I envy those who are fearless in taking on the world. Most encounters may be met with unsurpassed composure and confidence. They may be headstrong, ambitious and certain. They know themselves and shrug off disappointments and rejections. They have much life experience in these areas or maybe they are robots… :P
I’m in the camp where my mental state goes to alarm bells whenever the scenario is unfamiliar and out of my comfort zone. I was that painfully shy child who struggled with speaking in class, young, neurotic adult who used to find driving to be the most anxiety ridden thing ever and even now, meeting new people can make me nervous.
Our perception of fear originates from our hunter-gatherer days in spotting imminent danger. Any perceived threat will have our amygdalas in our brain sending signals to react in flight or fight mode. It’s our survival mechanism. Nowadays, it’s rare to find ourselves in dangerous situations. So no thank you brain for making me scared of asking that cute girl or boy out, being elected for public speaking or going for that job interview. Encountering any of the above may send your heart pumping; your body becomes a puddle of sweat; your stomach is tied in knots and you are petrified to even take a step out.
How do you cope? Here are some tricks and tips that may work for you:
Perceive fears as ongoing challenges to become a better person. Fear is inviting you to step up and do your best to succeed. Keep pushing forward and take those risks. You’ll never know until you try. Believe me, regret is far worse and may leave you stagnant. If you need a little pep talk, Shia LaBeouf is here. This never gets old. :D
Break down the fears if possible. Break down the situation into manageable chunks to gradually expose yourself to that fear. For instance, as a kid, my dad used to challenge me to order fast food on my own. First few times, he would stand next to me for moral support as I fumbled through my words. As I became more accustomed, he would simply hand me the money and allow me to order on my own.
Confront fear over and over until it is normal and boring. Sometimes new situations are unfamiliar to us in the beginning and we build up so much thinking around it. Even though you may not feel 100% ready, you need to keep facing your fears and anxieties until they do become familiar. After all, it may not be as bad as you make it out to be! Think about all the times you were nervous in a new situation, such as starting a new job, and now it’s easy like breathing.
Be okay with failure and rejection. Everyone will go through this and it’s a natural part of learning and growth. As long as you put your best foot forward, do keep trying. Never be afraid to repeatedly “fail” on what’s important to you. Normal people, like the man who made a game out of rejection, and even famous people fail.
However, sometimes… and I do emphasize sometimes, failure is a sign that we’re on the wrong path and we may need to switch tracks. Maybe there is something else in store for us, instead of hitting against a brick wall. Or we may want to change our strategy altogether.
Love quiets fear. Remember that you are your best friend, ally and support. You have everything within your power to do great things. When you are feeling anxious, you could comfort yourself. Say “It’s ok, I will handle this!” Repeat this over and truly feel those words resonate throughout your being. Whatever situation(s) you choose to take, you are showing the world your value, talents, skill and definitely courage. By becoming self-compassionate, you gently bracing wildest adventures that await.
Heartfelt breathing to calm down. This may be a useful technique that can be employed anywhere, especially before big moments of anticipation. Place your hands over your heart centre. Close your eyes and breathe in, allow the love within your heart to flow throughout the body. When you exhale, blow air out with your mouth as if you are cooling off hot soup. Let go and release the tension. Repeat as needed for as long as required. You could also cold diffuse aromatherapy oils, known for bringing down fears, such as clary sage, neroli or orange.
Or reframe fear into excitement! A Harvard study by Brooks in 2014 says that since fear and excitement are both arousal emotions (heart beating faster, cortisol increases, etc.),it’s better to convince yourself that you are excited than trying to calm down. Excitement places you into an “opportunity mindset” opposed to “threat mindset” according to Brooks. This technique may not work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.
Power Posing to regain confidence. One of the most popular TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are by Amy Cuddy, speaks on how simply changing your body posture and language to embody the feeling of empowerment. In other words, fake it until you make it.
Try bach flower remedies to gently shift your fears. Remedies specific to fears include Rock Rose, Mimulus, Cherry Plum, Aspen, Red Chestnut and White Chestnut. Read each description to figure out which bach flower remedy works for you. Bach flower remedies can be purchased at your local health food store and how to take the remedies can be found here.
Fears and anxieties are like the looming friend who clutches onto your side. By working with fear, we have the potential to go beyond what’s expected of us. We must remain steadfast and understand how fear is challenging us to seize opportunities. Fear as a teacher encourages us to develop self confidence and become wiser as a result. If we stay in our box, we may not grow and we will never know.
Since it’s fearless Friday, what is your greatest fear? How have you overcome your fears?
