Why are there so many famous quotes about fear out there? Because fear is a constant in our lives. From the time we struggle out of the womb until the time we crawl into bed for the last time, fear is always there, holding our hands — and holding us back.
I’ve spent much of March and April researching, thinking, and writing about fear.
I poured most of that thought into A Quick & Dirty Guide to Mastering Fear… and Making it Your Bitch, which I wrote for the badassest branding blog on the internet, The Branded Solopreneur.
During that research, I came across some quotes about fear that changed my thinking about that pesky little rascal and how it affects our lives.
I couldn’t fit them all into that post, which means you get the benefits right here. Hurrah.
So here you go…
7 Shrewd Quotes About Fear
“Your assignment, then, is to notice and remind yourself that all fear, unless it involves rapidly moving weapons, teeth, or claws, is actually bullshit. All fear can be cured. You can attack it with the mind, by imagining those little squirty bottles located right above the kidneys, laughing at them, and shutting them off.
And you can attack it with the body, by just doing what you’re afraid of. And suddenly, it won’t be scary, and you’ll laugh at your wimpy past self. Because oddly enough, Action Cures Fear.
It’s one of the most useful things you can learn as early as possible in life, and I wish this had been drilled into me as a young child. It’s more important than arithmetic or chemistry class or calculus. So that’s your assignment for this weekend – cure one of your own fears, and come back on Monday a bit richer.”
So, how do we do what Mr MM says? How do you “cure one of your own fears”?
The simple answer is to:
- Name your fear by writing it down in explicit detail.
- Snap off a tiny little piece of your fear to act on.
- Shame your fear by taking action on that piece of your fear.
Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
If that’s a little too simple for you, read A Quick & Dirty Guide to Mastering Your Fears for more help.
“Fear is the oldest, deepest and least subtle part of our emotional life, and therefore it’s boring. It’s dull. It doesn’t have any nuance. So have a little conversation with your fear when it starts to get riled up when you’re trying to do something creative. Let it know, ‘I’m just trying to write a poem, no one’s going to die.’ But don’t try to go to war against it, that’s such a waste of energy. Just converse with it and then move on.”
This is one of my favourite quotes about fear because it gets to the heart of why fear is so ridiculous. It likes to trick you into thinking relatively benign actions are matters of life and death.
Elizabeth also points out that having a little chat with your fear — talking it down from the ledge — is way more potent than running at it with knives. Let it know that you know it’s there, and let it know that it doesn’t control your life. After that, your fear will still be there, but it won’t seem nearly as scary.
Here’s how to take action and do exactly what you want to do, even in the face of fear.
“Nearly all our possessions that aren’t absolute necessities (shelter, a bed, very minimal clothing, food, personal hygiene stuff, etc.) are bought and kept because of fears.
We want these items to comfort us, to help us cope with fears and anxieties, to help us feel prepared and more secure, to help us feel that we’ll be OK, to help us feel more certain about the future.
And of course, these items don’t actually do any of these things. We hope they will, but they never do. We never have more certainty about the future, and we continue to want more things to cope with fears that we’re not good enough, that things won’t turn out OK, and so on. The cycle doesn’t end.”
I’ve never thought about fear like this before, but I’ve seen these fears manifested in most of my friends (it’s not a fear I suffer from – I hate shopping and love giving things away). After reading Leo’s post, this is the first time I truly understand why people hang onto their stuff long after it has stopped being useful.
If it’s super-hard for you to let go of things, or if you are constantly buying new stuff you don’t really need, read the full post. It’s full of insight and wisdom, just as you’d expect from Zen Habits.
If you’re always first in line for the latest electronics, do the world a favour and find out where they come from before you buy.
“…maybe if we all tried to read our fears, we too would be less often swayed by the most salacious among them.
Maybe then we’d spend less time worrying about serial killers and plane crashes, and more time concerned with the subtler and slower disasters we face: the silent buildup of plaque in our arteries, the gradual changes in our climate.
Just as the most nuanced stories in literature are often the richest, so too might our subtlest fears be the truest. Read in the right way, our fears are an amazing gift of the imagination, a kind of everyday clairvoyance, a way of glimpsing what might be the future when there’s still time to influence how that future will play out.
Properly read, our fears can offer us something as precious as our favorite works of literature: a little wisdom, a bit of insight and a version of that most elusive thing — the truth.”
In this TED Talk, Walker, an author, takes a storyteller’s perspective on fear. Our fears are just stories we tell ourselves and we usually pay most attention to the most dramatic stories we can imagine. These stories are usually the least likely to come true.
If you love to weave a story, whether in writing or just over a glass of beer, Walker’s perspective on fear will really hit home with you. Watch the full talk here.
You can also use your storytelling mind to write yourself as the hero of your most adventurous life. Try it out here.
“Fear has this way of trying to convince us that we’re so unique we’re beyond help. Our situations are beyond what anyone else in the history of the world has ever gone through, so they can’t understand us. It’s fear’s way of guaranteeing it’s got a place to stay for a while longer.
If you believe that you are alone and no one else will ever be able to understand, you won’t reach out for help. You won’t take actions to create a life that supports your recovery. You won’t even think recovery is possible because of how unique you are.
While I’m all for standing out and being different (have you seen my hair?), there’s a line between accepting that you’re different and moving forward, and believing you’re so different you can’t be helped.”
This quote rang reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend not so long ago. We were talking about her life and her ambitions, and for every opportunity for action that we discussed, she had another “Yes, but…” answer.
Even though hundreds of people had had the same struggles as my friend and found perfectly good ways to move forward, there were no possibilities for her. She is so unique that nothing can solve her problems or help her achieve her dreams.
It was easy for me to see that the monster of all fears — fear of not being good enough — was getting in the way big time.
Have you ever looked at someone else’s success and then come up with a million reasons why you could never replicate that success, why you are being held back by a situation so unique that it was insoluble? Yes, you are one in a million, but if you’re stuck and know, that for you, there’s no way out, that’s fear talking baby.
Stop dwelling on your differences and start noticing similarities instead.
Hunter S. Thompson: Never Turn Your Back on Fear
“I understand that fear is my friend, but not always. Never turn your back on Fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
This quote from Thompson just makes me laugh. As a man who seemed to live his life alternating between intense fear and the fearlessness about which most of us can only dream, I’d say he knows a thing or two about fighting the fear demons. So remember friends, fear is a friend — the kind of friend you cannot trust and may have to kill at any moment.
“Fear is your friend. Fear is an indicator. Sometimes it shows you what you shouldn’t do. More often than not it shows you exactly what you should do. And the best results that I’ve had in life, the most enjoyable times, have all been from asking a simple question: what’s the worst that can happen?”
If there’s anyone who seems fearless, it’s Tim Ferris (he’s the 4-Hour Work Week guy and he learned kung fu and then won???). But guess what folks, even Tim Ferris has the same fears as we do – he’s just found a really good trick to get around them; he’s found a way to use fear to push him forward. And when he notices big fears getting in the way, he uses those famous last words “what’s the worst that can happen?”
If you want to know how to use to use “what’s the worst that can happen?” to drive you forward, get on over to A Quick & Dirty Guide to Mastering Your Fear and DO THE EXERCISES.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Go do it now!
♥ Happy adventures, Stephen & Jane