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Day 20 - Don't Let Fear Stop You

Level 9

Dear Younger Self,

It was difficult for me to decide which piece of wisdom I should give you. Not because I am so much wiser than you. In fact, it’s the opposite. Though I have had more time to learn, it turns out I am a slow learner. I continue to make the same mistakes and learn the same lessons. I am no wiser than you, I’ve just lived longer and am finally starting to notice the patterns in my life.

You’re likely thinking, “Wait, are you telling me I’m never going to learn? I thought this letter was going to make me feel LESS scared!” Which brings me to my chosen piece of advice for you, my younger self: Don’t let fear stop you. Yes, I am telling you you’re always going to be scared. Unfortunately, fear never seems to leave our side.

I know fear can feel paralyzing. It stops us from making decisions. It makes us shut down. But there have been times when we have put that fear aside, and taken a leap of faith. Remember when we were too scared to go on rollercoasters at theme parks? Dad and Caroline would go, while we stayed behind with Mom to ride the “easier” rides. One day, we put that fear aside and bravely ventured onto one of the “scary” rides. It was exhilarating. We rode it again and again and couldn’t imagine a time before we dared to ride that ride.

Remember in high school when we decided to audition for a musical, having never sang in front of an audience before? We weren’t sure we could do it. We blacked out and don’t even remember the audition. But we did it! And musical theater became an important part of our life for years after that. We couldn’t remember a time before musicals.

I’m reminding you of these times to show that, even though some days it feels like fear is ruling your life, you can, and you have, overcome it. You don’t have to let fear stop you from trying new things, from taking risks, from doing something you want to do and not worrying about the outcome. Some of the happiest moments in our life, the times we’ve felt most free, have come from taking a leap of faith and overcoming fear. Let’s do more of that!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, younger self: this letter is just as much advice for you at your age, as it is for me at this age. I’m still figuring everything out one day at a time, but from now on I am going to strive to not let fear stop me. Together, we can build a more fun, more rewarding life for ourselves.

Ready, set, go!

47 Comments
Level 11

The only thing to fear in life, is fear itself.

It's a debilitating thing fear, but you can manage it.  By showing fear you're in charge, although that sounds difficult, it's not as difficult as it would seem.  Challenge yourself to do something difficult everyday, and soon those small challenges will show you that you can do anything.

I used to fear lots of things, especially in a work environment, with people who I felt were "better" than me, or more skilled, or more experienced.  And whilst most of those things were likely true, I had the same level of power as they did.  And actually doing the things they did, you soon learned that they weren't so fearful, and the people weren't some magical sages of IT.  But just normal people, who managed fear a little better.

Don't be fearful of making mistakes, you will always make mistakes, it's about how you deal with those mistakes that will define you.  And your fear levels will never fully diminish, but will become more manageable.

MVP
MVP

Fear is so paralyzing! I've met people that appear fearless and just burst through everything with seemingly nothing every bothering them. Maybe they are fearless, but more than likely they have just found a way to move through in spite of the fear. I would contend that we all have fears, not all the same, but fears none the less. It's, as you say, not allowing the fear to control and limit us. Here's a few things I do.

  • Never ignore fear - deal with it
  • Have trusted friends that can help you identify and work through your fears
  • Self evaluate and determine why you do what you do
  • Be aware of your reactions and feelings
  • Try new things
  • Always be learning
Level 9

I have learned over time to manage that fear.  Analyze the situation and look for the issues that need to be addressed.  Address them and move on.  I look at fear as a trigger that I may be missing something and need to look into it more before proceeding.  Fear can be helpful in this way if it is managed properly.

Level 10

Fear is a lot about the unknown.  Conquering it can be very rewarding and bring great enjoyment!

Level 15

Excellent post. Being mindful of our own fears is one of the hardest things to do, but so rewarding when done!

You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.

- Sammy Davis Jr.

Also, one of my favorite XKCDs

Level 14

Fear is certainly something that can hold you back, and do so indefinitely if you allow it.  I am not a risk taker, so you can imagine how many times fear has been allowed to block opportunities from my grasp.  The fear of failing is probably the biggest problem I have in my professional life.  I've mentioned in other articles how I can "get in my own way"....this is a great example of that.  I'm naturally not very inclined to care about what people think about me in any way.  The idea of me being known as a "people person" sends my wife into a fit of laughter (I know because I have actually tested this).  So, then why would I allow fear to hold such a firm grip on my life?  I think I've grown so accustomed to minimizing risks as an effort to avoid failure but I have no answer for why, other than fear of failing. 

Thanks for writing this!  These moments of self reflection have pointed me towards clear direction on how I can improve myself. 

If you are not afraid you have nothing to lose.   Having something to lose makes you focus, have a desire to improve, work hard, etc.   I think its ok to be afraid, or have fear.  I agree however you can not let fear stop you from anything.   It will make you better if you let it.

Level 10

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”  — Henry Ford

Level 10

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Great article, srcrossland, and thank you for broaching a subject that is near and dear to, I'm sure, a lot of people including me!

