.
More often than not, I’ve chosen to write about a random topic I felt passionate about at the moment, while not committing to any predominant theme. And yet, my site slogan is “On the other side of fear lies freedom!”, revealing what I’m most passionate about – the concept of facing your fears.
Do one thing every day that scares you. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
If there was any one habit that has brought the most changes to my life, it’s my ongoing resolve to face my fears. It’s not easy. On many days I falter – I’ve probably failed more than the average person – but knowing the amazing changes I’ve already seen, and experiencing the freedom love brings, I’ve cemented my determination to always choose courage, and I want you to too.
I’d like to clear up a few things first. Fear is not the point of my posts, but rather COURAGE is. I use the word ‘fear’ only as a reference word, and I want your focus to be on taking those heroic steps, big or small, towards your freedom from fear.
Also, I’m only discussing mental fears, not the real, imminent, physical-danger type of fear. So fear of failure and fear of fear of rejection are in, and How To Suck It Up And Safely Land Your First BASE Jump or How To Disarm A Time Bomb are out. Phobias such as fear of spiders, snakes, ghosts, evil Pokemon, etc. are generally out – except in good fun, of course.
And today, for post number one, I’m going BIG – I’m talking about the Fear of the Unknown. This is the sum of all fears. It is essentially every fear, and is a fear on its own. We’re staring down the Eye of Sauron. But guess what? The good news is that there’s a way out of fear, and it doesn’t require a magical ring.
Let’s have a quick look into why we’re so afraid. We’re pretty much bound by evolution to fear the unknown, as challenging it often led to unpleasant circumstances like torture or death: Leaving the tribe. Charting across a stormy ocean to lands that may not exist. Exploring the wilderness. Playing with fire. Challenging authority. It’s just not in our genetic makeup to cross boundaries.
Fast forward to today, and that instinctual fear still exists within us. With information so easy to access these days, combined with our addiction to devour the negative – the news, false advertisements, beauty magazines, gossip – our fears have lost touch with reality. They hold us back from taking big steps for personal growth, while encouraging the idea that playing it safe is the best course of action.
And yet, safety is an illusion.
We don’t want to change because we selectively remember stories of those who’ve tried and fail. Those who have succeeded only exist in books, fairy tales, and success magazines far beyond our reach. Following the pack and jumping off the cliff with the other lemmings, a bad idea taught to us in childhood, somehow became the norm in adulthood.
And so, we’ve become afraid of almost everything.
We’re afraid to open our hearts. We’re afraid of being vulnerable and getting hurt again. We’re afraid to ask that sexy barista for a date.
We’re afraid to step out into the limelight and be noticed. We’re afraid to be different.
We’re afraid of being the same as everyone else. We’re afraid of living trivial lives. We’re afraid of not knowing what to do with our lives. We’re afraid to attract new circumstances because we’re afraid of discomfort.
We’re afraid of all the dangers in the world. We’re afraid of traveling to exotic places. We’re afraid of anything too different from the familiar.
We’re afraid of our bodies and their imperfections. We’re afraid of getting old and seeing our physical forms fall apart with age.
We’re afraid of what other people think of us. We’re afraid of not being noticed.
We’re afraid of being alone. We’re afraid of rejection. We’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of success.
We’re afraid of being stuck in the same place forever. We’re afraid of change.
Wow. It’s quite a lot. So take a deep breath. Close your eyes. And give yourself a hug now.
Now I want you to imagine a world without fear. One of beauty, joy, and love. This is the world of choice, opportunity, and abundance. You’re in control of this world. It may not be candy-coated at all times, but when challenges come your way, you act courageously rather than react defensively. You then turn wrongs into rights, problems into opportunities, and essentially lead into gold.
Sounds too wonderful? Well, I don’t believe that world only exists in The Twilight Zone. It’s here. Right now, you have all the tools, weapons, and choices at your disposal. Hypothetically, you could vanquish your fears at this very moment, but for most of us who aren’t zen or Jedi masters, myself definitely included, it’s not quite that simple.
It takes time, patience, determination, and a mix of baby steps coupled with the occasional bold move. For a while, you might feel you’re managing your fears rather than mastering them, but that’s OK too. The good news is that more often than not, changes will appear, like a pleasant surprise, almost like you’re attracting them with your newfound energy. You’ll see more smiling faces, a kinder, brighter world, and even the occasional double chocolate cupcake!
But I understand the challenge – I really do. I understand that it’s hard to act sometimes, when you’re in despair, or when you’re feeling overwhelmed, under pressure, or see the whole world crashing around you. I understand that “letting go” usually doesn’t just happen, your mind resists it while your heart can’t bear to take on any more pain. You see other people having it so easy while you’re frantically digging yourself out of the mud. I understand.
That’s why it’s better to chip away at our fears, taking it on in smaller forms on a daily basis. Just like we would approach any big task, it’s better to start small and fortify your palace one brick at a time, and before you know it, you’re living in the beautiful Hagia Sophia.
