“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.” – Charles Stanley
No matter what you go through in your life, fear is a natural inclination that we all have. I hate the idea of being seen as a failure by my friends and family – that fear sometimes holds me back from taking the risks that I have the capacity to make. Fear isn’t always the worst thing on the planet; it keeps us in check and prevents us from making idiotically impulsive or risky behavior. But at the same time, we shouldn’t let risks hold us back from achieving our goals. Even when it’s scary, we have the ability to persevere, even when we don’t realize it.
Standing in Front of My Worst Nightmare
My experiences with Spanish, as a second language, were nothing short of a complete nightmare. For as much as I felt intelligent and capable, Spanish courses seemed to hold me back. I was only able to squeak by exams and even then I felt nearly helpless. For whatever reason, a second language did not click as easily as other subjects did for me. When I took intermediate Spanish (a required course), my fear hit the ceiling; there was an oral interview with my professor at the end of the semester.
That oral interview left me with two choices: I could bury my head in the sand like an ostrich or I could get past my nervous attitude and give it my best shot. In my mind, I decided that I only had two choices: watch the people around me succeed while I wallowed in my misery, or take the dive and do my best to succeed. While I chose the latter (and that may seem obvious), that was one of the most difficult endeavors in my life. The day of my oral exam, I was covered in sweat. I drudged my feet through into the office of my professor. .. but I ended up succeeding. I forced myself to work as hard as I could through the process. I studied as hard as I could. I concentrated as hard as I could. And I succeeded in the face of all my personal doubt.
Fear is a Complicated Beast
I think that fear is unique in that it is a completely perceptual experience. Your fear seems like a small bump in the road, but when I look at that same fear I see a hopeless, uphill battle. Spanish was easy to a lot of my classmates. To me it was a completely endless nightmare. That gigantic gap in experience creates a sense of helplessness. I would ask my classmates if they wanted to study, but they’d just raise their eyebrows like I was dumb. I felt completely on my own. From that whole experience I was able to conclude that fear is an experience unique to ourselves.
The problem we toy with is that fear is ultimately an obstacle to success. No matter what the context, our fears inevitably get in the way. Relationships? Fears slow us down. Jobs? Fears hold us back. School? Fears trick us into failure. Taking risks is a natural step towards success. We can stay in our safety bubble all we like, but until we gather the courage to push ourselves out of it, we aren’t going to feel or see the progress that we really want.
The Doorway to Courage
Fear has a roundabout effect, at least in my life. In the oral presentation I was forced to give in my Spanish course, the added sense of urgency forced me to practice to a degree well beyond what I would typically engage in another class. The endgame of this scenario was that I had prepared myself for the multitude of questions she asked me during the presentation. Because of my fear, I was able to concentrate my studies and willpower enough that I became a literal conduit of the Spanish language. I used my fear as motivation. Even though I wholeheartedly expected to fail, my effort yielded decent results. I ended up finishing the course with a B+ overall, which is a grade I was impressed with.
However, I think those fears could have gotten me an A had I handled them better. If I had looked upon my own doubts as an opportunity to grow, perhaps I could have prevented fears from inhibiting me. In the years since, I’ve made it a rule to avoid allowing fears to completely own me. Fear has a time and a place; when we’re under pressure, we should allow our doubts to be a conduit towards our own success. However, we should never allow our fears to pull us down.
Facing our fears is difficult, but ultimately productive. Consider the following questions:
· Why do our fears inhibit our goals and achievements?
· How can we use our fears to encourage us to reach our goals?
· Are our fears legitimately warranted or are we exaggerating them?
· Do we have what it takes to succeed?
For every fear, there is an answer. Though we may not see it, such as in the case of my college course, we have the ability to make it through. Pressure can yield interesting results. So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by fear, allow yourself to process it as naturally as you can. You might be shocked by your own willpower to thrive and succeed.