Why You Need To Do The Things That Scare You

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down. Kurt Vonnegut.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s also a necessary thing. If you go back in history, fear was what enabled the cavemen to identify a dangerous situation. It’s what heightens your senses, pumps adrenaline into your system, and it helps you survive whatever it is that’s scaring you. But life isn’t that difficult anymore — there are fewer stakes raised, and we live in a pretty safe, comfortable environment.

So our fears are the things we now manifest inside ourselves. The things we let fester, the dreams we never pursue, the chances we don’t take, the places we never move to, the people we don’t admit to loving, the jobs we never apply for. There are so many things to be afraid of, but most of these things reside inside our own head. Because what if we fail? What if we never recover? What if, what if, what if?

But what if we don’t?

What if we do the scariest thing of all — what if we actually get everything we ever wanted?

A favorite saying in any exercise class I’ve ever taken is that you should get uncomfortable, because being uncomfortable is where you begin to see changes. (If I had a dollar for every instructor who barked this over a booming bass, I swear, my gym membership would pay for itself.) And it’s true — not just in the biological sense that your body responds to harder work by adapting and becoming stronger, but because your mind becomes stronger, too. You begin to withstand the scary things, the things you never thought you were capable of. And in this, you become more resilient.

Because being scared is uncomfortable. Being afraid is supposed to be uncomfortable — it lights that metaphorical fire under your butt in order to tell you to work towards being more comfortable. But there are two ways you can do this: either retreating, and avoiding the scary thing in the first place, or working through it to the other side. Riding out the uncomfortable and the scary until you’re stronger and things aren’t as scary anymore. Fight or flight. Do or die.

And of course, in order to really understand how to withstand the scary things life throws at us, you have to get to the bottom of why you think it’s scary. Why it gets under you skin, why it terrifies you, why it dregs up memories of all the other times you faced scary things and didn’t come out stronger on the other side. There’s a whole host of reasons, really, and each will vary from person to person, but I think one of the things that connects this fear we all experience isn’t all that unique.

We’re most afraid of being happy. Of having a good life.

Not that we don’t want to — oh, of course we do. Not everyone is so morbid as to think that it wouldn’t be nice to have a good life. But we wonder if we deserve a good life, if we ought to have one, and so this doubt creeps in and we’re left second-guessing ourselves when we have to stand up to the thing that is in the way of our happiness. Of whatever it is we want. After all, what would happen if we wound up getting everything we wanted? What if it all got taken away?

But that is a risk with everything you do. So you might as well face the scary parts head on, because chances are, the outcome you want least might happen anyway. Whether or not you tried.

And if you don’t try, the what if — the magical, fantastical, best-case-scenario — will never happen at all.

Do the things that scare you. Get uncomfortable. Stand your ground. Speak up, and go after the things you want. Apply for the job, tell the person you’re crushing on that you like them, take the risk.

And if you do wind up with everything you ever wanted, it’s because you did that work. You put in the effort, you found the grit within yourself, you realized that the scariest things in this world can sometimes be the most wonderful. We’re scared of change, is all. But change is good for us. Change is how we learn. There’s nothing more fulfilling than that. TC mark

featured image – Kristen Van Gundy

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