23rd October 2021

Do all fears need to be conquered?

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As professionals we are often told that tackling our fears is what makes us stronger, smashing our fears is seen as growth, giving us the ability to stretch and challenge ourselves. I am a true believer in understanding that your limits are set by you, for you and therefor, can be smashed and reset. Limits are what our mind tells us we are capable of, and we are all capable of changing our mind and therefore changing the limits we put upon ourselves. 

Recently I was attending a session where a mix of people from all backgrounds and career paths come together to discuss a variety of topics, the topic this time was fear and it really got me thinking. 

“Do all fears need to be conquered?”

Sometimes a fear is what keeps you going, sometimes a fear is what makes you strong and you may not want to overcome this, let me explain.

In the workshop we had to share what we feared, my response was “not being seen as a strong person” to which I received a response of “so your fear is being seen as weak” immediately this got my back up, I explained No!! I and others see me as a strong “got it together, the deal with everyone else’s problems person, I do not want anyone to not see me as that” 

……………………….and then………………. I spent some time mulling over this and even having conversations with others to share my disdain for this stranger’s take on my comments, the more I thought about it the more it became apparent to me that actually there is truth in what they had detangled from my communication. 

I was afraid of being vulnerable!! The cogs started turning.

When we are children, we are auto vulnerable, that is out of our control due to the nature of being a child (even if we did think we were adults at 12yrs old) People can take advantage of anyone but more so someone who is classed as vulnerable. As we grow into fully fledged adults, where apparently, we now should know automatically at 18 what to do, how not to make mistakes and how to not get caught out by those who will choose to take advantage. An expectation and belief that everything we do is a clearly calculated choice, a choice that we have made as “adults”. What an awful lot of pressure! 

And therein lies my fear – and why I wish to keep it securely where it is thank you very much – my being Strong (as I like to call it) – Not being vulnerable has enabled me to overcome things I never believed I could, to challenge myself and ensure that my vulnerability did not allow others to change my mind or “talk me out of situations” This possibly would have been a wise move on some occasions in my 20s, but we definitely will not go into that!

My fear is what makes me resilient, it is what keeps me going in the face of adversity, it is what my friends and family have come to know as love, ambition, courage, caring, positivity, and thoughtfulness – what is not to like? 

It is what actually enables me to conquer those other fears that I have and take on those challenges that will help me to progress and grow.

Ok, Ok so I can almost hear the voices of those who will say vulnerability is a strength and I fully understand that is some circumstances vulnerability is not a choice – Strangely I fully agree, I absolutely become a hypocrite when I comfort or guide others by actively encouraging openness and sharing their feelings “talking helps” and I truly believe this to be true……. just not for me. However, I can say that this personality trait does mean I rarely get an offer of help or support in my personal life, I understand this is because I always refuse and “can manage” but am I making a rod for my own back here– quite possibly, although shout out to those amazing people around me who get me and always let me know they have my back without forcing it down my throat, you know who you are (mainly because I have told you to make sure you are getting online and reading my blog 😊) As a counter argument here I can 100% say that professionally I am at ease with asking for help and support mainly due to knowing this is in my best interest and that of the people I work with, how could I be selfish enough to not get help if that will impact on others. 

To be emotional and vulnerable makes me feel awful, I hate the feeling and have no wish to change myself to do this anymore than absolutely required. 

I would like to stop talking about me and talk to you about two other people who have shared their views with me. 

Firstly, my pole fit instructor, wow what a woman! She has recently been to the House of Commons to do a speech for inspirational women, now I knew she did pole dancing and I knew her job title was “Education Research and Innovation Lead interventional Cardiology” and as much as these are very impressive – Why the inspirational women? She was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2014, She first noticed lots of bruising and never knew what she had done this was just one symptom, this was a sign that she was dying and she didn’t know it “you could die tomorrow, you are very ill” were the words she heard back in 2014, after a long stay isolated in hospital cancer research trials came through and saved her life she is amazingly now 6 years on, recovered. So why pole dancing for this professional lady? Not the most obvious of next steps!! She was so fearful of bruises after her recovery that her anxiety was through the roof every time she caught a glimpse of a bruise, her head full of questions, how did I do that? did I do that? has it just appeared????  So, what to do with all of these questions………. she did not turn to the GP or to the internet, she called a pole dancing school “do you get bruises?” “Yes, you bruise constantly” and her response – Sign me up!!  

She figured these bruises she will have earned and worked hard for, her fear will become less as bruises will become normal and not life threatening. After her speech (that was outstanding by the way) she hopped on the pole at the House of Commons to share a pole routine, showing the strength in her body and mind – as I said what a woman!! To conquer a fear for her was a release from her constant worry and fear of the marks on her skin. 

Secondly My most favourite boss (yes, he is reading this 😊) here is what he has to say.

If you ask for a definition of fear you often get this ‘an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm’ or ‘the likelihood of something unwelcome happening’. Fear for me, heightens the senses for sure and whilst I admit some trepidation, my overriding emotion is that of excitement, for a challenge to be overcome.

For example, as a training provider we get inspected by Ofsted, when I was first working for a national training provider they would instil fear and dread of the impending inspection, this of course was based on the fact that they had previously experienced an appalling failure, all this achieved was to make the team nervous, ill equipped, unable to act in their best interests and ultimately’ set them up to fail. Fear is not a relaxant, and not many people operate well on a state of high anxiety. 

For the next inspection, when I took over as centre manager, I had a different approach. I looked at it like this and spoke to the team “As you know, ultimately we’re all here to do our best and what we don’t know we don’t know, until someone tells us, but that doesn’t mean that we were wrong and that doesn’t mean that we need to be fearful of it, it simply means we need to learn from the experience, be open and honest, do our best”. The result was a team shining, yes there were things to overcome but ultimately, we made huge strides forward. This occurred in 2000. 

21 Years later, following an external advisor review of our company, who stated “you are in a very good place for your forthcoming inspection, but be prepared for the wobble”. I looked at my colleagues, they were all smiling, a few shaking their heads, I was proud, they all knew.

We don’t wobble!

However, as I’m approaching the end of writing this, something happened in my personal life which brought an alternative perspective. My wife, best friend and partner of 30 years was unexpectedly and suddenly taken ill, this was pretty serious; I felt fear. 

I guess what I’ve written previously is the confident attitude that I have towards life, and I guess the events of this week focus that, I can’t say I have a changed attitude to fear because I don’t, but what I do have is a reinforcement of my values; I try to live by this, though not always do I achieve that. Key rules

1)         Don’t sweat the small stuff

2)         In truth, it’s all small stuff

Back to me……… 

So, in conclusion Fear in my opinion is a strength and a weakness heavily dependent on the person, the situation and what that fear is. Sometimes your fear works in your favour, for of course fear can make you run from danger, but it can also hold you back from experiences. 

If we never felt fear, would we ever really feel achievement or elation at some of our most exceptional experiences and actions? 

Fear is subjective, fear for some can be crippling and for others a tool to grow or cope. 

My fear of being vulnerable is mine, I own it, it makes me face my other fears and I want to keep it. So, what do you think – all fear needs to be conquered or some are to be held on to?

Photo by Miles Hardacre from Pexels

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