When I was a kid my dad was a funeral director, and he lived above the funeral home just like the movie My Girl. I went to live with him when I was 10 and I was naturally scared shitless for a while. Sure, I had been to funerals before and I had been to his office several times, but it was always during the day. Needless to say, when you live above a funeral home, you have to spend nights there too. There’s probably someone reading this right now thinking “hell nah, I couldn’t do that” and I understand.Nationwide Flowers – Satisfaction Guaranteed
Having fear is natural and actually a good thing when it’s rational. A snake on your path, you might be pregnant after a 1-night stand…legit fears. If you have a fear of something that is not capable of harming you, then it becomes an irrational fear. Those are the ones that you’d be best confronting and eliminating as much as possible. That’s not to say, expose yourself to a whole lot of whatever shakes your spirit up or put yourself in harms way, that wouldn’t be sensible. I’m saying some fears you have to face to overcome.
My dad understood that as a 10 year old kid in a new environment, especially a funeral home, I might be a bit nervous. So initially there was a brief adjustment period to being around this fear that is relatively common. Very brief adjustment period, like the first couple of weeks I was fine. The first test came when we were out one day and came home and he forgot something in the car in the funeral home garage. There was a man on display in one of the chapels on the way to the garage. There was a hearse parked in the garage with my dad’s car. I really didn’t get an option to get it or not get it, he just told me where the light switches were. I went downstairs, cursing him out in my head, turned the light on and ran full speed to the garage. I mostly ignored the man in the casket, the scent of the flowers and the ramp leading down to the garage. Almost broke my body colliding into the door, but I was young so I popped back up, grabbed whatever it was and retraced my steps at a full sprint.
“The fears we don’t face become our limits.”Robin Sharma
Over time I learned that my dad was either very forgetful or unknowingly forcing me to overcome my fears because he had me grabbing shit from the garage all the time. Eventually, I stopped running full speed to do it. The change began about a year later when my uncle Leroy passed away. I had never met him before, so the first time I saw him was at his funeral. Naturally I was curious to see what he looked like, so in this instance, I wasn’t looking at anything scary or weird, just my uncle that was no longer alive. I rationally accepted that everyone dies and there really isn’t anything scary about death itself. My curiosity to get to know the uncle I never met took away the fear of the dead for that moment. Let’s be clear, I didn’t start hanging out with dead people, but I wasn’t packing the truck to haul ass all the time either.
My turn as a dad
A few months ago, my 10 year old daughter wanted to wash the dog in the driveway, but there were 2 dead bugs there. She’s afraid of gnats so there is no way she was just going to handle this situation well. She came inside to get me to move them out of the way. In that moment I thought “nah, you got this”. So I told her if she wanted to wash the dog she needs to sweep them out of the way. She said OK, then went into her room and started playing. I walked by again to see my dog dry and the two bugs still in place and decided to ruin her day. It went from a suggestion to a directive and I was planning on standing there until it was accomplished.
She starts crying and I asked “what are you afraid of, it’s just a dead bug” and she came up with this impossible scenario of the bug getting on her and coming back alive. We stayed out there for about 30 minutes, but she finally did it. She gave a halfhearted effort in washing the dog because she spent all her energy worrying about these bugs reanimating and attacking her. She’s still afraid of bugs, but that was her first step in conquering the irrational fear of the dead ones at least.
Not So Bad
The first time I ever went zip lining was an interesting situation in fear. I had never heard of it for one, in addition to that, it wasn’t my idea to go. We arrive and the guys told us a lot of safety things to remember to avoid getting injured. Easy to remember until the first line and I was looking down at the tree tops. We were only about 45 feet off the ground and the line was about 520 feet across, but it seemed like a lot higher and a lot longer. I was with a group of 6 people, all relatives, including the one whose idea this was, and no one wanted to go first. After about 2 or 3 minutes of working through my nerves I went on the line and took off. Almost immediately my fear of falling off this thing was replaced with a fear of putting my hand in the wrong place. I’m typing this with all my fingers, so yeah, it worked out and I love zip lining now.
Conquering the fear of being around dead stuff and doing thrill seeker activities is relatively easy though. Once you get past it once, it mentally gets easier and the butterflies kinda go away each time after. There are 3 main fear types that I can think of, there may be more.
- Fear of Death/Dying or Pain
- Fear of Being Alone/Abandoned
- Fear of Failure
Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion, typically caused by believing someone or something, is dangerous and likely to cause pain. That said, it’s easy and mostly beneficial to have some form of fear, especially of physical pain. Being alone is not physically painful, and unless the failure is not being able to open the parachute, there’s no physical pain there either. Those are psychological fears that drive A LOT of what we do.
Take a Shot
I remember the first time someone said “nothing beats a failure but a try”. Not only did my facial expression say “WTF are you talking about” my mouth uttered the words “that makes no sense”. I assume way back in the day someone smart said something along these lines and then got misquoted by a popular dummy and that misquote has lasted with us. Even so, we all know what the intent is behind the saying. The idea of failing cripples some people to the point of inaction or missed potential. Whether we’re talking standardized tests, talking to girls, trying out for sports, going after promotions or whatever, people have a difficult time getting past the idea that they may not succeed in this endeavor.
The issue is people have short memories when it comes to success and failure. Everyone remembers the successful moments and discount the rest. Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the best or at least top 3 players basketball has ever had. Everyone knows he won 6 championships, along with a bunch of individual accolades, but ignore the fact that he played 12.3 seasons with the Bulls and 2 seasons with the Wizards. Technically, he failed more than he won. LeBron James considered the unanimous runner up or only other logical #1 selection for best ever, has thus far played in 18 seasons, been to the NBA Finals 10 times with 4 rings. Robert Horry played in 17 seasons went to the finals 7 times and won 7 rings…as a role player but still. The point is, arguably 2 of the best to ever do it, failed more than they succeeded, but they never gave up.
Ultimately, the goal is to never allow fear to dictate your life. For all of the rational fears out there, there are just as many, if not more irrational fears (likely more). When you find yourself faced with psychological fear, take control before it takes you.
- Breathe and find your inner calm
- Recognize that it’s your fear talking, not an objective reality.
- Analyze the situation to determine what is going on and what can you control.
- Come up with a realistic worst case scenario
- Believe in your ability to manifest a positive outcome
- Face your fear
Now, in the event you find yourself in a lions den or surrounded by wild animals trying to take you out…I have nothing. My rational fears won’t allow me to be in a situation like that, so I would suggest Bear Grylls or one of these nature guys for that advice. Normal, everyday stuff though, give these steps a shot.