How to stop fear in its tracks

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t try or do something is because of our fear of it. Fear however, is often an irrational influence on our decisions. Why do I say this?

Tarantula

I’ve worked around animals most my entire life. I’ve owned an assortment of amphibians, reptiles, snakes, insects and have worked with many more. I’ve bred them, sold them and have gone to schools and carnivals to display them and inform crowds of people. What does this have to do with fear?

People are terrified of animals. Most often though, people are fearful for the wrong reasons.

Let me give you an example.

I’ve worked at an exotic pet store for years. Everyday, parents come in with their curious children and show them the variety of exotic animals. It amazes me the fear that is instilled in children from the parents. I don’t believe parents do it intentionally, but it happens.

A child asks to hold a tarantula or pet a snake and is responded with, “Ew, no, you don’t want to hold that slimy/creepy/scary/mean thing!” Immediately the child’s curiosity turns off and turns into a fear of the animal. The child then passes that fear to others.

Another bad one is when a parent looks at an animal and before the child can react the parent reacts for them. “Gross! Look at that animal there, isn’t that disgusting? You wouldn’t ever want to hold that, huh?”

This immediate fear is easy to adopt from others. It happens all the time and comes from our friends, loved ones, magazines, radio and the media.

Snake

How do we stop this adoption and progression of fear?

The first step to stop fear is to get back to being comfortable with asking questions. If not asking others questions, then asking ourselves why we believe what we believe and do what we do.

Are you afraid of swimming? Why? Maybe it’s not that you’re afraid of swimming, but simply you haven’t learned how to swim yet.

Do you not like guacamole? Why not? It may look odd and unappealing to you, but in reality you may love the flavors.

Are you terrified of snakes because they’re hideous and slimy? They’re not. Snake’s aren’t slimy, generally they have smooth scales and most snakes sold in pet stores tend to be friendly. Ask to touch one sometime, then maybe consider letting it go across your hand ;)

Asking ourselves to define our own fears and why we have them is the first step, the next step is getting past one fear.

Conquering one fear will lead to another question and another fear.

When you realize one previous fear was silly, you may start to question what else you have been missing out on. What else might you like that you thought you didn’t/wouldn’t?

Asking ourselves is just the beginning. What happens when we begin to ask the same of others?

I travel a lot and most of my friends think it’s crazy to leave the United States. They get really concerned when I tell them about how I’ve been to Mexico on numerous occasions.

“Pablo, you’re crazy!” they say. “Why would you do that!? It’s so dangerous, the drugs, the kidnappings, it’s dirty, it’s not safe!” People often make assumptions, like this, based on information by media sources, not on first hand experience.

Even so, regardless of the fact that I’ve been to Mexico plenty of times and have come back saying nothing but good things, people choose to believe the media.

That example is travel related, but it applies to other areas as well.

Think about this. Do you know somebody who is afraid or won’t do something even if they haven’t tried it? Maybe you wanted to try a new restaurant, but your friend who you invited has a friend who knows a friend who became sick after eating there.

Maybe it’s true, but does that mean that every meal served there will lead to food poisoning? No, they wouldn’t be in business. Try it, take a risk, try something new. Odds are that on one specific meal, perhaps that chef didn’t cook it enough and that one person became sick. It happens.

I longboard all the time yet I know people who are terrified of ever stepping on a board and trying it out for themselves. I’ve had a a few friends with serious longboard-related injuries and their stories spread fear. One guy broke his arm, another tore some muscles and the worst one, I had a friend break both her ankles. Terrifying right? It would scare me out of doing it too, but I decided to ask more about it.

longboarding

In all three cases my friends were inexperienced and by one mean or another decided to speed down a large hill. Of course the chances of something going wrong are extremely high. All of the injuries could have been avoided and most likely would have been avoided had they been more careful.

What if I told you my story about longboarding? I’ve been longboarding for 5 years without any broken bones or serious injuries. I’ve hit speeds close to 40mph weaving through traffic. I’ve skitched trains. I’ve bombed hills all without any injuries. The difference is I recognize my limits and build up to the point where doing such things as speeding down hills is comfortable.

There was a picture a few years back of Tony Hawk, one of the greatest skateboarders of all time, that caused controversy. He was teaching his daughter how to skateboard and she didn’t have any protective gear on.

I know, that sounds crazy and it may have been a good idea to give her a helmet and pads.

Think about it though. It’s Tony Hawk. Skateboarding to him is like breathing to us. If anybody were to teach his daughter in a safe manner it would be him. He knows boards and how they act better than most anybody else.

If we get upset at him for that, then we should get upset at parents for not putting chin straps on babies when they’re learning to crawl.

So what can happen when we decide to face our fear?

Look at Nancy and her amazing family here on Family on Bikes for example. They could have easily decided against biking around the U.S. and Mexico. Better yet, they could have let fear overcome them and not have made the journey from Alaska to Argentina through 15 countries on their bikes.

When we decide to face fears head on, often, amazing things happen. We may even find out that yes, we’re still scared, but now that we’ve overcome it, we become so much more as an individual.

Fear starts small and can grow into an intimidating monster.

How do we stop fear? It starts with us questioning and overcoming the little things; and while we seek to conquer ours, we have to make sure not to pass our fears onto others, but rather liberate others to overcome their own.

Pablo Guzman is an avid adventure travel blogger and photographer based out of Northern Colorado. Soon to be leaving the 9-5 lifestyle for a more adventurous take on the World, you can find more of his work at Wherespablo.com

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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5 Responses to How to stop fear in its tracks

  1. The World Wanderer April 27, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    LOVED this and it’s so true! I’ve learned to face all my fears, here and abroad. It feels awful and uncomfortable at first, but then, it’s totally worth it at the end. :)

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @The World Wanderer, That is so very true. It’s hard to start going, but once you actually do make that first move, you find it’s not so bad after all.

    [Reply]

    Pablo Reply:

    @The World Wanderer, Right? I love/hate those moments when in the middle of facing a fear and all I can think is, “Why the hell am I doing this!?”

    Then it’s over and I smile and remember that it was worth it and I’m better because of it. : )

    [Reply]

  2. Tiffany June 26, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    What a great post! Personally I’ve made a habit of questioning the ideas I was raised with. Why do I think this is weird? Why do I not think this is weird? Why am I afraid to do this? Why have I never done this? It’s very liberating to ask yourself questions like this. It makes your life so much bigger and full of possibility.

    [Reply]

  3. Jeremy Wiebe June 27, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Loved this post! Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

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