Fear: a feeling of uneasiness or apprehension that carries with it an intense emotional response to a threat either real or imagined. It is a painful emotion linked to the anticipation of impending doom, danger or dread.
Have you ever done something you didn’t really want to do simply because it scared you? How did you feel afterward? Did it end up being a positive experience or did it confirm your initial fears?
This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of holding a 90-minute seminar about blogging at 2010 MagNet, an annual conference held by the illustrious trade association, Magazine’s Canada. It was my first public speaking engagement and I was not only uncomfortable – I was scared!
When we experience fear, real or imagined, our brain activates the fight or flight response in our body. We call this stress and while many believe all stress is created equally – it’s not. Just as our body needs a relative amount of stress in order to grow stronger (exercise), so does our mind, heart and soul.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He was right. Stress is not our enemy – we are.
Health, Stress & Overcoming Fears
One of the main causes of (some would argue it’s the #1 reason for) health deterioration is prolonged psychological stress. From Wikipedia:
Prolonged psychological stress may negatively impact health, and has been cited as a factor in cognitive impairment with aging, depressive illness, and expression of disease. Stress management is the application of methods to either reduce stress or increase tolerance to stress. Relaxation techniques are physical methods used to relieve stress. Psychological methods include cognitive therapy, meditation, and positive thinking which work by reducing response to stress. Improving relevant skills and abilities builds confidence, which also reduces the stress reaction to situations where those skills are applicable.
Reducing uncertainty, by increasing knowledge and experience related to stress-causing situations, has the same effect. Learning to cope with problems better, such as improving problem solving and time management skills, may also reduce stressful reaction to problems. Repeatedly facing an object of one’s fears may also desensitize the fight-or-flight response with respect to that stimulus—e.g., facing bullies may reduce fear of bullies.
When we allow fear (and stress) to overwhelm us, that’s when we lose. Even Wikipedia says we have the power to control our emotions as well as our physical responses to those emotions! 🙂
Fears are Different Realities
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” Jim Morrison
When Magazine’s Canada requested my participation at their conference, I was extremely honoured but my first thought was, “No, thank you.” I had never considered holding seminars before and wondered why I would do such a thing when it wasn’t a goal of mine.
A few friends were kind enough to ask that I pause before making a decision and reflect on my reasoning. They offered several possible, positive outcomes of accepting the proposal.
After some soul searching, I had to admit my gut reaction had more to do with the fear of public speaking (and an entire set of imagined, negative outcomes) as well as my lack of self-confidence (negative beliefs about my self and abilities) than with my original train of thought.
I realized my unfounded fears and beliefs were just stories I made up in my head. They were realities that I had created and instead of buying into them, I chose to create new ones.
In the article, “How Fear Inhibits Self-Expression and Personal Growth,” Saleem Rana says:
In very rare times, in an emergency, fear may help us to act to save ourselves or someone else, but for the most part, it ruins all initiative, growth, and spontaneous right action…
Yet when you examine the cause of any fear, it is usually nothing more than a highly-charged negative opinion.
Unfortunately, it is in those areas that we must grow that we feel the most fear. In fact, beyond the boundary of your fear is your next greatest opportunity.
I knew I had to speak at the conference for my own good. The new realities I created were: I had something valuable which I could share with others, and I could do it (and anything) with a little thought, education and preparation.
Overcoming our irrational fears challenges us on so many different levels, and doing so can be the ultimate action to take towards personal development.
Personal Development & Health
To tie this article together, I’d like to reference a brilliant article written by Max More about how technology is expanding the human potential and improving one’s life in every area. He wrote it in 1993 and it’s especially relevant in this discussion (and considering my seminar was on blogging).
Here’s the opening to entice you to read it in its entirety for yourself:
Self-transformation is a process that increases personal extropy. Extropy is a measure of a system’s intelligence, information content, available energy, longevity, vitality, diversity, complexity, and capacity for growth. Clearly, I intend “self-transformation” to necessarily imply “positive self-transformation.” The changes that I will discuss, rather than being value-neutral, all in some way amplify the extropy in your life and person: They make you more intelligent and wiser, physically healthier and more vigorous, increasingly psychologically effective, more creative, rational, and productive, and more effective at gathering and filtering information.
A Special Shout-Out
I’d like to thank my Motivational Superhero, Emmanuel Lopez, for helping me prepare for my seminar both mentally and with the physical presentation materials. He also lent his talents in videography so that I could analyze my performance and use the video for marketing purposes. This was a small contribution compared with the immense emotional support he provided throughout the preparation phase, during the seminar and even afterward!
I’d also like to thank all of my other friends, family and clients who offered their emotional support and wise presenting advice, too.
Thank you to all who attended: friends, colleagues and strangers alike. I’m especially grateful to those who graciously offered their honest feedback. You helped enhance the experience and reinforce positive feelings about my very first public appearance! I’m also anxious to apply your constructive criticism in order to improve future seminars.
And finally, thank you to Magazine’s Canada for giving me the opportunity to overcome my fears and helping me realize a previously unexplored talent!
Do you have any personal stories about overcoming fears? I’d love to hear them. Email me (stephanie [at] livelighter [dot] com) or share them with Live Lighter Readers in comments below.