The quality of life is more dependent on our perspective of life than our circumstance. Inevitably we become whatever we think we are.
As everyday turns to weeks and weeks to years, we see, feel or hear things whether it is from our mentors, a stranger on the street, a person we knew only for a few weeks, a former lover and even from a foe. An action touches us and sometimes that action is so powerful that we carry it on with us till the very day we die. Sometimes the experiences are good and sometimes terrible but it is often the terrible ones that can either make or break us.
Hopefully some-one will learn from this but I must remind you that this is not designed to tell you what to do or how to live your life (eventually you will have to make that decision yourself and live with the consequences). It is designed to show you various options to any given situation by focusing on why we interpret things the way we do
Behavioural psychologists have long debated on whether the first emotion a baby feels is shock or fear. This is because of what is termed the Startle Reflex (is the response of mind and body to a sudden unexpected stimulus, such as a flash of light, a loud noise (acoustic startle reflex), or a quick movement near the face). Many researchers believe that it is the later (fear). So take solace in knowing that even if it doesn’t feel macho to be afraid sometimes, realize that you were born this way (afraid).
There are many sources of fear, some are unreasonable (to everyone else but the person experiencing them) others are considered unhealthy such as Phobias (Please note that just cause you are afraid of something doesn’t mean it can be classified as a phobia). But whatever the source – a sense of the unknown, the future, physical danger, spiritual warfare, financial crises or reputation issues – FEAR IS REAL AND MUST BE FACED HONESTLY.
By now you might have noticed that in most human beings when faced with danger/ challenges that demand a unilateral answer the two foundational responses that appear to be hard wired into our psyche are flight or fight. So are you a fight or flight person becomes the next fundamental question?
Our fears more often than not can make us or break us. In an ideal world they should be treated as a stepping stone and taken one step at a time, even if the steps are baby steps. But we all know we don’t live in an ideal world. It is simply easier to let fear consume us than to fight through fear.
In my experience the best way to overcome a fear is not through dwelling on the fear but by focusing positively on resources we have to overcome it. In my case it was rejection. I was afraid that there was something about me that people might never identify with. Something I needed to prove and show that I was good enough. I wanted to connect with the world in a deeper way but was more afraid of rejection to even try.
You see before I had gotten my first proper job after my first masters degree I had sent over two thousand applications, this was no exaggeration as the true amount is probably closer to three thousand. I had been selected and gotten to the last stage with several graduate placements and in one case I actually got to the last three out of over three thousand applications they said they received and still never got picked. I was in a world where I was good enough to go through different stages for the job application but never seen as good enough for the actual job. Eventually after several years it took me a while to realise that what was truly missing was a sense of worthiness. A sense of direction became no existent, a sense of belonging a fairy tale and a sense of true ownership had no place in my being. I was no longer courageous I had been rejected so many times I felt I did not deserve it. I stopped applying for jobs and no longer cared. I tried to start my own business but needless to say the same fear of rejection came across. This was part of my “journey to self confidence” but at the time I did not know this.
I had made certain what ultimately was not and that is why it hurt. I had believed that I was a perfect gift with no blemishes just waiting to show the world that I was the best thing since sliced bread. I had told myself I would get the job during every interview because I had read so many books about “what you believe you will achieve”. That I never realised that there was second side to the coin which one must also learn and this was the art of rejection or failure.
What was truly missing was not courage in the way we understand it today but courage in its original meaning (i.e from the latin word cor meaning heart). You see I wanted the world to see me for who I thought I was that I had forgotten to make sure I saw myself for who I thought I was. I had missed the most important foundational principle for motivation. This was courage to believe in yourself, courage to accept your own imperfection.
In order for others to believe in you or accept you, you must first of all accept yourself. This will bring about real, genuine and lasting connection with others. You see after all this while I forgot to truly embrace myself. Embracing your strengths is easy but accepting your weaknesses takes real courage. This is what makes you unique and you.
In life nothing is ever really guaranteed but having courage through your fear or vulnerable side helps you to face this uncertainty. It helps you date and interact with the people when searching for a partner even though there is no guarantee the person you meet is the perfect one for you. It helps you to seek a goal you though eluded you even though you might never live to see the extent of your own success. I am speaking about something deeper than just motivation for a project.
