If you want to let go of fear, focus on the present.
The only moment that matters is now. The past holds us back, meanwhile the future makes us lazy. We delay ourselves, without holding a guarantee of what will come the next day. Besides right now, what do we actually have? Not much, but the present is constantly enough. Enough to improve your craft, to start that project you have thought of, to resume your education, to change the world, to fail, try again, fail better, move on and succeed. Now, is always enough. Bearing this in mind, I have come to understand two things:
- There is never, and will never be a ‘right time’
- Time is not on our side
I have also learnt that when facing these situations, I could always be the catalyst of change. When the past offers no comfort, and the future little hope, making a decision and sticking to it eventually results in success. Waiting on previous situations to get better in order to start something, rarely works because time is never on our side. However, one’s own determination is. There is no secret, but you have to be willing to let go of fear altogether.
Fear means nothing outside of your mind; it does not exist unless you let it. Its existence is perpetuated by our constant nostalgia of the past, worship of the future and complete disregard of the present. Fear is the discouraging and doubtful voice inside our head that says “don’t do it, you will make a mockery of yourself” which resonates in the back of our mind whenever we want to take a risk, or try something new. If we listen to it and act upon its advice, we are actively creating and feeding fear. The more we listen to it, the louder and clearer this voice becomes and the more we miss out on life. I repeat: FEAR is a product of our mind, it does not exist, unless we want it to.
Fear is bad, fear is not a valued trait. Hence, who would want to keep fear alive?
Surprisingly enough, there is a sense of attachment to fear that we can develop over time, similar to an addiction. If fear has been part of our routine for a long time, a trusted companion of years, how easy is it to let go of it? As we include fear in our daily habits, speech patterns (i.e, “I am scared” “I can’t do this because … what if..”), it increasingly defines us. We tend to identify to our fears, our problems, our issues, our doubts to the point that they become a part of us. In the worst case, they become us. However, that’s a trick of the mind: we are not our fears, our doubts or problems.
Past the theoretical stuff, how do you defeat your own mind? You can’t talk yourself out of fear, you have to face it by doing the very thing that scares you, repeatedly. Here is an example: everyday, do one thing that scares you. If what you have in mind is ‘wayyyyy too’ scary, start at the level below.
Last month I had to pitch a project in front of a panel of professionals, and thought multiple times of giving up because I was scared of facing a bunch of strangers, look them in the eyes and them judge me (although it was literally their job to do so). To get over this fear, I tried a little game: smile at strangers in the street or in public transportation. The aim of this exercise was to get myself used to the glares and judgements of strangers, and regardless, carry on doing my thing, with confidence.
Some people did not smile back, some gave me frankly irritated looks while others moved a couple of seats away (no hard feeling). But most actually smiled back, and this even sparked conversation with 2 people. That morning, by the time I got to school and was about to start my presentation, I had already confidently stared in the eyes of over 30 strangers, and probably been judged as crazy by a dozen more. After that, delivering a 10mn pitch in front of 5 people was a piece of cake. And guess what? I actually enjoyed it. With the apprehension and fear gone, I was able to focus on articulating my ideas pertinently, which would not have been possible prior to this little exercise.
Starting this blog, opening myself to public criticism and “living in my truth” is something else which still scares me as I am writing this, and I know it is the same for many of us. But start today by smiling at strangers in the metro (or maybe not, find what works for you). Just do it (Nike really hit on the nail, seriously). I am daring you to do what really scares you. If you are waiting for the right time, it is now. Let’s not delay our greatness anymore out of hope that with time, fear will be no more. The past is holding us back, meanwhile the future is making us lazy.
The right moment is now. So, which fear are you going to tackle first?