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Why Fear Is Actually Good For You

Have you ever wondered what happens in your brain and body when you are scared? Let me break it down for you (in a simple way, without a lot of medical jargon).  

Fear essentially works as a survival mechanism, so it serves a real and relevant purpose in our lives. Most of us are biologically wired to feel scared in dangerous or unpredictable situations (and that is good!). For example, if you see yourself in close proximity to a bear (this is all hypothetical of course), what would happen? Well, first, your breathing rates increase, followed by a rising heart rate. Your pupils dilate. Your muscles are triggered to react. Your levels of glucose also rise, providing you with a supply of energy needed for your fight-or-flight response 

 

In the brain, our hippocampus (a region involved in memory) and the prefrontal cortex help us in sensitive and immediate decision-making, by understanding whether this fear response is justified or not (fun fact: this explains the temporary rush-like feeling people get while watching scary movies).  

 

So, why are we scared of things like speaking up in the work environment? Or fighting for that leadership role or promotion? Or changing career paths? Or applying for our dream position? 

 

Well, maybe it is a fear of our expectations not being met. Maybe, we have never been exposed to a positive outcome before and so have no framework to ground ourselves in. Maybe we struggle to believe in our potential to successfully respond to these unpredictable or uncomfortable situations.  

 

The truth is that there is no simple response or cause for this. And it is completely normal to be scared. You are protecting yourself, keeping yourself safe from the unknown and the undetermined. But can I share something with you? Fear is actually good for you. 

 

Why is that? Well: 

 

  1. When you acknowledge that fear exists, that you feel scared, but decide to do the opposite it tells you, you become braver. "Fear is an indicator. Sometimes it shows you what you shouldn't do. More often than not, it shows you exactly what you should do", said Tim Ferriss in his TED talk. 

  2. When you look back, it was the things you did, regardless of fear, that were also the best for your growth. It's like the saying goes: "We only truly regret the chances we didn't take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make" (Lewis Carroll).  

  3. Going outside of your comfort zone will help you gain a new and better perspective of yourself, and others. It will also make you more sure of your worth and help build your self-confidence. Be open to change, and embrace it for all it has to offer. Yes, it is uncomfortable and difficult, but it is in discomfort and adversity that you truly begin to comprehend who you are and what you want in life.    

  4. Being true to yourself, even if it is scary to do so, will bring you one step closer to happiness and self-fulfillment.                  

 

 

Remember, the best way to overcome your fears is to expose yourself to things that scare you (what professionals like to call "exposure therapy"). Yes, I know it sounds cliché. But when you take small steps and gradually face situations that you normally would avoid out of fear, you start to build a more positive outlook on them. And it is okay if you are not yet ready to take that step! Life is a process, you are only human and we are all doing this for the first time, so don't put a lot of pressure on yourself. I believe you will get there and you will do great!   What is something that you are afraid of doing, but know will be great for your self-growth? 

 

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