Fear is a funny thing. It’s clearly got its purpose, protecting us from danger. But as with anything, too much of a good thing is no longer good. Just as sometimes fear paralyzes us physically, it also can paralyze us emotionally. What have you wanted to do in your life but didn’t because you were afraid? I’m an introvert. While I’ve always realized that, I hadn’t realized until a few years ago that extroverts actually gain energy from being with others. That was a foreign concept to me. Fear plays a predictable role in the life of an introvert, in that many of us spend much of our lives sitting back, afraid of saying something “stupid”. Ironically, I read an article a few years ago which said that those who don’t speak in a business meeting are thought of more poorly than those who actually do say something stupid. I’ve remembered that story for myself and have used it with many I’ve coached. I’ve been on a lifelong journey to push out my comfort zone, especially in settings and with groups in which I’m not yet comfortable. After years of practice, it’s become almost natural to speak up.
I recently faced down another modest fear, leaving the good job at the company where I’d worked for 14 years. It was hard to think about starting over after building a good reputation and a significant support network. I had known it would be difficult, but I still underestimated how much. I like the challenge, though. I know I will eventually look back and not be able to imagine this part of my life any other way. I’ve already made a couple of meaningful connections, and others will follow.
The thing about letting fear keep you from doing something is that we all eventually have to do some things of which we’re afraid. We can avoid many of them if we choose to, but will eventually not have a choice for some of them. I am afraid that avoiding those that I could will make the ones I can’t even more frightening. So I will keep pushing myself, facing down those smaller fears. Then I will hope that I am strong enough when the others come.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” –Nelson Mandela