I talk a lot about fear. Fear is attractive to me because of its power.
We usually think of a person as experiencing fear when he or she is facing something dangerous, but this is the power of fear. You don’t need to be in any real danger for your nervous system to function like you are.
What you need to know about fear:
- Your mind is more powerful than fear.
- The thing you fear is worse in your imagination than in reality.
- Our tendency is to focus on what’s missing and what could go wrong.
- Humans are naturally more pessimistic than optimistic.
This is the result of Amos Tversky’s loss aversion bias, a natural cognitive bias that serves a great purpose in keeping us safe and alive, but can also result in debilitating fear, anxiety, and panic.
What are you really afraid of?
All your fears come back to insecurities. You are not afraid of pain. You are not afraid of dying. You are afraid of what you cannot control.
This is why people fear public speaking more than death.
The speaker is completely vulnerable and has no control over the audience’s reactions. Maybe they’ll think you’re brilliant. Maybe they will think you are a fool. Normally you wouldn’t care what they think, but you have opened yourself up to their judgment. What really scares you is the abuse of this vulnerability.
Your physical fears are based on this concept.
No matter how tough you are, your worst fear about dying is having to face something inevitable that won’t end quickly. It’s not burning, drowning, spiders, snakes or heights that scare you.
It is being faced with something that exposes your human vulnerability in a way that shows how powerless you really are.
You are not afraid of public speaking. You are not afraid of death. You’re not afraid to talk to strangers or ask someone out. You’re really afraid of being vulnerable.
You fear it because your weaknesses remind you how worthless you are in the grand scheme of things. Logically, you understand that rejection is meaningless, insults are temporary, people’s opinions don’t matter, and you have to die.
Internally, you fear that the value of your existence is so low that the judgments of others do not matter. You worry that your life is so fragile that it can be ruined by the opinions of others.
The only way to free yourself from fear
The only way to free yourself from fear is to admit that you are weak.
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Only by accepting this can you become strong. Once you accept that you care what others think and that your life could end at any time, you recognize your fears for what they really are. Fear is nothing more than a way to strengthen your false wall of security.
You fear that your wall of personal protection is not as high or strong as you believe. Instead of testing its structure, so that you can systematically discover its weaknesses and strengthen them, you avoid putting the wall to the test.
You know your chances of dying in a plane crash. Instead of exposing your personal security wall to test this fact, you avoid flying. Instead of learning to thrive in your weaknesses, you hide behind a wall and hope it will protect you when the world judges you.
Your wall is not correct. You will be tested. Unless you are prepared, you will fail.
3 tips to help you face your fears
1. Embrace the weakness of being human.
do not hide. Embrace your weakness.
Recognize that your personal wall is, at best, useless, and at worst debilitating. Your fear of being insecure, worthless, and powerless cannot be completely eradicated. It can only be reduced and managed.
This process cannot begin until you admit your weakness. Only once you accept that you have shortcomings can you improve them.
It is impossible to eliminate fear completely, but it can be reduced to manageable levels.
There are only two ways to reach this destination: preparation and familiarity.
2. Keep the power of preparation with you.
A sports psychologist once evaluated me and he found that I was less anxious during a boxing match than before it. My explanation was that I over-prepare so I leave as little uncertainty as possible. Yes, there are doubts, but they weigh heavily on my preparation.
Fear is a signal that something needs to be prepared for.
It’s like a test. If you have studied and know the material, you will have much less anxiety than if you don’t. Preparation means different things for different events, but the idea is the same: to hone the skills required for your job. The better prepared you are, the less scared you will feel.
3. Know your enemy.
Another means of reducing fear is familiarity. If you survive doing something long enough and learn from the mistakes you make along the way, you stop worrying about doing it.
Continuing the exam analogy, this is why the most valuable practice tests are copies of professors’ old exams. They allow you to become familiar with his testing style without being penalized if you make a mistake.
That’s why simulators are wonderful training. This is why sparring is so valuable to boxing. Both feed each other.
Your preparation increases your familiarity and vice versa. You feel most prepared when you are most familiar with the upcoming event. This reduces uncertainty. This is the part we are afraid of; Being forced to overcome in real time a problem we had never faced before.
This is the message of fear: There is uncertainty on the horizon, and you must prepare for it, lest your body, mind, reputation, or soul be harmed. Pay attention to that sign, and you will overcome your fear.
Ed Latimore is a retired American professional boxer, influencer, and best-selling author. His work focuses on a practical approach to self-improvement and sustainable philosophy.
This article was originally published on Ed Latimore’s Substack. Reprinted with permission of the author.
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