Dive Into Your Fears

How often do you find yourself consciously facing your fears? In this day and age, I’d say probably not much at all. Being confined by fear is an interesting concept, especially when most of it is actually psychological.

I thought about writing on fear because I know how much I subconsciously try to avoid confronting it. There are a number of root causes to our current fears, which could either be biological, physiological, or due to traumatic experiences.

In today’s post, I’d like to dive into your fears. I’ll look at identifying the different causes of those fears, what we can do about them, and how to avoid being shut down by fear. This might be easier for some of you than it is for others, the point is to try and strengthen our psychological resilience to the horrors we often have to face.

Failure Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

What causes of fear?

“A potential for pain, or an unrecognizable event, causes fear. The amygdalae, organs in the limbic system, detect such possibilities and send the signals which generate the fear emotion, which sets off avoidance activities.”

We experience fear out of instinct to avoid pain or undesirable events. Our minds react to external stimuli (or even mental projections) to ensure that we do what is necessary to survive. So if we have to look at the biological aspect of it, the amygdalae are what cause the sensation of fear. But what events trigger the amygdalae to make us feel that way?

As I’ve alluded to before, there are several different causes behind fear. I’ll focus on 3 in this post specifically, just to touch on the topic at a high-level:

  • Failure
  • Past trauma
  • Evolution

Other causes of fear can include insecurity, overthinking, perfectionism, childhood events (linked to past trauma), and worrying about other people’s opinion to name a few.

Michael D. Eisner Quote: “Fear of failure is a far worse ...

On the topic of failure, I think that is one of the most common causes of fear. We are afraid of failing. We want to survive. We want to make it through. We want to succeed. We want to make ourselves and other people in our life proud. It would thus make sense that many of our underlying fears are deep-rooted in our intrinsic motive to avoid failure.

Past trauma is another incredibly important and often undetected cause of fear. When we experience a traumatic event (such as being robbed or getting into a car accident), it often leaves a mark on our psyche. We become a lot more careful, vigilant and even suspicious of the world. We try to avoid getting into that same scenario again, as best as we can.

The last cause of fear that I’ll touch on is that of evolution. We were once hunter gatherers and stayed in very close-knitted groups. We needed to survive off the savannah and ensure the tribe was safe from all forms of danger. The issue is, many of the underlying fears that enabled us to cope with the dangers at that time, stay with us up until today. Fearing snakes, the dark, spiders etc., are often rooted in ancestral times.

Copyright Atlas of Emotions
https://www.paulekman.com/universal-emotions/what-is-fear/

Tee figure above shows different levels of intensity when it comes to experiencing fear. Apart from just identifying the causes, we should also look at how intense the feeling is. What I’d like to do now is use the mentioned causes of fear to help us figure out what to do about it.

What to do about fear

So what should we do about fear when it does arise? The first answer is the obvious one; accept it. We often try to hide behind this façade of bravery. We like to appear to be fearless and full of courage. It often comes at the expense of being true to ourselves.

Instead of trying to appear to be strong and brave, what’s even more courageous is learning to accept certain fears and working towards overcoming them. True bravery (in my opinion) is about persistence and trying your best to learn from those underlying fears.

How to become Spiderman

After we accept that they’re there, we need to methodically try to overcome them. It won’t just happen overnight. We can’t expect to find an instantaneous answer. Exposure therapy is something that often works really well in this case. Slowly expose yourself to that which makes you afraid (in bearable doses). Then increase the intensity of the exposure as you get more and more used to it.

Those are things that are very situation specific, but are there ways that will allow us to develop a resilience to fear in general? How can we learn to fight that voice in our head and push forward, despite wanting to sit back and stay in our comfort zone?

How to stop letting fear hold you back

From my perspective, it’s about having faith and building up courage. It can surprisingly also boil down to purpose. When we have a strong foundational belief and understand that everything happens for a reason, we tend to be a lot more resilient.

From an Islamic point of view, the following quote resonates a lot with me:

It’s a fundamental belief that God is always with us, irrespective of how dreadful the scenario may be. Keeping that world view in mind allows me to push through many of my fears and setbacks in general.

When it comes to developing resilience to fear in general, what we need to focus on is essentially building a set of habits that allow us to face ‘baby’ fears all the time. A common example of this is cold showers. It’s petrifying and scary as hell. But doing it consistently allows your mind to practice overcoming the mental hurdle.

Next time there’s something that makes you really nervous or that you’re a little scared to do, just go for it and see the difference it can make. You’ll be a lot more ambitious in your goals and you won’t let trivial trials hold you back.