Fear either of shame, failure or rejection is not a bad thing. Your ability your ability to deal with it is what will ultimately make you succeed.
You see fear is not just the foundation of rejection it is also the foundation of love, belonging, ownership and true inner strength. If you are afraid to love, you might never find love even when it is standing right in front of you. If you are afraid of rejection by people you will never find connection. I am not talking about numbing fear or pretending like it doesn’t exist. As I believe that emotions exist on a continuum. (i.e removing one removes the other). If you remove the ability to feel an emotion as strong as hate then deep love is ultimately eliminated. I am talking about feeling it and accepting it. I am talking about getting to a point where you realise that you are more than enough to achieve what you want if you chose to learn from mistakes, battle through fears and accept that nothing in life is truly guaranteed, all you can do is always give it your best. What quells the motivation most people receive after reading a book is fear that they might not succeed. What should keep you going is understanding that just because you did not succeed immediately does not mean you will not be a success.
Please remember I can only tell you the truth, you will ultimately have to decide what to do with it. My real turning point in life started the day I decided to let myself be myself. To be seen, heard and hopefully understood regardless of what may come. I dropped so much emotional baggage that day and haven’t looked back.
This did not mean I no longer faced disappointments but I had found a new way to accept disappointment.
When we face disappointment and adversity how we handle them is more important than the disappointment themselves. There is an old Japanese proverb that says “Fall Seven times, Stand up eight times”. This proverb emphasizes getting up more times than we fall. Life will always have trials, it will always contain problems. You will be hurt more than once and disappointed more times than you care to count. This is almost a guarantee because life simply is unpredictable.
However, our survival tomorrow is largely dependent on how we solve our problems today. If you believe you can achieve it, you will most likely try to find a way to achieve it (This is no way means that believing is all that it takes to achieve, it is just a part of the process).
I have learnt that the result of letting a fear consume you is too painful to explain and the feeling when released from that fear is too amazing to be ignored. Life will always throw challenges our way and as we grow older our fears change and anxieties morph but when we decide to face the fear at any given time we can be empowered and very often we discover depths in our ability to persevere and develop patience that we did not know we were capable of.
Do not grow weary when you get afraid for every fear you manage to overcome can only prove to you just how much you have to offer this world. Please note that when I speak of fear I am not making reference to just things we can hold but sometimes to intangible things such as a false belief system based on anxieties. A good example would be a lady that never goes out for dates because according to her all men are losers when the truth might be that she has a deep fear of rejection.
One thing one must put to mind is that “Courage is not the absence of fear but the realisation that something else is more important than being afraid.
You see fear ultimately can cripple you. Fear ultimately has two mantras
a) You cannot do it because of ……..?
Then just when you manage to get through it all then comes the second part
b) Who are you and why do you deserve it?
The two answers are simple.
Answer to A: Despite my fear of …… I can still make it. My fear reminds me that I am human.
Answer to B: No-one deserves success as it is not a gift but I am worthy of it because I believe in myself and what I am doing.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”- Lao Tzu
I have a very good friend who has an almost irrational fear of germs and this affected every area and every aspect of her life. She cannot enjoy outings like most people and even though she always tried to ignore her fear it seemed to take so much from her and she never really felt any sense of relief till she got home and took a shower.
It wasn’t just about her outward appearance but it affected every part of her and every time I watched her do what with any additional intensity could easily be called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and often wonder how much more at peace she would have been if she faced her fears rationally. The fact is the human body can deal with more germs than she cared to admit.
This does not mean that I think she was irrational. Her situation was neither good nor bad, it was what it was. I just observed as it seemed to completely possess her to the point when she was constantly on the lookout and often distracted because of this. This example is only used to put additional emphasis on the fact that fear is sometimes more than just external and can have internal and extended implications.
Dealing with fear is like greasing the machine of motivation. Embracing fear allows you to finally be in a position to take action.
A belief is not just an idea the mind possesses but an idea that possesses the mind– Robert Oxford.