Updated: Apr 15, 2019
Hairy spiders, unsupervised dogs, very sharp knives, getting stuck in elevators, turbulence, haunted houses, losing my loved ones.. Just the tip of the iceberg of things that scare me. Some are more rational fears (like being afraid of haunted houses, of course) and some came to my life out of nowhere and decided to stay. Other ones come in and out unannounced. I keep thinking if I can befriend at least some of them and if so, how.
I know some people that look fearless. I used to admire their attitude of going through life without giving a shit. I always wanted to care less, to worry less, to be less afraid, yet I always did care and still do. My head is creating worst-case scenarios at the speed of light, it doesn’t take much effort to scare me (please don’t jump out of the corner unexpectedly, I’m getting too old for that). However, eventually I realised some of those fearless people are actually really fearful, it’s just that their fear (together with their vulnerability) is often hidden down deep and all you can see is a superman's mask on their faces. Sometimes it can work like that, fake it till you make it, look like you’re self-confident and you might start feeling like it. But other times you’re just neglecting your feelings that come as a signal from the body to react, to be there with uncomfortable emotions too.
Before I have to go on stage to perform, compete or even teach a class, people ask me “Are you scared?” And before I can answer, they usually say “You’re probably completely relaxed, you’ve done it so many times”. But I AM scared and I AM nervous and you know what, I would be much more worried if I was completely relaxed. Stressing out before performing comes from caring about what I do, from getting out of my comfort zone, challenging myself, and yes, with time and practice it becomes less scary (you don’t need to run to the bathroom every 5 minutes anymore) but it still makes my heart beat faster.
The real courage is doing the thing that scares you or to be fearless is to fear less. We’re overruled by fear the moment we let it wander in our mind and create scenarios. When you’re standing on a high bridge looking down and your brain creates a scenario of you falling down, when you’re about to speak in public and in your mind you’ve already messed up your speech (and got fired, and everybody laughed and started throwing tomatoes at you, if your mind is feeling creative with bad scenarios), when you want to ask someone out and the next image that you see is him/her saying no, you being rejected, feeling embarrassed and never ever being able to look that person in the eyes again. But more often than not those imaginary scenarios never happen and once we do the thing that seemed so scary, we realise it wasn’t such a big deal.
Few days ago we were having one of those late night kitchen conversations with my housemates that somehow ended up with a discussion about dating culture. We were trying to figure out why is it so hard to ask someone out on a date, why does it feel so scary. The fear of rejection is something that often stops us, yet it shouldn’t, right? Here’s an idea: when you’re asking someone out/telling them you like them/opening about your feelings, what if instead of fearing the reaction or rejection, you see it as a gift that you’re giving to the other person. It feels nice to know that someone likes you or enjoys spending time with you, so when you’re being honest about it, you’re giving that feeling as a present to the other person. And then it’s alright if that other person doesn’t feel the same way. If you’ve given a gift to someone, you don’t necessarily have to receive a gift back (even though of course it would be nice). Like Viggo Mortensen's character in the movie "Green Book" (watch it, if you haven't!) said:
Don’t wait too long, world’s full of lonely people afraid of making the first move.
The best thing about facing your fears and overcoming the worst-case scenarios created in your head is the strength it gives you. Every time right before I have to have a difficult conversation, be extremely vulnerable and honest, I feel like I’m going to die (or at least puke) but once the conversation is over, I feel so much stronger, I feel that if I overcame this, I could survive everything else (maybe not a big hairy spider though..). Maybe instead of fighting our fears we can try to befriend them, accept that they are there, that they will follow us like well-trained dogs, but sometimes we will be able to go for a walk without them.