FACE YOUR FEARS: We Attract What We Fear & 3 Other Truths
Facing Your Fears can be the most liberating choice you ever make.
Kathy Kliner was attacked in the Chi Omega house by Ted Bundy. She was one of the ones who survived. She said “After I got attacked, I was afraid of men. It was something that I didn’t want to have control me. I went to work at a lumber yard because I figured that was where I would see the most men. And it worked. That experience helped me a lot.” She later had a son. Children sense things and can you imagine the silent impact not facing that fear may have had on her future generations?
“Telling my story has helped me heal and I think it has also helped others.”
Most of us will never face that level of life-threatening fear. But all of us face our fears every day. We have our own personal set of fears, but there are four truths about fear that are universal. Understand their impact on you and others to conquer them.
Four Key Truths About Facing Your Fear
- Fear Can Advise: Being publicly rejected is the number # 1 fear.
- We get what we fear.
- Fear can be a gift.
- Fear can be a hindrance. Do it anyway.
- Face Your Fear: Being publicly rejected is the # 1 fear.
I was recently doing public speaking training and was reminded once again of the terror people feel about learning to speak in public. In fact, it is reported to be people’s #1 fear, over even death. So learning to speak publicly is a lot about overcoming fear. But it is also about something else.
People’s real fear is not public speaking, it is really rejection—especially public rejection. Think of that. People fear rejection more than we fear death! It is the number one fear of humankind. That insight is profound and should be a strong dictate in regulating your interactions with others.
I think that tells us that we should be very careful about flippant words or remarks that might make a person feel rejected—especially publicly. Learn to be sensitive. Have you ever disciplined an employee publicly? Have you ever brought up a sensitive issue publicly with a friend or spouse that should have been discussed only privately?
We should always praise publicly and criticize privately. If you publicly criticize others, you are planting seeds of rejection. Then when those rejection seeds come back to you and you are rejected, don’t be surprised. Conversely, if we sow seeds of acceptance, those seeds are the ones that come back to us.
I saw a TV program about an airline pilot who was married to three women—at the same time. (True story! Would I kid you?) Of course, the inevitable happened and they found out about each other. And yes, there was ___ to pay. (Hell hath no fury like three simultaneously scorned wives!) They all left him.
How would you like to have three spouses leave you at once (and you thought one was bad!)?? The movie closed with another pilot asking him, “Why?!” His reply, “I was afraid I would lose them. I would meet one, fall in love, and then be afraid I would lose her, so I would marry her.” If you are shaking your head in disbelief at this point, you are aware of his irrationality, and that his fear drove him. Guess what? Fear is always irrational—including yours and mine—and fear will always drive us—if we let it.
2. Face Your Fears: You Get What You Fear. You Will Attract What You Fear
We tend to get what we fear. The pilot feared losing each woman and that was exactly what happened—he lost them–all. We all tend to get what we fear and self-create the process.
- In relationships, one person is jealous and fears losing the other partner and the jealousy drives the other person away.
- We fear losing control so we tighten the reins, regulate all systems, and monitor everyone. Since neither people nor systems respond well to tight control, they resist and become much less “controllable.”
- We fear losing face and so never admit to our mistakes, and then we lose face precisely because we will never “own up”.
- We fear taking risks because we want to be safe and then we lose our safety because we wouldn’t grow, expand, adapt, and take risks. Then we are replaced and downsized and have zero safety because we clung to safety so much.
- We fear losing others’ approval and so we tell them what we think they want to hear. We try to become all things to all people and, as a result, we lose approval because we are not truthful and genuine.
- We fear abandonment and become clingy. The clinginess suffocates the other person and ultimately drives them away. We are abandoned precisely because of our fear of abandonment.
- We fear making hard decisions because we don’t want to alienate any group. By not making a decision, we alienate that particular group plus other groups. Our decisions are made by default and our leadership is no longer trusted.
- We fear conflict (wiring it to a sense of loss) and so we avoid it. This guarantees that when the conflict finally does happen, it is major and the results are exactly what we feared.
You can see why Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Your fears—deal with them or perpetuate them!