The point I’m trying to make from this post is that you’re capable. The more you put yourself out there and face you fears, the stronger you become. That strength can then diffuse into all other aspects of your life and will enable you to grow exponentially. We don’t realize how much of our potential is blocked purely because of our misconceptions and fears.

Face Everything And Rise.

You can do it!

Toddlers don’t give up on walking no matter how many times they fall. Would it make sense for them to say: I can’t do it? Not at all. They just can’t do it YET. They don’t give up, regardless of all the failures. There’s a lot that we can learn from children, especially resilience.

Before the world influenced our thought patterns and self-doubt, we were creatures of adventure, experimentation and playfulness. We kept messing up until we got things right. We weren’t afraid of what people thought. We only realized how disgusting sand tasted after we gobbled down a handful.

I want to talk a little about how we can learn to overcome failure. About how that influences the way we tackle problems and chase our ambitions. About the way we thrive in discomfort. And how a little change in mindset alongside some consistency, will help us flourish.

I’ve spoken about the concept of growth mindset in my previous blog post; The Journey IV. I thought it would be important to bring it up again because of how we’re constantly faced with difficult tasks and exhaustive schedules.

Challenge accepted

How often have you faced a challenge and thought: “This isn’t for me, I can’t do it”. Well that’s okay, you can’t always overcome obstacles when you encounter them immediately. Don’t ever give up on yourself though and say that you can’t do it. You just have to keep trying until you get it right.

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

That it one of my favourite quotes. When you realize that there’s always going to be challenges, your approach to them can start to change. You don’t always have to resist and try to run away. You can develop the ability to embrace challenges and learn to accept them.

Life can oftentimes feel quite paradoxical. In the book “The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts, he mentions a concept called the ‘Backwards law’. It talks about how we always end up getting what we’re running away from. And what we chase just gets further away from us.

“What you resist, will persist.”

This obviously doesn’t speak about pursuing goals and passions, but rather attaching yourself desperately onto certain emotions. Chasing what feels good as ‘pleasure’. Avoiding what feels bad as ‘pain’. We don’t realize that we can’t enjoy one without the other. The Yin and Yang of life. We should try be more accepting of the fact that life is meant to be challenging, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it.

Seek Discomfort

The only way to grow? Out of your comfort zone. What does that imply? Seeking frightening and uncomfortable experiences!

This isn’t masochistic per say. It means training your mind to embrace discomfort. Re-wiring your neurons to effectively deal with all the struggle. That’s why cold showers and waking up early in the morning are such holistic habits. They help your brain adapt to the inevitable sufferings of life.

I’m just trying to help you understand the concept of acceptance. When you’re truly able to accept your feelings, they no longer hold you down. Which is why it’s so important to learn to accept pain. It’s an inevitable aspect of life.

Look at all the major events that have shaped who you are today. You were most likely ‘going through the most’ or have had to struggle intensely. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and scared. It’s okay to fail and make mistakes. Just accept that and learn from it. Seek to be better each and every day.

Mindset

The previous sections essentially fosters a growth mindset. When you start seeing setbacks as opportunities to learn, the world becomes your school. You need to watch the self-talk and the negative thought patterns. You need to tell yourself ‘not yet’ for the skills you don’t have or the goals you haven’t achieved.

The pathway to success is filled with failure. Sometimes major, sometimes minor, oftentimes both. But that’s the quickest way to grow. To just keep trying and to avoid repeating the mistakes that have held you down.

How many times does life have to teach you the same lesson before you actually learn?

The more time you spend gaining experience, the better you get at tackling the problem. That brings me to another crucial concept; consistency.

Consistency

I bring this up again and again and again. Because it truly is the most important skill-set to obtain. You need to be consistent to grow in any aspect of your life.

Whether it’s love, friendship, work, academics or business, the key lies in being consistent. You don’t even have to take it from me, look around you at everyone who you consider ‘successful’. They had to show up and do the work repeatedly, not only when they felt like it.

What differentiates the ordinary from extraordinary isn’t just talent. It’s the hard work, dedication, seizing of opportunities and deliberate practice. That means always trying. No matter how many times you screw up, no matter how many times you fall, no matter how many times you get hurt; don’t stop.

You can do it. You are capable. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are worthy. You will achieve greatness. You will make an impact. You will get through this; faster, stronger and better than ever. YOU CAN DO IT. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, especially not your own voice.

DON’T EVER GIVE UP!

“He who sweats more in training, bleeds less at war.”

