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Revealing your inner strength
By SANDY CLARKE
“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Through the years, I have been told many times that the only way to grow in strength is to confront whatever fears that may be present.
What is fear?
Fear: an emotion that seems almost as powerful as love.
I’m sure we can all think of many examples of times when we, or even people we know, have missed out on some wonderful opportunity simply because we allowed ourselves to be held back by one or two limiting beliefs.
Our instincts (we believe) usually seek to serve us with our best interests at heart. We often talk about trusting our “gut reaction”, and while there may be some benefit in adopting this approach, it depends on the circumstance.
It’s more often the case, however, that we give way to fear far too easily, afraid of whatever bad thing that might happen should we proceed with a particular course of risky action.
Fear has its uses. It’s quite handy to have if one is ever faced with, say, a hungry tiger or a venomous snake. The heightened sense of alertness is of great benefit in these situations.
But, thankfully, we don’t often experience those kinds of encounters that people in far-off places may face with fair regularity.
Nowadays, fear is an often irrational condition that leads us to naturally incline towards the negative, as we weigh up our choices.
Take a moment – I’m sure you can think of a few examples. One that immediately popped into my head is of a friend who had his heart set for years on travelling around the world.
Every time I asked if he had any concrete plans, he would reply with something like, “I’m not sure if it’s the right time: I have my job to think of, and once I’m out there, so many things could go wrong.”
Very true – but so many things could also go right. Wonderful experiences, chance encounters and magical moments could be awaiting anyone who decides to follow up on their dreams with action.
If we consider that the future is unknown, that things have a 50/50 chance of turning out well, why is it that we almost always think that our dreams are better off left as dreams, lest we encounter the worst case scenario?
I tried the old trick of asking my friend:
“Okay – if you could go anywhere and do anything, and you had no fears limiting you whatsoever, where would you go, and what would you do?”
For the next 10 minutes or so, I received a verbal itinerary that would impress even the most seasoned travellers. All that was holding him back from realising his dream were a few unfounded fears.
Moreover, as soon as he shifted his perspective to the positive, he magically realised that he could save up enough without much difficulty, and that his employer would probably allow him to take a career break – no problem!
So, it turns out that not only do we carry our fears around with us, we also supply them with back up doubt just to make sure we can fully convince ourselves that to do nothing is a far safer option.
Expel limiting beliefs
It has been said that our fears are the greatest liars we will ever know. Fear is as powerful as we allow it to be.
For as long as we allow ourselves to listen to those limiting beliefs, fear will always have the upper hand; never relenting in achieving its goal of holding us back from experiencing and enjoying life to the fullest extent possible.
But although some say that confronting fear gives us great strength, it doesn’t quite work with such immediacy.
Very few people have a natural inclination to lean in towards the fear and meet it head on.
We do not allow ourselves the chance to know fear for the fraud it is. In slowly developing the skill to lean in towards our fears, we find that we are not immediately endowed with Herculean strength.
On the contrary, we voluntarily open ourselves up to experiencing the greatest sense of vulnerability that we have known.
We are, for a brief time, completely open and exposed, essentially putting ourselves in a position of danger.
And although that danger may be an irrational perception, nevertheless, it is very real to us in that moment, and that’s what counts.
By making a conscious effort to go against the grain and lean in to our fears, to chip away at our inclination to think towards the negative, almost immediately, our fears and limiting beliefs depreciate in their power.
A reinforced fear will always remain as solid as an oak tree, but once confronted, it begins to lose its magnificent presence and fades away to nothing.
The time is now
We have, all of us, a great potential to experience and accomplish many things; it’s just a pity that many of us are left without a sense of urgency to realise that what holds us back can be very easily overcome if only we apply the courage and a little effort to do so.
We also have limited time, and whether or not one believes in reincarnation or in an eternal heaven or that there exists nothing after this life, one thing is certain: we each only have this lifetime once – you will never know life quite in the same way that you are now living it.
The brass ring
With a little thought, it should hopefully make sense to afford yourself a little courage to lean into your own fears and to open yourself to vulnerability so that you may grow in strength and receive the tools necessary to fulfil your own wishes, whatever they may be.
Whether it is finding the courage to book that round-the-world trip, seeking out that new career change, or working towards realising an entrepreneurial vision – whatever you’re looking to achieve in life, give some time to leaning in to your fears and accept whatever comes in that moment.
Stay with it, push yourself to persevere – don’t run from the fear.
And when you find yourself leaning in on that first moment, you’ll soon come to discover that strength is not born from confronting your fears, but rather your fears have simply been hiding the great source of strength that has been inherent within you all along.
So, what would you do if you were free of your limiting fears? There’s only one way to find out.
Sandy Clarke is a journalist in the UK with years of experience in journalism, public relations and communications, and was press officer to the Scottish Government at one time. Send in your feedback via the comment box provided.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 3 January 2015
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.