“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
Emilie Sande has a line in her number one song Read All About It where she asks, “when did we all get so fearful?” Whenever I listen to the song, that line really stands out to me. It makes me stop and contemplate all the things I am not doing in my life through fear.
We all have fears. In fact, being fearful is a human instinct that protects us from danger. In the Stone Age, there was good reason to pay full attention to our fear as then it was a literally matter of life and death.
Today, we are rarely faced with life or death situations, yet we live our lives in a constant state of fear and stress. Our fears can dictate the choices we make as well as impact our quality of life and frequently leave many of us feeling frustrated and dissatisfied.
Many people are in situations that are making them unhappy but they are too fearful to make changes. They spend their days feeling helpless; wishing circumstances were different but feeling trapped by their fears.
Someone considering a career change, for example, may be fearful that they will not earn enough to pay their mortgage; whilst someone thinking about ending a relationship, may be scared that they’ll spend the rest of their life as a singleton.
It seems the older we get, the more fearful we become; no doubt because we have more responsibilities and more to lose.
We fear losing our jobs, our partners, our homes, our health, our loved ones, among other things.
Although it is sometimes easier said than done, the only way to face and overcome your fears is to become more courageous.
Without courage you lack clarity. You fail to see opportunities or simply disregard them. You may have low self-esteem and lack the motivation to take action to make any changes in your life.
Depending on the extent of your fears, it is also possible that you have difficulty sleeping, poor health and feel stressed a lot of the time. It is likely that you feel unable to face and overcome obstacles and challenges as they arise, and frequently assume the role of a victim or blame others for any misfortune you encounter or when life does not go as planned.
Life is hard, and without courage it will push you around and you will forever be at the mercy of external factors and risk happiness and fulfilment eluding you.
So, courage is vital, however it is not something you can walk into a shop and purchase. There is no magic potion or pill that will give you more courage. Courage is something that must come from within and something that takes conscious effort and practice.
Courage is like a muscle that needs to be exercised each day to become and remain strong. If you have been living in your comfort zone for a while, or your fears have been ruling your life for many years, you may feel extremely weak when you initially begin facing your fears.
Building courage often involves taking a risk so it’s no surprise that a lot of the time, people who are fearful are also risk-averse.
Write, make, dance, bake, sing or do whatever you consider a creative endeavour. Undertaking a creative project can also help to take your mind off any stress, as well as giving you alternative ways to look at any challenges or obstacles you may be facing.
If you are ready to start facing your fears, here are 5 low-risk ways you can start exercising your courage:
Many people dislike the uncertainty that comes with being spontaneous. Take a step out of your comfort zone and do something unplanned. Start small by perhaps taking a different route home or picking something different from the menu next time you eat out.
Fearful people tend to be highly strung. They are either persistently thinking about all the things that could go wrong, stewing about things that haven’t worked out or feeling trapped in their current circumstances. Make regular time to relax no matter what is currently happening in your life. More often than not, stressing about a situation only makes matters worse and hardly ever leads to a positive solution. Being relaxed will also help you to have more clarity.
Although there are many things in life we can control on a day to day basis, the reality is that life is unpredictable. Learn to trust yourself. Fearful people are more likely to doubt themselves, especially if things do not go as planned. However, sometimes you just need to trust the process and believe that everything happens for a reason.
When you create something, you are taking a risk as you can rarely be sure of your results. There is also no way of telling how what you create will be received by others. Write, make, dance, bake, sing or do whatever you consider a creative endeavour. Undertaking a creative project can also help to take your mind off any stress, as well as giving you alternative ways to look at any challenges or obstacles you may be facing.
One reason why some people avoid taking a risk is because they cannot stand the thought of being uncomfortable or in an unfamiliar situation or environment. Whilst our comfort zone may protect us from experiencing discomfort, it can also eventually prevent us from living a happy and fulfilling life. Start putting yourself in situations where you feel slightly uncomfortable and slowly increase your levels of discomfort.
Increasing your courage will help you face many of your fears, but they will never be eliminated. Some deeply rooted fears may continue to be triggered throughout your life and gaining new fears is inevitable.