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Fear – a doorway to confidence

It may seem counter intuitive to think of fear as a route to confidence. After all isn’t it fear that undermines our confidence, that holds us back from being all we might be.

I would argue that it is fear avoidance or denial that is the real problem –  you could say the fear of fear itself. We are acutely aware of what might threaten us and naturally seek out sources of comfort and security to ‘secure’ our happiness.  This is understandable as fear is a painful emotion, but it is a mistake to think that  fear is inherently a ‘bad thing’.

A moments reflection will tell us that this is not the case. For example, a fear of heights protects us from falling off high buildings. Viewed from this perspective fear is an essential element of our self preservation system. So we need to work in partnership with fear not ‘conquer it’ as is commonly believed.

The following is a step by step guide to working with fear :

Firstly, welcome the fear as you would a friend. Sit with it, be open and listen to what it has to say to you, even love it ! It has come to you for a reason, and there is some call to action in what it has to say. As with advice from any source you need to decide which part of the advice is useful and which part to discard.

Secondly, allow yourself to feel the fear. You will feel vulnerable but sitting with the feeling is the only way to process it. You need to have a gentle nurturing attitude towards yourself during this phase. Be ok with the feeling of groundlessness that goes with feeling the fear.

Thirdly, beware of any tendency to ‘become’ the fear. You need to stay in control, so consciously maintain distance between yourself and the fear, through awareness that it is only a passing emotion. You need this distance to maintain a sense of perspective.

Fourthly, if you find yourself running away from the fear – STOP. By doing this you are sending a message to yourself that you are powerless in the face of fear, which is not the case, unless of course you choose to believe it to be so. You will be giving in to this passing emotion and giving it more respect than it deserves.

Finally – ACT. Fear is telling you that there is something you need to do, so go and do it. You know deep down what it is. This acting may be something tangible or an ‘act’ of acceptance of some reality you cannot change right now. Once you do this the fear will leave you.

Be aware of the risk of confusing ‘fearlessness’, which I would argue is an awareness of how to process fear, with ‘recklessness’ – a denial of fear/risk and which sooner or later leads to negative outcomes.

It is part of the human condition to experience fear so accept this reality and develop a functional relationship with it. It is only through working with fear that we can become truly confident….and successful. Yes, confidence is about self belief, but an important dimension of this is knowing that we can handle whatever happens, including importantly a capacity to deal with fears of various kinds.

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