We all have our fears, some more rational than others. From arachnophobia to simply being afraid of losing a loved one. From a fear of clowns (surprisingly prevalent) to being insecure about career choices. As a teenager, Arnold Schwarzenegger was already a hard worker and very promising in terms of bodybuilding. Talented, gifted with an indomitable work ethic and garnering success after success, he seemed invincible. Yet even he writes in his autobiography (Total Recall) about that one time early in his career where he broke down after failing a bodybuilding contest, crying all night. Afterwards, he picked himself up, cast his fears of failure and disappointment aside and went on to become one of the most influential bodybuilders of all time (not to mention a succesful actor, entrepeneur and politician).
When fear wraps its icy cold hands around you, it can be paralyzing yet somehow comforting. People fear change and will sometimes go out of their way to find excuses to maintain their status quo.
“Yeah I know I should hit the gym, but it’s really expensive and I’m really busy and I don’t like all the meatheads there and I tried it once but it didn’t really work, blah blah.”
This weird tendency to fight change (and justifying that tendency when it suits us) is something we do all the time, regardless whether it’s the best option. Getting healthier, losing weight, not quitting a relationship (or not starting it), not starting on learning that new skill, not switching jobs…
The problem here is, like I’ve said before, we’re not rational. Being told that there is no reason to fear something is usually not enough. Even worse, having people try and use reason to tear down our excuses can even be counterproductive and make us get all defensive. Of course it’s not always the case, there are even types of therapy where ‘rational reasoning’ is used to fight depression or phobias, but it is not always effective. Many people find a strange sort of comfort or sense of safety in maintaining a situation that they already know. Some people don’t want to be helped, some people don’t want progress, sometimes they just want to whine and stay where they are. Sometimes that’s fine, people might have their reasons for it. Different priorities, different values attributed to risks and rewards of certain choices… You can’t decide for other people how to handle their fears, and you can’t always judge whether those fears are rational or not… But you can decide for yourself. You can make a conscious effort to fight instead of run. You can choose to take risks instead of acting on a fear that might lead you to a host of regrets and missed chances. Trust me, I’ve been there and I’m pretty sure the majority of people have been. It’s not always easy to make those changes, but it’s good to remember that you don’t have to bear those burdens alone. Whether it’s your peers, professionals or family, between the well intentioned know-it-alls that will annoy the fuck out of you with their unsollicited advice, there are people who have been where you are and can guide you away from that unsatisfying and fearful rut you’re stuck in. Talk to people. Take action. Inertia breeds inertia, and sometimes a very small action can get the ball rolling and lead you to progress in your career, relationships or physical training.
“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee in ‘We Bought a Zoo’
Being afraid is alright. The fact that people act tough does not mean they don’t have fears of their own. Acting on that fear may serve to protect us from harm, but when it leads to a situation of regrets and unsatisfying mediocrity… Perhaps it’s time to make your choices despite the fear, not because of it.
“How is it that you’re never scared?”– Sam
“Who says that I’m not?” – Ellie
From ‘The Last of Us’