Define And Conquer Your Fears

Named must your fear be, before banish it you can.
— Yoda, from Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Novel)

Fear is instinctual. It is a survival mechanism responsible for the manner in which we respond to high heights, dangerous predators, and the unknown. Fear is not, however, so fully ingrained in ourselves that it should be considered unconquerable.

In this article, I will discuss how your fears can often be conquered simply by defining them. After realizing how “the worst that can happen” is rarely life-threatening, you’ll see how easily you can get rid of fear once and for all.

I spent four years living the overworked, underpaid, and far-from-enjoyable lifestyle of a computer support technician. Each morning I faced my alarm clock with the same dread: I have to do this for another 30-40 years?

Like most people working a job they hate, the thing that was getting me to work each day was fear. At the time, being “the computer guy” was the only thing I’d ever really done — it was the only thing I believed I knew how to do well, and I wasn’t sure what else I really wanted to do.

I didn’t risk trying anything else because I was terrified it’d be a mistake. Under the belief that mistakes were impossible to recover from, I let my fears obstruct my path to a better future.

My standpoint was that of a pessimist: given the option to try and risk failure, or not try at all, I was choosing not to try. Consequently, I was choosing a life where I was generally unhappy. Nevertheless, I would continually choose this option because I preferred unhappiness over uncertainty.

There was someone in my life, though, who would cause me to tear down the walls of my comfort zone just to be with her. She lived over 600 miles away, meaning that in order to pursue a relationship with her, it necessitated several severe life alterations. Being with Cassie meant I would need to:

  1. Quit my job.
  2. Move out of state.
  3. Leave my family, friends, and everything familiar.

In other words, moving to live with Cassie meant taking risks. Having lived most of my life avoiding risks, I was terrified of what might happen.

Then something strange occurred. I began to imagine what might happen, and it didn’t appear quite so scary. Taking it one step further, I harnessed my inner pessimist and created the absolute worse case scenario imaginable:

I’d quit my job and receive disapproval from my colleagues, family, and friends. They’d tell me I was throwing my future away for a girl I didn’t even know. During my drive out to Michigan, I would stop somewhere to eat, and in that short time surely someone would break all the windows of my car and steal everything inside it. I’d drive the remainder of my trip with plastic wrap taped over the shattered glass, and end up getting caught in an unexpected blizzard. I’d arrive at my new apartment with the flu, and make Cassie sick. We’d quickly learn that we couldn’t tolerate one another and break up on the very day my car was stolen. I’d go into debt buying a plane ticket back to New Jersey, and once I got there I’d face everyone gloating about how they were right in their predictions that I would be a failure and that moving away was a mistake.

It was interesting how once I defined the details of my nightmare, it seemed less frightening. This was because after imagining the worst, it wasn’t hard to piece together a plan of recuperation if things went wrong:

I could find a studio apartment, and get a temporary job just to pay the rent. I could write home and ask my parents for money to buy just enough food to live off of. I could cut my spending habits and live within my means. I could use the public computers at the nearest library to access the Internet. I could begin developing my idea for a website, and pursue a paid career as a writer. I could make ends meet however necessary, since my options were many.

Knowing that it shouldn’t be difficult get get back where I was, let alone survive, the risks involved no longer appeared threatening — especially since the risks were both improbable and nonfatal.

In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being a life not worth living and 10 being everything I’ve ever hoped and dreamed of, my so-called “worst that can happen” might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4.

On the other hand, the best that could happen is I manage to permanently alter my life to a 9 or 10: Cassie could truly be the woman of my dreams, and if I succeed in leaving home in pursuit of a relationship with her, it will undoubtedly inspire me to make even more positive changes in my life.

Therefore, my choice was simple: it made sense to risk the temporary loss of luxurious living in exchange for a chance at the permanent gain of a happier existence — an existence where I could choose my own fate, and look forward to facing the day rather than dread it.

Having faced my own fears, I’ve come to an after-the-fact realization: risks aren’t so scary once you take them. Furthermore, taking a risk doesn’t mean you must give up your current path forever — chances are high that you could easily pick up again where you left off if you had to.

The real question is, once you’ve conquered your fears and experienced an exciting life without them, would you really want to?

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4 Responses to “Define And Conquer Your Fears”

#1 Morris on 22, May, 2007 at 1:38 am


I would have to say that I totally relate to thins. (even the girl) I guess I never really realized it, but it makes sense that it is “uncertainty” itself that keeps us from approaching the edge.
Recently I have been a lil more risk takie. I know its sounds lame, but for me it is alot…..and your absolutely right, sometimes you just gotta take a breath, say “whats the worst that could happen” and jump in.
People live their life in fear and warp their actions and behavior on this fear that others will disapprove or belittle them….I, as an artist especially have learned that you will always piss some one off. You cant make everyone happy, but those you can be happy with…enjoy the bliss~

#2 Shaun Boyd on 22, May, 2007 at 7:26 am

Being proud of yourself for taking risks is NOT lame — many people go through their lives avoiding risk at all costs, and yet they’ll complain about how they’re somehow unhappy: with their job, with their current obstacles, and with their life in general. It is these people who sound lame. They complain about things as if they have no control over them, when the reality is they are in complete control but are afraid to create positive change in their life. I know because I’ve done it myself — complaining is a lot simpler than doing something that seems terrifying. Once I understood that there was nothing standing between me and my goals except fear, I began to disarm my fear and, like you, simply jumped in. Thanks so much for your comment.

#3 Allyn Park on 15, Dec, 2008 at 10:51 pm

I’ve read a couple of your articles already and it’s great to see someone who can give me guidelines on the fears of changes in life. I am 16 years old and every other night my dad and I argue over my career. I’ve recently had a deep passion for dancing because it was what gave me freedom from my problems. However, I’ve told my parents this and they said that Hollywood accepts “what’s hip” and kicks out the “old.” I have realized this but my ultimate goal in life is to help others while helping myself at the same time. To do this I desired to dance for loads of money but donate all of it to African-American children or the ones in need of such money. I despise lying to my parents and telling them that I will be a doctor or join the Military when I may have the heart for dancing. People see that but these “people” are my teenager friends who don’t always know what they are saying. Of course in the end I’ve realized that the worst could happen if I graduate from high school then leave to Los Angelos to pursue my dream. My parents want me to go to Westpoint or some top-ranked college but there are times when my desire for dancing overcome my education. I have danced for a few high school pep rallies and I will keep going at it but time is running out for me and I feel that if I do not make it as a college graduate or well educated employee, I would be considered a failure. I want to dance for me, I want to dance for others, I want to dance for freedom. But in the end I still have fear of the life difference from becoming a doctor or whatever to a dancer…

#4 Julie on 25, Feb, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Great article! It’s completely true. I’m considering a major life change that seems scary but is totally something I want to do. When it gets like that, I just ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I have a scholarship at college and have worked out a way to actually keep most of it while going part time, which would free me up to live my dream. And I can always go back to college if my plans flop; I would just be older and wiser (and richer ;)).

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