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We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.—Eleanor Roosevelt
Fear–and the power it holds over us–is a funny thing. It prevents us from doing so much for no real rational reason at all. In fact, fear is usually the thing that holds us back, that keeps us from following our dreams or trying something new, even when our abilities don’t.
Have you ever wondered why you let it have so much power? Have you ever wondered what you might be able to accomplish if you weren’t so scared?
This past summer my oldest daughter—always the hesitant one—spent a lot of time in tears as we tried to teach her how to dive. She was scared. To add insult to injury, her little sister, who only this summer learned how to swim, seemed to attack the water with almost no hesitation at all.
After one particularly difficult lesson with Daddy, she ran into my arms, frustrated, upset, and dripping wet. I just can’t do it she cried as I wrapped her up in a towel and sat her down on my lap.
Why do you think you can’t do it, I asked gently. What is holding you back?
I’m scared, Mommy, she cried, I’m just too scared.
I held her there for awhile, trying hard to come up with the right thing to say. Finally I said, Honey, do you know what bravery means? Her head buried in my chest, she answered it means not being scared.
I shook my head. No, sweetie, that’s not what bravery means. Being brave means being willing to try something even when you’re scared. Bravery is being scared but doing it anyway.
I went on to explain that everyone gets scared sometimes, and that even I get scared a lot. That every time I write something I get worried that no one will like it, or that people will think what I have to say is stupid or boring or just plain wrong.
There are a million things we can be scared of every single day, but the only thing we should be scared of is not trying, and not giving it our all.
I told her that the thing to do was punch fear in the face and shout out loud:
FEAR, YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME!
So we yelled at our fear.
And at some point during our conversation I realized I was trying to convince myself as much as I was trying to encourage her.
Not one of us is immune to feeling scared. It happens most often when we are tired or overworked or feeling insecure, but really it can strike at any time. The key to overcoming fear is not to give in, but to acknowledge it and then to do it anyway.
Identify one small thing you have thought about doing but have been too scared to do. It could be something as small as trying a new food or a new fitness class at the gym, or perhaps speaking to a crowd, riding a roller coaster, or even confronting someone who has hurt you, whatever it is, write it down. Tell your fear out loud that it can’t control you, that you are going to do this one thing even though you are scared. Then DO IT. Share the fear you plan to conquer in the comments below, or on Facebook.
Next, think of how different your life might be if you were courageous for the people in your life. If you were open, vulnerable, tender, kind, self-sacrificing, and compassionate. Think of who most needs your courage today and find a few small ways to show them. Maybe you’ve been fighting with your husband, or yelling at your kids, or maybe you’ve been keeping your heart at a safe distance from everyone in your life. Whoever’s name comes to mind, write it down and list 3 ways you can be more courageous in your relationships this week. Pray for that person everyday and put them right at the top of your ‘to do’ list. See how your thoughts about them change after a week of loving them with courage.
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What fear will you conquer today?