Fear. What is it?
Being afraid or apprehensive of something or someone. Or, false evidence appearing real. This is what most of us suffer from – a feeling of apprehension about something that feels so real as to stop us from moving forward.
How is fear felt?
It’s a skip of your heartbeat, a pit in your stomach or a weary feeling. Other times, it’s a voice in the back of my head that is subtle but strong. It reminds me of all the people I am responsible for, the bills that need to be paid, and the expectations that people have of me. It’s a choir that crescendos and just when I am about to leap… it holds me to the ground.
Why do we experience it?
Some say fear is a primal instinct, one that we’ve had since the beginning of time that protects us from danger. We experience this feeling before doing something where the end is unknown.
What does it mean at different phases of your life?
Obviously your age, personality and level of responsibility determine how you see fear. When you’re young you are more open to new experiences and take more risks in your decision-making. For example, when I was in my early twenties I stayed at a $7 hostel alone in a small town in Thailand. Looking back, it was incredibly risky as a foreign woman traveling alone to stay in a place where I didn’t know anyone and where no one knew where I was. But I wouldn’t say I felt fear, if anything I felt adventurous.
But as you get older and take on more responsibility: a job, spouse, children, mortgage, etc., these responsibilities in your life make you more risk averse as there are other people who rely on you. Or you may be in a position where you are beholden to your job due to the lifestyle it affords you.
And then there are some people who are risk takers by nature. This group is comfortable with uncertainty and it may appear that they live their lives by the seat of their pants or that they are crazy or just very lucky, but in my experience, I believe these people are successful because of their ability to pivot and be creative in any situation.
I’ve tried overcoming my fear. It’s hard, but I’m learning to do it. I’ve never been a risk taker; in my youth, I was always the one who walked away from school fights, who rarely drank at parties, who studied really hard and planned out my life so there were no big surprises.
But then, I was also the girl who got on a plane and moved to South Korea to teach English. I had no clue what to expect, didn’t speak the language or know much about the culture. It was that same girl who, months later boarded a plane to Thailand accidentally landing at midnight having mistakenly gotten the arrival times wrong.
What did I do? I took an overpriced taxi to Kao San Road, an area of the city where most foreigners begin or end their trips. I asked a random lady at a 24-hour Internet cafe if I could sleep in a chair in the waiting room. Pivot and be creative. That was only seven years ago, but at times I forget that person existed. And that’s the true evil of fear; it robs you of great experiences and makes you doubt your capabilities.
So, how do you get over fear?
If you’re like me and you’re a planner, start by writing down the things you need to be comfortable with. If you wish to leave your job, then your list could include building a robust savings account to tide you over, drafting a list of potential new employers, attending network events, updating your resume or whatever you need to be comfortable taking that first step.
If the salary is what’s keeping you there (because you need to pay the bills), then start by creating a budget, if you don’t already have one. Then review the expenses you have and either reduce or eliminate. On the other hand, you can also increase your income by taking on a side hustle to make more money. The goal of this practice is to get a snapshot of where you’re at and determine what you need to live on so you can take that big step.
Secondly, surround yourself with inspiration. By that, I mean others who have done something similar. Since I’m a bit of a shy person, I listen to loads of podcasts and draw inspiration from people who have made radical changes; successful entrepreneurs who left their jobs and started their own businesses or traveled and worked as they went. Or you can attend a meetup, which is a great way to get out and ask people what they do and what they like about their jobs.
Thirdly, believe you can do it. This is the hardest part. It requires getting past the fear that appears so real. That is what I am doing by starting this blog. Ignoring doubt, facing my fear and silencing the noise that tells me I am not a strong writer, that questions who will read my blog and freezes me in my steps.
Fear can be debilitating, block you from great experiences and steal your joy. While it may feel real, it is merely smoke and mirrors and as someone once told me, fear is excitement at what comes next.