My current life mantra is “Fuck it, I’m doing it anyway.”
What I mean is, when I’m faced with a situation where I worry about what people will think or am scared of the outcome, I instantly do it.
Instead of letting fear hold me back, I use it as my biggest motivator at that moment.
Fear holds us back from so many things in life. It’s the reason we never write that sci-fi novel we’ve thought about for years. It’s what held us back from asking out our crush in college. The thing that keeps us stuck in soul-sucking jobs.
It even holds us back from everyday occurrences, like asking the waiter for another glass of water.
So if fear is such a nuisance, why do we have it?
Our bodies are programmed to have a fight or flight response. Back in the day, when turning the corner of a boulder and coming across a saber tooth tiger, we had to make quick decisions to survive.
That’s when our parasympathetic nervous system would kick in: Do I fight this saber tooth or run for my life?
In most cases, the latter probably prevailed, because our measly hands would be nothing to the razor-sharp claws of a tiger.
That, my friend, is called fear. It’s a natural reaction that kept us alive throughout our lives.
When we touched a hot stovetop and burned our hand, it was fear of pain that kept us from repeating that action. Fear kept us from picking up colorful snakes we found when playing in our friend’s backyard.
So what I’m saying is, Not all fear should be ignored.
But then there’s the fear we pick up throughout our lives. When our father abandoned us, we began fearing everyone would do the same. A bully in high school picked on us about hobbies we loved, so we fear rejection today. The media taught us that we had to look a certain way for others to love us, and therefore we have a deep-rooted fear of judgment.
And it’s these kinds of fears that are no longer serving us.
Three weeks ago, I got my first tattoo. I know people say, “Once you get one, you’ll be dying to get more,” but I honestly think this will be it, at least for quite some time.
I’ve been wanting the same tattoo for four years now: three dots, an ellipsis, to remind me that things in life will always pass, no matter how bad.
I never had the thought that my tattoo was something I’d get sick of. There was never any back and forth between this tattoo idea and another. I couldn’t be surer that an ellipsis was exactly what I wanted.
So when the day came that I went with my dad to the parlor to get our first tattoos together, I felt oddly at ease. I’m cool with needles — that was never a concern. I knew what I wanted and where I wanted it (my finger). I had the money ready to go.
I was set.
I laid down, placed my hand upon a wrapped chair next to me, and watched as the artist prepared the needle. That’s when it set in. I was about to mark myself for life.
At that moment, I went straight to panic mode. I started thinking about how I’d get out of getting the tattoo.
I can apologize and say I changed my mind. Maybe my dad could just switch off with me, and the artist wouldn’t have to re-wrap all the machinery. I’d still pay him for his time. I just can’t do this.
Then I remembered my mantra.
“Fuck this fear I’m having right now; I’ve wanted this tattoo for years. Of course this is scary, but I thought this decision out. I’m doing this right here, right now.”
And so, the needle began poking permanent ink into my skin.
You might think, Woah, that’s kinda extreme. But stick with me here.
Growth comes from change, but that’s scary AF sometimes. That’s when fear creeps in and makes all kinds of excuses. Even when you’ve meticulously thought something through, it can still stop you from doing something you really want to do.
So you have two options:
Continue to try and persuade yourself to do something new and possibly scary.
Use that fear in that exact moment as motivation to do it anyways.
I’ve been living my life by the second choice and the results have been spectacular.
Whether it’s going up to a stranger when my impulse is to shy away or writing my thoughts and traumas for the world to read, if my mind is telling me no, you can bet I’m doing it.
And the funny thing about living life this way is that it’s hard at first, but then it gets easier. Each time I do something I’m scared of, it makes it feel more natural to do it again. Maybe this falls into the realm of “fake it until you make it?”
Either way, it’s working splendidly.
We all have goals that we want to accomplish, people we want to form relationships with, even desires to become more confident.
But fear is powerful, and it’s paralyzing. The easier option will always be staying in a comfortable place and not rocking the boat.
I implore you, though, shake your boat until it tips. Explore what else is out there beyond your safety raft. You won’t learn how to swim until you find yourself in foreign waters.
Hey, you may ask for a raise and not get it. Your crush might say no to coffee. Someone could mock you for speaking your opinion.
In that case, that wasn’t part of your journey. You can figure out how to move forward from there. But one thing is for sure: You’ll be less intimidated next time you decide to smother your fears and do what you want.
I used to be a timid person. I feared public speaking and made my mom order food at a restaurant for me.
Now I’ve been on stage in front of crowd of strangers and sang karaoke to a bunch of randos in a bar (sans alcohol, I might add).
Fear is what you make of it. You can either let it hold you back or tell it to fuck off.
I hope you choose the latter.