“I just need to stop being afraid and do it.”
I hear this phrase all the time, from clients, friends, people mumbling to themselves in the supermarket. Running through my own brain with abandon, the words obviously forgot that I banned them years ago.
I haven’t banned the fear. I’ve banned myself from saying “Stop being afraid.”
In this phrase, we judge ourselves for our fear. Judging ourselves for our fears doesn’t reduce their hold on us. All it does is compound our fear with shame because we aren’t able to magically stop ourselves from being afraid.
Yuck. Two awful feelings for the price of one!
Truly brave people, those people who jump off the ledges and fight battles and paddle through rapids, those people have not eliminated fear from their hearts. Instead, they have learned to call on courage.
Courage is doing something despite our fear of it. Courage means managing our fears, making friends with our fear monsters, acknowledging that our fear of this thing that makes us call on courage may be with us always.
But here’s the secret: Having an action to perform is easier than avoiding doing something. When our natural reaction is to be afraid, avoiding the fear is almost impossible. Instead, when we ask ourselves to be brave in the face of our fear, courage takes the place of some of that fear, reducing its power. We can see what it takes to be brave and can take those actions.
And that puts our fear in the back seat. Embracing our courage means that our bravery is driving the car, and our fear monster can only be a passenger. He’s still there, but by concentrating on brave action, we begin to do the things we thought we couldn’t do, despite his presence.
But luckily, we can practice being brave! Practice courage by doing one small thing every day that scares you. It can even be the same thing over and over. What we want is something that is so low-stakes, you can be courageous without being in danger.
Perhaps like me, you are afraid of talking to people you don’t know. A good low-stakes action is to say “hello” to someone you don’t know, say the clerk at the grocery store or a stranger on your morning walk.
Before you do the thing, instead of telling yourself to “not be afraid,” make sure to call on your courage. Practice taking the action. You can either imagine it, mime the action, or actually speak the words aloud. “Hello!” You could say, “Nice day!”
Then, go do it. Feel your fear, and call on your courage. Feel your bravery fill your body. Request your spiritual guardians (angels, ninjas, superheroes, guides) be there with you as you take your action.
After you’ve completed your one action for the day, celebrate! Feel the glory of victory in doing the thing.
And let yourself off the hook until tomorrow.
By repeating this action in this low-pressure situation, you’ll find it easier to do it when the stakes are high.