FACING MY FEARS
HOW SELF-LOVE HELPED ME CONQUER FEAR
I learnt that courage was not the absence of fear; but the triumph over it.
The brave man is not he who does not feel fear, but he who conquers that fear.
I was asked by a friend awhile back to share my experiences around facing my fears on his forum. Opening myself up and being vulnerable on a public forum is in itself a very fearful task, but I realised that my experience may be of value to someone else, so I stepped out of my comfort zone to share a little bit of my story. This is what I shared.
We all have fears; even when we conquer them, new ones come to the surface. I don’t think we ever really overcome fear; I think we learn to acknowledge and work with it so that it doesn’t paralyse our life.
I lived in paralysis for a long time – in a bubble that seemed perfect on the outside to the rest of the world; a bubble that allowed me to live comfortably with my paralysis in the belief that I was living a life although it was merely an existence; a bubble that provided a false sense of safety… and then one day my bubble burst.
We all live in bubbles at some point in our lives; and eventually our bubbles always rupture, because that’s what bubbles do. My burst bubble was the ending of my 15 year marriage. I got married very young – and spent almost my entire adult life with one person. In the brief time between school and marriage there was not enough time for me to experience independence. I never had a real opportunity to test my ability to stand on my own two feet. I was too young to truly understand myself. At an age when others were figuring out their identity I was merging my identity with another person’s and neither of us ever really figured out who we each were as individuals.
In the months that followed my divorce I was forced to face a multitude of fears. I knew that to survive this devastation I would need to rise above my fears. I was riddled with insecurity; and I wasn’t even sure whether I even loved myself. I knew though, that learning to love myself was the key to overcoming this grief. I didn’t realise it at the time, but learning to love myself was also the key to courage. When you love yourself, you are prepared to fight for yourself; you are prepared to risk for yourself; and through that you find courage to face fears and obstacles that you might not otherwise have faced. And then the positive cycle begins; because with every fear faced you admire and respect yourself a little more, which means you love yourself more; which means you have more courage to face more fears.
So how did I learn to love myself? I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by the most incredible resources most of my professional life – being an HR Practitioner meant that I was exposed to quality coaching and really good personal development resources. This obviously helped me become a better professional in my chosen career but it also prepared me to deal with my burst bubble. I played over and over in my head conversations that I had had with other people who were suffering. I knew exactly what the advice was that I would give to someone else in my position. Would I have the courage to take that advice myself? I had no choice. I knew I couldn’t let this event define the rest of my life. You always have two choices: you can be bitter or you can be better – I chose the latter.
Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it…
that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.
I implemented three simple strategies:
- To practice daily the formula for happiness: Exercise, meditation, 3 gratitudes, journaling and random acts of kindness. I had been exposed to two important resources that taught me the simple formula for happiness – the Art of Living Foundation’s Happiness Course and a beautiful TED Talk by Shawn Achor – and the formula REALLY works!
- To change my self-talk. I became aware that I would never speak to another person the way that I spoke to myself every day. If it wasn’t acceptable to speak to another person that way, then why did I accept that negative, critical way of speaking to myself. I mindfully watched my words and forced myself to say honest, positive things about myself every day. In time my mind-set changed; and I started seeing myself in a different light.
- I decided not to refuse any invitations. I realised that I was becoming anti-social because I didn’t see myself as worthy to be around others. I knew I had to break the cycle. So I wasn’t allowed to say “no” to any invitation unless it directly conflicted with another appointment in my diary. A few days after making that promise, one of my closest friends invited me to go zip-lining. I have a tremendous fear of heights and under other circumstances I would have come up with a plausible excuse for not attending; but I wasn’t allowed to refuse an invitation. On 29 December 2014, I went zip-lining. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done but at the same time one of the most exhilarating. It set the tone for 2015, which became the year of facing my fears; and I faced many.
The fear we don’t face becomes our limits.
I learned that our life is made of extremes and you cannot fully engage one extent if you don’t accept its opposite. There is no joy without sadness; no laughter without anger; and likewise there is no exhilaration without fear. Every time I have faced a fear there has been some degree of ecstasy attached to overcoming the fear. I can honestly say that since that zip-lining day I have had the most incredible 16 months. It has not been easy, but I have grown into someone I truly love and admire; and brave enough to face the next challenge – whatever it may be.
Life is serendipitous. I was faced with a significant fear a few weeks ago. I found myself all alone and was unsure of whether I had it in me to tackle the huge adventure that is AfrikaBurn on my own. Had I not risen to the challenge I would probably not have met three incredible people who impacted me on a life-changing level. Had I not met them I would not be sharing my story with you now.
Overcoming my fears has helped me establish my independence; acknowledge my strength; and find my true self.
What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
VINCENT VAN GOGH
It’s easier said than done
I was exceptionally fortunate to be in a position of being surrounded by great support when I went through this life-changing journey. Perhaps had I not had that support, things may have turned out differently; and today, I could be bitter, negative, sad and living a life of little meaning. It’s my mission to share what I have learned the hard way, so that you too can find the meaning, fulfillment and joy you deserve.
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A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
CONDITIONED FOR HAPPINESS
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What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear from you. What has your experience been with this topic? Do you have some tips or strategies in addition to the one’s mentioned above? Maybe you have a burning question? Perhaps you have the solution to someone else’s question.
The best growth and learning comes from engagement and sharing, please comment below and share your thoughts, questions and personal experiences.
Well done Alex. It is an inspiration to all!