On Fear

Bravery is misrepresented I think. Fear is king. And it should be king. They need each other, one means nothing if the other doesn’t exist.

Without fear, no adrenalin rush fires up your fight or flight reflexes. This visceral mechanism, so deeply embedded in us we have little control over it, isn’t just genetic debris from a time when man lived in the wild, its key to how we survive the trip from the office and back home everyday.

Fear, though, isn’t just about those external threats we are primed to see and react to. Over thousands of years, homo sapiens has figured out a good system for dealing with those. We don’t pause for a few seconds wondering whether to take on the lion charging towards us or settle in a foetal position paralysed in fear because a toddler is walking towards us in a dirty diaper. We have a system for these things.

It’s the others that are problematic.

The demon on the inside that keeps us awake at night.

Fear that you might get fired today.

Fear that you might look stupid to your peers if you step up to the podium.

Fear that you are a crap parent.

Fear that you really did it this time and she will walk out of your life forever.

Fear that you are wasting your time and all your work means nothing.

Fear that you will be forgotten.

Fear that you are a disappointment to your spouse and there’s no way to redeem yourself.

Fear that you’re not qualified to pitch for the project.

Fear that you won’t make the rent.

Fear that if you are left alone with him in a locked room you will flush your marriage down the proverbial tubes.

Fear that you will die before your time.

Fear that the voice that made your friend commit suicide also lives in your head.

Fear that you might be pregnant.

Fear that this lump may be “the big one” after all.

In a world where all the self-help and religious advise you get is “don’t fear” or “no fear”, you’re afraid you’re a no-good loser because you feel the fear coursing through your veins terrifying you to bits.

Bravery isn’t about not feeling the fear, it’s about defiance. When I hear people say “have no fear”, I choose to hear “don’t be afraid”. Because the latter means “I feel the fear, but I won’t let it stop me”.

“Don’t be afraid” is about refusing to allow the beads of sweat tracing a path down your spine and your temple, the loud thumping of your heart deafening in your ears, the clammy hands shaking in place…from being precursors to paralysis or resignation.

It’s about walking up to that podium, taking the mic and saying your piece.

It’s about walking into the hospital and asking them to carry out the test.

It’s about looking her in the eye and asking her to forgive you.

It’s about signing up to a parenting class to get better at this parenting thing.

It’s about defying the voice in your head and doing what you do best whether people remember, or forget.

It’s about getting up, every morning, and going out the door refusing to be paralyzed by fear into inaction.

It’s about facing your boss, taking your medicine, and being determined to survive whatever may come.

Bravery is about defiance and calling fate’s bluff. Today. And tomorrow.

I have embraced my fear. But I choose not to be afraid.

But if it doesn’t work out well for me today, and I’m too scared to move one foot in front of the other, there’s still tomorrow to not be afraid.