Spartans

Warming up for 2020

How would you like to start your new year? Any new year resolutions? Are there aspects of your life that you’re excited to change?

Surely you have plans to start chasing your goals and build in healthier routines. I’d like to use this post to discuss how we can start the new year with a bang.

I’m not at all an advocate for waiting till new years to start making progress. Which is why I think this is such an important topic, to see how we can utilize the time we have NOW, to work towards our aspirations.

By starting small, dreaming big, loads of reflection and gratitude, I’d like to help you successfully transition into the new year.

There is a psychological advantage in starting the new year on a clean slate, as it builds momentum. So let’s dive into how we can use these tricks and utilize our brains most effectively.

Start now

It takes around 2 months of consistent dedication to a create a habit. If you start thinking now of what you’d like to implement in 2020, you’ll already have an advantage.

Remember that time is a relative concept, we each experience it differently; although it passes at the same rate. So don’t add too much pressure on yourself to perfect new routines at the very start of the year.

By using December to warm up to your goals, you’ll enter the new year ready to rumble.

Start small

Here’s something that I’ve mentioned before: Start small. It’s such a recurring pattern that I keep witnessing; diving into large goals and getting overwhelmed.

A mental trick is to start small and make the first step as easy as possible.

You’re trying to build up towards massive goals and become the best version of yourself. Move from conscious incompetence, to unconscious competence. Once it becomes comfortable doing the easy task, make it a little more challenging.

Remember: Growth only occurs in a state of discomfort.

Stay consistent

The key to all mastery? Consistency. This is something else that I often find when people fail to achieve their new year resolutions; they stop being consistent.

Self-love is essentially keeping at your craft and taking care of yourself. It’s pushing one more rep at the gym. It’s refusing to go out when you haven’t exercised or read for the day. It’s refusing to order pizza when it isn’t your cheat day. It’s journalling consistently and working on your emotional intelligence.

Be like the sun. It rises and sets everyday without fail.

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Yes that quote is a little overused, but it’s very true. First we form our habits, then our habits form us.

Don’t stop believing in yourself. Especially when it gets difficult. That’s where it counts the most. Everyone can make progress when it’s easy or when it’s a good day. It’s about making progress when it’s difficult or when you dread it.

Read, reflect, plan and grow

If you have been journalling throughout the year, now is the time to look back on those entries and see the changes you’ve endured. You’ve survived all the tough times and achieved so many goals. Celebrate your accomplishments!

Embrace the progress and reflect on your life in general. See what has worked and what hasn’t worked for you. There’s so much to learn from our own life, if we just give it a little more attention.

All the L’s that I’ve received this year are just Lessons.

“I never fail or lose, I always learn.” Keep that mentality and nothing can crush your momentum. Foster a growth mindset and your blessings will be so much clearer.

As for planning and growing, my post on time management sums it up pretty well. If you can form structure in your life, your days will become exponentially more productive. Don’t forget to write down your goals and visualize yourself achieving them. Consistently.

Stay mindful, give thanks & forgive

Stay mindful of your thoughts and behaviours. Notice the aspects of your mentality that are holding you back. Remove the self-doubt and negative self-talk. Once you become aware of a thought or emotion, it no longer holds any weight over you.

Don’t be afraid to feel. Don’t be afraid to fall or fail. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Life is a set of trials and errors. If you’re not willing to make mistakes, you’ll never come up with anything original.

Focus on your blessings. Think of all you have to be grateful for every single day. Think of how blessed you are to live through another year. Remember that death is the only guarantee we have in life, so live each day as if it’s your last.

This Kurzgesagt video perfectly explains gratitude! One of the best YouTube videos I’ve come across.

Do yourself another massive favour and learn to forgive. Holding onto grudges only causes more suffering for you. Does it make sense to start a new year with resentment of the past? Make peace with your demons and those who’ve done you wrong.

Not for them. For you. Forgiveness is another form of self-love. It’s a reflection of your character and the type of person you are. The more you’re able to forgive, the more peace and clarity you’ll witness in your life.

This post was meant to be a quick summary of my favourite topics. I want us all to try our best, each and every single day. Don’t wait for the new year to start. Now is all you have. You don’t know if you’ll have another day to live. Spread love, joy and peace to your best ability, each and everyday.

Smile more. Laugh more. Be grateful. Be merciful. And most importantly, don’t be crippled by fear. Life favours the bold and courageous. You are fully capable of achieving your wildest goals and ambitions, don’t let anyone (especially you!) stop you.