Being fearless in 2020

It is easy to recognize the look of fear when you’ve felt it yourself. I’d almost go and say you can often feel the fear off people. In 2019 I had many conversations with people about going beyond our fears and try to at least not to be limited by them.

For the most part, of course, they were just conversations or words. Understanding how fear can be so crippling means that sometimes words mean very little. However, I also got to watch some of those people step out and tackle their fears. Little gives me as much satisfaction, as to watch people grow. I fundamentally believe when we tackle our fears and overcome them we grow. I once read that people are happiest when they are growing.

As a father I want nothing more than to see my children grow (learning), so overcoming their fears will be part of that journey.

So what is fear and why does it hold us back?

Fear is an innate response designed to protect us “flight or fight”. When our primordial ancestors were hunter-gathers this response of fear, allowed the necessary evasion techniques to kick in. “Run like hell from the lion”, the body shutting down, directing resources to functions that support the primary objective of getting to safety.

A part of our brain called the amygdala or primitive reptilian brain controls this primitive emotion. While it was essential to survival as a species, we have gone beyond its need for the most part in modern life. Of course, this basic instinct is still important, for the evasion of obvious danger. I’m not advocating recklessness, we still need to be aware of the danger.

The famous quote by Franklin D Roosevelt really sums it up

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”

It is fear, the emotion itself that can be most limiting. In its most severe, repeated episodes of fear become anxiety. This is where people are so petrified of something they worry about it before something even happens. This memory or the conjured illusion of that fear, often means we can replay them in our mind at times almost making them real.

For one person I know it was the very thought of standing up in public to talk, elicited this overwhelming anxiety. I watched in 2019 as they overcame it by just standing up and doing it.

So fear in a modern world

My opinion is fear is now something that often just inhibits us from achieving our full potential. For many our biggest fear has become “what will they think of me”. Its social fears often are the ones most of us grapple with. In a modern world of social media, it surely is no wonder. An often empty echo chamber of criticisms and comparisons. While it can be a wonderful place to share knowledge and connect we should never let it be the place that defines us.

We also should be careful we don’t create false illusions of who we really are on it because the fear of being found out is always there? Actually honesty is a great way of tackling our fears if your truly honest with yourself then there is often little to be fearful of.

Even politics seems to be driven by fears or stoking up the fears of people. Throughout history, some of our darkest days have been driven by leaders who used fear as weapon. Scarily some of our modern politicians are using it. Great leaders shouldn’t use fear but instead should instill hope. This is not easy, as it is easier to sell fear than it is to inspire with hope.

Take a deep breath

Remember simple deep breathing techniques can be used to create calm. Our breathing is linked to that physiological response of fear. Deep breathing can relax the body and bring us back into the present moment and clarity. For those more adventurous among you, then meditation is a great way of bringing this practice into your daily routine.

Being fearless

So in 2020, my advice to people is to step out beyond your fears and achieve your full potential. Personally I’ve grappled with fears “Of what will they think”. Those experiences emboldened me to try harder and believe in myself! This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be amenable to constructive criticism along the way.

Stepping up and out means there will be failures and times where maybe things could have gone better. These experiences are sometimes framed as mistakes, but it’s only a mistake if you repeat that action more than once! They are learning experiences where you stare fear in the eyes and do it anyway. Then reflect how you can do it better “that’s growth baby”.

We all have dreams and aspirations some small and some great. Overcoming your fears and tackling the small ones, may even help in time for you to take on the big ones.

My experience is for many we first must tackle “what will they think of me” or “I’m not good enough”. The reality is most people don’t really care and if they do at all it is for the very short term. Most people only care if it affects them or if it makes them doubt themselves. The negative reactions are not about how people feel about you but more often how they feel about themselves.

So take that risk, take on that challenge. Yes, you need a plan and know why you’re doing anything. But sometimes you have to feel the fear and do it anyway. Remember people don’t really care so neither should you.

Baby steps even if you take on one fear and overcome it this year. I don’t know what your fears are, but remember most likely the one person who put them there is yourself.

A happy new year and here is to being fearless this year.


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