‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.’
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
My husband often quotes ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but taking action in spite of it.’ I Googled the quote, couldn’t find it, and found Roosevelt’s words above, instead. Both quotes urge action in the face of fear, yet there is a subtle difference between the two.
Roosevelt’s words point to the motivation behind one’s willingness to conquer fear. What is so important that you must act, regardless of your emotional state, or the danger you may be in as a result of your action? That is the thing you will find the courage to do.
Why be afraid?
Fear is generated in our amygdala, our instinctive, reactive lizard brain – it is hardwired into us and will make an appearance in any situation where you experience uncertainty, attention, change or struggle. That describes every situation in life that pushes us beyond the borders of our comfort zone.
Your amygdala will perceive the world as black and white, safe and dangerous. Decisions like whether or not to exercise, eat healthily, have that tough conversation – your lizard brain will push you to the safe, easy option, the one that requires the least effort and the least amount of struggle, change, uncertainty or attention. Those are not dangerous situations, and yet your amygdala will tell you that they are.
And then there are the really scary situations; we may need to give a lecture, confront an angry or dishonest person, go for a job interview we really want – the things that matter to us, deep in our core. The things that drive us, that we dream about and that we aspire to be and achieve.
We are all created with a purpose for our lives. We are all here to achieve something truly valuable and great. You know you are – you have dreams about it, you feel strongly about it, you think and speak about it. Your heart’s core reveals itself over and over again in your life. And every time you have an opportunity to go after it, crippling fear sets in. Your amygdala goes into overdrive, letting you know that something serious is about to go down and you had better run away!
And many of us are guided by this fear. We stay in known situations, unchanging, taking no risks, because we perceive this to be safer than trying something new, going after a dream. We remain in situations where we may be deeply unhappy – or even very slightly unhappy, so that we barely perceive it anymore– because this is the easier, more comfortable option. And as a result, we begin to live insincere, inauthentic lives.
So what do we do when we realise this is us?
Let fear be your compass
Know that fear is not our enemy, but can be our companion and guide. Every single person in this world experiences fear – you are not alone! We get to choose, however, whether to let fear drive us, or whether to put it in the backseat and act despite it.
If you try to suppress or ignore fear, you’re really just fighting the very basis of your wiring. That is a waste of energy. Fear will always make an appearance. If you acknowledge and accept fear – no shame, no condemnation – then you stand a chance. Embrace that feeling, and recognise that it means you are pushing your limits, pushing out of your comfort zone. It means you are about to expand, learn, grow, take a step towards achieving your goals and your purpose.
Allow your fear to be your compass, not your driver. When you feel fear, walk towards it and embrace it!
The more you do it, the easier it will become and the better you will get at it.
You are created for more
Overcoming our feelings of fear on a day-to-day basis is a victory for sure. A strong mind and body will help us in this battle. But there is another fear, far subtler and working in almost the opposite direction.
I shared with you my husband’s go-to quote. Let me now share a quote I love – often attributed to Nelson Mandela, but in fact taken from author Marianne Williamson’s 1989 self-help book, A Return to Love.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking, so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us: it’s in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
We actually fear being who we were created to be. That is a conundrum and a paradox, if ever there was one!
We all have a cause, a passion that drives us, however deeply buried. You are a puzzle piece that this world needs, and you can only fill that position when you accept who you are. You are ‘brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous’, and you should bring that to your dream!
Do it afraid – there is no other way.