There are so many things that come to mind for me on this topic, but the trouble I have found is that I still have fear.  Fear of winning, fear of losing, fear of missing out, fear of not missing out, fear of heights, fear of spiders (YUCK!), fear of fear ( ! )...all of which, happily and unhappily I must say, make up who I am today.  I have heard many tips and tricks to eliminate or deal with fear: "Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway", "Dance with the fear" (that's a fun concept I'll get into here in a bit), "False Evidence Appearing Real", etc. but those nagging demons are still there.

I was at a Tony Robbins event many years ago when I learned about the concept of "dancing with fear".  Tony brought up a participant onto the stage, and told them that "you are fear"...meaning that this person represented the "fear" that is present in all of us.  Tony said to the audience, "There are two ways you can deal with fear.  Let's see if you can tell which is better."  He then grabbed the hand of "fear" (the participant), and began "struggling" with it.  "Fear" pulled and Tony pulled; "fear" pushed and Tony pushed.  It was obvious that Tony was demonstrating what many of us do: we fight the "fear".  Then, Tony did something that was amazing: instead of fighting the fear, he "danced" with it.  Meaning that when the participant ("fear") pulled, Tony pushed and when "fear" pushed, Tony pulled until, eventually, the two were literally "dancing" around the stage.  It's a concept that made sense to me at the time but, sadly, one that I have not always put into play in real life.

I'll leave you all with the words of the immortal Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides who said, when confronted with his "Gom Jabbar" (the 'High Handed Enemy'):

“I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain."

Level 14

The problem is not having fear... that is normal and wise.... The real problem is making sure it does not consume you, that is dangerous.

The younger me had periods of fear that I ignored... sometimes to my own peril.... but it taught me to respect the fear and act accordingly.

Thanks to my younger self... I am very adept at it!

Level 12

Fear of failure had a grip on me for years, I was finally able to break out of that around 7 years ago.

WD40 has that name because it's the 40th formula....

Sound advice. Don't let fear stop you. In other words...

It's perfectly normal to be afraid. But fear doesn't always have to stop you or hold you back. Some people like to "conquer" fear. I am not sure how that is possible. Others have, "No Fear!" Go so far as having bumper stickers saying as such. No fear is impossible. I think it is more realistic is to recognize and identify your fears and understand how they affect your behavior and thoughts. That way you can manage them while trying to overcome and reach new heights.

Level 9

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' "   - Eleanor Roosevelt

Level 9

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to overcome it.

I used to be (OK, still am... 😉 a big Star Trek fan.  I recall an episode of "The Next Generation", where Wesley Crusher happens upon Lt. Commander Worf, a member of the warrior race known as Klingons, in a holideck.  Wesley politely, and somewhat embarrasingly, excuses himself to leave, but Worf asks him to stay.  They begin talking about fear, and I remember this exchange:

Wesley: "You? I didn't think you were afraid of anything."

Worf: "Only a fool has no fear."

As I have mentioned, there are those who say you're not living unless you're going "Mach 2 with your hair on fire!" and that's fine for some people. But I don't need all the breakneck speed and adrenaline pumping to know that I'm alive.  All I need is to see my sweetie smile lovingly at me in the morning, and feel her embrace when I get home in the afternoon.  That's how I know I'm alive!  I'll leave all the "hair on fire" stuff for the daredevils and fools (not my words!! ;-).

Level 8

I'm reading a book called "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers. I recommend it! Also, high five for getting on the roller coaster.

Level 13

Great post srcrossland​.  I had the exact same fear about roller coasters. One day I decided to do it anyway, and now I'm a roller coaster fiend - that's all I ride, and the higher and faster they are the more I like them.

The same day I conquered roller coasters I also rode one of those twisty rocket thingys that are on opposite ends of a long girder, and I honest to God thought I was going to die the whole time.  The ride was ancient, the retaining belts were old worn leather that didn't work right, the door barely stayed shut and I had to hang on for dear life the whole time so I wouldn't be thrown around the car or even out of the car.

So fear can be both a good thing (possibly saving your neck) or a bad thing (keeping you from doing something harmless that you might actually like).

Hopefully we get better at identifying which is which, and learn to ignore the fears that are more imaginary than real (I still don't know how not to feel it - mostly do it afraid is what works for me).

Level 12

Words to live by:

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear."

- Franklin D Roosevelt

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'"

- Elanor Roosevelt

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it."

- Nelson Mandela

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."

- Mark Twain

"Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act in the presence of fear."

- Bruce Lee

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nice advice!  Thank you for sharing it.

I'm reminded of The Impostor Syndrome, for which there are even online tests you can take to discover if your feelings meet the criteria.

Me, I don't need to share more data on the Internet.  I know I feel like an impostor in some situations.  But if you're the SME and you don't know something important, it's a matter of learning it--or getting budget allocated to training so you can do your job.

Thanks for the advice, I need to remind myself of getting over the fear more often.

I guess my hesitation to make decisions is often based on fear of not doing the right thing. free psychoanalysis on Thwack... I don’t even have to contact my insurance company

Level 14

There are so many times where I scared to attempt something.  Far too many to list here.  However, once I made the leap, I looked back and wondered why I hesitated.  Go for it.  Experience life!

