Courage and Mastery of Fear

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”—Mark Twain

I particularly like the above Mark Twain quote about fear. The most common quotation used when talking about fear is “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”, the memorable sentence from FDR’s first inaugural address. Twain’s words put a positive spin on the importance of resisting fear in order to master fear. FDR’s approach was to set a solemn tone calling for a unified approach to turning around the Great Depression. These are two distinct approaches that are effective in conquering fear.

I tend to look at most things in a positive light. This includes difficult and hard to address issues. I understand FDR’s need to stress the gravity of the situation at that point in time, but I feel that I can address the gravest issue in my life with a positive approach.

The power of fear can not be underestimated. Fear can easily derail positive advances we make in our lives. This is especially true in the bariatric community. I know I fear the scale. I fear my bad habits that creep back into my life. I fear the upcoming holidays knowing that they are a land mine of overindulgence and excess calories. I fear the winter months where it becomes oh so easy to lay in front of the TV on a cold night. None of us are immune to fear. Let’s look at Twain’s message and see how it can help us reign in fear.

Courage is resistance to fear. This sentence is a call to arms for us to take personal responsibility to resist fear. Courage is the ability to step outside of the norm and stretch yourself to do something you would otherwise be unwilling to do. That might be turning that daily weigh-in to a weekly weigh-in and trusting yourself to stay focused for a whole week. It might also be signing up for a yoga or aerobics class at your local rec center for the winter when you would rather be curled up in a fleece blanket.

The fist step in resisting bad habits that find themselves into your daily routine is to stop and change your course. It takes a good bit of courage to do this. The little devil sitting on our shoulders is the agent of fear whose voice attempts to hold us back and allow fear to take over. Taking a positive action silences that voice and lessens fear in your life.

Courage is mastery of fear. In order for us to overcome any obstacle, we must first understand what that obstacle is all about. Mastering fear is drawing on our past experiences and applying them to today’s experiences. I’ll use the analogy of riding a bicycle. You may have learned to ride in your childhood but haven’t cycled in 20 or 30 years. What you find is that when you get on a bike today it all comes back as you pedal down the road. You drew upon the cycling in your youth to ride the bike many years later.

Mastering any art, craft, or sport takes practice and constant repetition. So it is with mastering fear. Conquer one fear and use those techniques and lessons to conquer another fear. Soon you will become more comfortable in taming fear in your life. Being a conqueror may call on you to step outside of your comfort zone and be more aggressive. Don’t be afraid, push yourself and you will move ahead.

Courage is not absence of fear. A common misconception is that courageous people have no fear. No matter how courageous a person may appear, I can assure you that fear lurks under the covers. Courageous people have learned to resist and master fear. They possess self awareness and understand what makes them tick. The good news is that we can all achieve a higher level of courageousness. Mark Twain had it right. Fear withers and dies when we learn to master and resist the roots of fear.

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