4. Be Brave, despite the monsters.
Updated: May 8, 2019
The painting below depicts a little boy or girl sleeping peacefully, while their trusted teddy bear armed with a sword and shield, stands on the pillow and defends them from a huge monster.
I automatically relate to the child, knowing that there are many heroes out there that are willing to protect me, and this gives me peace. However, the purpose of this post is to relate to the little bear and understand what fears we have and how to use this. Ask yourself this, do you suppose the little bear feels fear? Does he ever feel like he isn’t good enough, or up for the job? Does he fear he might fail the sleeping child? Does he let this fear control him? Does he freeze up in the face of those monsters?
In life we all feel fear, we all feel like we might not be good enough, and we all encounter monsters that lurk in the shadows of our minds, how can we learn to relate to this little warrior bear? I feel the first step is to recognize what we are afraid of.
Many things that I have read and learned about fear is that feat isn’t real and it’s all in your mind. This isn’t true, fear is real, and it keeps you alive and safe in many situations, so feeling fear isn’t something that really should be looked at in a negative way, rather, it can be something that can be channeled and used as a tool to do the things you wouldn’t normally do, providing you a better life. Fear can motivate you to prepare for life’s trials and can provide you with clarity even in your darkest moments once you learn to master that fear.
In writing this post, I am reminded and constantly thinking of the book “Mastering Fear: A Navy SEAL’s guide.” By Brandon Webb and John David Mann. I highly recommend this book and it really has changed my way of thinking about fear. A lot of the principles in this post can also be found in this book, and there are links at the bottom of the post that will take you to where you can get it.
What are you truly afraid of? In the process of learning about vulnerability and really searching your emotions to find out things about yourself, I've found that the process of really being open about your fears can be scary in itself.
Maybe it’s the fear of failing, I have that a lot. Or the fear of public speaking, a quick Google search will reveal that many people in America are more scared of public speaking than they are of death.
For some it might be something like bugs, or snakes, or heights. Fear that is, griping, heart stopping, adrenaline pumping. The stuff that sends you into a true fight or flight mode.
Look back and try to remember when the last time you were truly scared was. Was it when your child or loved one was in danger? Is it when someone touches your neck and you start to panic, rooting from the time when you were a child and you almost suffocated because something got wrapped around your throat? Look back and try to find the roots of your fear. Recognize it for what it is.
My fears range a wide variety of things, sharks, snakes, heights, and rejection are some of my top ones. I feel fear when I post or when I am recording a podcast. I feel fear when I make any step in my life like signing up for college, moving to a new place, or being alone. The one on the forefront of my mind while I am writing this is failure. Fear of not making it in life and failing to live my dreams. Failing at being a husband, a father, a son, or brother. Failure in school and at work. There is a lot of fear all bundled in this thought and emotion that one day I’ll look back on my life and know I failed.
Call it what it is.
As stated before, I’ve been told a lot that fear, is just in your head. This isn’t correct because the things that I’m afraid of really can physically hurt me and not just my mind. Sharks and snakes really will bite you, falling off a cliff really can kill or greatly harm you. Fear is a real thing and asking “what’s the worst that can happen” never helped me much, because this suggests that your fears aren’t real and it’s just silly to worry about those things. “What’s the worst that could happen? The plane crashes? What are the odds of that actually happening?” People rationalize fears away, but it doesn’t make them less real, or make them go away.
So, if fears really don’t leave and we all have them, what do we do? One huge step is understanding it when it hits you, recognizing it for what it is, and channeling it to your advantage or not even letting it in.
There is a lot to be said about worrying over and fearing what we can’t control, this greatly plays into managing fear, preparing for the situations that cause us great fear will grant you more confidence, so recognize what causes your fear, and prepare for those times when you feel it. If you are afraid the plane will crash that’s ok, you can’t control the plane crashing, but you can control knowing what to do when those moments arise, even if it is unlikely that it will happen to you in your lifetime.
Let’s talk about this for a moment in terms of meditation. I have not meditated for a long time, but in the time that I have since I started, I have learned huge lessons. I have recommended this before, but I love the Headspace App, as well as the book by the creator of the app “The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness can change your life in ten Minutes a day.” Both by Andy Puddicombe. Andy himself guides the meditations you learn on the app and has a large background of teaching mindfulness and practicing it in his life.
