“Don’t be so afraid! It makes you all stiff.” I hear the coach saying, while I am moving awkwardly through the ring, my hands in a cramped double guard.
I know this is just a light sparring and that while my opponent is better than me, he is also significantly shorter. But still, it seems to be just impossible to overcome the paralyzing spell that my mind has put on my whole body.
I never have been a particularly brave person. I guess in some aspects I was even a fairly fearful child. While my younger brother was climbing and falling out of trees, I would rather stay firmly and safe on the ground. Of course not without having a perfectly reasonable excuse.
Fear continued to affect me through my adolescence; the fear of leaving my comfort zone and especially the fear of embarrassing myself. Those fears prevented me from asking girls I liked out in high school, they prevented me from going on a school exchange to France
Only in university did I slowly start to break free from many of my fears. As it seems, being able to confront my fears is at least one positive side effect of aging.
Breaking the spell of my fears freed me to do some crazy things in the past years, things I would never have dared to do before my 30th birthday: starting to train Muay Thai (despite having absolutely no talent), doing a cross-country skiing course at a US university (being twice as old as the other participants and falling more often than the other 10 participants combined), or even opening up for a blog like this.
My fears are not gone, but I am more aware of them. Today, I feel more equipped to challenge myself and take on my fears. I believe Mike Tyson’s coach, Cus D’Amato, was right when he said basically that the difference between a coward and a hero is not that the latter has less fear, but that he simply is able to deal with it better. Without fear, there would be no hero.
Don’t get me wrong. I am far off from being a hero, I still have a long way to go in dealing with my fear. But I am at least much less of the coward that I was, when I was young.
So while you might not see me doing a bungee jump anytime soon, I am fairly confident I will at one point in time overcome the paralyzing spell of fear that prevents me from throwing proper jabs and punches in a sparring session.
And if Tim Ferriss ever has me on his Podcast and asks me what I would tell my 20 year old self, or what I would put on a billboard somewhere, I would definitely answer: “Don’t be so afraid! It makes you all stiff.”
How about you? What are you afraid of? How do you deal with your fears?