Fear, or negative anxiety, is the modern day bubonic plague, infecting millions upon millions of people. It spreads with viral effect, and leaves behind consequences of mediocrity and regret. This “plague” is partly due to societal influences (particularly in a post-9/11 era) and partly due to individual issues (the tendency to avoid confrontation of that which we fear). However, whatever the cause, a vaccine is available, and it takes the form of moving towards that which we are most afraid of. Immediately.
Fear as an acronym stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This false evidence can take many forms, but the key is that it appears real. We perceive something to be scarier than it really is. One good example can be found in sports, when we fear losing (or failing). Think about it: Is there really anything to be scared of? If you do in fact lose, what then will happen? Sure, it might be painful, but hasn’t everyone lost at one point or another in competition? Of course! So why fear losing if it happens to everyone? Not only is fear of losing or failure a waste of time-it also puts you in a reactive, more passive mode of competing. Reactive, passive competitors are more likely to perform poorly in a competitive environment. So don’t waste your time fearing losing. Instead, spend your time:
1. Identifying your biggest fears (in sport, in competition, in life). These are the fears that hold you back the most. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of injury, fear of risk taking.
What are the consequences of harboring some of these fears?
-Fear of failure: you will never fully give all of yourself to competition if you are afraid of losing
-Fear of success: you’re less likely to win, obviously, if you have mixed emotions about being able to deal with success (and the responsibilities that come with it)
-Fear of injury: you’re more likely to be injured, as you will be more tentative
-Fear of risk-taking: you’ll never risk, and therefore, never gain.
2. Setting about a plan to attack these “falsehoods”. Without a plan, there is no prescription for removal of these fears.
Dr. Smith’s prescriptions:
-For fear of failure: Go out and fail on a daily basis. Get used to it, because humans do fail, and you are human. Might as well learn to live with it.
-For fear of success: Get straight in your mind that success is a great alternative to mediocrity. Really.
-For fear of injury: Get back on the bull (so to speak) as soon as possible after being injured (but cleared to compete). The longer you wait, the greater your fear will be.
-For fear of risk-taking: take risks, but on a large and frequent scale, and in every area of your life. Ask people out on dates. Ask for favors. Tell someone who is bugging you how you really feel. Ask a sport psychologist for assistance. (Just kidding, but not really!)
3. Moving towards instead of away from these fears. You will discover that the closer you move towards that which you fear, the less scary those fears are. Sort of like the first time you stood up to the school bully and realized that he or she was not so tough when confronted. You were perceiving based on “false evidence”.
Moving towards fear in your daily life means doing that which you hate/detest/fear/loathe/don’t want to do, and doing that thing first, before all else. For me, that means going jogging at 7 am on these dark, winter mornings. For you it might mean something else. However, the key to beating back our irrational and disabling fears is to run, not walk, towards them at every chance. By doing so, you will prove to yourself how silly those fears are in the first place, as they provide no inherent value in your life. They merely hold you back from reaching your true potential.
Copyright (2003) Leif H. Smith, Psy.D. All rights reserved.