When I was a kid, I believed Santa Claus was real! The potbellied white guy wearing a red themed coat had a knack of climbing down chimneys leaving joy for good kids wherever he went without being called a…thief!
Given I scored A+ in the good breastfeeding kid department by manhandling my Moma’s nipples like a ninja, without fail I got a present every Christmas Eve. Tried as much as I did keeping wake to give Santa a big bear hug, I always saw dad instead busily wrapping presents. Maybe, after all, Santa employed dads for houses without chimneys or so I thought.
Despite Santa Claus showing up once every Christmas Eve, there was this other formless shapeshifting guy who visited me every other night robbing me of joy throughout my childhood. Many called him the boogeyman and he had a thing for the dark often taking the shape of my worst nightmares.
Several years passed with the wake-the-fuck-up revelation Santa Claus wasn’t real. However, the boogeyman persisted and I got to know he had a real name and that was “FEAR”. The interesting part of my coming off age story was tried as much as I could to get rid of my boogeyman aka Fear it proved futile. Why was this so? Why couldn’t I let go off the thought of something coming to get me, something in the universe orchestrating some bad shit happening to me? I came to a damning revelation:
It was all in my headDRC
THE MINI-MENTAL GAME OF ULTIMATE F*CK UPs AND UNF*CK UPs
I wrote a post last year- Ready Player One that went viral and got featured on a popular African comic book website(Squidmag). In that post, I made an assertion life was a brutal RPG(role-playing video game) where we assume the role of a unique character, interact with our environment and take actions which have consequences in the grand schemes of things. As much as this happens in roleplaying video games, this is exactly what happens in real life.
HOW YOUR BRAIN TRIES TO PROTECT YOU
Of all species of living things, humans have the capacity to articulate a very complex and dynamic world thanks to our higher cerebral functions. We owe this to our brain’s incredible ability to create avatars( An avatar is an image that represents you on the screen in an online game or chatroom) of our real selves and further placing us into a simulated fictional world. Our avatars are just like us- given in-depth perception and complex emotions to give us real-life feedback.
When we encounter situations or problems, our brain quickly simulates a world and places our avatars in there to show us all the possible scenarios which could pan out. If our avatar thrives with the decisions it takes in the simulated world, we are given hope and thus we go ahead to pursue the course of action it took in the real world.
If however, our avatar fails or comes unstuck, we let it die in that world so we don’t die in our current real life. Ever watched the brilliant total mind-fuck movie Inception starring Di Caprio? This is much like it, a dream in a dream! Only that this time we are the stars of our movies.
While this protective mechanism has protected us in several ways, you would bear with me, much of what happens in the simulated world, barely happens in real life. We are sometimes lucky, we replicate the success of our avatars in real life and sometimes we don’t. This brings us to the troubling question- what is fear? Does it even exist? Is it even real?
WHAT IS FEAR?
Fear must go down as the most debilitating of human emotions! Is fear even real? Fear feels real only when you are experiencing it but let’s be honest most of the things you fear don’t come to pass. Fear has been said to be an acronym that stands for False Evidence Appearing Real which implies, most of what you are scared of isn’t even real. It is a projection of what could be which has no real life basis(true evidence). Just like your avatar in a simulated world who dies per its course of action, chances are it doesn’t happen in real life and you don’t get herpes kissing that girl. This is how our protective mechanism fucks us up big time. It cripples our decision making and actions thus keeping us in a state of inertia.
While children are scared of the boogeyman under the bed, as adults our boogeyman evolves to take a different form- fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of the unknown and even fear of success. Yes, the fear of success is a real thing!
You are scared of picking up the phone to call that girl you are crushing on because, per the projection of your avatar, the girl goes cold and rejects you. Worked your ass off that whole year and feel you deserve a pay rise? Oh wait, your brain says, your boss would scold you and even laugh it off saying you are not worthy of a pay rise. We then back off because we are scared of events of a possible future that has no real life basis, yeah of course, per projection it doesn’t mean us well. We fall for this protective scheme our brain cooks up.
