What are you afraid of that is holding you back? What are you avoiding? Let’s face it, we all have fears – they’re natural & normal. Even the most successful people in their respective professions feel moments of anxiety and stress. Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time, said that he felt fear before every football game. Grammy winner and multi-platinum selling artist, Adele, suffers from stage fright before every single performance. We all have moments of fear; the difference is who has the courage to face it?
For many, fear is debilitating, crippling, and paralyzing. Depression and anxiety are draining the life out of millions of people each day. If we change our mindset and look at fear and stress from a different perspective, maybe we can learn to control some of our anxieties.
The emotion of fear is a needed response in times of crisis and danger. The fight or flight switch in our brain keeps us out of trouble when something dangerous comes our way. We become more alert, our heart beat increases, more oxygen is pumped through our veins, and adrenaline kicks in. These body responses are great if you are trying to avoid being hit by a car, but they can be to our demise when our physical safety IS NOT in danger. Our mind can be our biggest strength, but also our biggest enemy. We create moments of crisis in our minds that bring out these fight or flight emotions to avoid embarrassment and failure. But if we can recognize that fear is often times a fake and a liar, then we can start to overcome these life-sucking thoughts and feelings.
Fear is darkness. In order to defeat darkness, we must shed light on our fears. How do we let light conquer dark? TELL SOMEONE! Have the courage to be vulnerable and share with someone your fear. Trust me, you are not alone. Every single person on this planet deals with some form of anxiety, fear, and even depression at some point in their life. No one is perfect. Stop living your life thinking that you have to be perfect…you don’t. We all have our own form of baggage. Do not fear judgement. Know that you are made uniquely special and that you are loved by more people than you probably even know.
Let me shed light on my darkness, my fear. 6th grade was the year that I recognized that I had a slight stutter or stammer. It was something small that I let grow into something big – as if when I became self-aware, I let my mind make it a bigger deal than it was. Many people might have had no idea that I worried about this, but those in my inner circle noticed. It got to a point my sophomore year in high school, that I was so afraid of messing up on a word, that I avoided reading out loud in class at all costs. That same year I had a semester of Speech class, where we were graded on our public speaking. The night before each speech, I felt like Jesus the night before he was crucified, praying, “God, please take this cup from me,” where he was sweating blood out of his forehead. I would get through my speeches, but it was painful, I’d avoid certain words, and I often times stumbled over myself. It was embarrassing and I felt ashamed. I didn’t talk to anyone about it; I just wore that burden and kept it all inside. I didn’t seek help or let anyone know what I was going through…have you ever been through something similar, where you avoided telling someone you were hurting?
So, most of my adolescent and young adult life my biggest fear was public speaking. I was comfortable talking to others one on one, but it would be a cold day in hell before I agreed to speak in front of a crowd. It wasn’t until one fateful day at the Denver airport about to fly home from my uncle’s wedding when my parents sat me down (I was 26 at the time), and said, “Collin, we think you could benefit from speech therapy.” I thought to myself, “Oh my God, is it that bad?” I felt embarrassed and ashamed…but why? Isn’t that what parents and other loved ones in our lives are for? I reluctantly enrolled in speech therapy. It was uncomfortable. It was humbling. It was scary. But it was the best thing I ever did. After going to speech therapy once a week for 3 months, I had made drastic improvements in my speech, which boosted my confidence and shook down my anxieties, though I wasn’t completely done.
They say “Our greatest promiselies within our greatest pain.” I continued to face my fear and starting going to Toastmasters (a club for people who practice public speaking in a group) weekly and was speaking with greater ease and more confidence each time. Through a lot of practice and repetition, I became more and more confident and was loving my new found comfort speaking in formal situations. I faced my dragon and felt joy and rest in my soul.
Today, I seek out opportunities to speak in front of large groups. In my current medical device sales position, I’m also a trainer for the westcoast. If you would have told me 10 years ago, that I’d be presenting our new sales strategy to the entire sales force at a national sales meeting, I’d say no way! I’ve accepted the fact that I do not have to be perfect to be effective. If I mess up, people will not view me as a failure, but as human. I have learned that the more I avoid speaking situations, the bigger hole I dig for myself and my confidence begins to sink. However, the more I practice and create opportunities to present, the better I become.
Remember, our greatest promise lies within our greatest pain…if you do what you fear the most, there is nothing you cannot do. I find my deepest satisfaction and happiness when I do what I used to fear the most – speaking in public. I still feel a few nerves and my heart beats fast like it used to before I present, but I’ve learned to speak positive thoughts to myself and not avoid, but ATTACK what I once feared the most.
So let me ask again, what do you fear? What is holding you back from being the best version of yourself? My challenge today is that you tell someone what is causing you anxiety and fear. Shed light on your darkness. You are not alone. You have people who love you and are here to help you. Seek professional help if needed. TALK TO SOMEONE! Create a plan to overcome your fear. Do not sit. Take action and control of your life, do not let fear control you.
We discussed in earlier posts about the power of gratitude and service. Facing your fears is the next step to becoming the best version of you. Check back later this week as I discuss the tools needed to conquer fear – Positive thinking and practicing positive self-talk. Have a blessed day…in the end, know that you are made perfectly just the way you are and that God loves you! You can do this!