A teacher once told me, “How you do something is how you do everything.”
I decided to reflect upon this and relate it to one of my passions… dance. What I discovered about dance was beyond learning the basic steps as it encompassed many hidden life lessons. I began to unlock new attitudes and potential, while learning how to better relate to myself and others.
1) How to Be Yourself
When I was young, expressing myself through words was difficult. Dancing opened a new understanding in how to be myself - developing body awareness and discovering dance style and identity. Literally, I became comfortable in my own skin. I’ve let go of all the masks, labels and judgments and peel off the layers whenever I dance. I’ll dance in my room when no one’s watching or a dance social where everyone might be watching.
Dancing entrusts freedom within my soul. I’m at my best, where I dance meaningfully for myself. I move to shake off rigidity, to revisit joy and to build a new self-confidence. I feel the flow, connection and sometimes, I’m entranced into a meditative state. I connect to the most authentic and intense parts of myself, and I’m not apologetic for that!
2) Letting your Goofy Side Play
I had a friend in University who taught me it’s OK to look ridiculous while dancing. He would make this funny face and bring out all his silly moves at once. My friend told me it’s good to shake off that self-consciousness and laugh at ourselves.
Humour and play is beneficial to life, reminding us not to get too serious and critical. I’ll purposely make others laugh on the dancefloor if the mood and song call for it! Dancefloor comedian is a go.
3) Potential to Explore Beyond your Boundaries
Everyone has a comfort zone with our normal routine and preferences in life. What if you dared to step out and try new things? Strive towards what might bring you out of your usual element?
In the last year, I decided to learn cabaret. For those who aren’t familiar with this style, it requires much acrobatics, tricks and lifts. You need to be conditioned physically to be in top shape, develop absolute trust with your dance partner and naturally perform a grandiose presence in pulling off these epic moves.
I have a few confessions. I am afraid of heights. I’ve never done the splits or any gymnastic training. I’ve never performed before, and I have an unshakeable case of stage fright. This is one of my personal challenges to push beyond my physical and mental limitations.
With that being said, I am achieving baby steps and being gentle on myself when I need rest. You begin to learn that feeling scared is ok and work with it. Exploring your own potential beyond your boundaries is healthy (as long as it’s safe) and adds to personal growth. In these last months, I’m having many moments where I go, “hey, I didn’t know I could do that!”
And yes, I am making serious progress towards those front splits! :P
4) Communication and Adaptability
In partner dances, I’ve learned a great deal about following. Precise following means deep listening to your leads’ guidance. Every lead has a different feel and skill level in leading you. Some leads are strong and clear, rough or light, flashier or sticking more to the basics, beginner or more advanced, etc.
I listen and interpret, where I react to make quick decisions in following. I aim to adapt my dance to complement and bring out the best in my leads. If a lead makes a mistake, I cover up the mistakes. If a lead prefers strict following, I dare not hijack the dance at any point. However, if a lead is open to giving me space as a follow, I may inject more of my personal style, musicality and/or even switch roles to leading.
Non-verbal communication enriches how I relate to others off the dancefloor. I begin to understand more of what others are trying to convey and work together to accomplish a task or resolve misunderstandings.
5) Expanding the Definition of Creativity
Each art form has its own language. Painting captivates visually through composition, brush strokes, colours, etc. Music integrates silences and noise. Film speaks with combining sound, visual, acting, editing and angles to achieve its message.
Embodying a character role is one aspect to infuse creativity into dance. Once in belly dancing class, we had to role play a young girl transiting into adulthood. We were required to bring the powerful, feminine demeanor and engage with the audience. Dance is my type of acting without words.
Creativity in dance also involves understanding musicality. Musicality can broken down to two parts. First is tuning into the music and hearing its dynamics. For example, is it slow and romantic? Fast and anthem-inducing? Second is translating those musical nuances into discovering unique ways to move. For the slow and romantic, I may incorporate soft hand styling and figure-8 hips. Fast and anthem-inducing might inspire me to chest pop with sharp footwork.
Learning set dance patterns from classes and watching youtube videos are wonderful places to foster inspiration. However, I would also encourage experimentation and cross training in other dance styles. You begin to develop an overall appreciation, adopting new artistic elements that work within the particular dance framework and start standing out from the crowd.
Creativity is a process through experience and being bold with your artistic choices. It is best served with flexible and open mind. Plus, there is no right or wrong, only possibilities.
What life lessons have you learned from dance or any other passion? Please share in the comments!
Alana Chin Lue
I am a holistic health and reiki practitioner finding inspiration and wisdom through personal development, health and wellness, spirituality and life.