EMOTIONS EMOTIONS EMOTIONS!
But then, I need you to understand something: fear is most of the time provoked by emotions not logic(rational thinking). And if you have been reading my blog for some time now, you know my humble opinion about emotions, don’t you? If you don’t, here you go- your emotions are overrated and fucked! Don’t count on them too much. They are biological signals that act like pointers, nothing else. They aren’t logical(usually based on past experiences and societal conditioning). Fact that you dislike certain people doesn’t mean they aren’t good and you know this. But your emotions cloud your thinking.
DO IT YOURSELF WAY TO OVERCOME FEAR
Given emotions are powerful and out of our control, learning how to overcome this soul-crushing emotion is of absolute importance. Let’s take a deep dive into two simple practical ways I have learnt over the last couple of months to overcome my fears.
1. STARVE FEAR OF ITS FUEL
Just like burning fuel needs oxygen to burn continuously, time fuels fear! Ever wondered why it becomes so difficult to do something you fear every time you hesitate? That’s because you give your brain enough time to cook up incredible not-likely-to-happen avatar stories!
This is the reason pick-up artists coined the “3-second rule”. Which says, you have a three seconds window period to act (approach a girl) and initiate conversation. Go past that time and it becomes incredibly difficult as your brain cooks up so many ridiculous scenarios of how bad it could go. And that couldn’t even be the case.
Eliminate time from the equation if you want to overcome fear. There is no better time than now to act when fear grips you. Waiting for an extra 2 days to call a girl you like? You would talk yourself out eventually. Waiting till the last day to study for your exam? Shit would scare the hell out of you as the time approaches. Call that client, you’ve been deliberating on calling now. Do that needed crunch relationship talk now! Start that business you’ve wanted to, now!
The more time you devote to the object of your apprehension, the stronger it becomes.grant caldone
2. REPEATED EXPOSURE IS KEY
Something scares you that much? It is time to do it again and again and again. This is a call to action. I recount a time, I was so scared to do suturing when I started my surgical rotation. As my brain’s naturally protective state of protecting me from embarrassment, I always hid when patients came with cuts, episiotomies and the likes.
Then I decided to accept my pain period and went forward first to do suturing. Initially, I could see my brain showing me all the horrible things that could happen from needle prick to blood splashes. After the fourth suturing, I became so confident. It was much less of what could go wrong but rather, how better I could do it. This is the power of consistent exposure!
By repeatedly doing what I feared most, I robbed fear of its power. Don’t be fooled! There is nothing like absolute preparation before a call to action. Repeated action will make an absolute difference. Detach yourself from outcomes(yes things could go wrong or not go wrong)! Regardless of the outcome, I would say that it is far preferable to fail doing something than to never do it by over-preparing.
Be ready to take massive action repeatedly and soon, you will realize you are stronger and confident than you really think you are.
REFRAMING YOUR PERCEPTION ABOUT FEAR
Regardless of whether you agree with me on how overrated your emotions are, I need you to reframe your perception about fear and use it as a reason to move forward than use it as an excuse for doing nothing.
Maybe all I had to do as a kid was to go under my bed to find out if the boogeyman in my head really hid there. All I had to do was to go talk to that girl I was crushing on back in high school. You see, just open your damn textbook and sit the fuck down to read for your exams instead of waiting till the 11th hour. All in all, this reads along the line of:
Whatever it is that is scaring you, it is a primer to a call to action. Eat your fears, do not let them overcome you. Starve it of its fuel-time. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overprepare. The best of minds have failed severally to get to where they are now. You are better of trying and failing than using that fear as an excuse to remain in your comfort zone.
If you aren’t feeling fear, then it is an indicator you are comfortable. It’s time to grow, expand your horizon, do something new that scares the shit out of you and apply the two steps in this blog post and voila!
Don’t forget to like this post, share your thoughts and most importantly share to every corner of the world. You have been called to be an amazing person!