Embracing Fear and Discomfort
January 2, 2020
2nd May 2018- Time approx 2.00 pm. Being a fast pass holder made no difference. The queue was moving very slowly. The moment I was dreading for the last 24 hours was slowly creeping in on me. My shirt was dripping with sweat. Less because of the body heat of all the people around me and more because I was hyperventilating. It appeared like time was moving very slowly just to intensify the sense of panic and fear that was gripping me.
A hasty bet I had with my son 3 months prior brought me to this pass.
Since childhood, I have had a morbid fear of heights. I would suffer a debilitating panic attack anytime I would stare down from a height. All my life, I have stayed away heights. During a heated conversation, I was having with my younger son about how he should do stuff fearlessly, he challenged my hypocrisy.
“You are very good at telling others what they should do, but what about you. I know you are frightened of heights. Let me see you dealing with your fear . I challenge you to do the Cyclone Inverted Roller Coaster ride when we go to Universal Studios”
Here I was. The moment was upon me. Despite the extreme fear and the physical unease, I was not going to back out. My fear thus far had held me back from experiencing something that was exhilarating for others. I was on the threshold of freeing myself from the shackle of my own fear. I decided at that moment that I will not shut myself and instead keep my eyes wide open and experience every moment of the ride.
The machine thrust forward picking pace and we were airborne hanging upside and going through gyrations and I felt like a bird taking flight for the first time. Sure there was massive discomfort but the fear was replaced by something else- Bliss. Strange as it may sound, just to convince myself that I had kicked the fear, I went on the cyclone ride half a dozen more times !!
This experience for me was a metaphor for all the fears I was suffering from.
I realised that day that fear or anxiety is the imagination in the present moment of something going wrong in the future. This was holding me back. By embracing the fear and taking action, I experienced bliss in a very physical way. The bigger the fear, the bigger is the sense of achievement or exhilaration when we overcome it.
Fear exists to keep us safe. In the olden days when there were saber tooth tigers hunting humans, this fear was important to keep us alive. There are no real tigers around us today and we are not in a real jungle existence. We are however in a digital information jungle and the imaginary tigers are our emotions and our ego creating the specter of threat at the smallest of triggers !!.
“the client may think I am pushy if I ask for the order”- ask for the order anyway and see what happens.
“I am not comfortable having this difficult chat with my son/daughter/parent”- have the chat anyways and see what happens.
“I will look foolish if I ask a question at the townhall”- Ask anyway and see what happens.
“My boss may think I am not on top of my job if I admit to a mistake”- admit to the mistake if have made it and see what happens
“I sent the WhatsApp message 4 hours back, its been seen but no response yet- Am I being ignored?”- Pick up the phone and speak to the person and see what happens.
“Wow, my friend writes so well . He is a natural. I can never write like him “- Write something yourself if it is important for you and see what happens.
“He/she is not my type. I don’t like engaging the person”- Embrace your discomfort and engage the person either ways and see what happens.
“If I show the real cost, they will reduce my budget. Let me sandbag and not show the real numbers”- show the real picture and see what happens
“I have so many years of experience- who is he/she to tell me what I have to do”- Subdue your ego, listen to what the person is saying and see what happens
These fears are not overt. They play in our subconscious masquerading as feelings, lowering our confidence and eroding our self esteem. Feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger, stress, frustration etc which in turn shape our behavior. We are not authentic. We hold back. We are diffident. We are circumspect. We rationalize. We give excuses. We complain. We blame circumstances. We don’t show our best self to the world outside.
Today, I use these feelings as triggers to actually do the very thing my fear wants me avoid. It has become a game where I look for the physical feeling of discomfort , isolate what is behind this feeling, and commit to some action. Its not that the outcome is always good and as what I expect it to be. It does not matter. If some thing good happens, great. If something not so great happens, good. I have learnt from it and know how to deal with it the next time.
People say overcoming fear is a sign of courage. I think that is not accurate. One can never overcome or conquer fear. All of us will have something we are fearful or uncomfortable about . What I am trying to do is to come to terms with this fear by accepting it, embracing it, playing with it. I am still alive and telling the story- So it will be for everyone else. You just have to accept the fear and DO something !!