Level 13

Eleanor Roosevelt said "Do one thing every day that scares you."  Good words to live by.

Paralyzing fear and performance anxiety nearly stopped me from playing music, similar to your story with performing arts. I'm so glad I overcame those fears.

Level 9

In my career I typically don't... but heights still get to me! Working on overcoming that.

Level 12

Fear is normal. Overcoming the fear can be difficult.

I hate heights, but I've worked jobs that had me climbing silos and riding the platform on overhead cranes - you adjust.

And when I had kids who wanted to go on sky lifts and roller-coasters, I just had to do it.

I still need time to prepare for any new height stuff, but I can do it - I still don't like it, but that's different

I can recall two times when fear got such a hold on me that it stopped me from doing something I wanted to do. One is hard for most people to believe now, which is speaking in front of a big group. I still don't know how to initially engage with a person or small group - that just freaks me out. But I will stand in front of a large group and be totally fine with it. I still get nervous but that is different than fear to me. It is odd that this still frightens me because if someone says hello or makes an introductory remark - forget it I will gladly tell you my entire life story. But I am still not sure how to say, "Hello."

I used to act and sing a lot, but something changed in school and I saw people I thought were way better than me. So I got intimidated. Good for you srcrossland​ for taking those risks and bringing joy both into your life and those who get to watch you preform. BRAVA! I would love to take vocal lessons one day to perform just on aria - perhaps just a little one like this: Luciano Pavarotti - Quanto e bella, quanto e cara - L'elisir d'amore - YouTube just for my own delight.

Level 10

"I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain."

Frank Herbert rocks.

Level 12

Dont let fear overcome you.

MVP
MVP

I was terrified when SolarWinds asked me to speak a SWUG. I can't even remember the presentations before mine, my mind was too busy coming up with "what if's". However it wasn't too bad in the end.

If anyone is interested, here is a background pic of Paul Atreides' "Litany Against Fear" from "Dune".  Enjoy!

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Level 9

Thank you for this! All very helpful advice. I like the idea of doing one small challenge per day. I also am working on not being afraid of making mistakes, but instead focusing on how I deal with them.

Level 9

I agree with you, everyone has fears. We just have to learn how to not let them paralyze us! These are great tips, thanks for sharing.

Level 9

Agreed! Love that quote too. Haha that is great!

Level 9

Thanks for sharing! I can relate to this so much. Fear of failing is one of the main fears that holds me back from making decisions or taking risks in life. Hopefully we will both find a way to move past that fear! And you're welcome! Glad you've enjoyed the self reflection.

Level 9

That's a really good point! I've seen a trend in the comments about not ignoring or getting rid of fear completely, but simply learning how to manage it or not let it get in your way too much.

Level 9

Thanks so much for this comment! I love that idea of dancing with fear. It is something I will definitely work on putting into practice in my life. I love that quote too. Very helpful, thank you!

Level 9

I completely agree! It's impossible to completely conquer fear, in my experience, so learning to understand it and manage it is the key I think!

Level 9

Ha, I like that! As jeremymayfield​ said, if you have no fear then you have nothing to lose. I agree with you, the more important things in life do not have to include adrenaline pumping or "hair on fire" stuff!

Level 9

I'll definitely have to check it out! Thanks for the rec! And thank you! I know you also conquered this fear so high five to you too

Level 9

That's awesome you also conquered your roller coaster fear! I completely agree, a healthy dose of fear is good, or at least knowing when you should fear something and when you shouldn't.

Level 9

Yes that is how I feel too! I'm always trying to do the right thing, so that fear can sometimes stop me from making decisions at all. I agree, reading these comments has been very therapeutic for me!

Level 9

Yes I can relate to that! That's great you were able to overcome those fears!

Level 9

I can relate to all of that! I'm not the best at initiating conversations, but once I get started or feel comfortable around people, I can talk forever.

I also felt intimidated when it came to comparing myself to others. There have been times when I decided to stop doing something, like being in the choir in college, because comparison got the better of me. I think you should definitely take vocal lessons!

MVP
MVP

Fear is a natural instinct to help keep us alive. This is the good bit about fear, it is mean't to be there to make sure we see the importance of paying attention, to concentrate, to prepare, to take the time to walk the best path.

Sadly, fear brings the shutters down and stop you. Take this instinctive emotion and manage it, control it, so it does not control you.

All great advice and a mantra to live your life by, but sometimes easier said than done. I always tell my children that a big life lesson is 'the best things that will happen in your lives, are the things you thought were too difficult or too scary". Seeing my kids faces after they came on the rides at Disney this year and the sense of achievement they gained was worth the price of entry alone! (well nearly as Disney is freakingly expensive!)

Level 10

The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

Level 20

Pushing through the fear is the best thing.  I went through the same thing at a young age when trying out for a musical theater group performance of Oliver at a very young age.  It really did pretty much scare me to death but after getting through it and being called back and accepted it was the beginning of learning some things that have helped me ever since.