“I came here to have fun and conquer my fears.” These were the words my then 5 year old said to me after being strapped into a ride at a local festival this summer. Beyond the fact that these wise words came out of the mouth of a child I was struck by the wisdom in them. How many times do we as adults stop trying new things because of fear? What dreams have I given up on because of fear of failure or even the fear of success? We are bombarded with so much fear on a daily basis that we have made being fearful a way of life. You have the fear of missing out, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of not being enough, etc. A quick google search will give you a lot of quaint quotes like “Feel the fear and do it anyway” or acronyms like False Evidence Appearing Real. While I have even used these in my mind or in conversation they never really resonated with me like I’m sure they were supposed to. Webster’s dictionary defines fear as “to be afraid of: expect with alarm” and this is a more accurate assessment for me of how fear operates in my brain. I think that I have operated most my life with the expectation of alarm and I think that many people are operating in a low level of alarm expectation every day.
Take one look at the headlines of any newspaper, magazine or website and you will find at least ten things to be alarmed about. According to the headlines you could lose your job at any moment, the stock market may crash, you are failing your children, you aren’t having the type of sex you could be, your body is not ideal, your food will kill you and your pets don’t like you either. It’s no wonder that even though we are living in the most advanced time in human history in one of the wealthiest countries in the world people are more despondent, disconnected, and we numb our minds with drugs and alcohol at increasing numbers. We are constantly being fed a diet of fear and scarcity that just isn’t true for most people. This is not to say that there are not people who are homeless, jobless or lack food because this isn’t accurate but it is not always as dire as the headlines would have you believe for the majority of Americans.
So how can we recapture a fraction of the adventurousness displayed by young children and the likes of Tony Robbins and Richard Branson? We need to find joy while conquering our fears. According to Webster’s Dictionary one of the definitions of conquer is “to gain mastery over or win by overcoming obstacles or opposition”. What could be more joyful then gaining mastery over something? My entire mood changes when I beat a worthy adversary in a game or when I am able to solve a problem that has been plaguing me. I do a little victory dance, pump my fist and am on cloud nine for hours and all I did was win words with friends. Imaging that victory dance if I actually start writing again and people actually enjoy my work or if I share my feelings with a romantic partner and he doesn’t run screaming as I envisioned him doing. The joy I felt doing squats with over half of my body weight without failing kept me joyous for days and had me reevaluating the image I had of myself as not being physically strong. We truly are only limited by the things we tell ourselves and that is the adventurousness that children have not yet lost. They haven’t started telling themselves that things could be dangerous or that people may not want to be their friend. They don’t limit themselves in their dreams. They will tell you that they want to be an astronaut, singer, president or a sanitation worker with conviction and the honest belief that they will succeed.
I have endeavored to counter my self-doubt with words of encouragement. When I finally decided to start this blog after talking myself out of it for the last year I countered my fear that no one would read it or that my writing was not up to snuff with the opposite thought that if at least one person reads it then that would be just fine. When I was thinking about leaving a company that I had word for all of my adult life and was afraid of that transition I countered those fears with the thought that this would be a time to try something new. I have chosen to conquer my fears by doing the very things that scare me because the alternative is to live my life in a constant state of “what if” and I am no longer willing to do that because if joy can only be found on the other side of fear then that is where you will find me.