But please, please don’t choose fear. Fear reveals the worst part of us – hate, resentment, anger, self-loathing, obsession, selfishness, corruption, materialism, addiction, sabotage, anxiety, and depression. You don’t want to be here longer than necessary, if at all. It’s too dark, damp, uncomfortable, and only suitable for trolls.
What can you do? Well, here’s a quick list of some of the things you need to STOP doing, but I’ll get into more detail in future posts.
- Don’t Wait. See all those fears I listed above? Most of them contradict each other, suggesting that the best course of action is to keep your cute butt in one place. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t, right? Wrong. Don’t wait in stale mediocrity, while fearing change will only make things worse. Take action now, because doing the same thing and expecting different results is by definition insanity, and you’re not insane.
- Cease Worrying. Worry and anxiety is your mind giving into fear behind your back. You just start doing it, and don’t realize it’s taken over until it’s uncontrollable. Recognize it the moment you feel it, and take that moment to see how it has zero application in your life. It’s just your mind projecting crash-and-burn scenarios that doesn’t actually exist.
- End Procrastinating. Just like waiting, maybe you’ve put all your energy into a good intention, but you have no output, like wasting gas idling your vehicle. Stop the endless talk about all the great things you want to do, or how you need the perfect circumstances for your prison escape. Get going on happiness now. Put pen to paper, brush to canvas, fingers to keyboard, that first action will gather momentum, and you’ll be flying before you know it.
- Keep Self-Pity In Check. Once in a while, the feeling of being overwhelmed is too much to bear – an untimely combination of ugly events bombard us, the voices of fear scream like banshees, or our internal stress-o-meter just maxes out. Hey, it’s OK to break down and let it out – cry, scream, punch a bag – do whatever it takes to get that release. Get those demons out, but don’t dwell on misery, or else you’re just asking for more punishment, you sadist. Give yourself a few of those therapeutic scream sessions, and then shift into first gear again.
- Don’t Take On Too Much. Clutter and busyness are buzzwords that have become far too common these days. We have too much, take on too much, and spend all our time maintaining things, unimportant relationships, and obligations we don’t really want. Being overwhelmed is a sure sign that you’ve taken on too much. Simplify, discard the useless, and you’ll achieve more.
- Don’t Go It Alone (if you don’t have to). I’m a self-admitted introvert, and for a while, I felt that I could achieve everything under my own will and power. Sure it’s possible to go it alone, but I think it’s a lot easier with good people in your life. My inspirational videos look like I’m alone a whole lot, but the truth is, there must be at least 30 people who’ve shared the journey with me, and my most cherished scenes were filmed in the company of friends and family.
So, I listed some habits to stop, but what you need to START doing is more important:
- Practice Love. Fear is the absence of love, so introducing it in as many forms as possible will clean out those pesky fears. Believe love exists, and that it’s the underlying essence of your being. I know it sounds like spiritual hokey-pokey, but isn’t it a much, much better choice than fear? Close your eyes, feel love, then give it out. You’ve got plenty of it, so no need to penny-pinch the good stuff.
- Start Living Your Own Life. This is your journey. Your life. Meditate and listen to what your heart really wants, not what others expect of you. Write out your goals, and read them over to get a realistic perspective. Don’t get caught up in other people’s lives, comparing yourself, or aligning your dreams to someone else’s. Put a cap on the desire of non-important things as the Buddhists believe, all suffering is desire.
- Take Responsibility. It’s easy to blame other people or external circumstances for your life situation, but it takes courage to bite the bullet and admit that you’re responsible for most, if not all, of your problems. Yes, it might suck to realize it at first, but in doing so, you’ll realize that you’re in control of your life, feel less helpless, and are able to make those all-important, life-changing choices towards happiness (and fun!).
- Get Perspective. What are you afraid of? What are you fretting about? Will this matter 10 years from now? Did someone die? Do you have people who love you? Do you have a roof over your head and a hot meal to eat today? Wait a minute, things aren’t so bad after all! All too often, we magnify our problems to the point of them being unrealistic. Let’s start seeing our problems as challenges, or even better, opportunities. Let’s see what people are doing right, rather than what they’re doing wrong. Let’s keep practicing gratitude, appreciation, and remembering how awesome things already are.
- Watch Yourself. Whenever you have an emotional reaction to fear, take time out to observe that feeling like a third person. This is the essence of meditation and the way out from fear and pain. Try not to give into a reaction, but if you do, don’t resist it but watch that reaction impartially. Peacefully observe your body’s feeling – the stomach knots, headaches, heartaches, tension, and unease – while not judging any resistance you might feel. Observe how it’s an unnatural state of being that only causes you physical harm. Breathe deeply while observing your state, and it will slowly go away. Make a habit of watching yourself, as it will allow peace and love into your life.
- Focus on Courage. Again, remember courage. You’re stronger and tougher than you think. And lucky for you, you have an infinite pool of courage to tap into. Let’s not go it alone, so feel free to share your thoughts with me at anytime.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
– John Lennon