Managing our fear regularly
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Fear is an important response, but it has to be managed
As a response, fear is what keeps us from doing things which are inherently dangerous/bad for us. It's also the thing that keeps us from fulfilling our potential - oftentimes being the feeling/emotion that makes us overprotective of others and ourselves.
Knowing when to harness the fear we feel in order to stay safe is extremely important but so is knowing when to push through the fear. Every time I've moved to a new country, every time I've had to embed myself in new environments or teams, every time I've taken a job or opportunity that I've been heavily "under qualified" (in the traditional sense of measuring experience and acumen by years of service as opposed to being evaluated for what you can actually accomplish), I've felt fear over and over again and there's nothing wrong with this.
The first step is to learn to acknowledge this feeling/emotion. It serves as a signal and it's our responsibility to read into the signal and to make decisions in line with the external reality we are experiencing. I believe that the mind/body feels fear based on how our internal world (thoughts, feelings, emotions) reacts to external situations, but the internal world is not directly connected to the external one. You and your decision making is the mediating factor. If we feel fear internally, we can choose to avoid or remove ourselves from the external situation causing the fear, or we can choose to move past the fear and to still do x, y and z. I take the assumption that we're all rationale and so the onus is on us and our rational thinking to make the distinction between situations and circumstances we should avoid at all costs, and situations which are okay for us to dive into. That's the second step.
From a personal standpoint, a) recognising fear and b) thinking it through, as opposed to shutting down is very important for building and nurturing relationships and for committing to self-improvement. From a professional standpoint, practicing fear management is what will allow us to assess risks in an accurate way. This has serious implications for our careers, investments, and professional growth.
The third step is getting into the habit of managing our fear response. Doing a and b once is important, but doing these two steps again and again is a step in itself because consistently applying this awareness and controlled response will rewire the way our internal world operates.
I personally execute this third step by doing things I know I don't like/fear. I actively look for things/situations which I know make me uncomfortable. This could be going to a networking event or taking a professional opportunity which may not make sense on paper (again in the traditional sense). Over the last five years, I've constantly challenged myself, the stories I've become accustomed to repeating in my thought process, societal norms, other people's expectations and beliefs about what I can and cannot do. I've put myself in the driving seat in terms of managing an emotion which is a constant feature for all of us (even for people who are less fearful than others).
Ignoring the feeling/emotion of fear leaves us powerless and unempowered. Spending a life feeling this way is certainly a shame, especially considering that fear management as a skill is in my opinion crucial for those looking to fulfil their potential and for those who have a deep desire to work towards being the greatest version of themselves.