- Face Your Fears: Fear Can Be a Gift.
Fear, however, can also be a gift. There were a few times in my younger life when I didn’t do something I shouldn’t have been doing in the first place because of fear of my parent’s disapproval. All of us remember instances of when this principle worked. But even as adults, the premise is true.
How many people have started exercising and eating better after a heart attack scare? How many spouses have cleaned up their act after realizing they were about to lose the relationship permanently? How many drivers have started being more defensive and careful after a near-miss collision? Fear can be a very loud alarm clock.
Why Are Fighter Pilots Never Over the Age of 26?
Why, however, do we ignore that alarm clock so often? Often it is a belief in our own invincibility. In WWII, the U.S. did not want any fighter pilots over the age of 26. Why? Was it because under-26 fighter pilots had better reflexes or greater flying skills? Nope. It was because they had the youthful fearlessness that translates to a belief in their invincibility—they therefore would take wild chances.
Now, I’m not sure if, at the ripe ‘ol age of 27, a sense of reality suddenly sets in, but somewhere along the line, there is a shift. We realize that fear can be a friend. There is a time when we mature to understand that “caution is the better part of valor.” Caution is rational. Fear is irrational. Strategic risk-taking is rational. Recklessness is irrational. Maturity tells us the difference.
Is Failure There to Scare You or Warn You?
If there is a sign that says, “Bridge Out” is the sign trying to scare you or warn you? Many people say fear should never be used for motivation. I disagree. I believe fear has tremendous power as a motivator. Fear is certainly not the ideal motivator, but nevertheless an effective and powerful one. It is usually, however, most needed for us when we have already barreled through several “Bridge Out” signs.
It is during these times that we DON’T ignore the fear and “do it anyway.” We should listen and change our path. But other times, fear is a hindrance to our growth, our success, and our progress.
- Face Your Fears: Fear Can Be a Hindrance. Do It Anyway.
Over the years, I have known a couple of people who told me their stories of making career changes in their lives. They had felt the stirrings and the impetus to do something different in their careers for quite a while. They had gotten their boat seaworthy, but it had not left the shore.
Finally, the options had come down to either/or—stay on the shore or sail. They had to leave one choice in order to have the other more uncertain choice—it was a h-u-g-e risk. Both people did set sail and both have a positive story to tell. But….on the day each made their decision, one came home and threw up all night and the other one had a full-blown anxiety attack—physically immobilized and hardly able to breathe.
When You Face Your Fears, Don’t Expect Fear to Go Away
I have a friend who was a member of Special Forces—a real “Mucho Macho.” He was telling me some of his harrowing, terrifying experiences. Caught up in the story, with my eyes like saucers I asked almost breathlessly, “Weren’t you afraid?” The instant I asked it, I realized I had made a mistake. I thought, “There is no way this “Mucho Macho” will admit to it even if he did feel it.” Without hesitation he said, “Of course we were afraid, but we did it anyway.” I have never forgotten that lesson.
Norman Schwartzkopf tells of a time he had to walk across landmines to save a soldier who was stranded in the middle of them. He recounts the experience by saying that his knees were knocking so badly he could hardly walk toward the soldier. He had to reach down and physically restrain his knees from knocking against each other. But he went in anyway.
Courageous people are not less fearful, they are simply less willing to be controlled by their fear.
To Face Your Fears, Follow These 4 Keys:
- Fear can Advise. Our greatest fear as human beings is to be rejected publicly (the fear behind public speaking). Always honor that concern when addressing others in public settings.
- Fear can Lie. It tells us we can overcome it by giving in to it, but the opposite is true. We get what we fear. Fear can doom us to self-create our worst fears.
- Fear can surprise. Fear can be a surprise gift. Fear can shock us into change and “wise us up” pretty fast! Feel the fear and DON’T do it anyway! DON’T be clueless. Stand still.
- Fear can Paralyze. Fear will paralyze us into inaction and hinder our growth and development. In those instances, feel the fear and do it anyway. Be courageous. Press on!
You can be fearful or free. The choice is yours.
Live to Tell: Surviving Ted Bundy. (2021). https://cbsn.ws/3t8OrO6