To all those struggling with fear,
If you’re reading this, it means that you are engaged in an ongoing battle with the ever-present, soul-crushing force of fear.
You are caught in a fight with the enemy and you are on the verge of going under. I know how you feel. I have felt the cold clutch of anguish in my chest.
The feeling of inadequacy that beats at you and compels you into seeing yourself as someone so inconsequential that it seems laughable for you to dream of a better life.
Trust me, I understand!
Fear and I have an old enmity. I encountered it in its full glory as an acne-ridden adolescent with the nickname, Chickenpox and a flair for public speaking.
I had a face-off with it when I entered a roomful of strangers during my year abroad and thought that every single person in the room was better than me.
I felt it clawing at my skin when I had a panic attack and I was lying prone on an empty stretch of road.
I experienced it in technicolor a couple months back when I decided to go all in and pursue writing full time. It meant not just committing to writing but committing to the possibility of failure, humiliation, and the possibility of being broke. The biggest one of all, the possibility of disappointing my tireless champions, my parents. I am still feeling the sting!
I have locked eyes with a possibly bleak future where I take the risks and I fail and yet, the idea of not following my calling is a hundred times more painful and scary. Also, I know what happens when you beat fear.
As an adolescent, getting on stage with a face full of cystic acne was a turning point in my life.
On the day of my first competition as I got on the stage, I was very aware of the mockery coming at me in waves, but not only did I perform, I won! It didn’t end there. I entered every public speaking event, and I won A LOT!
Being on stage cut me off from all the pain in my life. I would tell myself that I am definitely going to fail and it will destroy whatever is left of my dignity. That fatalist attitude would keep my feet moving towards the podium and nothing would matter anymore.
It was only a few years back that I realized that surrendering to what ‘seemed’ inevitable gave me a twisted sense of control.
I was already the butt of all jokes and it wasn’t a problem I could fix so, I just let it go and controlled what I could – my performance.
On stage, I would perform my heart out, and instead of my face and its flaws, I would allow the victory of that day to define me.
The point is that in order to reach the victory, I had to allow my mind to drown in the fear, but do the task anyway. It all comes down to a choice.
It’s funny but fear, as an instinct, is supposed to protect us from external threats. Instead, it has turned into a bully we carry around in our head. Well, it stops now!
Here’s what you must do – surrender to it! Let yourself go and surrender to the fear. Allow it to spread its poison to every corner of your mind and soul, and when it brings you down to your knees, feel the beat of your heart. Feel the motion of your chest – rising and falling with every breath.
No matter how strong the fear, it is not strong enough to win over your instinct to survive, and unless it completely finishes you off, it is still possible for you to change your story.
It is still possible for you to be more than a person cowering in horror of an unknown future.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger in the broken places.”
An encounter with fear can play out in 2 different ways –
You give into it and allow it to keep you small – This is a comfortable place to be, but for the rest of your life, you will carry with you an ache in your soul for all the possibilities you turned away from.
You’ll feel the pain of denied hope and all that you could have been if you had just had a little courage. It will hurt you to watch others soar, knowing that you chopped off your own wings.
You let it attack! Fight a bloody battle but keep going. The people who go out and do the things they love don’t do it without fear.
We’re all afraid. You simply have to decide whether your love for your goals, its call to your soul is stronger than fear or not.
It all comes down to a choice. I had to realize a few things to reach this place of utter certainty, and it’s true for each and every one of us.
1. Every facet of our character that we take pride in was built out of pain and misery. The victories gave us transient moments of relief and joy, but every iota of pain and loss we’ve ever felt has contributed to the strength and determination coursing through our veins.
2. It was the nights of laying on the bathroom floor feeling inadequate and limited, making friends with the rock bottom that lit the fire to be better.
3. We know nothing! We are afraid of failing because we’re afraid the world will laugh at us. None of that will matter if you yourself choose a place of humility and admit how little you know. A student can’t be mocked for being in the process of learning.
4. Every fall is taking us closer to our glorious destination. Keep your eye on the end result and your head in the game. Embrace the pain, let it have its way with you because it is the one thing that is building you into a person worthy of your goals!
There is a great deal to be learned. Nobody is expecting you to win on your first try. You are supposed to suck, pay your dues, and put in the time! There is no such thing as an overnight success.
Pick up Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and you will find out that every single successful individual in the world had to put in their 10,000 hours simply slogging before they were good enough to be even considered for the job. Have you put in your 10,000 hours yet? If not, then what are you afraid of?
Your talent is in the process – let it grow.
Now, if you’re recounting the many reasons why it is not possible for you to chase your dream – I call bullsh*t!
You may have a family to support, a physical disability, a mental limitation, and I am still going to say that you’re simply using your excuses to stay comfortable.
Giving in to the fear is easy because it lets us stay warm and cozy in our ordinary existence so, whatever you are using to not change is a BS excuse to allow you to not take risks.
I don’t claim to understand your pain, but if you look around you, someone else in the world had it worse than you did and still managed to fight.
They didn’t allow their excuses to keep them from their greatness.
You can sit and wallow in pity and you can comfort yourself with your very valid excuses or you can choose to fight.
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO A CHOICE!
Wounds can be sewn shut. Pain can be endured. Tears can be ignored. None of it’s big enough to keep you small, only you can do that.
Show yourself enough respect and love to not settle. You have the right to give in to the pain; you deserve a moment to heal or you can turn all of that into fuel for your next fight.
The voice in your head that’s telling you to stay down isn’t wrong. It is only trying to protect you, but if you stay hiding too long, you’ll forget what it’s like to be out in the open. Even the sunlight and the fresh air will feel like acid against your skin.
There is no magic formula for overcoming fear.
Do it because you owe it to yourself and everyone that has ever believed in you.
You’re going to fall A LOT. There will be a failure with most attempts, but you must keep going. Learn and adapt!
Take it one day at a time, one goal at a time. Do it with the certainty that every obstacle is simply going to make the ultimate victory that much sweeter. Show yourself enough respect to not give up.
You are worthy of greatness. Your talents are worthy of recognition, but you must put in the work first.
You have the raw material, you simply have to shape it now! So, get up and fight for what you deserve. Don’t allow the fear to win.
The next time it comes calling – press pause, breathe, and as the worst scenarios sneak up in your head, tell them that your goal is worth the risk. You are worth the risk. Love yourself enough to do that!
“If you want something you’ve never had
You must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”