Is Fear a Fantasy

Wild 115

Fear is abstract but it helps us

“. . .  We choose to, or have to, step beyond the margins of our past experience and do something hard and new.” Eric Greitens, USN SEAL.

Is fear a fantasy?  It’s certainly a creation of our minds. Fear is related to “what if” questions. “What if I blow the opening? Or forget what I’m going to say? Or . . .?”

We fear public speaking (if we’re like most American adults), but the “doom” we anticipate is vague. Actually, regardless of how ineptly we perform it’s unlikely that anyone in the audience will remember our mistakes even next week – much less “forever.” That is, “You’d worry less about what people thought about you if you realized how rarely they do.”

Fear can help us grow, though. We learn more and change more when we face awkward and uncomfortable situations, such as giving a speech. As we become more comfortable – that is, feel less fear – we learn less each time.

But, we can enhance the discomfort — and the growth — by trying harder, seeking perfection. We know that we’ll feel bad when the laughs don’t happen or the points we make aren’t understood. We’ll feel embarrassed when we botch a transition or forget to move about the stage as we planned. But we take that chance even though we fear failing to excel.

If we have the courage to expect excellence from our performance, and the mental resilience to feel uncomfortable but try again, we’ll grow and excel. It’s part of the process of developing skill and expertise. It’s part of the process, and that process is what ensures that our growth is inevitable.

These observations apply to many aspects of life, of course, not just to Toastmasters. In fact, we can almost always expect to grow and develop skills in direct proportion to how much fear we face — and “do it anyway.”

If ease and comfort are the goals, growth and improvement will be slight. If growth and improvement are the goals, discomfort will be familiar. Growth or comfort?


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