What happens when you venture into the center of your fears
What often stands in the way of our dreams and goals is an innate, biological reaction to anything unknown, anything that might get us killed, hurt, or rejected by others.
In short, the lizard brain.
Not only do we turn our backs on fear, but we also tend to rationalize it in such a way that it makes it seem like nothing happened.
In order to avoid mental pain, we come up with the most bizarre excuses possible.
I don’t have a driver’s license because I don’t like to drive. Truth is, I never believed I could save enough money to buy a car, so I rationalized myself out of mental discomfort.
The truth? I was afraid.
So what can I do about fear? Not in a temporary manner, but rather in a way that changes me from the inside and transforms my life?
It’s simple. I should make it my aim to never turn my back on mental discomfort.
Life is pain, and I should accept it and even learn to appreciate the moments of fear and discomfort as they allow me to better myself.
The game of life is simple: we either venture into the center of our fears, and we grow, or we turn our backs on fear, and we stagnate or worse.
Throughout my childhood and teens, I was a self-proclaimed socially awkward and anxious kid.
This was most obvious when interacting with the pretty girls that I kept falling madly in love with. I was so afraid of rejection that I found it difficult to gather my thoughts or control my emotions. My mind was often blank, sometimes a compilation of apocalyptic scenarios fueled by fear.
Whenever I’d say something wrong, make a bad joke, or try to compliment a girl, I’d go from happily ever after to no one will ever love me in less than five seconds.
I’d daydream about the day when I’d be fearless when approaching beautiful girls, but what I failed to realize was that all I had to do was use my fear as fuel.
You see, if we’d take the time to venture into the center of our fears, we’d realize that it’s all just countless layers of irrational emotions, all tangled together, all afraid of themselves and each other; an incoherent compilation of emotions and worst-case scenarios that never came true.
What I did… I used fear as fuel. To overcome my shyness and irrational fears, I’d tell myself that the worst thing that could happen to me — rejection — was not as bad as spending a lifetime being bitter about the fact that I didn’t have the courage to approach the women I felt attracted to.
The result? Nothing bad happened.
I had rationalized my fear until I was certain there was something wrong with me, something wrong with the women I felt attracted to, and something wrong with the universe, and yet when I finally decided to approach women with the clear intent of building a relationship with them, nothing bad happened.
Quite the contrary.
Using my fear of loneliness as a fuel, rather than the reason why I should be afraid of women, I managed to shed away the awkwardness in my gestures.
Now, I’m not going to sugarcoat it: what I went through was excruciating, especially in the first few moments of every interaction. It’s called mental discomfort for a reason.
I wanted to give up, find a nice corner, and hide there until the end of time. But I forced myself to do the opposite.
Here are a few of the things I realized as I faced my fear.
The Apocalyptic Scenarios Subside As You Take Action
This inner voice of impending doom would fade away after I realized that I could be funny, I could be charming, and that there was nothing terrifying about talking to a girl.
That’s why one of the best advice is, “don’t think, just do.”
The trick is to be aware of what’s going on around you, so you can adapt to it. That’s it.
Don’t listen to some inner monologue prophecizing your catastrophic failure, but rather become aware of what is going on around you. Step outside yourself, and you begin to notice all the other factors and elements at play.
Go With the Flow
Especially when it comes to facing our fears, it’s best to do it and improvise, rather than try to come up with the perfect plan.
I used to imagine a detailed scenario of how things would turn out, to think of all possible outcomes, both good and bad, but fear would always shut me down.
And if something didn’t go according to plan… well, you can imagine what would happen.
When I decided to go with the flow, so to speak, and try to improvise, the way I’d use my fear changed.
Rather than panicking when my plan seemed to fall apart, I was now trying my best to live in the moment, while also being acutely aware of the way my fear influenced my thoughts and actions.
Pain Is Better Than Regret
The terrible cliche that, “pain is temporary, but suffering lasts forever” is one of the most important aspects of fear that you can internalize.
The most heartbreaking moments were the ones when I almost did it, but decided not to. I almost went through with it, but I resigned and gave in to my fear.
Almost is guaranteed to break your heart. Failure, on the other hand, only hurts for a little while.
We are often coerced into inaction by our fear of failure, but we are also demoralized by the regret we feel for not taking action.
Failure can be overcome with perseverance, while regret stays with us forever.
It’s All a Game of Momentum
One thing I realized as I was facing my fear of approaching women was that I was getting better at it.
Fear and pain tend to subside the more we face them.
The inner voice of doom became a whisper, and soon I was able to shut this voice down entirely.
Building momentum requires that we take action. It’s as simple as that. If we act in the direction of our desires, we let go of our fear, even we embrace our fears as being the reality of our nature, we have no reason to even try.
The resistance is fierce, indeed, and I wanted to give up a million times, but I kept going because I had decided to use fear as a fuel, to use my desire as inspiration.
And the more I faced my fear, the more I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of.
I often think of fear as a complicated emotional response that’s true. Most times, it’s not.
As a matter of fact, the more I complicate my fear, the more it becomes obvious that I am building myself a limit I am not willing to break.
What I mean by this is that fear is self-imposed, a desire for safety, a rationalization of the fact that I am not yet good enough to have what I want.
Whether it’s building a business, approaching an attractive person, or clicking on the publish button on my blog, fear will always try to sabotage us.
By turning fear against itself, we can begin to seduce our minds to work in our favor.
The first step will always be the hardest, and rejection and failure may be guaranteed, but, over time, we can turn our fears into a profound source of power and motivation.
We can learn to turn self-imposed obstructions into opportunities for growth and success.