It’s hard to know what not to fear because the other side of fear isn’t commonly acknowledged. However, it can be advantageous to do so.
When I left the country for the first time, I was a little under-prepared for how fearless I needed to be. Even more so, not ready for the amount of “firsts” that I would encounter.
From parasailing and jet skiing for the first time, to chugging my first beer and throwing at the Craps table, My first international experience is one I will never forget.
The reason? I found myself doing things I never envisioned myself doing. I tried new foods and drinks, met people from all over the world and took many, many new firsts.
Now, I’d like to consider myself a pretty fearless person, but the truth is, sometimes I need a little push.
Luckily, I was on this trip with incredible family friends who weren’t afraid to give me that push toward new experiences.
“The world is a very big place, my friend. Go see it,” said Scott, a family friend I traveled with. He spoke these words and many others, like it, a thousand and one times over the course of our seven-day trip (that’s 143 times a day, for reference).
Scott was especially helpful in pushing me in the right direction. If not for him, and my other traveling friends, I wouldn’t have done all of the things I did. I would not have seen Cabo San Lucas from hundreds of feet in the air nor would I have brushed the fins of exotic fish inches below me in Mazatlan.
The other side of fear
My precautionary front comes from fear. It isn’t out of the ordinary to be afraid of heights or deep water or student loans (because frankly, I’m afraid of all of those things). In fact, fear is hardwired into our brains to protect us from possible danger, according to Psychology Today.
In an article titled, “7 Things you need to know about fear,” Theo Tsaousides Ph.D. for Psychology Today, discusses both the significance and the drawbacks of fear in our day to day lives.
“The capacity to be afraid is part of normal brain function. In fact, a lack of fear may be a sign of serious brain damage,” said Tsaousides.
“…humans are the most fearful creatures on the planet because of our ability to learn, think, and create fear in our minds.”
Our capacity, at its fullest, pushes us to break boundaries within ourselves and the world around us. But, it seems, this capacity is also what drives us into places of fear — preventing us from moving forward.
Imagine what the world would be like if no one was afraid. If no one was afraid to speak up, we’d be years ahead of social rights and equality. If no one was afraid to be themselves, societal norms would be more scarce and less likely to paralyze individuals into a state unlike themselves. Fear protects us, but the other side of it restricts us.
When an eerie feeling arises while walking down a dark alley, it’s because of past experiences, movie scenes, etc., which have etched the notion that dark alleys are bad news right into the brain. This prevents people from walking down dark alleys and, well, rightfully so.
But when I signed up for a district-wide talent show, auditioned and got in just to “call out sick” the night before — my fear wasn’t protecting me from lurking predators in dark alleys. It was preventing me from putting myself out there and doing something that I enjoyed.
Paralyzing fear can simultaneously protect us from dangers and prevent us from life.
So…. what the heck do we do?
Pushing through fear
Well, firstly, don’t ignore the eerie feelings which arise in sketchy situations. Those feelings are biological and there to help. But when getting up on stage to share a talent you’re proud of or doing something for the first time, push through that fear. When living your life, there’s no reason to be afraid.
When someone asks a question, do not be afraid to answer truthfully. Do not be afraid to say what you believe, how you feel, and stand up for what is right.
If everyone spoke truthfully, the world would be a much different place.
“Courage is knowing what not to fear.”Plato
So I challenge you this: do one thing every day that scares you. Recognize the other side of fear by being fearless for five minutes of every day. I promise your life will change.
Say hello to a classmate or a coworker you’ve hardly spoken to, give your opinion at the quarterly meeting, or try that gross looking seafood that might make you sick tomorrow. As cliche as this sounds, you only live once.
Had I not pushed myself (and had some friendly nudges, too) to be fearless for five minutes each day I wouldn’t have raced across the coast of Puerto Vallarta catching air on a jet ski. I wouldn’t have interacted with people from all over the world, making connections I can’t even begin to fathom (thank you, awkward self).
So take five minutes of every day to push away the fear. Do one thing that scares you.
When the new experiences come knocking, invite them in graciously, fearlessly. Because the world is a very big place, and that should terrify you. But it should entice you, too.