For my birthday this year I got a great gift: I was registered without my knowledge in a zombie 5k race, where I would be chased by zombies through a 3-mile obstacle course. This was a gift from someone who knows me well, including the embarrassing fact that I am actually deathly afraid of zombies and have been since I was a kid. Yes, I know they don’t really exist...but try telling me that on a dark road near the cemetery and you’ll be talking to yourself as I leave you in the dust. Knowing something doesn’t necessarily take away the fear of it.
Which brings me to my point: just because you can rationally dissect and analyze a fear, that doesn’t mean it will go away. Fears are an emotional reaction, not a mental one, and just because you might understand them with your brain, that doesn’t mean you still won’t feel them emotionally and physically. In fact, some fears have such a big impact on us that they prevent us from doing things we might otherwise gain from, or cause us to avoid situations we really should participate in. Whether it’s a lifelong fear (spiders, drowning, zombies, etc.) or a situational “uncomfortability” (speaking in front of people, confrontation, asking for a raise, etc.), our fears can rob us of the opportunity to get what we want.
Whatever the fear is, chances are it keeps us from something that we want or prevents us from enjoying something we already have. We might really want to do a triathlon, but we are afraid of drowning. We might really want to be like our co-worker who is so comfortable speaking at departmental meetings, but we are just too shy. We might want to paint the house instead of hiring someone to do it, but we are afraid to go up on the ladder. We might want to try a long bike ride, but we are afraid we’ll crash or get injured. The hidden beauty of confronting and working to eliminate (or at least decrease) our fears is that whether or not we actually succeed at eliminating the fear, just going through the process of trying strengthens our confidence and courage.
So here’s the good news: fears are also a learned response, so the key to overcoming them is to learn and practice a different response to reduce the power they have over you. Of course there are some exceptions, but most fears can be overcome by addressing them head on and then taking steps to depower them. When your quality of life suffers because of a particular fear you have, that’s a great reason to consider making a start to rid yourself of that fear.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Here are five tips to help you stare down your own zombie and decrease the power of your fear behind it:
Finally, the other good news is that practice makes perfect. The more we face our fears and take steps to decrease them, the more confidence and courage we gain in watching ourselves do something we never thought we were capable of. Just as our physical muscles get stronger when we exercise them, so do our emotional muscles. There’s really no difference.
So as you think about the coming new year and your plans for 2012, why not face a fear or two and free yourself from it? It’s easier than you think, and you just might surprise yourself. I’m hoping the same for myself as I face my zombies head-on during the Zombie 5k in May. Wish me luck, and good luck to you!
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