I write about fear, because it comes up again and again. People speak to me about their fears. Some people think that what I am doing is courageous and that I have a lot of energy. At the same time I think of myself that I am a sissy and don’t do much.
This is the difference of seeing courage from the outside and from the inside. It’s ok to be afraid. Fear is a superpower that protects us from doing stupid stuff that can hurt us or others. The key is how we respond to our fears. Are we able to move through our fears with grace? Actually this is a very predictable process.
I encourage you to watch Michelle Poller’s TED Talk of her project “100 days of fear”. It is sooo insightful into how fear works and how we can move through it. Watch it and read the transcript here.
Stages of Moving Through Fear
I’ll just share an excerpt of Michelle Poller’s TED Talk below, because it’s really sooo good and there is nothing I would add or cut.
1. Discovery Stage
It all starts in the discovery stage, here’s when we identify that we are scared of something, like I guess I am scared of doing stand-up comedy.
2. Denial Stage
Then we immediately move into the denial stage, here’s when we ignore the fact that we are indeed scared of this thing. Most of the people stay in this stage making their lives easy and comfortable.
3. Determination Stage
A few percentages of the people make it to the next stage which is the determination stage. Here’s when we make all the arrangements necessary, we set a date for it and we’re ready, we’re ready to face our fears.
4. WTF Am I Doing Stage
So before getting to the action stage, there’s this hard to avoid stage I like to call the “WTF am I doing stage”. You can’t avoid it. This is when you really overthink your decision to face your fear and you think of every possible outcome turning it into the worst-case scenario. If you make it past this stage, congrats.
5. Action Stage
Because you will end in the action stage, that’s what I’m doing now, action, and here’s when it doesn’t matter how much of a non-believer you are, you turn to God asking him to be with you in that moment and you go for it, you face your fear and that will take you to the celebratory stage, here’s when you want to share with the world what you just did. Hashtag “I did it”. You experience what feeling proud of yourself actually feels like.
6. Embarrassment Stage
Then, a new feeling creeps in, a feeling of embarrassment because here’s when we really regret our behavior during the “WTF stage”. And I’m telling you, after facing 100 fears, not even a one time the actual challenge was worse than what I had in my head before. So, WTF I was so afraid of?
The Process Repeats Itself
So these six steps repeat themselves over and over again. It doesn’t matter how many challenges you’ve faced.
Tools to Move From “WTF stage” to “Action Stage”
To go from the WTF stage into the action stage, I built a set of tools for myself.
First, I have some cognitive tools. These are the things I like to tell myself like “it’ll be over in ten seconds”, “what’s the worst that could happen?” “Everybody has a destiny” and all of these things.
I have also some behavioral tools, these are things I do differently, like when I couldn’t jump off this cliff until I decided to count 1, 2, 3, jump. And I did it.
And finally, I have some emotional tools like when I try to put myself in the best mood possible before going on stage, so I can only bring positive energy into the room and really engage with my audience.
Becoming Intimate With The Fear
These three tools will not necessarily lead you to overcome fear but they will allow you to become intimate with the fear. Actually, we don’t want to eliminate fear. Fear is our ally, and it is there to keep us alive. But when we face our fears, we allow other emotions to jump in. Emotions that I never even experienced before doing this project.
The important thing here is to make sure that fear is in its place and not let it spill over into the other emotions. When we change our approach, when we change our relationship with fear, we will ultimately change our approach to life itself. In my case, I went from “no, thanks!” to “let me try”. For some people, it takes them 100 challenges to get there, like me. For some, 10 will do. And for some people, only one challenge will change their lives.
I don’t believe in absolute fearlessness, but I do believe that we can negotiate with our fears. As a way to pursue our dreams and open ourselves to experiences that we never even considered.
What a wonderful way to move through fears with grace, I can absolutely agree on what she shares. The process how I moved through my fears in the past months is very similar. Maybe we can get deeper into the process, to move through fears quicker and to move through more fears.