Facing Your Fears

Facing fear is a normal part of life. It played an important role to ensure that our ancient ancestors could survive from threats such as invading tribes or hungry predators. However the threats of today are a little bit different to that of our ancient ancestors. Firstly you might be thinking “what exactly is fear”?  Well fear is an emotion that arises in response to threat. Fear arises when we sense danger, whether that is an oncoming car speeding towards us or the panic that sets in before an exam or maybe expressing a long held secret with someone we trust. It’s the charge within us that may make us want to confront the threat, run away from it or shut down altogether. It’s a survival response.

I wonder if you can guess what the number one fear in the world is today?  The most common fear is public speaking. Second is the fear of death. The interesting thing is that the body can’t detect what is truly life threatening or not. The same hormones are released in response to the fear of public speaking as to the fear of swimming in deep water or being chased by an aggressive dog on the street. One common fear that many teens have experienced during the pandemic is the fear of uncertainty. It can be really difficult not knowing what is coming around the corner. Humans like certainty. It helps us set goals, make plans and prepare for things like exams, sporting events or holidays. Yet over the past year we have lived in a time of complete uncertainty which for many of us has been challenging. The good news is that you already have tools to deal with uncertainty that you may not even be aware of.

Think about when you get into a car. You might put your seatbelt on and take out your phone or gaze out the window. You trust that you’ll be okay even though you never know what might happen as driving can be dangerous. The same applies to life right now. When you feel fear about not knowing what is happening around the corner, maybe trust that you will be okay. Life actually is uncertain anyway. You never know for certain what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day, let alone next year.

It’s important to remember that life is full of ups and downs. It’s part of the human experience. And fear has been an important emotion that has helped us survive as a species. So when you feel fear, know that you are not alone. Maybe take some slow deep breaths. And if your thoughts make you feel overwhelmed and anxious, as best you can be kind to yourself in those moments and seek support when needed as we are not always supposed to know how to deal with fear alone. 

Finally, think of some heroes or heroines of yours? Maybe some movie characters like Wonderwoman or Rocky Balboa, or maybe athletes like Katie Taylor or Robbie Henshaw, or perhaps even a brave relative or friend you really admire. Do you think they feel fear when they have to confront challenges, perform optimally and save the day in some way? Well yes they do. The only difference is that they are courageous. Courage means feeling fear but not allowing it to prevent you from taking action. So everytime you feel fear and decide to take action anyway, you are actually becoming a more courageous person and courageous people are the ones who can truly change the world for the better as they take action despite their fears. 

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