In learning about mindfulness Andy compares our minds to a busy road with a lot of cars driving by all day. He invites you to imagine that you are sitting next to the road and watching the cars go by. Our thoughts are like the cars he explains, and often we find ourselves dwelling in the cars that go by and causing a traffic jam, maybe we try and chase the cars, run out into traffic and hold onto every one that drives past. He then teaches to just allow the cars to go by, not resisting them in any way. Just allowing them to come and go and not really allowing them to take place in our headspace. If you feel yourself starting to hold onto a thought that you don’t want and begin to chase it, just gently bringing yourself back to the side of the road and allow it to pass.
To me this is the equivalent to something Brandon Webb and John Mann talk about in the afore mentioned book, Mastering fear. At one point he talks about when he was young, and his job was to free an anchor from a coral reef in shark infested waters. While in that experience he did feel fear, he did not see or come in contact with any sharks at that time, however, he explains that later in life after he had learned about how to channel fear and had prepared for what to do when he saw a shark, he did see a large blue shark while scuba diving. Instead of letting his fear take control of him, instead of running into the traffic of his mind and thoughts, he stared that shark down in a way that he says looked like a “Don’t F%$# with me.” kind of look. He didn’t back down, and he didn’t let it control him. As he puts it, he didn’t let the sharks in because he was prepared.
Don’t fight it, use it to fight.
Thinking again of that little bear in the painting, imagine what he could be feeling standing up to that monster, the fear of letting down the little sleeping child, the worry that he could allow the monster to harm the child, or the fear of being killed himself. Instead of letting that fear consume him and running away, he stands boldly ready to defend the child. The fear of the child getting hurt driving him to forget himself as well as the worry of letting anyone down, knowing that by taking responsibility he is absolving himself from blame. Imagine he’s saying, “Don’t mess with me!” In those times of great fear and self-inspection, preparation is one of the greatest keys to finding the clarity that those moments of fear can provide. As I have stated in previous blogs, reaching down and finding your core values, pulling them out and reminding yourself of them is critical to achieving full and complete control, as well as the ability to ignore what doesn’t matter and only focus on what really does matter to you. Preparing for the worst case and the worst fears you might face is what sets the little bear apart from the ones who run and hide away from their problems. He has spent time with the child, he knows the child and would do anything for it. He has sharpened his sword, reinforced his shield, trained, and prepared himself mentally and emotionally. So that when those terrible monsters come, when he does feel the fear of losing, of being hurt, of failure, he can have great clarity, he can let the doubts and the thoughts and emotions that are unwanted come and go like traffic on a busy road. He won’t let those monsters in because he has already told himself a million times “you got this.” He has prepared, and this reinforces his confidence. Once you let go, once you let those fears pass by, you receive that clarity you seek. When you come up against the monsters, the walls, the insurmountable obstacles you face in life, you will not freeze in the face of fear, you will channel it to a place where you are able to receive the greatest revelations. Those gut feelings that no one can create for you but must be created yourself.
It might seem silly to compare yourself to a little stuffed animal, but how often do we feel this way in our lives? Like we are weak and shrink in the face of everything life throws at us. We become discouraged and hope fades.
Let that fear motivate you to prepare, remind you of the preparations that you have made, and focus you to accomplishing what you truly want in life. Doing this will truly give you freedom and unlock doors you didn’t know were waiting for you.
Just like that little warrior bear, you will come to see your purpose and calling life, and the fears will only be reminders of the life you choose to keep living.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and learning about fear with me. Remember; be calm, prepare, and live the life you truly want.
Hard cover copy of Mastering Fear: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mastering-fear-brandon-webb/1127681220?ean=9780525533566#/
Audio book of Mastering Fear: https://www.audible.com/pd/Mastering-Fear-Audiobook/B07CSG7S4W?qid=1553782302&sr=1-1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=CR1ZGC3PJQHV6Q685E3Y&
The Headspace App: https://www.headspace.com/