When it was time to publish this post, I hesitated. I was not sure if I wanted to write this topic, I was worried that maybe it wasn’t the best of topics, then it dawned on me that I needed to pay more attention to my own sermon.
So, here I go.
Fear is a universal feeling, an old one.
Fear is how we deal with uncertainties; it is our way of coping with the things that haunt us. It gets us prepared. It is how we keep away from danger.
I could go on and on about fear but I am writing differently about it.
I speak about the fear we face as a daily business of life. The one in our throat before we speak in meetings, when we are asked questions, the one that keeps us from starting something new, the one that defines us so strongly that there are plenty sermons on how we should handle it.
I am used to associating fear with negativism—with good reason of course, because the fast heart rates, shallow breathes, and unsettling emotions are not the most rainbowy elements.
The more I get scared, the more I think I should not be. I usually think that when I feel fear, then I’m doing something wrong.
From childhood to adulthood, I have been ambushed by lectures that say we should fight fear. We are taught to oppose it with all we can.
“don’t be afraid”
So, I thought, that to great stuff, I must be unafraid.
Is this true though?
Why is it such a terrible thing to be fearful? Do you think that we must come to a point of total absence of fear to be scored good?
I do not think so.
I probably understood very late that you can be afraid and still do the things that scare you— that fear was not a sign to stop or doubt (there are exceptions of course)
Now I think of it, maybe the lessons I heard were not worded properly for years.
The times I heard of fear, it was always a message of fierceness and absolute courage (courage here being the lack of apprehension)
Hardly was it preached that it was fine to feel fear, that those butterflies in your stomach were natural, that your short breathes were okay, that your doubts were healthy reactions, and these things are only reminders that you are human and not a reason to stop.
“Do it afraid” is such a beautiful instruction because, we are almost always afraid, and it is fine.
The problem is that we think we should not be.
I’d to borrow some of the words of Erika James here.
Erika H. James is the first woman and the first person of color to be the Wharton School’s dean since the institution was founded in 1881.
In her conversation with McKinsey partner Monne Williams, James talks about the nuances of mentorship, the gains and setbacks she sees in the pursuit of diversity, and how confidence builds a record of success.
She says “My husband has pointed out a pattern in my life: he refers to me as an insecure risk-taker. That may seem like an oxymoron, but I often lack the confidence that whatever I’m about to pursue is actually going to work out. At the same time, I’ve never let that lack of confidence impede my willingness to try.”
Fear. The lack of confidence. Doubt. These are not terrible things. They should exist. There are not in themselves signs that we shouldn’t try. If anything, if we feel fear, then we should do it.
We get nervous for interviews because we want to create a good impression. We are scared to walk up to a stranger because we fear rejection. We fear speaking in public because we don’t want to mess up.
We fear tests because no one likes the taste of failure even if we have listened to a thousand and one motivational speeches that say we should embrace it.
Fear is okay but it should never get into the way of living life—this is most important lesson for us.
Imagine not taking up an opportunity because you feel fear, or never speaking in meetings because of the knot in your stomach. You will not take many worthy decisions with such a pattern.
Stop waiting for a time when you feel no fear before you take an action.
You are not unprepared because you feel fear; it is an okay feeling
Go for it.