It can lead us to run, to fight. It can paralyze us, but it can also protect us and keep us safe from harm. Fear is powerful, but sometimes it makes us feel anything but.
Then there are the times when we are bold, courageous and strong. We can reach greater heights, explore what we are capable of. Yet, we are not fearless. We are brave.
Let’s explore this distinction. The end goal isn’t to live a life without fear. There is strength in it, but there is weakness when it holds us back. To prevent this limitation, we can learn to leverage fear. I’ve written this blog post to explain why, although I specialise in fear, I don’t specialise in being fearless.
Feeling fearless is different to being fearless. It is when you feel free from fears that were otherwise controlling you and you can embrace life ahead. You may still have fears that you haven’t leveraged, but they are not getting in the way of your direction. These are the ones that will keep you safe when the time comes, but they are not controlling your decisions.
Being fearless would be to have no fears at all. It would lead us to to put ourselves in dangerous situations and unable to weigh up risk. In reality, we don’t ever completely lose all our fears; being fearless is both an unrealistic and unattractive aspiration.
Fear has it’s benefits and whilst being fearless isn’t the goal, we also don’t want to walk around feeling fearful. We want to feel free, so we leverage the fears that become our barriers.
Knowing when to leverage Fear
There are some questions you can ask yourself to know if fear is holding you back:
- do I want more from my life, career or relationships?
- do I feel held back from achieving my goals?
- do I feel like I am just ‘getting by’ or ‘making do’ in life?
- do my dreams feel impossible, unlikely or unreachable?
- do I ever wish I could ‘just do it’?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all – or at least most – of these questions, there is a strong chance you are being held back by fear. This is when fear is going beyond just keeping you safe from harm. The next question to ask is:
- what is stopping me from achieving more?
Answering this question takes time. Often, our first answers are people, deadlines, commitments or other external factors. We give a way a lot of our own control when faced with fear.
If you are scared that you might get it wrong, lose out, look bad or make a mistake, that is fear. It is controlling your decision making.
Taking back ownership
Looking at every one of the external factors getting in the way, think about what you could do to have a positive impact. If you don’t have enough time, could you be more productive (if you really wanted to)? If balancing your partner’s commitments is a priority, could you discuss options with them? Work out where you have made excuses and where real barriers exist.
Then look at what you can change. This is often when bravery kicks in, because this is when we make a move or take a risk, despite all of the excuses we have given ourselves. Despite the worry, nervousness, or fear. When facing a fear, whether it be related to failure, image or loss, for example, the best way to leverage it is to face it.
ABC of Being Brave
For me, bravery is about accepting that fear exists and knowing when to leverage it. Accepting and admitting fear can be a vulnerable and uncomfortable experience. Remember that there is strength in vulnerability and also opportunities for personal growth by improving your own self-awareness.
So when fear starts to control your decisions, replace the expectation of being fearless with these 3 steps:
- Acknowledge that the fear exists and is holding you back
- Be Brave by taking steps outside of your comfort zone
- Gradually take back Control of your decisions
You don’t have to be fearless to achieve your dreams, so replace that expectation with one of bravery. You can and will be brave. It has already got you this far.
If you know that fear is holding you back, you have already taken the first step toward leveraging it by recognising and acknowledging it. Rather than fight against it, you can choose to be brave and move toward it. It is bravery and not the denial of fear, that will enable you to be you and do all of things you want to do. For we are not fearless, we are brave.