I watched my niece last week perform in “Stone Soup”, her preschool play, and if you were there you would have thought her role was the stone. In a 10 minute play she might have sang 1 minute worth of music and spent 9 minutes looking for a way to go unnoticed. She is not a shy girl by any means, but in this situation she was frozen by fear. After the show she received flowers for performing and a picture of her in the play, which coupled with all the praise she received, she went to bed feeling like an Oscar winner. No, I’m not going to say we should have been honest with her and gave her a realistic view of her performance, it actually was pretty cute. What came out of the play and why I’m sharing this is because it was an interesting view of fear and fearlessness.
Fear is an unpleasant feeling of apprehension or distress caused by the presence or anticipation of danger. We all feel fear at one point or another and we all respond to fear differently. Fear ranges from mild discomfort, or butterflies in the stomach, to severe discomfort or freezing of the muscles and joints. The one thing all fear has in common with everyone is that it creates stress and anxiety. What we all fail to recognize is that stress and anxiety only exist within our own minds, therefore we create it and either allow it to freeze us up or get us focused. Simply put, fear is controlling us because we gave it the power to.
The overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety brought on by performing in front of a large group of people simply got the best of my niece. Should she have been able to regain control of her emotions? No, she is 5 years old and doesn’t have any experience with her emotions; let alone how to control them. We on the other hand should be able to control these emotions because we, as adults, can associate feelings with emotion. We are capable of recognizing our emotional state, but unfortunately don’t always do what is necessary to overcome our fears. How often have we seen someone freeze up when confronted with a challenge at work? How often have we let our emotions get the best of us when talking to our superiors about a raise, work conditions, or perceived injustice? How often do we ignore our loved ones when they do wrong simply because it would be tough to simply have that difficult conversation? It is simple to let our perceived negative emotions dictate our behavior, to ignore something or someone because we fear our, or their, response. In order to truly perform, we must look beyond fear, therefore creating a more powerful self. We need to become fearless.
Fearlessness is being courageous in the face of dangers or challenges. This doesn’t mean ignoring fear, because fear is essential in creating arousal and focus. What this does mean is that we have to recognize our fears, put them into perspective, and then act in a manner that sees the reward beyond our fears. By looking past our fears while realizing that they are there, we allow ourselves to gain control over our emotions where the reward (internal and external) is our primary focus and takes precedence over our current emotional state. True fearlessness isn’t blindly running into a burning building to save a cat, it is recognizing the risk involved and letting our instincts and trust in ourselves control our states of stress and anxiety. Fearlessness is creating a controlled state of mind set on performance while the environment around us is unpredictable.
There were plenty of other preschoolers singing and dancing along with the performance, there were a few students that ran into the crowd to be with their parents, and there were a few kids like my niece who just stayed in place trying to be invisible. All of these kids were in the same situation, while the majority of them responded differently. Look at the people you associate with and honestly tell me if your group responds differently. My answer is unfortunately no, there are people that get on board and perform, people that run away, and people that you will never hear from. For us to enhance our lives and the lives of those that we associate with, we must look beyond our fears, recognize the fears of others, and present everyone with a situation where the can become fearless; then we can truly succeed as individuals as well as a group.