I have to admit I am not the most courageous woman on earth. In fact, I chicken out easily. I am scared of heights and planes. I don’t like to drive on the freeway at night or surround myself with water (don’t know how to swim). Snakes are my number one phobia. To make matters worse, I get easily scared at common situations (like I am entering a restroom and somebody unexpectedly opens the doors to come out). My husband says he wants to move of our apartment because he is ashamed of the many times I scream during the week (his fault since he scares me all the time).
But see, somehow my fear of planes does not prevent me from traveling more than once a year, my fear for driving at night does not stop me from visiting my friends and my horrible fear for snakes does not deter me from getting into Central American jungles in search of Mayan ruins. As I said, I don’t consider myself a die-hard adventurer but I have found inner strength to do many things. Things that at some moment were only wishes or dreams.
That is why I have decided to share what has worked for me. My purpose is to help you find your inner courage and push it forward.
- Fear is always going to be there – C.S. Lewis said that “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it”. In the same way, courage cannot be seen as the absence of fear. In life, we are going to be scared many times. The key is to learn how to manage and face our fears.
- In a way, we should we grateful for our fears – We are actually designed to feel fear. It is a survival instinct or response. When you start feeling anxious about something, it is time to evaluate the situation and make a decision.
- Make a decision to be brave – What I mentioned in the previous bullets sounds simple. Right? Not necessarily. Every person reacts different to diverse situations. There is not a magic recipe to manage your fears easily. However, the first step is to start by taking a decision. You have to decide to be brave, courageous, audacious. Decide that fear is not going to control you. See it as an opportunity to grow.
- Don’t think physical courage is the most important kind – People can jump off bridges, planes, mountains or buildings. And that is cool. Conversely, the bravery required to perform those acts is not the one that is going to help you move from your current situation. Sometimes, intangible fears (mental ones) interfere more with our day to day life. Consequently, concentrate your liberating efforts on the fears that REALLY matter to you. Don’t try to work around them.
- Accept your limitations – You are not Superman or Superwoman. You are not going to be able to do all things, all the time. So, it is ok if you decide not to do something. Which brings me to number 6.
- Forget about what others think or say – Do what feels right for you. You do not have to prove anything (maybe to yourself). People who truly care for you will respect your decisions and will not push you to an uncomfortable situation.
- Work out those brain muscles – Know you strengths, goals and values. A deep knowledge of yourself will help you confront stressful situations. Chances are they will kick in when you need them most.
- Keep in mind your most daring moments – Remember that time you climbed the tall mountain, asked for a raise or had a heart to heart talk with that person? Think about the times you have been able to break free from your fears. Those moments where you have felt powerful, invulnerable, on the top of the world. The more you think about those proud moments, the more fearless you are going to feel.
- Count on others – Repeat after me: it is fine to ask for help. Using somebody’s help is not a sign of weakness. You don’t have an idea how many times my husband has helped me to get thru some moments. Open up and accept help.
- If you are hesitant about a situation, ask for specific details – Ignorance can contribute to worsen our fears. So, get informed!!! Don’t hesitate to ask and don’t assume things. For example, I was once hesitant about a caving excursion in Belize. I asked a tour company representative a lot of questions related to swimming inside the cave (remember I can’t swim). The representative kindly answered my questions and I decided to take the excursion. I calmed down and was able to enjoy.
- Don’t cross the river before getting to the bridge – In other words, don’t make up a big list of fatalistic scenarios that “without doubt” you will encounter. Do you know that about 95% of our worries don’t ever materialize? Don’t torture yourself. That is why I suggested asking for details. That is how you can separate what is real from what is not.
- You are tougher than you think – All of us have gone thru a lot of daring moments but we usually don’t credit ourselves for them. You may have given birth (oh my), raised your children, been a good wife/daughter or helped others. These do not sound that exiting but they actually are!!! A lot of cowards out there turn their back at the ones who need them most. So you are stronger than you think because life has ways to get out the best in you. Always remember that.
What has helped you to confront your fears? Let me know in the comments section below.